Small business owners have a lot of hats to wear: salesman, business strategist, customer service rep, general manager, technology support, accountant, marketing master and more. With only so many hours in a week to juggle it all, corners get cut and left behind. It’s one of the reasons why starting a business can be so challenging. No matter how many hats you wear, the responsibilities of each role are crucial to the overall success of your business, with little room for error.
The big mistake small business owners often make is neglecting roles based on the lack of tangible results. Accounting is crucial from your finances. Without tech support, your customers can’t check out. In these instances, the value of these roles is very clear.
Marketing, on the other hand, can be much more challenging to track and assign value to. As a result, marketing efforts by small business owners tend to lack the finesse to make their strategy successful. This means time and money wasted — two things many small business owners can’t afford to lose. We’ve broken down the biggest mistakes made and how to turn it around to benefit your business.
(1) You don't have a dedicated website.
It is the information age, and the web is the place to go to retrieve that information. A study showed that 97% of consumers search online for products and services, and more than half of searches are local. Even if your product is not available online, it is clear that local users research their purchase online even if they intend to purchase in person.
Having your own website also signals to the consumer that you are a legitimate business. It may seem like a strange thing to conclude, but in the Internet age, businesses without websites appear to have something to hide. Worse, customers might think you are out of business.
Websites are no longer as expensive or difficult to manage as they once were. In recent years, companies have offered affordable hosting and very user-friendly content management systems for the not-so-tech-savvy business owner. If the demand for tech resources come ahead of the revenues to pay for them, you may turn to business financing, for example using an unsecured business line of credit to fill this gap.
(2) You don't track your marketing results.
There are many simple ways to track the success of your marketing efforts. In the digital space, there are free tools like Google Analytics that can tell you more about how people are getting to your website, how long they're staying there and where they are dropping off. You can even set up experiments on your site to test landing pages. There are also dashboards available to show you what social sites are sending traffic to your site. If you're looking to track just your social activity, tools like HootSuite and Sprout Social will create reports for you so you can see how many visits you received, who is engaging and what posts are most successful. If you are looking to post flyers or hand out coupons, change up the code that is on each one and record which code corresponds to which location the flyer was available at. That way, you can see which locations were the most successful.
(3) You don't check in on your competition.
One of the best resources for marketing inspiration is your competitor. In a sense, it's like checking a classmate's homework before turning it in. You want to make sure you are keeping pace with your competition even if you're not further ahead. If your prices far exceed theirs, or if their store hours greatly vary, you may notice customers choosing your competitor over you. Don't give customers a reason to go anywhere else over you.
(4) You don't have a distinct perspective that tells people to do business with you over others.
This is a big mistake that goes hand in hand with not keeping up with your competition. You want to stand out from the crowd in all the right ways. Great prices, great service, quality merchandise — whatever it is, you want to make sure you are checking all the boxes for the best business practices. If you have a competitor that has been in business a while, they are probably a good baseline to compare yourself to. What works for them? What doesn't? Is there something that is missing from your business that they accomplish well in theirs? Is there something that they do poorly that you know you do better and can capitalize on? Keep your business in check by checking in.
(5) You make assumptions instead of reading your customers.
Just because you opened your business to appeal to one group of people doesn't mean that you have to market to that group exclusively. If you do, you're compromising your success by marketing to the wrong customer base, isolating potential new customers and wasting your marketing efforts.
(6) You outsource without understanding what you're getting.
Before hiring someone on, discuss the plan at length, and get the answers to questions before committing. Make sure that no matter the product or service, you understand how they are spending your money, what the expected deliverables are and what timeframe you can expect them in. For example, pay-per-click (PPC) is a great tool, especially for those businesses that only work in the online space. PPC is not an instant fix and sometimes takes a week or more to see results. Instead of abandoning the campaign after a fruitless week, ask your campaign manager what they're doing to stand out from the competition and improve and expand on the campaign, and whether there is something you could be doing to improve the performance from a website or store perspective. Better yet, read about PPC basic on AdWords Help to better understand the tactics put in place by your campaign manager.
(7) You focus your budget in one area before testing all channels equally.
You never know if you never try. Just as you shouldn't assume what your customer wants or who your customer base is, you should avoid committing to one marketing tactic because you think it's the best or your customers favor it without data to back it up. Without properly testing several methods, you can never know for sure. Who is to say that your weekly flyers wouldn't be just as well received through your Facebook page or through a weekly email, both of which could save you significantly on printing costs? Test as many areas as you can before committing.
(8) Not doing any marketing at all.
We've discussed how a little effort can go a long way. Unfortunately, word-of-mouth advertising doesn't have the same clout it once did, and it cannot be relied on as the sole avenue for advertisement. Consumers now have access to thousands of opinions across the web and are looking for support prior to purchase. You have to work to stand out and give them reasons to choose you over the competition. Even claiming your local listing or keeping your Facebook up to date can help. The important thing is that you at least start somewhere.