It’s costly. It’s common. It gets all of us at one time or another as we build and scale our businesses.

This mistake was the biggest and most costly mistake I’ve made in building Octain. Ultimately, it led to the development of the Octain Growth System so I could help other business owners avoid this common pitfall.

In 2008, during the Great Recession, my real estate focused branding and marketing business fell off the cliff as the housing market tanked. Like many of my former realtor clients, I had to  get out of that field and focus on a new market. But what and where? Instead of taking the time to carefully consider and profile who my best customer was in the changing economic times, I chased “anyone with a pulse.” My target was “anyone who would hire me.” Sound familiar? I did a lot of odd quasi-marketing related jobs at rock bottom rates before I took a step back and took my own advice to correct the error.

In short, the mistake is this: not taking the time to properly target your customer base. Not developing a deep and complete customer profile and customer persona before you start spending time and money on marketing.

I’ve seen many business owners spend thousands of dollars on “spray and pray marketing” with little to zero tangible results. The waste is more than just time and money – as painful as that is! It’s also the damage to your brand, reputation and potential customer relationships. Today people who are subjected to marketing that misses the mark don’t just hit the delete button, they are likely to go online and write a negative review about your company. That damage lives on long after you have recovered the wasted money.

Why do we fall into the “spray and pray” trap? The top reason is tyranny of the urgent. It’s the “sales are down we have to do something – now” kneejerk reaction that sends everyone spending in different directions. The other two reasons we fall into this common trap are lack of knowledge, what to do, and lack of tools, how to get it done.

Another related pitfall with creating target customer profiles is only focusing on the demographics: who, what and where information, such as customer type, Business size, revenues, geography, industry, gender, age, and income.

Knowing your demographics is a great first step but it’s dangerous. When you stop there, you miss out on the most valuable information about your customer: what they value, why they buy and who influencers their decision-making process. That’s the information you need to create effective marketing campaigns that get real results.

The Octain Customer Fuel Canvas contains the nine components you need to create a complete customer profile and persona.