Marketing is essential. No matter how big or small, how new or well-established your business is, you need a well-researched and clearly articulated marketing plan. If you want to promote brand awareness, attract new customers, keep existing customers, and continue growing your business well into the future, you must have a cogent marketing strategy. Not having a marketing strategy is the first of many marketing mistakes to avoid.
As a small business, marketing is especially important. You face a lot of competition out there, and it’s crucial that you use marketing to differentiate your business from the rest in a way that’s important to your target market. Smaller businesses often struggle to make a name for themselves and gain traction, but a good marketing strategy can help you overcome these hurdles.
Unfortunately, many small businesses tend to make a lot of marketing mistakes because they lack the experience and expertise to pull off this function. Some even consider marketing as inconsequential or something anyone can do. Understandably, there is a lot on your plate as a small business owner, and a marketing strategy and budgeting for marketing may be the furthest thing from your mind. But falling victim to these common marketing mistakes can sink your business before it ever gets off the ground.
Marketing is not something extra or nonessential, as many new small business owners tend to think. Marketing is a must, and you should make it a priority from day one.
So, let’s take a look at some of the most common marketing mistakes small business owners make and how to avoid them.
Common marketing mistakes
1. No marketing budget
There have a lot to manage as a small business owner, and the cost of getting a small business up and running can feel overwhelming. You might have a very tight budget that limits what you can accomplish. As such, it’s not uncommon for small business owners to leave marketing out of their initial budget, claiming there is just no time or money to lend to marketing. But a lack of a marketing budget is a huge marketing mistake that you’ll pay for. Marketing is the only way to generate revenue for your fledgling business and without a marketing budget, you’ll struggle to produce revenue. which strangles your business.
You need to establish a marketing strategy as soon as possible, which means you need to include necessary expenses in your budget from the start. There are lots of ways to create an initial marketing budget, which I discuss in this post.
2. Lack of a coherent strategy
In conjunction with a lack of a marketing budget, many small business owners also fail to establish a well-thought-out plan or strategy for marketing. Instead, they often view it as nonessential, which means they don’t dedicate the time and effort necessary to research and develop a good marketing strategy designed to reach their goals. But just as you need a budget for marketing, you also need a good plan. And, building a coherent marketing strategy takes expertise. You can’t just do marketing by the seat of your pants nor can you simply throw something together on the back of a napkin.
So it’s crucial that you prioritize marketing alongside other business priorities. Without marketing, you won’t attract customers, and without customers, you won’t make any money.
3. No website or a basic website
Amazingly, though the internet has been around for some time now, many small businesses still avoid designing a website. Or they simply put minimal effort into their website. Either way, this is a huge marketing mistake for any small business. We live in a digital world, and most consumers today spend a significant amount of time on the internet. E-commerce picked up since the pandemic forced everyone to “shop” from home but, even more critically, consumers search for solutions online before buying.
As such, having a well-designed website is essential. It helps prospects find you, builds trust in your brand that impacts purchase behavior, offers a vehicle for them to research your products, and allows you to share positive reviews that impact sales, as you can see below.
4. Lack of brand identity
For some businesses, the marketing mistakes don’t involve a lack of marketing but doing the wrong things, like not developing a consistent brand identity that consumers relate to. Your brand identity or brand story is who you are as a business. It’s your values, your ethics, what you believe in, and your overall vibe and developing a brand identity that translates across all your marketing efforts is important to attract consumers. Your marketing falls flat or confuses customers without a clear brand identity. For example, if one minute you seem like a funny, carefree brand and the next you come across as very serious, it leaves your customers confused and unsure of what to expect from your business.
You could also seem like an ethical and inclusion mistake in positioning your brand and accidentally damage your brand’s reputation. Consider Ye (formerly Kanye) and his antisemitic posts that forced brands to drop him like a hot potato.
5. Not knowing your unique selling proposition
Consumers buy solutions, not products and they look for products that solve their specific problem better than competitive products. That means you need to develop a unique selling proposition (USP) and communicate that effectively to your target market. If you don’t bring anything new, innovative, and unique to the table, you will likely struggle to attract and retain customers. Rather than listing every attribute of your brand, you need to focus on your USP.
For example, if you sell a skincare product similar to other popular products on the market, this doesn’t automatically mean your product will also become popular. You need to have something that makes it stand out — something that makes it at least a little different from the rest, like a unique ingredient or unique, sustainable packaging. So, no matter what you sell, try to find that thing that makes it unique or that makes your brand unique, and play up that feature as a selling point in your marketing. And if you don’t have a unique selling point, work on creating one.
6. Failure to research the competition
Ignoring the competition is another of the many marketing mistakes businesses make. You need to know what is already out there to identify your USP. You also need to understand why customers are attracted to and interested in your competitors’ brands.
Some small business owners like to ignore the competition because they don’t want to turn their business into a competition. They simply want to stay in their own lane and focus on their own matters to succeed. And while not caring about the competition or not wanting to make running a small business seem like a competition is a nice thought, it is, unfortunately, a poor business strategy. You don’t necessarily need to think of it as a fight with your competitors to be the one that comes out on top. Still, you need to know your competitors and what they are doing so you can stay one step ahead.
A big part of developing a marketing plan involves understanding the competition, your own abilities, and the features of the environment surrounding your business so you can respond effectively. A SWOT analysis summarizes these strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to help guide your strategy to respond effectively.
7. Not understanding your target market
Targeting the wrong audience or not paying much attention to who you target with your marketing efforts is another common mistake small businesses make. Consumer markets are vast, and not everyone is the right target for your brand and what you sell. So you must understand your target market so you can position your product in a way they view favorably, can communicate your advantages in a way that resonates with them, and price your products accordingly. You even need to know your target market’s preferences to know where to sell your products.
To discover the right audience, it helps to look at your competitors and who they target but you should also do consumer research to create customer personas. A customer persona is essentially a fictional representation of who your ideal customer is. And creating customer personas gives you a better understanding of your market and how to specifically target them with your marketing.
8. Focusing on the wrong aspects of your business
Some small business owners think that having the latest and fanciest marketing tech and tools is what predicts success. Unfortunately, too much focus on fancy high-tech software and resources and not enough focus on your marketing team itself doesn’t produce results. People make results, not fancy tech.
Sometimes, it’s the tried and true fundamentals that make all the difference. Just because you have the flashiest and trendiest marketing tools does not mean your marketing team is going to succeed. The employees you hire are the foundation of your marketing team, and how well they work together is ultimately what determines the success of your marketing. If your teams don’t get along, or if there is a general negative company culture, it affects your marketing. So focus on building good teams and positive company culture first that promotes team collaboration and communication.
It’s good to have people on your marketing team that have a variety of different thinking styles, but you want to make sure everyone is inclusive and accepting of one another and ensure you are promoting healthy communication. The better people work together, and the more collaborative they are, the better your marketing outcomes.
9. Avoiding social media or poor social media strategy
Social media is king when it comes to marketing. While it’s good to have a multi-channel strategy that utilizes various avenues for marketing, such as email, website content, mobile marketing, and even print, social media really helps when it comes to building your brand. The majority of consumers today spend a significant amount of time on social media, even senior citizens use social media much more than you might predict. And they even use social media for discovering and engaging with brands. It’s like their one-stop shop to learn everything they need to know and where they can even make purchases in-app on some social platforms.
So having a social media strategy as a part of your overall marketing strategy is a must. But it doesn’t just help to have a basic social media presence. You need to put effort into creating engaging posts, videos, and other forms of advertising that genuinely connect with your target audience and grab their attention. Posting on a regular schedule and working hard to achieve engagement on your chosen platforms is a recipe for success on social platforms.
And you also need to make sure you are utilizing the right social media sites and apps. Instagram marketing and TikTok marketing, for example, are the most popular among today’s younger generation of consumers, while Facebook has a relative large percentage of older consumers. Below are some guidelines in choosing the social platforms you use. Also, make sure you have the bandwidth to keep up with all the platforms you choose.
10. No metrics or analytics
Finally, what’s the point of having a marketing strategy if you aren’t measuring your progress or performance? Metrics and analytics help you take a close look at how your marketing content is performing so you can identify what is working and where you need to improve. This allows you to make adjustments as needed to consistently deliver the best possible content to your customers.
If you don’t do anything to measure your progress, you may easily overlook issues that can end up costing you money in the long run. For example, if you are spending on ads in a certain place that isn’t getting any views or clicks, then you are wasting your money. But analytics can help you identify those problem areas so you can quickly adjust things and try something new to seek better results.
To ensure your small business has good brand awareness and attracts customers, you must have a solid marketing strategy. And more than that, it’s important to have a strategy that avoids the mistakes listed above.
Not only can a good marketing strategy help you succeed and please your customers, but it can also take pressure off your employees and prevent burnout. The better your marketing strategy, the more success you will have, and the more successful your business, the less pressure there is on your teams to overwork themselves.
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.