The Most Common Small Business Marketing Mistakes

November 20, 2015
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Small business marketers don’t have much margin for error.

They tend to be extremely short on time and resources. There’s often no cushion to fall back on. One mistake and they’re even shorter on time and resources.

[source: Forbes] Here are some tips to help you avoid the expense and lost time mistakes cause. Here is a list of the most common pitfalls in small business marketing. Maybe you aren’t making any of these mistakes. That would be great. However, you just might see yourself in one of these setups. Hopefully, reading this article will help you re-assess before it’s too late.

1) You don’t have a Website.

According to the non-profit organization SCORE, “just 51% of small businesses have Websites.”

You read that right. Nearly half of all small businesses in the United States don’t have a Website.

Some business owners think they don’t need a Website because they are a local business. However, 97% of consumers search online for products & services, and more than half of searches are local. People will (or won’t) find your business online before they ever go (or don’t go) to your business. Bottom line, you need a Website.

Maybe you think creating a Website will be too hard, or too expensive. It doesn’t have to be hard or expensive though. Dozens of companies have stepped forward to make Website creation easier and more affordable. You can have a decent, effective Website for less than $400. If you can set up an answering machine, you can learn how to edit your Website yourself, too. Companies like Wix, GoDaddy, Weebly, Squarespace and many, many more can help.

2) You don’t track results.

This is more common for more developed businesses, but it’s also one of the worst offenses.

If you don’t track, you really don’t know what works. Whether it’s not tracking goals on your Website with Google Analytics, or not tracking conversions through your pay per click ads, or not tracking calls and foot traffic from a big sale or advertising investment, if you aren’t tracking, you’re throwing your money away.

As a wise person once said, it’s okay to make mistakes, so long as you learn from them. If you’re not tracking, there’s no way to learn from your mistakes. Heck, there’s no way to even know if you made a mistake.

Worst of all, if you don’t track, then there’s really no way to improve. That is truly a waste of a marketing budget.

By starting to analyze how their paid efforts were converting, System ID, a small business in Texas, realized that a large number of the customers who converted after clicking an ad, came in on keywords directly related to a subset of their products. Be redirecting a portion of their budget to acquire these customers, they were able to reduce their cost per click by almost over 20% in less than 3 months, while getting in touch with more of their highest value leads.

3) You have no idea what your competitors are doing with their marketing.

This is similar to the tracking mistake, in that you have a huge opportunity to find out what works and what doesn’t╔ and yet many small business owners ignore it completely.

Keep tabs on what your competitors are doing. Even if they aren’t in your town, find at least three other businesses like yours that are doing well. Study their marketing like you were back in school.

You’ll be able to read their successes and failures once you start tracking what they do. Pay special attention to which tactics they do once, and then never do again. Notice what tactics they keep doing month after month after month.

You can leverage every one of their successes and failures. You can learn from every mistake they make. You just have to pay attention.

4) You’re a me-too business.

Okay, admittedly sometimes this ╥mistake╙ works just fine. You can just open up another business that’s pretty much like any other business, and do alright. Start noticing how many nail salons there are, or gas stations.

In some businesses, you don’t have to be particularly noteworthy to get by. In other businesses, that same approach will kill you.

In most business markets and business models, you need to be distinctive. You have to have, and be able to explain, a bulletproof reason why people should do business with you instead of your competitors.

5) You are trying to reach the wrong audience.

This can completely destroy otherwise good marketing and an otherwise good business.

Some business owners have such a clear, focused view of who they want their customers or clients to be that they can be completely blinded to the customers they actually have.

Here’s an example: Someone opens a sandwich and coffee shop. They think their ideal customers will be soccer moms and hipsters. Yet day after day, more than half their tables are filled up with retired guys hungry after playing golf on the nearby course. The other tables are empty.

Yet the owner barely sees the guys. He keeps promoting gluten-free muffins and green smoothies. The guys just want a really good sandwich, a beer or two and a relaxed place to cool off before they go home. They don’t want gluten free muffins.

This kind of mismatch can happen in a number of ways. It can be around a feature of a product. The owner thinks people are buying their product for reason A, yet people are really buying it because of reason B. Unfortunately, all the company’s marketing is built around reason A. That mistake, that misread of their audience, is costing them an uncounted amount of sales.

6) You try to hire people to do marketing for you without studying it yourself.

Some of the smartest owners fall for this one.

They know they need to do marketing, but they have no time to do it. So they hire someone to do it for them.

Sounds like a good start, and it could be a good start. Except, you haven’t studied marketing, or the type of marketing you’ve just hired for, so

  • As you look for whom to hire, you can’t tell who knows their stuff or not. You may not have realistic expectations of what this type of marketing can do.
  • You might expect, for instance, that it’s easy to get a ppc campaign working profitably within a week. When your pay per click consultant (who actually does know their stuff) doesn’t deliver a profitable campaign to you in a week, you fire them. You move on to anyone who promises to deliver on your out-of-touch expectations. Unfortunately, you just fired a competent (and honest) pay per click manager.
  • You don’t know how each marketing tactic fits with other marketing tactics. So you’re wasting lots of money and losing lots of results because all your separate marketing consultants aren’t working together.

There are risks of this happening at any time, but business owners who haven’t read up on marketing seem to fall for it again and again and again.

You need marketing literacy. That doesn’t mean you have to be an expert. You just need to know enough to be able to tell when you’re talking to an expert, and when you’re talking to a moron.

Small business magazines can help. Podcasts are a great way to find out what’s working. There are dozens of small business marketing experts who can help, pick the one whose personality you like the most. But you really do need to spend 2-3 hours every week just learning about marketing. This is the best way to avoid both the major and most common marketing mistakes.

7) You have no written out marketing plan.

Ever heard about how the best to ensure your business succeeds is to write a business plan? Well, it works much the same way for marketing.

Time and budgets are short, so there’s an urge to skip as many “unnecessary” steps for marketing as possible.

Planning out your marketing strategy, the specific tactics you’ll use, how much they’ll cost and how much time they’ll take dramatically increases your chances for success.

Recent proof of this showed up in the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs 2015 B2C Content Marketing Trends report. They found that marketers with a written out content marketing strategy were twice as likely to say their marketing was effective as those that had no written out strategy. In the lowest tier of marketers (as rated by how effective they rated their content marketing), only 5% had a written out strategy.

You can plan and write out a good marketing plan in an afternoon. In that time, those 3-5 hours could be worth doubling the effectiveness of your marketing budget.

8) You put more work into your social media accounts (namely Facebook) than you ever put into your Website.

When social media first exploded, there was a lot of chatter about driving traffic to social media sites. Some major companies even discussed shutting down their Websites and just focusing on their social media pages, especially their Facebook page.

Don’t do that.

All your social media efforts should ultimately drive people back to your Website.

Social media is great to attract new prospects and as a channel to engage with existing prospects, but it’s no replacement for your own Website. Don’t build your house on rented land.

I’ve run into several smart small business owners who interpreted all the enthusiasm about social media to mean that they should focus their efforts on social media. Many thought they didn’t even need a Website anyone. This is an expensive mistake.

The good news is, you don’t have to hire someone full time to do your marketing. You don’t have to get a degree in it. You don’t have to blow ten thousand dollars of budget on it. Just start small, track smart, and expand what works.

9) You blew your budget on just one thing.

It’s even worse if you spent your budget on something you’ve never tried before.

This mistake happens an awful lot, especially when owners have their launch budget.

They’ve got this nice lump of money, and they think if they invest it in this one big thing, it will help to get them to break even faster.

Add this to perhaps the most fatal small business mistake, being underfunded, and you’ve got a recipe for failure.

10) You don’t do any marketing.

This one is dangerously tempting. There are so many good justifications for it. “If we just create a world-class product/service/store, the world will find us.” Nope. The world won’t. Even the most awesome businesses in the world, which are often thought of as not doing any marketing, actually do marketing. They just do it so we don’t recognize it as marketing.

“If we don’t spend any money on marketing, we can put all that money back into improving the business.” Without marketing, the engine of your business has no gas.

The trouble is, of course, that even without marketing, you’re already overworked. You’re already short on budget. You’ve got a dozen other reasons why you’d like to just skip marketing, which many of you do. In fact, 19% of you don’t do any marketing. That’s what we discovered while researching our Wasp Barcode Technologies 2015 State of Small Business Report:

wasp-report

The good news is, you don’t have to hire someone full time to do your marketing. You don’t have to get a degree in it. You don’t have to blow ten thousand dollars of budget on it. Just start small, track smart, and expand what works.

 

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