Marketing is the lifeblood of any business because it drives sales. And without a steady stream of new leads, you’re not going to make a great impact, build a strong following, or create brand awareness. But unfortunately, a lot of small businesses are caught smack in the middle of a “chicken and the egg” scenario. Without a matured and developed sales funnel, how can they hope to allocate resources for marketing?
Small businesses have a greater need for marketing precision than the big brands do. In the early stages of a business, every dollar counts, and one wrong step could spell disaster years down the road. And since small business’s marketing budgets are so precious, I think we should take a closer look at what not to do. The following are some of the most common ways small businesses waste their precious advertising and marketing budget.
You're Attempting to Perform Digital Marketing In-House
I hesitated putting this one first; it sounds self-serving. But you know, a smart business owner surrounds themselves with smarter people. Marketing usually always gets pushed to the side or is done as an afterthought.
Just about every small business leader has one thing in common: they don’t like to relinquish control over their business. And it’s no wonder why – a leader usually think of their business as their baby. As such, it only makes sense from their perspective to try to bring in a marketing professional and add them to the payroll.
Unfortunately, this is usually a waste of money. Instead of trying to do it yourself, or finding new blood, hiring them, and training them, it’s much more efficient to work with a consultant. In addition, a consultant has the advantage of being able to show you a track record of results and happy customers, so you can move forward with the peace of mind that you’re in good hands.
You've Got an Aimless Social Media Strategy
There are a lot of people who can talk the talk, but not necessarily walk the walk. One area where this occurs the most is with a small business’s social media strategy. Perhaps one of the most overused buzzwords is “building a following.”
Having more followers cannot be your only goal!
It doesn’t quantify anything, and without numbers, it’s pretty meaningless. And remember that social media is just another marketing channel that should be feeding leads into your sales funnel. If you lack a sales funnel or haven’t optimized a landing page, it doesn’t matter how big your “following” is – you’re likely not going to convert leads into customers.
So instead of aimlessly meandering through social media channels, make sure your budget isn’t wasted by sitting down with a marketing professional and hashing out clearly definable social media strategies and goals.
NOTE: Have you signed up for The 6 Week Social Media Challenge? It's FREE!
You Have High/Unrealistic Expectations (aka You Give Up Too Soon)
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Likewise, a small business’s marketing strategy needs to be a thought out and long term plan. Believe it or not, almost 30% of small businesses fail in only two years. Within five year, 50% fail, and unrealistic expectations are the smoking barrel.
Whether they wanted or needed results in just a few months, a lot of people give up too soon.
Remember to set goals in small, bite-sized chunks with clearly definable and quantifiable numbers. I know it’s exciting when your first social media post goes live, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re going to be an overnight success.
Sure, a rare few posts go viral, but the best long term strategy is to be persistent. Trying a new marketing strategy likely won’t launch your sales into the stratosphere within the first month. So remember not to dump all of your eggs in one basket and abandon your marketing efforts in such a short time frame. Such short-sighted goals are a waste of precious marketing dollars.
The same goes for your SEO efforts - it's a long term play. Don't think you'll start ranking for that coveted phrase in the next few days. Or weeks. Or months.
You Shoot for the Moon
There are some truly innovative, creative, and cutting-edge marketing tactics that produce ridiculously lucrative results in a short time frame. The problem is, however, that these crazy marketing gimmicks are usually only successful for large corporations that have seven-figure marketing budgets.
Small businesses, on the other hand, have much more limited resources. That’s why I’d recommend staying away from massive, one-time ad campaigns.
Instead of trying to get lucky with a one-off ad, it’s better to actually do the legwork – slow and steady wins the race, after all. I’d caution small businesses to stay away from 5-figure tactics. If you can’t make it work on a small scale, it likely won’t work on a large scale. Shooting for the moon and hoping for overnight success is almost always a waste of money.
You Don't Understand (and Purposely Target) Your Audience
If you don’t understand different segments of your market, who is actually buying your product or service, or what motivates your customers to take action, you might as well reallocate your marketing budget to a charitable contribution – at least that way you’d get some tax write-offs.
You see, marketing serves to bridge the gap between your business and your audience. If you don’t know who they are, you’re going to waste your marketing budget. A good place to start is to develop personas that dig into the details of demographics.
You Fail to Adapt and Adjust
One of the beautiful things about marketing is that it’s constantly changing, growing, and evolving. But if you fail to keep up with the latest trends, you’re likely not maximizing the effectiveness of your marketing budget.
NOTE: I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my podcast Digi Know here. Each week we talk about just that - what's changing and what small business owners need to know. You should subscribe and listen.
You need to focus on what works and trim away failures. I know it sounds like common sense, but there are plenty of small businesses who resort to archaic marketing tactics, and end up wasting a lot of money. We live in the information age, and you need to have an effective social media strategy if you want to cut through the noise in your industry.
You can’t hope to simply throw a website together and wait for the customers to pour in. Contrary to what you may have heard in Field of Dreams, if you build it, they won’t necessarily come. Instead, you need to be active, go on the offensive, and drive traffic to your site through social media, SEO and paid platforms.
Successful Marketing Requires Two Things
You'll probably notice a recurring theme here - in order to really do well with marketing, you've got to plan and be patient. Without both of these ingredients, it's going to be very difficult to get your cake to rise.
And yeah, these are really hard to do when you're thinking 'I need customers now!',
But they must be followed. And when they are, you'll almost always come out ahead.
Isn't that what you want?