If you’re like most small business owners, you probably already know how important marketing is to the success of your business. But marketing can be tricky to get right. Results can take a while to see, and in the meantime, you might worry that you’re doing something wrong.
Unfortunately, much of marketing is trial and error — you have to constantly test strategies to know what works. But some things are a guaranteed win, and without them as a foundation, the rest of your marketing efforts start to crumble.
So today, we’re sharing the 8 most common marketing errors we see local business make and showing you how to avoid them in the future.
The number one mistake most local businesses make is not having any sort of online presence. According to Clutch, 29% of small businesses don’t have a website — not even a DIY one. Compare that to the 81% of people who search for goods or services online before purchasing, and you start to see the real problem.
Local businesses with no website simply can’t attract the same volume of customers and clients that businesses with websites can.
If you live in certain areas of the U.S., this may cause more problems for you than elsewhere. According to Clutch, local businesses in the Midwest are least likely (58%) to have a website, followed by the South (72%), the Northeast (73%), and the West (77%).
That means that here in the South, more than 1 in 4 local businesses can’t compete when it comes to attracting customers.
If your business currently doesn’t have a website, we can help you with that. Otherwise, keep reading.
Having a website up and running is the first step to creating an effective marketing strategy. But if you really want it to help bring in customers, you need more than a basic desktop version. You need a website that’s mobile-responsive.
Taking your site beyond the basics and making it easy to use on any device ensures your visitors have a better experience with your brand. Good experiences create feelings of trust, and that’s what ultimately convinces your website visitors to do business with you.
Still, only 56% of small businesses in the U.S. have a mobile-friendly website, and in the South, that rate drops to 51%. That means half of Southern local businesses aren’t ready for the vast majority of their website visitors, and they’re losing potential customers as a result.
Social media is one of the most important marketing tools out there for a local business. Not only does it give you a platform to connect with your community and start building a reputation for your brand, but it’s also completely free.
With social media, you can connect with your customer base, build brand awareness and loyalty, drive traffic to your website, keep tabs on your competitors, and so much more. If you have some wiggle room in the marketing budget, you can start exploring the advertising options that are now available on nearly every existing social media platform.
Worried that your customers won’t engage with your social media accounts? Don’t be. Social media is now the most widely preferred avenue for customer care. In fact, 30% of Millennials engage with brands on at least a monthly basis, as do 32% of Gen Xers and 14% of Baby Boomers.
So by being active on social media, you’re making it easier for your potential customers to engage with your brand frequently. And when it’s easy for them to engage, it’s easy for them to feel comfortable spending money.
Just because you use social media to market your local business doesn’t mean that you’re not making mistakes. We’ve seen plenty of small businesses who erred too far in the other direction under the impression that they need to be active on every social channel available.
Usually, this practice hurts the business more than it helps. With so many platforms, most small businesses find themselves spread too thin to maintain all of them. They post inconsistently, which drives followers away. Their audience grows slowly, if at all, which is discouraging to the staffer tasked with managing the brand’s social media accounts. And discouragement doesn’t lend itself well to continued marketing efforts.
The solution: Choose 1-3 platforms and focus on posting there consistently. Your followers will notice your dedication and will respond in kind. And as your audience grows, you can consider expanding to more platforms.
What you post matters just as much as where and how often. Too many small businesses post about themselves — like the services they offer, or the team outing they went on last week — but they fail to consider what their audience really wants to hear.
Your fans don’t follow you to listen to you talk about yourself. They follow you because they believe you can help them somehow.
Think about the last time you provided value to your brand’s followers. Was it within the past week? The past month? What value did you provide? Did you write a blog post showing them how to solve a problem? Did you tweet a stat that could help them through the next pickle in which they find themselves?
If the overarching tone of your marketing efforts is “Look how awesome we are,” you’re doing it wrong. Instead, shoot for “Here’s how we can help you with your problem.”
You’ve probably heard the old saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It’s a cliché, but clichés exist for a reason — they’re usually right. Effective marketing stems from strategic planning.
Think of your marketing plan as a roadmap to your business’s success. Documenting your marketing strategy gives you a clear set of steps to follow, and without that map to guide you, you’re likely to stray off course.
Your marketing plan should include:
Documenting these strategies before you start marketing your business helps you maintain a consistent look and tone across the board, creating a more solid brand identity that your customers can relate to and feel comfortable following.
Even if you’ve followed all of the steps we’ve recommended up until this point, your marketing efforts are pointless if you don’t track and measure results. Data is a crucial part of your marketing because it’s the only way to tell if your strategy is working or not.
Imagine that you ran a promotion for your business on social media. You expected to get 50 new customers from it. Instead, you only got 1 new customer and you lost 40 followers.
Looking at those numbers right now, you can probably surmise that something about the promotion didn’t resonate with your audience the way you thought it would. But if you’re not tracking that data regularly, you may not notice the lost followers or low conversion rate. And the next time you run a promotion, you’re likely to follow the same flawed strategy that you used this time.
What you do with that data matters, too. You can plug numbers into a spreadsheet all day and call it measuring results, but if you never analyze them to learn what works, then adjust your tactics accordingly, you might as well not market your business at all. That brings us to our next point …
Expecting to bring in customers without marketing your business is like expecting to catch a fish without casting a line.
Your chances of a fish hurling itself up out of the lake and into your waiting arms are slim to none. The same goes for customers blithely clicking onto your website without seeing it marketed somewhere first.
Still, 1 in 5 small U.S. business owners don’t invest in any sort of marketing whatsoever. They think that if they create a good enough product, the quality will speak for itself.
While that may be true, this approach to marketing lands you squarely in a “if a tree falls in the woods” type of scenario: If a product’s quality speaks for itself but there are no customers to hear it, does it make a sound?
Ultimately, you need customers if you want to keep your business running. But without marketing your business, would-be customers simply don’t know that your company exists. Put your company out there and show people how good you are at solving their problems. Then — and only then — you can let the product speak for itself.
Looking for help getting your business on customers’ radar? We’re here to help. Whether it’s redesigning a tired website or helping you put a marketing strategy into place, everything we do is centered around helping your business grow and thrive. Ready to get started? Contact us and tell us a little more about your company.
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