5 things small businesses get wrong with their marketing strategies and how to avoid the same mistakes

Marketing matters more now than ever for small businesses and is a crucial tool for driving profitability. In fact, according to HubSpot, companies that prioritise marketing efforts are 13 times more likely to see positive Return on Investment (ROI).

With research by Promixa indicating that up to 60% of marketing budgets are wasted, ambitious small businesses wanting to scale can’t afford to take a half-hearted approach to their campaigns, and even the most well-intended marketing strategies can be derailed by simple mistakes that can easily be avoided.

Here are some of the most common mistakes many small businesses make in their marketing approaches and how to avoid falling into the same trap. 

Lack of clear goals and objectives

Setting marketing goals is key to overall business success, and you’re much more likely to achieve your goals when they are clearly defined. 

Research shows marketers who set goals are 376% more likely to see successful outcomes. However, many small business owners neglect this important aspect, setting vague objectives or focusing solely on short-term gains.

Setting marketing objectives aligned to your business goals will give your marketing efforts a true sense of purpose, clarity, and direction. It will also leave your team with a sense of accomplishment and clear expectations on how they can contribute to the company’s overall success and long-term goals.

Set clear, measurable goals for each campaign, as well as your overall strategy. Implementing SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals is a great way of ensuring your goals are clear and quantifiable, which will enable you to keep track of your marketing’s success as accurately as possible.

Neglecting target audience research

Lots of small business owners make assumptions about their target audience and fail to conduct thorough research, and this fundamental mistake can have significant consequences. 

Understanding your target audience's demographics, preferences, and behaviours is vital for effective marketing for several reasons.

Firstly, knowing your audience allows you to tailor your marketing messages to their specific needs, interests, and pain points. This increases the likelihood that your audience will engage with your content and offerings.

Additionally, understanding demographics and preferences enables you to personalise your marketing, and personalised messages resonate more with consumers and can lead to higher conversion rates and customer loyalty.

To really get to know your audience and create more meaningful connections, conduct through research, such as surveys, interviews, and data analysis. This will allow you to gain a clear and accurate picture of who your customers are, what they are looking for, and how you can effectively communicate with them.

Inconsistent branding and messaging

Inconsistent branding and messaging are silent killers of small business growth and, in today's digital age, where businesses have mere seconds to capture the attention of potential clients, consistent messaging is non-negotiable.

Many business owners don’t recognise the critical role of consistent messaging in driving differentiation and establishing a unique value proposition and use inconsistent visuals or messaging that doesn’t align with their brand values.

While inconsistent messaging might seem like a surface-level branding issue, its roots run deep, affecting various facets of a business. Mixed brand messaging directly impacts outcomes such as customer trust, brand recognition, and ultimately, revenue growth,

Therefore, develop clear brand guidelines and a unified messaging framework that outlines your brand's core messages, values, and tone.

Conduct a comprehensive audit of all marketing materials to identify inconsistencies and carry out quarterly reviews to assess the effectiveness of your messaging and make necessary adjustments.

Overlooking digital marketing opportunities

The future is digital. However, many small businesses are still making the mistake of neglecting their social media or failing to optimise for search engines. 

Businesses that aren’t capitalising on the growth of digital marketing are missing out on valuable opportunities to connect with their target audience and build brand loyalty. 

Not only does digital marketing allow businesses to reach a global audience regardless of their physical location, but it also offers a more cost-effective way to promote products and services compared to traditional marketing channels such as print, TV, or radio.

Online advertising platforms like social media ads or Google Ads can allow you to set specific budgets and target audiences precisely, minimising wasted resources.

By integrating digital marketing strategies, including social media marketing, content marketing and SEO, into your overall marketing mix, you can unlock significant opportunities for growth and success.

Ignoring analytics and data insights

Data management and analysis are still a challenge for many small businesses. While there’s certainly been some progress in the past few years, not every business is making use of their marketing data, with many failing to track key performance indicators [KPIs] or to use data to optimise strategies.

According to the 2017 CMO Survey, a survey of top marketers in the United States, 60.8% of CMOs aren’t making greater use of their analytics either because they lack the tools or processes to measure success or because they don’t have the people with skills to link their analytics to marketing.

These statistics are worrying, as tracking and analysing marketing performance metrics are fundamental to inform decision-making.

There are many strategies for leveraging analytics tools and data insights to continuously improve your marketing. These include identifying the metrics that align with your marketing goals, such as website traffic, conversion rate, email open rate, or social media engagement. These KPIs will serve as benchmarks for evaluating the success of your campaigns.

Investing in robust analytics platforms like Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, or social media analytics tools will also provide in-depth data on user behaviour, demographics, traffic sources, and more, enabling you to gain valuable insights into your audience's interactions with your marketing channels.

It is also a good idea to map out the customer journey across various touchpoints and channels to understand the path to conversion. Analyse how different marketing efforts influence each stage of the journey and identify opportunities for optimisation or improvement.

Final words

There is a slim line between success and failure for any small business on a scaleup journey, especially when it comes to marketing.

While it’s not an exact science and there isn’t a magic formula, by being able to recognise and avoid costly mistakes, you can ensure you have a sound marketing strategy in place and increase your chances of reaching more customers and growing profitably.