If you were warned and handed a faster path to success, would you take it? Here are 9 common small business marketing pitfalls that small businesses and entrepreneurs have encountered – you can learn from and avoid these simple errors.

  1. Short term thinking. Planning ahead is always a good idea. Not only does it provide direction for goals and objectives, but it also carves a path if growth happens quickly. Too many small businesses look at marketing the next event or some other immediate goal and aren’t interested in long term marketing. Long term marketing keeps the momentum of marketing efforts up and allows for growth. Short term marketing is short sighted.
  2. Not targeting your efforts. I’ve heard several small businesses say that their targeted client is “everyone”. This is ridiculous and completely untrue. While I’m sure potential buyers range in demographic, etc. Any business should understand who their primary target audience is and why. Targeting and developing personas for primary and secondary targets allow marketing to focus their efforts and develop more targeted campaigns. This translates into smarter marketing spend.
  3. Shiny object syndrome. It’s tempting to get caught up in the latest marketing trend. Everyone is talking about it so it MUST be good. This isn’t necessarily true. Marketing is a very unique beast that caters to your organization and its’ goals. By jumping on a trend without seeing if it’s really the best choice to achieve your objectives within the budget you set you might be spending more for a less effective option.
  4. Not tracking results. Why wouldn’t anyone not want to know what works and what doesn’t? By not tracking your marketing results you have no idea how effective it was. And while most initial marketing campaigns can be a bit of a guessing game, tracking effort and results (even the most basic) can help develop baseline data.
  5. No differentiation. Differentiation is a clear message of what makes you different from the competition. If you are just like every other company, why would a client choose to work with you? Many small businesses leave this piece behind as they grow and this lack of differentiation makes it difficult to market them above competitors. Think about it.
  6. Piece meal marketing. Doing anything a piece at a time will lead to choppy results and marketing is no different. Small businesses tend to outsource different pieces of their marketing to different companies. When these companies don’t communicate or work from the same plan it can lead to disjointed results with reduced impact.
  7. No marketing plan. Marketing plans don’t have to be enormous and complicated. However, you should have more than a post-it note! Really new businesses should have a marketing plan broken down into chunks with enough vision for a year. Slightly older businesses should be planning for three years with declining detail the further out it gets. This kind of document aligns business goals with marketing efforts so that you’re not carried away with some of the above pitfalls.
  8. No annual budget. Withholding budget information isn’t helping anyone. At minimum a ballpark should be given so that research time and planning effort isn’t being wasted on activities that will just be discarded. Marketing budget is usually decided on a percentage of revenue and ranges from 2-4% depending upon the size of the company. Product launches will take a different percentage.
  9. Not marketing at all. Marketing is the gas in your business engine that spurs growth. Without marketing you will continue to be exactly where you are with the possibility of decline. It doesn’t need to be expensive or complex. But some type of marketing should exist if you’re planning to grow your business e.g. blog, website (SEO), local speaking/presenting, events, newsletter, ads, etc.

So, when you sit down to look at your 2016 marketing plan use this short list to ensure you’re avoiding the most obvious small business marketing pitfalls.

Carolyn Bergshoeff is the Founder of WindWater Marketing, a small business marketing firm headquartered in Toronto, Canada. Carolyn helps her clients decide which marketing initiatives make the most sense for their business and budget. Visit WindWaterMarketing.ca or email hello@windwater.ca for more information or to book a free consultation.