12 Most Common Marketing Mistakes Business Owners Make

Updated: Aug 18


12 marketing mistakes business owners make

When small business owners get started with their new endeavor, their primary focus, most often, is to get as many customers through the door as possible. Sometimes, they think that simply offering an excellent product or service will be enough to get the word out. While this certainly is important (and not a bad start, either), there’s something else that small business owners can’t neglect: digital marketing. And through the years, it has transitioned from just another way to market goods and services to becoming an integral part of businesses.


Digital marketing offers a lot of benefits, especially to small and medium enterprises. It allows you to get hyper-specific when identifying your target audience and reach people where they spend time and money the most. It enables you to compete in a global marketplace with a smaller budget, to interact and know more about your customers, and to keep watch of what your competitors are doing.


More importantly, it allows you to track your campaigns easily, so you can adjust and optimize your efforts for better results.


Unfortunately, many still look at digital marketing the wrong way and thus are unable to take advantage of its full potential. If you’re one of them, we’re here to help you out.


Stay with us — we’re going to uncover seven common mistakes small business owners make with digital marketing, and how to correct them.


1. The don’t have a website


According to the non-profit organization SCORE, 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. If you are a large company that relies on internet infrastructure than you might want not only a website, but to consider an IT service provider.


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, Wordpress, Shopify, and many, many more can help.


2. They Only Look at Likes and Follower Count, Not Conversions


Sure, having thousands (or tens of thousands) of followers can seem attractive at first. It helps to make you look popular and desirable. But follower count isn’t everything. It also doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll have a successful brand. That’s why it’s better to focus on increasing your conversion rate.


Conversions are positive actions that get people closer to making a purchase through your website or social media pages. These include page visitors filling out contact forms, setting meeting appointments, calling your support team, or making inquiries or requests.

Apart from offering quality products or valuable services, here are other ways to boost your conversion rates:

  • Use effective calls-to-action (CTA)

  • Create relevant posts with high-quality images and videos

  • Make your content mobile-friendly

  • Track your metrics diligently


3. Small Business Owners Rely on Organic Traffic and Don’t Play With Paid Ads


Organic traffic is a good indicator of the quality of content you have. This gauges how users are able to visit your page from the search engine’s organic results, which means your posts cater to what they’re specifically looking for.


However, this is not enough if you want your company to succeed. As with everything in business, you need to make wise investments – and this includes paid ads.


For small business owners, paid ads help bring in more qualified and relevant leads as you’re able to target the specific consumers you want to be interested in your brand. Similarly, they provide measurable results – like impressions, clicks, and conversion — allowing you to make better budget decisions and improve your results over time.


Moreover, you have complete control over how you want to reach your customers and when you want to scale. From keywords and placements to ad budgets and bids, you choose what to spend and how to optimize your ads even while they’re already running.

Furthermore, don’t forget that for Facebook especially, organic traffic is very low. We’re talking almost non-existent. If you rely solely on organic traffic, you’re not going to get very far. You almost have to pay to play. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. All of it just means that you can’t neglect paid promotion.


Essentially, paid ads are essential to your digital marketing efforts because they drive valuable traffic, bring in more revenue, and get you close to your business goals.


4. They 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. Many businesses need to focus on asking the right questions.


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. This is why it is very important before a marketing campaign to do keyword and competitor research.


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5. They Spread Themselves Too Thin on Many Platforms


While being on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and all other online networks seems exciting, doing so will be a waste of your time and resources. You can’t (and shouldn’t) select a platform just because other people are using it.


As small business owners, it’s better to know where your leads and customers are, rather than posting all platforms and playing your chances on where results will come in. It’s important that you know and understand your audience, so you can choose the right channels that will best capture them. This will also help you optimize your social profiles, create quality content, and engage with your community to help you achieve your business goals.


Also, select only the channels that you can effectively manage. Remember if you prioritize everything, you end up prioritizing nothing.


All of this means that if you’re seeing a lot of traction on Pinterest but none at all on Twitter, you might want to stop investing time in Twitter and put that toward Pinterest.


6. They Don’t Have a Concrete, Specific, Actionable Plan


Just like big businesses, small business owners need also need detailed marketing plans that guide their business decisions. Having a written out plan will enable you to create effective and relevant campaigns, with specific plans and strategies that will increase your chances for success.

marketing strategy

Here are some things to consider when creating your marketing plan:

  • What do you want people to know about your business?

  • Who do you want to talk to?

  • What platforms will be most effective for reaching them?

  • How much will you need to successfully reach them?

  • Why is your business different from your competitors?

Ultimately, your plan should be three things: specific, concrete, and actionable. “Increase sales” isn’t a plan. Increase sales to what? How? By when? Now we’re talking!

Remember, just as the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”


7. They Pay Too Little or Too Much Attention to Competition


While you want to differentiate your business from others, there’s a lot that you can learn from your competitors. That’s why it’s useful that you know what efforts they’re investing in online, including their strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities that they may not be addressing. Doing competitive research will give you insights on what works and what doesn’t, and how you can scale up and beat the competition.


However, this doesn’t mean that you’ll just mirror what they’re doing. It’s highly possible that what you’re seeing them do is only a part of their overall plan. You might be missing out on other important things that are working well for them. They may be running on a different business model, lower costs, or higher profit margins – and all these may not be applicable to you right now.


Keep in mind that no one approach fits all. You have to pay attention, just enough attention, and use what you learn to set yourself apart from the competition. Just remember to stay true to your own brand voice.


8. They’re a me-too business