Marketing is never easy — especially for those (rightfully) more invested in creating a product than posting to their social media accounts.
I don’t know a single entrepreneur who isn’t overwhelmed with more critical tasks than AB testing Facebook Ads messaging/staying up-to-date on Google algorithmic updates/[insert essential but time-consuming SEO/social media activity here].
And because few entrepreneurs have the time or the inclination to lead their marketing efforts, I see these small business marketing mistakes all the damn time.
Small business owners out there, stop doing these eight things.
1. Don’t Trust the “Experts.”
Marketing is a snakepit. Many marketers are more than willing to upsell you services that your business doesn’t need.
Beware of marketers who act as the middleman between you and more consultants. Anyone who functions this way is telling you:
- They have no technical skills, and therefore no value.
- You are much better off finding the social media/SEO/SEM consultant yourself.
The experts aren’t always working for you.
They will instill a sense of urgency in you by pointing out non-pressing problems so they can appear to save the day. Really, they just cost you money.
Ask fellow entrepreneurs about their small business marketing budgets before you sign anything. Also, be careful of what you sign: You want to own whatever content/changes your consultants implement on your platforms.
2. Avoid Buying Small Business Marketing Services That You Don’t Need
If you are Apple and launching a new iPhone, you need (and can afford) a fleet of marketing people.
If you are reading this article, your company is not that big. And unless you have a passion for marketing (in which case, you should be doing it yourself), you’re going to want 80/20 of your marketing efforts.
What 20% of changes deliver 80% of results?
Go bare bones until you are big enough not to. You’ll know when that day arrives.
3. Don’t Get Caught Up with Small Aesthetic Flaws
On a similar note, be satisfied with 80% of the functionality that you want from your website.
I am an SEO manager for many small businesses. Sure, I could make their sites glitzier and faster with a custom build rather than a Shopify store (though Shopify SEO problems are real). But if I do that and my customers and I go our separate ways, they’re left with a website that will require specialized developer help in the future. Very expensive for them and mean of me.
By not pursuing the other 20% of functionality, I save them thousands of dollars in hassle.
4. Don’t Try to Optimize All Social Accounts at Once
If you are a small team, do not try to drive traffic from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube all at once.
First, answer these questions about your customers.
- How old are they?
- What are their interests (besides your product)?
- What do they read?
- What social media account do they use most?
If you are advertising to 50-year-old men, they aren’t hanging out on TikTok. If you are selling a niche, high-end product, you won’t have as much success on Instagram as you think (re: your bounce rate will be high).
In my experience, SEO converts 2x more than social media. Just saying.
5. Look Beyond Traffic at Figures Like Bounce Rate and (of course) Conversions
It is easy to drive lots of social media traffic that leaves the moment it appears on your site. Not only does this cost you money, but a high bounce rate will hurt your SEO efforts, too.
I have also succeeded in driving thousands of organic traffic visitors/day by creating great, albeit irrelevant, content. (This is why having great content marketing is critical).
The highest-performing stores I work with don’t have the most traffic. They have the best relevant, high intent traffic.
This translates to lower bounce rates, which compounds to better SEO, and the cycle continues.
6. Don’t Broaden Your Audience Too Much
Circling back to #1, don’t listen to everything marketing people tell you — especially when it comes to your audience. If you have existing sales, you know who your target customer is.
The best small business marketing efforts I’ve seen take a granular approach: Don’t go for the big, competitive keywords in Google Ads, Facebook Ads, or SEO. Go for small, achievable, and highly relevant keywords.
7. Get More Organic Traffic Than Social
Call me biased, but SEO traffic converts 2x more than social and lives on after you stop paying for your SEO consultant — at least for a time. By the same token, Facebook and Google Ads get more expensive every year.
Some successful products drive traffic entirely through social media. These products are usually cheap or mid-priced, aimed at young women, and have VC backing. The companies behind them have a short-term approach: Their goal is to sell out in 3–5 years to a big guy and move on.
Unless you fit this mold, you should have more organic traffic than social.
8. Avoid Web Design Trends
A quick way to have your website or social accounts blend into the crowd is to do everything everyone else is doing, even if it’s a bad idea. Here are a few of my website pet peeves currently making the rounds:
- Email newsletter pop-ups
- Desktop-first designs
- Websites designed to be pretty, not fast
- Aggressive email marketing campaigns
- Videos on homepage
- Images in menus
- Homepage slideshows
Most companies implement these elements because they are small business marketing trends, not because their customers like them.
Customers > Marketers
Again, many small business marketing errors arise from the age-old mistake of trusting marketers over customers.
This applies to social media, too. Many businesses spend exorbitant amounts of money trying to look like a VC-backed Instagram-based business when they’re really a lean team.
Instead of trying to fit in with the glossy accounts, why not humanize your company? If you can’t do 2-day shipping like Amazon, why not explain that you are a small team, that you pay your people well, and that you appreciate every customer’s business?
9. Learn About Social Media and SEO
Entrepreneurs think that when they outsource something, they can forget about it. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The only way to know whether your marketing consultants are doing a good job is to know what they are doing.
This can be harder than it seems, as many will fill their correspondence with you with buzzwords and jargon. Instead of taking all that at face value, you need to learn about SEO and social media.
I would also recommend asking for a monthly list of what they’ve done and traffic reports. Bear in mind that data is easily manipulated (ex: buying your business name as a Google Ads keyword and sorting that traffic into “paid” rather than “organic”), so you’ll want to understand your Google Analytics, too.
Effective Small Business Marketing Means Trusting Your Gut and Looking at the Data
You know more about marketing your business than you realize. Don’t let the experts and trends convince you to pay for things you don’t need, trust your intuition about your customer, and do one thing at a time.