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Avoid These 5 Small Business Marketing Mistakes


Many small business marketing mistakes usually occur due to lack of expertise. Most small business owners are very good at owning and overseeing the production and sale of their goods and services, which - in an ideal world - should be enough to succeed in the marketplace. Sadly, this isn't the case. A small business owner doesn't have to become a marketing wizard, but he or she should be aware of the types of blunders that can damage their relationships with prospective customers and eat into their bottom line.

Here's a look at five common small business marketing mistakes and how you can address those problems if and when they occur:

1. "Winging it" or copying the competition. Entrepreneurs are self-starters by definition, so it's not surprising that when it comes to marketing, some attempt to wing it or save time and effort by copying the competition. Generally speaking, this is a self-defeating strategy, since making it up as you go along lacks the vision and cohesiveness that comes with a marketing plan. And what works for your competitors isn't necessarily the best solution for your business.

Rather than mimic the competition, be sure you fully understand your company's unique value proposition. This way, you can tailor a marketing message that separates you from the pack. "If your messaging is just like your competitors', then potential leads have no way to distinguish you from a different brand," notes marketing strategist Jason Hutcheson. "You'll end up playing a pricing game and you won't win that."

Rather than mimic the competition, be sure you fully understand your company's   unique value proposition. Tailor a marketing message that separates you from the pack.

2. Not creating a plan. A marketing plan is a roadmap to the objective of getting the word out about your products or services and making a compelling case for prospective customers to purchase your offering. A solid marketing plan should include:

  • A series of steps to promote your business, with accompanying deadlines for completion;
  • A breakdown of individual initiatives or campaigns, with projected ROI and anticipated long-range growth;
  • and a plan B back-up strategy in case your key promotions fall through.

Putting together a marketing plan forces you to gain a better understanding of your average customer's value and lifetime, the costs involved in new customer acquisition, the difference between a desirable customer and those not worth your effort, and the intricacies of all the marketing channels available to you. Such information is virtually priceless in assessing your status in the marketplace.

3. Promoting yourself, not the benefits your products or services provide. Novice marketing efforts often focus on self-promotion (excessive information on the owner's background, the length of a time a company has been in business, awards and accomplishments, etc.). A far more effective marketing approach keeps a laser-like focus on how your offerings benefit customers. The people thinking of buying from you have a problem they need to solve. Present your products or services as the ideal solution, not on their various bells and whistles.

Keep a laser-like focus on how your offerings benefit customers. The people   thinking of buying from you have a problem they need to solve.

4. Getting it wrong on social media. Your marketing plan should include a social media strategy, based on market research identifying sites where your prospective customers live. This way, you can diversify your social media activity to cover a broad span of platforms. Then you have a "mix of customers coming from different channels," says small business author and speaker Melinda F. Emerson. "That way, if and when one tool goes out of favor (MySpace, anyone?), you won't have to scramble to rethink your marketing." Additionally, it's important to note that you do your due diligence and have an understanding of any disclaimers and disclosures required by prevailing federal and state privacy marketing regulations as you prepare your social media strategy.

5. Failing to measure the right information. Good marketing leads to measurable results. If you're not measuring, you can't grasp the success or shortcomings of your strategy (and if you measure the wrong information, you'll also stay in the dark). Most social media platforms come with built-in analytics and tracking tools to assess the effectiveness of your tweets, blog posts, ads, and so on. You can also employ promo codes, unique URLs, online customer survey tools, and CRM platforms to precisely quantify the results of your marketing campaigns.

Marketing is a complex activity, but by avoiding common small business marketing mistakes, it's something you can do yourself (at least to start with). It will dramatically help your efforts to increase revenue, build brand awareness, and grow your customer base.


This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.