The 8 Most Common Marketing Mistakes That Small Businesses Make

Today, I want to share what I see as the 8 most common marketing mistakes that small businesses make.  Most small businesses are very good at the technical side of their business, however they SUCK at marketing and promotion.  For example, a barber is really good at cutting hair, but they typically struggle with finding new clients and growing their business. Does that make sense?

Even worse, many small business owners think their product or service is their business, while in reality MARKETING that product or service is their real business.  In other words, your real job as a business owner is to PROMOTE your business, not just do the technical work.  

I’ve studied lots of small businesses during the past ten years and I’ve found plenty of marketing mistakes.  Sadly, I’ve made many of these same mistakes myself at one point or another in my business.

My ultimate goal today is to educate you on these eight most common mistakes so you don’t have to make these same mistakes yourself.  They are listed in no particular order.

# 1 Not Identifying Your Target Market – Unless you sell toilet paper, you must remember that not everyone is a potential customer.  Many businesses advertise in venues where most of the people seeing the ad are NOT in their target market.  As I see it, this is a big waste of money. It would be in your best interest to clearly identify your target market and then advertise exclusively to those people.  More on that in a moment.  All of your advertising should be geared toward venues that your target market sees, visits, or reads.

# 2 Not Having a Clear Unique Selling Proposition – You must identify what makes you and your business different from the competition.  Many businesses don’t take the time to identify a clear Unique Selling Proposition.  As a result, their business and their advertising looks just like their competitors, and they don’t get noticed.  Spend some time and write down what makes your business unique and why people should do business with you.  Are you faster, better quality, have better customer service, more convenient, or something different?  Focus on that uniqueness in your advertising and marketing.

# 3 Using Branding Instead of Direct Response Marketing – Small businesses cannot afford to do branding like the big companies do.  Big companies like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Wal-mart can all have ads that say “look at me.”  You cannot do that.  Instead, you want to utilize direct response marketing.  This is marketing that directs a single response, such as visiting your website, calling a toll-free number, visiting your store, or something of that nature.

# 4 Not Teaming Up with Other Businesses – Many small businesses look at other businesses as the enemy.  That is foolish as I see it.  You should look at other businesses as an opportunity to collaborate and expand your customer base.  Find other non-competing businesses that you can partner up with and form a strategic alliance.  For instance, a boat engine mechanic could team up with a fiberglass business, an upholstery business and an insurance agent specializing in boats.  These entrepreneurs could share leads and refer business to each other.  Best of all, everyone wins!

# 5 Not Using a Two-Step Selling Process – Using a one-step selling process is a big mistake. Most small businesses focus on creating ads that say visit our store and buy from me.  This is not totally bad, but a two-step selling process is MUCH better.  A Two-Step Selling Process is when you advertise to generate a lead, by giving away something for free, and then you sell what you are selling through a strategic follow up process.  The beauty of doing this is you get LEADS that you can market and follow up with OVER AND OVER.

# 6 Not Staying Persistent with Their Advertising – You can’t try advertising one time and then just stop.  Most people will need to see your message AT LEAST 10 times before they respond to it!  It’s much better to advertise once a week for a year than once a day for a month.  Find 2-3 good marketing strategies and stick with it for the long haul.  By all means, track your results. But, don’t give up too soon.

# 7 Not Tracking Their Results – Another marketing mistake that small businesses make is they don’t track their results.  They don’t track how many calls, leads and sales EACH ad generates, so they don’t know which ads are working and which ones aren’t working.  Ideally, you want to use a tracking code with each one of your ads so you can figure out which ads are giving you the best Return on Your Investment (ROI).

# 7 Not Having a Marketing Plan – You need a written marketing plan.  It shouldn’t be complex or big or hard to understand.  Keep it to one page and identify your goals, budget and strategy. Write down what you will do each day, week and month to promote your business.  Think of it as a marketing “to do” list that you can refer to once a day to make sure you are on track.

# 8 No Marketing Budget

People will invest tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars to start a business, yet they don’t want to spend any money on marketing or advertising.  That’s foolish, stupid and crazy.  You MUST have a marketing budget for your business.  Commit to a certain dollar amount each month and stick with it.  Cut back in other areas, but do not cut back in marketing.

Final Thoughts

There you have it folks.  These are some of the most common marketing mistakes that small businesses make.  What do you think?  Which mistake on this list do most small businesses violate?  Which mistake did I forget to mention?  Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Chuck Holmes


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4 thoughts on “The 8 Most Common Marketing Mistakes That Small Businesses Make

  1. Diamond Grant

    I can speak to the lack of a target market, as that was a mistake I made. I fell into the thinking that if my service was truly good, I could attract any and everyone one. However, that was too broad of an option and it didn’t work for me. Once I took the time to figure out who would really benefit from and be interested in the service I was offering, I was able to gear marketing and advertising to this group and I saw a turn around almost immediately.

  2. Greg Boudonck

    Very good post Chuck!

    I wanted to add something to this. Educating your target market is another wise move. When you can give some solid education on the products or services you offer, it gives your potential customers the knowledge that you are an expert. One example may be the heating and cooling installer writing a blog post on how and why you should caulk around your doors and windows. At the end of the post, he adds a simple call to action that will generate leads and sales.


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