There is something about marketing that can make smart people feel stupid. It’s like when you talk to a lawyer…it often feels as though they’re speaking another language. The trouble is, if you don’t understand what you’re paying for, you’re going to get duped. We’ve assembled the most common marketing issues business owners face and simple ways you can start the new year in a better direction for your business.

1. Ask questions until you get an answer you understand. 

If you’re confused, you’re dealing with a product peddler and you won’t get the results you’re looking for specific to your needs. Experts should be able to explain the fundamentals to you in an easily digestible way – and tailored to your own issues.

2. Avoid doing nothing just because it feels safe. 

There are sometimes legitimate reasons for you not to act. You shouldn’t delay out of fear of what others will think, or your desire for perfectionism. Mistakes can be costly, but they’re also opportunities if you look at it as a learning experience.

3. One size doesn’t fit all. 

No matter what the “industry norm” is, it should only matter that your approach connects with your target market. That’s it. The only thing that matters is your customer. Who are they? Where are they? What do they want? The answers to those questions are your marketing strategy.

4. Broadcasting your message doesn’t work. 

Yelling at your customer about you has never worked. People don’t appreciate being spoken at…they want a relationship with you and your brand. Speak to your customer about what the customer cares about and how you can solve their problems.

5. Don’t deal in broken promises. 

Many marketing plans should begin internally. A complete top-down study of where you are (and aren’t) meeting customer expectations can be revealing to say the least. Make sure the study starts with you as the business owner or main ingredient. Catchy slogans are catchy…but so are reputations for not delivering on them.

6. Don’t presume people care. 

Getting a potential customer or client to take action isn’t easy, but it’s easier if you communicate as efficiently as possible. While you may eat, sleep and breathe your business, your customers don’t. Give them what they need to make their decision — nothing less, nothing more.

7. Be your own customer. 

In a world where technology allows us to demand (and in many cases, get) what we want instantly…many businesses fall short. Email blasts are generic and include links to products that are no longer available. Regularly be your own customer and walk through every process you have to find mistakes…and then fix them.

So while marketing can often make people feel stupid, if you understand these marketing fundamentals you’ll be in a far better position for the new year.