If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already spent countless hours honing in on who exactly your ideal customer is. Maybe you’ve even started tailoring your branding, content marketing and offerings to speak directly to them. If so, you’re doing great! BUT, the work isn’t over just yet (sorry). 

Even if you know your ideal customer, what they want, and how to speak to them, there are a few pitfalls that can turn your dream clients off. It’s relatively easy to attract people to your brand; but once something happens to put them off? It’s going to be a serious mission to ever get them back.

If you’re doing any of these things, don’t worry, they are very common mistakes that we’ve all made at some point. The best thing you can do is be conscious of them, and know how to avoid them. Luckily for you, that’s where I’m going to help by walking you through my own experiences and advice! So grab your favourite notebook and a warm beverage and let’s get started.

1. Poor quality design

As a designer, of course I had to touch on this, but it doesn’t matter what industry you are in, high quality design is a sign of professionalism and credibility. This is even more crucial for service-based or online businesses - you simply can’t afford to compromise on those two traits.

Now what do I really mean by “poor quality”? Naturally, I have pretty high standards for anything that I create or use for my own brand, and yes, design is a matter of taste, but when I say “poor quality” I’m really talking about two major things that apply to every single business. Let’s take a look at what you can do to avoid these traps...

Get all your design elements professionally crafted

This is really important especially for core elements like your logo, website, business cards, print collateral and any signage for your business. Using a professional designer will not only ensure the finished product is visually stunning but also optimised for its end use so it will never look blurry, off-centre or cut-off. Making sure these core components look polished and professional will make for a great first impression on potential clients. 

Make sure your branding reflects your business

Onto my second point, beautiful design not only makes it easier to build trust with your ideal customer, it also helps them connect with you. It creates a visual identity for your brand that directly attracts your ideal clients (and maybe even repels those who are not a good fit).

Maybe you’re a women-led business providing a service in a male-dominated industry, and your ideal clients are women too. A feminine touch to your branding can help you stand out to your dream customers. Likewise, if you were a psychologist specialising in children and families, you might have child-like elements that make this clear without even having to look past your logo.

So now that you’ve got your design and branding down pat, it’s time to make sure it’s consistent everywhere your business is seen. 

Which brings us to our next point...

2. Being inconsistent online

Giving mixed messages online is like talking the talk but not walking the walk. There’s a branding term called the consistency triangle, which says organisations need to say, do and confirm in order to build brand integrity. In other words, say what you do, do what you say, and in doing this, you’ll be confirming what you stand for and helping potential customers trust you.

Here are just a few ways you can make this happen.

Tips to keep your brand consistent

  • Once you have your branding style in place from step one, make sure all of your social channels, website, and any other places you’re present online are consistent with the same colours, fonts, logos and other style elements. 

  • Have one clear tagline or quick bio that describes what your business does and make sure this is used everywhere - your website, social media profiles, email signature - the lot.

  • Try to keep all your social media handles the same so it’s easy to find you and your name is more memorable. Ideally, these should also match your website domain and email address.

  • Make sure everything you write online or have written for you fits with your tone of voice and is in-line with your beliefs as the business owner. As you grow, you’ll no doubt start outsourcing some of your content or copywriting, and a great writer will be able to match your tone of voice and stay true to your messages. Even still, you should always carefully read over everything written for you to make sure it agrees with what you are saying and sharing publicly. 

3. Not defining your focus or mission

Remember what we said about the consistency triangle? If you don’t have a clear mission to stand for, your brand can never achieve true brand integrity. True story. 

Not only will this prevent you from building a strong brand, but it will also simply confuse your potential customers. Once you have a laser-focused mission in mind, it will be 10 times easier to explain how you can help people.

The good news is, if you don’t know your focus, it’s not too hard to work it out. After all, you probably already know your business’ mission deep-down, you’ve probably just never written it out or thought about it in-depth. Here’s what I’d recommend if you’re finding it hard to pin down.

How to define your business’ mission

  • Grab that notebook I mentioned and spend 5 to 10 minutes right now (yes, before you do anything else) thinking about why you started your business. Write these thoughts down.

  • Now think about the top three moments in your business where you felt really rewarded, proud or fulfilled. Maybe it was getting a compliment from a customer, making a breakthrough in results or turning someone’s life or business around. Chances are, all of these moments have something in common that made you feel content. When you know what that is, write it down. 

  • Now look at these things together - this is your mission! Combine this “why” into one clear sentence and make this a reference point for every single thing that you do.

Maybe the end mission you come up with is different to the reason you started your business and that’s okay. Growing businesses change and evolve over time, especially when you’re very personally involved with them. 

Now that you know your focus, it’s time to live and breathe it in everything you say and do!

Now let’s move onto interacting with others. Yes, this is a reflection of your brand too!

4. Ghosting or going off the grid for a long time

Now don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with unplugging every once in a while. In fact, I recommend it. 

But if you want your business to survive and thrive while you’re at it, there are a few things you’ll need to have in place to make sure your audience and customers don’t feel forgotten about.

Make sure emails and phone calls don’t go ignored

Even if you’re switching off, it’s vital that current clients aren’t feeling neglected. Now those 2am emails and 8pm phone calls can always wait - but if you’re planning to be away from your inbox or phone for a while, there are a few steps you can take to make sure your clients are looked after.

  • Notify clients as far as possible in advance if you’re planning to go away and be offline. At least one month before is good for the initial heads-up, and then another reminder the week before.

  • Set-up an auto-reply for while you’re away. If possible, make one for current clients that gives them a number to get you on in emergencies (actual emergencies!) or ideally, details for a 2IC they can contact for help in your absence. Then set-up another auto-reply for anyone outside of your contacts to let them know you’re away and when you’ll respond, or that their email has been forwarded to someone else who will get back to them soon.

  • While you’re at it, update your voicemail with similar info.

  • Try to make sure projects are wrapped up early before you go away and get regular client work done in advance as much as possible. This way you can ensure clients have everything they need before you go and there’s no more back and forth communication needed. 

Hire a VA to handle leads

If you get a lot of leads to your inbox, it’s well worth investing in some hours with a Virtual Assistant to respond to these while you’re offline, or even ongoing if you’re super busy. They could help by responding to enquiries, taking briefs, sending quotes and booking in work for when you’re back. Most potential customers understand that good work is worth the wait and won’t mind having to hang out for their project to be done, as long as they get a speedy reply and know when it’s going to happen.

Schedule content in advance

If social media is core to finding customers for you business (let’s be honest, for most of us, it is!), then you’ll want to make sure your social presence doesn’t completely fall off the face of the Earth while you’re away. Luckily, it’s easy-peasy these days to schedule content in advance so you can keep sharing gems of knowledge and great stories with your audience even if you’re M.I.A. If you’re active on email marketing, you’ll also want to schedule some emails to go out to your loyal subscribers so they don’t feel forgotten. 

5. Not responding or engaging on social media

Never post and ghost! Imagine having a conversation with someone at a party and every time you spoke they didn’t reply or acknowledge what you said but continued to talk about themselves. You probably wouldn’t become best friends. Or any kind of friend at all for that matter.

This is how people feel on social media when you post to your profile but never reply comments or go and engage with other people’s posts. The best communication is two-way, and it’s the only way you will find success on social media - you have to be social and build relationships!

I know it can seem overwhelming, especially as your account grows, but even just spending 20 minutes a day goes a long way. If you’re really pressed for time, you can hire a social media agency or virtual assistant to look after this. Just ask them about community management and social media engagement when you enquire. Outsourcing is also a great solution if you’re planning to go offline and have your pre-scheduled content going out.

Here’s what I’d recommend keeping on top of, at a minimum.

Must-dos for social media engagement

  • Reply to every comment on your own posts, as well as direct messages. If they are obviously spam or trolls, simply block and delete. 

  • Each day, spend a few minutes going to at least 3-5 accounts you care about and leave some thoughtful, genuine comments, or share some of their posts if they’ll be helpful to your own audience.

  • Do the same for 2 or 3 new accounts each day if you’re trying to grow your following.

  • Stay across who is sharing your content and say thank you! 

6. Giving poor customer service

This should go without saying, but your level of customer service is what really establishes your brand reputation, above all else. Even if you try your best to give great customer service, sometimes there can be little things that make life difficult for your customers, and you might not even realise!

Even if you’re helpful, efficient and effective in servicing your customers, take a good look at your systems, and see if they are living up to your standards of providing a great customer experience. 

Do a quick audit of these items

  • Your enquiry form

  • Your proposals

  • Your contracts or paperwork

  • Your briefing documents on onboarding guides

  • Your invoices/checkout and payment options

  • Your website design

These are all extra touchpoints for your customers outside of personal contact with you, and they are all opportunities to make their experience amazing. Go through these processes as if you were your customer and make sure everything is quick and easy to use. And if you can make it fun? Even better!

Tips to improve customer experience

  • Make your enquiry form quick and easy to complete, make sure it shows a thank you message when submitted and let’s people know what will happen next.

  • Make sure your proposals are clear and easy to understand, you may want to include an FAQ section. 

  • Deliver contracts and forms electronically so they can be completed and signed online. This makes like so much easier for both parties and is better for the environment too!

  • Design briefing documents or onboarding guides to be completed online too, and make sure no special programs are required to use them. Accessibility is key.

  • Provide as many payment options as possible, so it’s easy for people to purchase from you. You’ll also get paid faster!

  • Make sure your invoices are easy to understand, there are clear instructions on how to pay, and payments can be made easily online.

  • If you have a checkout, make sure it’s straightforward and not confusing, you’ll get more conversions.

  • Ensure your website is easy to navigate and everything works as expected. Ideally, get someone who isn’t familiar with your site to do a few basic actions and make sure they can easily work it out. If they can’t, then your UX/UI might need some work.

Well, that was certainly an exhaustive list, but I could talk about this topic all day! I really hope these tips are helpful for your own business; I truly believe they apply to everyone, regardless of industry. 

Have you ever had an experience that turned you off buying from a business? I want to know! Let’s chat about it in the comments.

Cass Deller