Editor’s note: Noah Garrett, who writes The Innovation Exchange for WRAL Local Tech Wire, is guest writer for today’s Skinny.

– The biggest complaint from most small businesses owners is, "nobody knows who I am or what I do." Of course when I address this issue with clients and potential clients, I tell them the cause of that problem. You don’t tell anyone!

Even if they are marketing their business, most are not doing it effectively. Many forget who their customer is and give little consideration to how to reach them. Most small business owners market and promote themselves haphazardly, going in a million directions and failing to create a targeted strategy.

Since Top 10 lists are so cliché, here are my nine "boo boo’s" that many small business owners and start-ups make in their marketing and public relations efforts:

Boo Boo #1: Not making marketing a priority. Most businesses and organizations operate under the false hope that their current successes will attract new business long into the future. However, when they cut their marketing efforts based on that strategy, they actually shift their marketing into neutral. One way to solve that problem is to not turn your marketing efforts on and off like a light switch. Keep your program enterprise and in full gear so you always are attracting an ongoing flow of new clients.

Boo Boo # 2:
A different logo, look and tagline with every promotional piece. This is pretty self explanatory, but changing the look and feel of your company will drastically affect your longtime branding efforts. Think about major players like Apple or Coca Cola. When you see that colorful apple on computer screens, you think Apple, Inc. When you see a red aluminum can with that distinctive writing on it, almost immediately your mind thinks Coke – even if it isn’t a Coke. Granted they both have been around awhile, but they’ve remained consistent over the years and that has helped them stay around for awhile.

Boo Boo # 3: Not hiring professionals to do a professional job. Hiring a well-trained and knowledgeable staff is of the utmost importance. Sometimes it is more cost effective to hire outside consultants to do those marketing jobs for you (hint, hint). Also, as the head honcho of your business, it’s important to let your staff go and grow; meaning hiring a top notch staff and/or consultant requires you to trust their skills and decision-making processes and to provide the right leadership and support as needed.

Boo Boo # 4: Promoting your company’s services. When you promote services, you take on the role of a salesperson hawking goods. This method undermines your credibility and causes prospects to question whether they can trust you. Instead of promoting your services, promote your knowledge by educating prospects. Education-based marketing gives prospects what they want, and removes what they don’t want, a sales pitch. It attracts prospects that trust you because of your knowledge, skill, judgment and experience.

Boo Boo # 5: Not promoting your Web address. The failure to advertise your Web address is a royal screw-up. Along those lines, having an incomplete or inconsistent site that focuses on the company and not the client is another common error. More than 90 percent of sites today focus on the company and not the visitor. Those sites seem to say, "ME, ME, ME, ME". Instead focus on the visitor. Talk about their needs, their pain, their goals and how you can help them. Visitors at most sites only visit the home page and then leave because they can’t figure out what’s in It for them.

Boo Boo # 6:
Creating a marketing plan but never looking or implementing it. Also, failing to integrate your marketing communications is a no-no. It’s a fact that marketing communications work best in sync. When you don’t tie all your promotions together, the efficacy of each is lessened significantly.

Boo Boo # 7:
Sending useless mailings is a huge marketing blunder. For example, many organizations send mail to clients without a call to action, such as those infamous mark-your-calendar or save-the-date pieces so popular among trade-show and conference organizers. Producing direct mail and/or email blasts that do not solicit a response is a waste of time, money and opportunity.

Boo Boo # 8:
Neglecting to track marketing dollars and return on investment. Marketing without some sort of audit or tracking matrix is foolish. How do you know if your efforts are reaching your target audience? Sales and profits are wonderful but not exactly a true indication of effective marketing.

Boo Boo # 9: Ineffective use of time and money with networking groups while also relying too heavily on those groups as a primary source of new business. Networking is a time-consuming exercise. And while networking may bear fruit, many often underestimate the time required. Pursue opportunities to meet and talk with genuine prospects, but don’t put networking above other marketing strategies.

There are hundreds of different marketing faux pas out there, but here are nine to get you started and thinking. Remember, maintaining an effective marketing and public relations program is the most important investment you can make for your business. Why pay for an office and staff if you don’t have enough business to justify the overhead?

Start your marketing program now so you have an ongoing flow of new clients later.

Contact Noah Garrett via email at: noah@thinkngc.com