Are you ready to take your sales to the next level but don’t know what to do or where to begin? You’re not alone. It’s amazing to me how many small business owners do not understand or appreciate how important their marketing is to the life, health, and growth of their business. That’s because, in most cases, they are making one of three critical marketing mistakes that can lead to lack of growth and even business failure.

In fact, according to the US Small Business Administration, more than 50% of new businesses will fail within the first five years!

Here are three critical mistakes you must avoid to be sure your business isn’t one of them.

1. Not Creating a Written Marketing Plan and Budget

Most experts agree that the fastest way to growth and profitability with your small business is to have a written marketing plan that includes a monthly or quarterly budget.

Unfortunately many small business owners dismiss this advice choosing instead to fly by the seat of their pants where their marketing is concerned. The result, more often than not, is poor results and even outright failure. That’s because it’s always a good idea to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there before setting off down the road.

First, take an inventory of the marketing strategies that have worked best for you or others in your business or industry in the past. Some of my clients tell me they generate the best results using direct mail. Others are partial to online direct response ads. Still others use conventional advertising such as newspaper, radio, or television. The kind of marketing you decide on is outside the scope of this article. The critical thing to remember is to make a decision on how you will market and fund your efforts, put it all down in writing, and then stick to your plan.

2. Not Developing a Competitive Advantage in the Marketplace

Most business owners cannot identify their competitive advantage let alone communicate it effectively to their customers and prospects. Think about it. What sets you apart from everyone else who does what you do? What unique advantage or benefit does patronizing your business gain for people that they cannot get somewhere else? If you don’t have a good answer to this question you will never be able to maximize your results and dominate your market-no matter how good or clever your advertising is.

3. Not Communicating The Benefits

Marketing and sales is all about communication. As soon as you have learned to communicate the unique reason or reasons why people should do business with you instead of your competitors you will be in a position to persuade them to buy from you.

Of course, one of the most important parts of effective communication lies in understanding each other clearly and accurately. That’s why your marketing needs to speak the language of the person you are speaking with. If you knew that your prospects spoke only English, you wouldn’t speak to them in Russian or Chinese would you?

One of the biggest reasons businesses fail to communicate and persuade effectively is that they often are speaking to the prospect in a different language than the one the prospect speaks. I’m not talking about actual languages. I’m talking about directing your communication towards the one and only language your prospect is always tuned in to listening to. That is the language of benefits.

Too many businesses use their marketing as a hammer to try to beat the customer over the head with logic, facts, and figures. They think that if they can just tell the prospect enough about their company or their product or service, it will result in a buying decision. Unfortunately buyers are not interested in hearing about you, your business, or how great your product or service is. They are interested in one thing only. “What’s in it for me?” Answer this question and you will find yourself speaking their language. Learn to speak it fluently and an incredible boost in sales and revenue will never be far behind.

So how do you learn to speak in terms of benefits to your prospects and customers? It’s simple. After you tell them about you, your company, or your product or service, tell them what it means to them. For example, if one of the features of your club membership is a swipe card with 24 hour access, say, “You will receive a membership card good for access 24 hours a day which means you will have the added convenience of being able to work out any time you’d like−even in the middle of the night!”