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12 Most Common Marketing Mistakes Business Owners Make

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

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.

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

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.

For a deep dive into how powerful being distinctive is, read the book “Positioning.”

Read that book before you launch your business, before you think about who you want to serve, what you want to offer and how you want to offer it. In most business and towns these days, you either stand out, or you go under. Positioning makes all the difference.

9. Only marketing when the chips are down

Understanding how long it takes to convert leads from warm or cold to paying customers is quite a crucial part of information for you to know as a small business. I know for my business, clients can be in the pipeline for sometimes 12 months before they decide to buy from me.

Some products are less considered and can easily convert new customers to sales due to their price point or their brand, however for most businesses it will take customers several touch-points and a bit of consideration before getting out their wallet.

So marketing when the chips are down is not particularly effective. You need to be marketing BEFORE you anticipate a sales slump so your customers have time to move through the journey of getting to know, like and trust you.

10. They don't tell the customer what’s in it for them

Too many small business owners make the mistake of listing product or service features and not communicating the benefits of their product or service to a customer. When you are writing your marketing copy, ask yourself repeatedly ‘what’s in it for them’. The more you can demonstrate the benefits the more likely they will be to buy. Sometimes this even comes down to having the right package design and product design that is tailored to the audience you are wanting to reach. This also has to do with psychological marketing which companies need to consider in their design and branding process.

Not including clear call to actions in your advertising

What is the single action that you would like the reader of your marketing collateral or advertisement to take next? Call, Email, Buy Now, Download. Whatever it is, make sure this instruction is loud and clear in all of your marketing.

11. Viewing marketing as a cost instead of an investment

If I had a dollar for every time a small business owner said that they really needed to get some revenue happening but couldn’t afford the cost of marketing, I’d be wealthy enough to shout every small business in Australia a marketing campaign or two!

When done properly marketing is an investment. Invest money to tell customers that you exist, to demonstrate what makes you different, to drive traffic to your website, your shop, your office.

By marketing your business you are driving revenue or customers, or event attendees or whatever goal it is you have set to achieve.

If your potential customers don’t know that you exist or they are being effectively influenced by a competitors marketing and advertising, or they simply don’t understand what it is you sell then you make it very hard for them to buy from you.

12. They Don’t Track and Measure Results

Even when many small business owners begin to transition to digital marketing, they unfortunately tend to forget to track how their new strategies are performing.

If you don’t track your numbers, you can’t know what’s working and what needs to be optimized. If you’re not paying attention to your metrics – whether it’s page traffic, paid ads results, leads, or conversions – you might end up wasting or losing money. Worst of all, you miss out on the opportunity to learn from your errors or to improve your strategies.

Through consistent monitoring and measuring of data, you’ll be able to identify the most effective marketing methods for your business. It’s only with hard facts (and adjusting your process as you see fit) that you will be able to succeed in your digital marketing campaigns.

The Conclusion

For small business owners, digital marketing is vital – crucial, even.

However, it’s important that you shift your focus toward the right things, so as not to waste time, energy, and money. Remember that more than the increase of your follower count, it’s better to keep an eye on how to boost your conversion rate. It’s essential that you invest in paid ads that will help bring in qualified leads and relevant traffic.

It’s a must that you know and understand who your intended audience is, so you can thoughtfully identify which channels to use. Pay adequate attention to your competitors and their efforts to know how to set yourself apart. Make sure you have a plan in place to guide you when making decisions.

Above all, make sure you know how to track your results so that you can gauge what to continue doing and what to improve on.

If you haven’t yet, now is the best time to consider investing in digital marketing.

And if you have already, be sure to avoid these seven common mistakes to get the most out of its potential benefits.


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