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6 Deadly Marketing Mistakes Small Businesses Make

Marketing is essential to any small business. Whether you run a restaurant, a hair salon, or are a travel agency, without proper marketing, barely anyone will know your business exists with the exception of your closest friends and family.

However, you can’t rely on them to help make your business a success. Often, small businesses underestimate the complexities of what goes into marketing to make it successful. After all, is what you do in your business that simple, or does it require a lot of planning, understanding and behind the scenes work? It’s trying to keep up and understand social media. And if people just dived into your business without proper training then you can imagine what type of disaster it would be.

In order to create some great marketing campaigns for your small business you need to avoid these 6 deadly marketing mistakes and how you to stay on track.

1) Deadly Marketing Mistake 1: Executing Fast and Furiously

Do you know what happens when you focus too much on executing marketing without proper planning? You get death. When you execute any marketing campaign without careful thought it can drain you and your team of a lot of time and money. The worst part, it can hurt your business’ reputation. Execution of a marketing plan is only a small part of what needs to be done. Too many businesses fire as many shots as possible, hoping that one lands right on target, this is not a smart way to do marketing.

I was talking to the executive chef at a large lounge and restaurant, and he told me how frustrated he was with their current marketing agency because management brought in people who were doing fashion and event marketers, who had no familiarity of how to market for restaurants.

They ended up executing a series of events that drew in the wrong target market, and the restaurant spent thousands of dollars with them. Their result: Lack of being able to bring in new customers and an Urbanspoon rating of 36%. Don’t execute any marketing without proper planning and understanding.

2) Deadly Marketing Mistake 2: No Marketing Research Was Done

This is probably the biggest mistake that small businesses make when they start their marketing. They didn’t even do any market research. What makes most businesses successful is their ability to solve a person’s or business’s pain point. When you start to understand your target audience’s pain point, then you can create some wonderful marketing material.

I was doing research for a product that was targeting mothers. By doing research I was able to find out that mothers were highly educated, were the dominant decision makers in grocery shopping, felt insulted by advertisers who created unfair gender stereotypes, had a strong need to be a part of a community, were interested in maintaining their beauty, and loved shopping for items in the kitchen. Using this information we were able to position the product properly in the mind of the end consumer, and to create a strong and unique brand compared to their competitors.

3) Deadly Marketing Mistake 3: There Was No Marketing Strategy

One of the sure fire ways to watch your business fail is a lack of a marketing strategy. A marketing strategy is the big picture of how you want to accomplish a big marketing goal, and the “how” of all your marketing relates to that big picture goal.

Let’s say you owned a bakery and you want to be known for quality baked goods and want to attract 80% of your business to come from locals that live within a 2 km radius. Then you need to ensure that all your marketing is aligned with this new strategy.

Based on your strategy, you wouldn’t go and sponsor a community event held 50 kilometres away, nor would you send out direct mail campaigns that have a “cheap” look. Instead, you would focus on sponsoring local community events that are a walking distance away from your store (such a neighborhood festival), or giving away samples to people who walk by the bakery. You would also create marketing material that highlights the superior quality ingredients in your baked goods.

4) Deadly Marketing Mistake 4: You Lack a Brand

Branding is more than just a logo or the visual design that you create for your business cards and invoices. Creating a strong brand is about how to ensure you stick out from the clutter of competitors and create an unmistakable identity that a product or service belongs to your business.

If you look at the different hair salons that are out there, they all essentially offer the same service.

But your salon might specifically aim for men, and make a salon a man cave. It might have sports playing on televisions and offer business and tech magazines to read. You might have a Foosball table in the waiting area so that men can play while their waiting for their stylist to call them. All to add to that essence of your hair salon being branded as “The man cave salon.”

Brands are worth a lot of money, and are often known as “goodwill” in accounting terms. Here’s how valuable a brand can be. When Coke came out with a holiday polar bear can that was white, it confused and led to complaints by loyal Coke customers.

There were a few people who I talked to that thought it was a Diet Coke can (the colours are very similar, which caused product confusion), which included myself. The first batch that was in stores were the only batch out of 1.4 million Coke cans and bottles produced. But by then, it was too late. Confusion set in and it costs Coke quite a bit of money to produce those collector cans which the majority never reached store shelves again.

Crowd 5) Deadly Marketing Mistake 5: You Tried to Reach Everyone

This happens a lot when I’m dealing with small businesses that are starting up. They want to try to reach everyone, and in return they reach no one. It’s like trying to have the same conversation with a person who is 21 who loves Katy Perry, and someone who is 31 who loves Spice Girls, and someone who is 41 who loves Madonna.

Your business needs to know what specific market that you want to reach and to focus your marketing efforts on this particular group. A good example of this is Justin Bieber. When Bieber’s marketing team first started, they focused on their core market which was young girls and teenagers. But because they became so well known within that target group, mothers in their 30’s and 40’s also became big fans.

When you become known for a very specific target market, you will attract more business from other groups. When you try to reach everyone, your business will fail.

6) Deadly Marketing Mistake 6: You Didn’t Measure Your Marketing

I hate soft metrics. I really do. I hate it when marketers measure results based on the number of “Likes” or “Followers.” If that was a really important measure, I would have bought followers for my clients a long time ago.

Before you ever start any marketing campaign or marketing material, you need to ask yourself, “What is my ultimate goal by doing this?” and “How will I measure the success of this marketing tactic?”

A restaurant might put an advertisement on a bus, but it’s really just an advertisement. How would a restaurant owner know for sure how successful the ad was without guessing? It can be as simple as saying “Get 10% off when you mention the bus ad at our restaurant.” This way you know that it’s not coming from a newspaper ad, or from a coupon that they printed off from the Internet.

This way you can keep track of what campaigns were successful and ones that weren’t.

Too many small businesses spend too much time and money on marketing, only to create the wrong marketing strategies. They lack time and effort to do a thorough job, but it’s always better to do it right the first time than to have no budget left for marketing the next time.

If you have questions about small business marketing feel free to reach me directly at vince at

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Vincent Ng is the founder of MCNG Marketing, and the author of Pinterest to Profits with Pintalysis and the host of the Pinterest podcast, Pictures to Profits. You can grab your free e-book on How to Search Optimize Your Pins for Pinterest and Search Engines."