Top 10 Small Business Marketing Mistakes

Mistake #1: Insufficient Analytics
Many small business owners will launch expensive marketing campaigns without setting up any means of measuring what’s effective and what’s not. Not measuring the effects of marketing activities leaves you blind during marketing budget allocation.

Assuming you’ve got a website, you should at the very least have Google Analytics tracking, and an incoming survey. Your incoming survey should gather data about incoming customers such as:
• Where & when they first learned about your business
• How they found your website
• Their name & contact information
• Some important (but not intrusive) demographic information

Google Analytics is a free tool which can tell even an inexperienced user important information about their website, where people are finding their site, and visitor demographics. Seeking the help of a professional is often a good idea if you lack expertise, and have the budget. Analytics professionals can identify ways to improve your website’s selling capacity, potential Search Engine Optimization (SEO) problems, more detailed demographic information, and much more.
An analytics professional can also help you determine the marginal cost and marginal value of individual marketing activities to determine their optimal budgets.

Mistake #2: Poor Website Design
Your website should be the funnel for most marketing activities. With the exception of advertisements that convey the value proposition sufficiently to warrant instructing customers simply to call, you should be directing people to your website where they’ll be turned into customers. Rapidly changing best practices, evolving technology, and lack of technical knowledge all pose challenges for small business owners.

Unless you have significant (and current) experience in web design, hiring a designer is the smart choice. Stay away from free website generators. They look unprofessional and will often contain targeted advertisements from your competition. A professional designer will help you navigate the minefield of website mistakes, but finding the right designer can be a task unto itself. Here are some tips:
• Look for a designer who provides post-design support
• Always check their portfolio and speak to a past client or two
• Inspect their website for quality, if you’re tech savvy look at their source code and check for meta data on their pages. Good meta data shows they pay attention to detail and understand at least the basics of SEO

Mistake #3: Hiring the Wrong SEO Agency
Search Engine Optimization encompasses all the activities that get websites ranked higher on search engines like Google. Since over 90% of people click on the first few results in any given search, SEO is often the most cost-effective method of marketing for businesses. One must beware however, of SEO companies which misrepresent either their expertise or best practices in the industry. It’s easy to be taken in by such companies, only to get either no results or blacklisted by Google.

Educating yourself on the basics of SEO is the first step to finding a quality SEO firm. Give Google’s publication of SEO best practices a read. Knowing the basics of SEO best practices (white-hat practices) will help you identify a SEO firm that wants to use “black-hat” practices which are ineffectual at best and at worst get your website banned from Google’s search results. Here are some tips for finding the right SEO firm:
• SEO isn’t right for every business. Ensure the firm would be willing to tell you if it’s not right for yours. Ask them to make the business case before beginning. This should include estimates of the search volume of keywords, ability to rank in those keywords, and the marginal value of traffic from those keywords.
• Avoid automatic link building, comment spamming, and article duplication schemes.
• Ensure they send you an end of month report detailing their activities and the impact on your websites rankings and traffic.
• Find a firm that will help you structure new content on your website (as well as existing content).
• Find a firm that’s willing to answer questions about their monthly reports.

Mistake #4: Poor Demographic Targeting
The most common mistake small businesses make in demographic targeting is going too broad. Not wanting to lose out on potential customers, they’ll waste their marketing budget on people not likely to become customers.
Slightly less common mistakes include targeting a niche that won’t be responsive to your value propositions and being too specific with a target market.

Make sure to rigorously test your leap of faith assumptions about your ideal customer before doing a full launch of your marketing campaign. Validate assumptions like “the problem I’m solving is something that the market can recognize”, “my target market has enough money to pay for my product”, etc. Once you’ve identified your target market, and validated those assumptions, learn as much as you can about them.

Mistake #5: Mixed Messages
It’s easy to miss the messages that using a certain font or message media can send. Professional service firms designing publications that use the font Comic Sans may not realize the juvenile image it conveys. Less accidentally, firms often try to communicate two conflicting images of their brand.

Everything about your marketing strategy should be consistent. Inconsistencies in a brand image are seldom positive. When making small decisions, try to visualize the decision from the point of view of a customer. When making large decisions, like logo design, it’s best to actually find people in your target demographic and get their opinions.

Mistake #6: Lack of Value Proposition
Value propositions are commonly explained poorly or too far along in a marketing message. The reader of a marketing message should understand the value proposition within a few seconds. If nothing has hooked the reader’s attention, they will get distracted and lost before understanding the value proposition.

Ensure your value proposition is effectively communicated within the first few seconds of reading. You can explain more about the product after the value proposition has been made.

Mistake #7: No Call to Action
The absence of a call to action can make an otherwise brilliant marketing message worthless. People not sufficiently enthusiastic to go searching for contact information will be quickly lost to apathy.

Each marketing message should contain a convenient call to action at the message’s most convincing point (often following data, closing of a business case, or a list of features). The call to action should coincide with what the customer wants to do at that point in the message. If the customer is likely to want to know more about the features, then “Discover the many features of ____” would be an effective call to action. If you think the reader is convinced of the value proposition, then a call to action leading to a purchase or contact page would be best.

Mistake #8: Unrealistic Claims
Legal problems aside, hyperbole in marketing messages is the fastest way to lose a reader’s trust. Once trust in your company is lost, it’s difficult to recover.

Represent your business with realistic claims and value propositions. This is always the best approach to marketing.

Mistake #9: Spelling and Grammar
It’s spectacularly easy to make errors when writing marketing materials. They reflect poorly on the company’s competence and attention to detail. What’s worse is that you’re often the worst equipped to find the errors that you’ve made. The absence of a spellchecker and focus on coding over copywriting makes website design a hotbed of errors.

Run finished websites, graphic copy, and meta data through a word processor to check for spelling and have someone read it over for grammatical errors.

Mistake #10: Overreaching
Many small business owners will either overestimate the amount of time and money they can invest in marketing or underestimate the amount of time and money each marketing activity will take. Abandoned social media outlets, dried up Google Adwords campaigns, and uncompleted websites are hallmarks of overreaching. The abandonment of these undertakings is expensive in terms of money, reputation, and lost sales.

Before diving into a new marketing activity, do your research. Determine the time and monetary investment required for each marketing activity. Once you’ve done that, expect you’ll be wrong. Allocate some percentage of your marketing budget to activities that take more time or money than expected.

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Spencer McLennan / Director of Integrated Marketing
Spencer has over 9 years experience in Web Development, SEO, and Digital Marketing. As Director of Integrated Marketing, he is responsible for the design and optimization of our clients’ marketing campaigns.

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