5 Marketing Mistakes Every Small Business Should Avoid

If you’re tired of wondering whether you’re wasting money on your marketing efforts or if you have a hard time understanding ROI, then you need to look at your marketing strategy and plan. Uh-oh, you say? If you don’t have a strategic marketing strategy, you need to read 5 Essential Elements of Digital Marketing That Get Results. It will help you get a clearer picture of what you need to include in a great plan.  

For the rest of you, remember that your plan is your promise. It’s the commitment you’re making to ensure that your organization grows. At MediaFuel, we’ve found that small businesses that have grown with strong visionary leaders are often missing the discipline and rigor that will get them to the next level. That is not a knock on a visionary leader. Without vision, people perish, but often visionary organizations without the discipline of execution don’t achieve their full potential. 

Think of a marketing strategy like a strong leader in the organization. Marketing always leads the way. A great strategy sets the vision for where you’re going, what you’re going to do, and even more importantly, what you will not do. 

Without a solid marketing strategy, your growth is at risk, and you’re likely experiencing one of these five mistakes. 

Mistake #1: The next big idea rules the day

There is never a shortage of ideas in marketing. Implementing marketing initiatives is like conducting a continuous experiment and improving the results through time. One of the most prominent issues entrepreneurs face is choosing the best ideas and focusing on only those. When you look at your marketing plan, do you see a clearly defined position you want to own in your prospects’ and customers’ minds? Does it identify the best few ideas you’re going to pursue in the next month, quarter, and year? 

Or does your organization operate with excitement toward the next new big idea that never gets fully implemented? We’ve seen this issue in SaaS organizations in their first three to five years of funding. It also shows up in businesses that provide homeowner services, such as restoration companies, moving companies, lawn care providers, and others.

Often, entrepreneurs and visionary leaders can sway the organization’s resources from one initiative to the next unintentionally. It’s only natural, as visionary leaders are never short on ideas. 

Mistake #2: You don’t know whose throat to choke, and maybe it’s yours. 

Leadership, as Jon Maxwell has said, “is all uphill.” But you need to keep climbing. If you have a solid marketing strategy in place, but you’re not sure about its implementation, then look in the mirror. The most common problem we see is that there is not one owner who is responsible for implementing the plan. In a small organization, business owners wear too many hats. Often, you’ll get stuck working in your business instead of on your business. Marketing is about working on the business, not in the business. To make the shift, you have to assign an owner of marketing in your business. This is someone who will implement the strategy and take ownership to ensure high performance. If that is you, ask yourself what you need to do to make time to plan the work and work the plan.

Also, you have to make sure that your marketing leader believes in the mission. A common issue with poorly executed plans is a lack of belief that the mission can succeed. Any doubt in the program will lead to poor performance and execution. It’s your job to ensure that your entire team believes in the mission even when it’s challenging. At the end of the day, if your marketing strategy is underperforming, then you have to look at yourself and make the decisions you might be putting off.  

Keep climbing, my friend. Leadership is all uphill. 

Mistake #3: Not establishing clear performance goals and return on investment metrics.

You can measure a ton in digital marketing, from organic website traffic to click-through rates on pay per click, all the way down to sales by lead source conversion. SaaS companies use sales by lead source conversion to optimize the best converting sources and do more of what is working. In the same way, home services organizations such as painting companies can do the same thing. 

You need to have at least three to five metrics, including those at the top of your sales funnel, the middle and bottom. Each of the stages can give you insights into the performance of your marketing efforts. 

Mistake #4: Not knowing who it’s for, what it’s for, why you’re doing it, and how you’ll measure it. 

Everything in marketing begins with a person. A person you call a customer or client. Elements of your marketing plan should clearly articulate who you are communicating to and what you want them to do as a result of seeing your video, ad, website, or social media post. An easy way B2B and SaaS companies do this is by clearly defining their ideal customer profile and then identifying the positions (job titles) in the organization responsible for making a purchase. This often leads to the development of a persona. See the example below. Consumer-facing organizations such as those that provide in-home services (painting, restoration, landscaping, lawn care, etc.) can also use personas.

A persona will help keep everyone on the same page. It will include a brief description of a “day in the life” of a customer, whether at work or home. It should also cover the pain-points that your service or product can resolve for the customer, the outcomes that they will receive, a brief list of the characteristics that motivate the decision to purchase, and the places your customer gets information. 

A persona can help make the creative process less subjective and help you remember that your customer matters most when it comes to great advertising.  

When you know who it is for, what it’s for, why you’re doing it, and how you’ll measure it, the initiatives you launch will be much more likely to succeed. 

Mistake #5: Forgetting that everything starts with Mobile Search. 

For seasoned marketers, this one is a no-brainer, but even those who’ve done it for years often need to be reminded of a truth more than the need to learn something new. One day, a good friend of mine left his phone in his car as we were walking into church. He started patting himself all over, trying to find his phone. Then he turned to me and said, “I have to go back and get my existence.” We laughed, but I thought about how profound the statement was for a moment. 

Your customers look for you first on a mobile device. Manufacturing companies such as steel manufacturers or tube forming systems manufacturers are exceptions to this truth. Still, for many businesses, the majority of search results come from a mobile device. The younger the audience, the more this is true.  

You must start with a mobile-first mentality. It’s not a new idea but one worth repeating. 

At MediaFuel, strategic planning is a core service offering. It’s at the heart of our Prospect2Promoter™ marketing framework. MediaFuel is a digital marketing agency in Fishers, Indiana, just north of Indianapolis. The team of experienced and passionate strategists and creatives works collaboratively to create search engine optimized and lead generation websites, branded marketing, video production, and overall digital marketing strategy that gets measurable results for their clients.

About the author

Chris Bass is the Chief Strategy Officer of MediaFuel Digital Marketing Agency and founder of PerceptionStrategy. He has more than 25 years of marketing experience and loves helping people be the best they can be.