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6 Key marketing mistakes small business owners should avoid

Marketing is an essential part of promoting your small business and growing sales. That’s why brands spend so much time and effort developing an effective marketing plan – but if you think the success of your marketing depends only on smart planning and doing the right things, let me tell you it isn’t. Small business owners often try new marketing tactics without measuring the results and knowing how it aligns with their goals.

To succeed in marketing, you need to have in-depth knowledge of what to do and what not to do. This is especially true for small businesses, as you’re already stretched thin and have a minimal margin for error.

So to know-how and where to spend your marketing resources, you need first to avoid the marketing pitfalls so many owners fall into. Here are six of the most common marketing mistakes: every small business needs to avoid ensuring optimal efficiency with their efforts.

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  1. Retargeting Everyone

The number one mistake most businesses make is retargeting every bounced visitor.

No matter how good your product is, not every visitor comes to your site intending to shop. If you include these people in your retargeting effort – most of whom have shown no real interest in buying your products – you’re wasting your resources. You have to choose who you want to market to, but too many business owners make a simple choice – market to everybody. After all, “everyone” is the largest possible audience, so it offers the largest possible return, right? Wrong.

Even if you could somehow use one platform selection to get a specific message to everyone globally, that message would be too generic for the entire population to value or remember. It’s like knocking on the door of an empty house – no matter how hard you yell, nobody is going to open it. Don’t make this mistake.

Here’s what you should also do. Segment your bounced visitors into different groups by how many pages they’ve viewed, how much time they’ve spent, whether they’ve visited a particular product category etc., and retarget accordingly.

Don’t waste your retargeting budget on visitors who’ve bounced from your home page within few seconds without even checking a single category page.

If you want to stand out, you have to be unique, and if you want to make an impression, you have to be relevant. Being both unique and relevant requires you to create specifically crafted messaging for one niche segment of the marketplace at a time.

Targeting every visitor won’t necessarily increase your revenue – but it will increase your costs.

  1. Treating marketing as an expense rather than an investment.

An expense is something you buy and depreciate. An investment is something you purchase that will deliver value in the future. The sole purpose of marketing is to drive more leads into customers and keep them as raving fans. So if you run your small business looking at marketing as an expense-ready to cut marketing campaigns and programs when things get tight, you may want to reshape your perspective on small business marketing.

Often when turbulent times hit and sales fall in the tank, the first inclination is to reduce your marketing spend. This is the absolute wrong decision. Marketing is the very catalyst you need to spur growth and drive new opportunities.

  1. No written marketing plan and marketing budget

Trying to promote your business without a marketing plan is like shopping for a red shirt with a blindfold over your eyes. You may get lucky and end up with the result you want, but chances are you will waste a lot of time and money in the process.

Small businesses that don’t have a rock-solid marketing plan have a high failure rate and usually lack the proper marketing budget.


My advice to you as a small business owner is “Just Do It.” Take the time to develop a strategic marketing plan.  As you create a marketing plan, be sure to address the financial costs of implementing each strategy.  For most small businesses, the general rule of thumb is that 9-12% of revenue should be earmarked for marketing efforts. If you have a new startup business, you may need to invest more to build your brand awareness.

Your plan should outline the specific allocation of money for website design and maintenance, inbound marketing, marketing collateral, Facebook ads, logo design. Part of your budget planning should include money for technology and software tools that will deliver a return-on-investment of your overall marketing efforts.

  1. Failing to Invest in Social Media Marketing

Social media is one of the most powerful tools available to market your business in the modern marketplace. Yet, nearly 70% of small business is still not taking social media marketing seriously. Why? Unsurprisingly, small businesses don’t have the time and resources to invest in social media marketing.

From a marketing perspective, that can be devastating.  Some small business owners think that they don’t really need a website because they are local or have just one location. But the game has changed. More than 90% of consumers search online for products and services, and consumers will generally find you online before they go to your business.

There’s a wide range of posts on how to improve your social media strategy (many on this site), but here are the core fundamentals you need to establish for an effective social media marketing strategy:

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  1. Identify your audience
  2. Start small; focus on one platform at a time.
  3. Select key success metrics
  4. Analyze your metrics
  5. Create a social media marketing plan and use it
  1. Big Marketing Splash

Investing in many resources at the start of your campaign, before you’ve gotten to know your target audience intimately, can create excess waste. You don’t yet know what marketing platforms work best because you haven’t had the opportunity to test them, and you’re essentially gambling on what you think might work in your favor. On the other hand, investing too little will leave you with few results and barely enough data to form any meaningful conclusions.  Once you know what works then, you can go all-in with your marketing campaign and spend.

6. Underestimating the Power of Word of Mouth Marketing

The beauty of word-of-mouth marketing is that it is free, and it happens naturally. If you provide an excellent product or service, then your customers are thrilled, and they tell their family, friends, and colleagues about it. If you encourage your clients to spread the word, you can get even more out of word-of-mouth marketing. And not only does it bring in new customers, but it can also result in ongoing repeat business.

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