10 Small Business Marketing Mistakes You Should Avoid

On average, almost 80% of leads you receive will never convert into sales. This is compounded if you are conducting your small business marketing without a strong marketing strategy. However, there is a catch: Most small business owners skew that percentage downward by making wasteful marketing decisions that are easily avoidable. Even those with a solid strategy in mind could end up making costly mistakes.


We are going to do you a favor and lay out the 10 small business marketing mistakes you should avoid in 2021.

Girl overlooking a mountain contemplating business problems

By dodging these mistakes, you can work smarter and focus your hard work in areas that will actually grow your business this year. With a sound strategy you can boost brand awareness and generate fresh leads, but with this knowledge in mind you can also CLOSE those leads into sales.


Get ahead of the curve this year! Set yourself up for success by avoiding these costly mistakes.

1. Never Setting SMART Goals


How can you accomplish your business goals if you don't know what they are first? Are your marketing goals in line with your business goals, too? If you feel like a deer in the headlights just by reading those sentences, then it’s likely you’re either a victim of this mistake or are at risk of making it soon.


It is entirely possible to start making marketing mistakes before you even start marketing.


In order to determine which marketing strategies to use, you need to consider your goals. From a top down view, what do you want to accomplish in 2021?


Business owner writing down her SMART goals

For example, maybe you have a few of these in mind:


  • Attract more website traffic

  • Generate more leads

  • Become a thought leader in your industry

  • Boost brand awareness

  • Grow brand trust and loyalty

  • Increase your customer base


These items are very broad, and each has several pathways to achieve each one.


You can achieve these goals with a targeted, goal specific marketing strategy. As a limited example, maybe you’re asking yourself “How do I grow my website’s traffic?” The most common answers would be to consider using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising. Individually, both can certainly aid you in accomplishing your broad goal; with the point being there are often multiple answers to any given goal.


You may have noticed that we have been slipping in some words thus far all related to “broad” or ”generic”.


Dad and baby fist bumping over a dad joke
Dad Joke Fist Bump

The purpose of this is to contrast the main point of this mistake: failure to setting SMART goals. Impending Dad joke warning: It’s smart to make SMART goals! To make your goals SMART, make sure they meet the following criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-driven, Timely.


For example, for the broad goal of generating more leads we would execute the SMART goal process. We may end up with: Generate 30% more qualified leads by the fourth quarter of 2021.


SMART Goal Breakdown:

  1. Specific: 30%

  2. Measurable: Percent increase in leads

  3. Attainable: In this example 30% is realistic

  4. Results-driven: Qualified leads over unqualified

  5. Timely: We have set a timeline of Q4 2021


a group of friends playing spikeball
Strategy and Fun!

Without SMART goals, however, you could fail to choose the right small business marketing strategies for your business. In our example above, the common pitfall would be to simply seek leads as a whole. Setting your sights instead on “qualified” leads ensures that when you decide to pursue a marketing avenue, you do so with the proper audience in mind. Think something along the lines of running a lead generation campaign with the keyword set as “Vascular Surgeon Near Me” instead of simply “Doctors <your city>.” If you’re a vascular surgeon running a “doctors Charlotte, NC” campaign you’ll likely receive a ton more leads, but they are not results-driven because most of them will not be searching for your specialty.



2. Wasting Cash by Targeting Everyone


This leads us right into the next common small business mistake: targeting everyone instead of your target market. Your customers are distinct. If you want to create a strong small business marketing strategy, take the time to understand your customers. Don't simply target every consumer under the sun.


two rows of archery targets
Refine Your Targets

Do you truly know who your customers are? We don’t just mean the simplified version such as: “a homeowner with an HVAC problem.” You need to be much more specific; even going so far as to create unique targets for each of your product offerings.


As a good example, let us assume we have a customer looking for annual maintenance for their Air Conditioning Unit. If you were to openly target all consumers, what does that look like? Wrapped up in the mix would be renters, people living with their parents, or maybe even hitting people only in town on vacation. Either way, you'd be wasting advertising dollars on demographics who have no need of your product.


To refine this example to be a bit more manageable, let’s only look at cost tolerance. If you were to target all valid, potential consumers, yet your product is more premium in quality than that of your competition, you may end up spending far too much marketing budget chasing after consumers who are cheap, and cost cutting. It wouldn’t make much sense to spend on an ad targeting someone who likely can’t even afford your services.


An image showing an example of google analytics demographics

Google Analytics and other similar tools aid you in determining who your customers are. They can help you identify your customers based on demographics like age, gender, marital status, location, and household income.


As an added bonus and as sound advertising design, you could also add on an emotional strategy as well. Things like “What problems do they face every day? What are their interests? What about buying behaviors?” Then target how your product or service can help solve those problems.


Many companies make the mistake of crafting marketing messages without an audience in mind or assume their brand appeals to everyone.


female college student studying in a cafe

Once you know your customer “personas” you can then attach them to your product offerings. There may be some overlap, but likely some of your products will appeal to one persona, but not another. So don’t waste valuable budget marketing to both. The strategy you use to target female college students will likely differ from a strategy for a father of five.


Understand what your customers need. Then, use personalization to reach those specific customers. Personalization can help you connect with your target audience. Your customers will see you care about their problems. Then, they'll rely on you for solutions.



3. Not Researching Trends


Not unlike technology, and often because of it, marketing trends change all the time. If your business is not up-to-date with the latest trends, you're officially falling behind. Which means consumers might choose a competitor that IS up-to-date and relevant instead.


You must look into the trends for each marketing tool that you're using.


SEO spelled out with playful letters
The Ultimate Acronym