Promoting your small business? Be wary of these 15 common mistakes

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Promoting your small business? Be wary of these 15 common mistakes

Promoting a new or small business in a crowded marketplace is a challenging venture. Entrepreneurs must find a way to stand out from the crowd and draw in customers while also operating within their means. There are a lot of resources that offer advice on small-business marketing, but while it’s smart to take a look at tried and traditional marketing methods, it’s just as important to know the missteps that can derail your efforts.

The Business Journals

To help you avoid potential pitfalls when it comes to developing a marketing strategy for your small business, the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share 15 common mistakes entrepreneurs make when it comes to promoting their businesses and what to do instead.

1. Not targeting your ideal customers
When stepping into the competitive market, the first hustle is to survive, which is possible only by spreading and fixing roots in a loyal customer base. Companies today often focus on promotion and forget who they are trying to engage. Using analytical tools and research, track the expectations of your prospective customers and target them, engaging them efficiently. – Alina Clark, CocoDoc

2. Not understanding your mission
While it is a mistake to market or promote your business without a clear mission, it is a bigger mistake to not have an honest sense of that mission. Customers are drawn to a mission that is not only clear and specific but also resonates with authenticity. When you know yourself, you also know your business. – Francesca Giordano, Veduta Consulting

3. Trying to look and sound like everyone else
When you look and sound like everyone else, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Every business must find a point of differentiation. It’s not good enough to offer the same services and same experience at the same price as your competitors. This is especially true for a small business that may not have the capacity to spend a lot on advertising. Be different. Be better. – Paul Weber, EAG Advertising & Marketing

4. Having a ‘me versus them’ mentality
Small-business owners can benefit greatly from collaboration. Within our member-driven organization, I often see owners approach running their business as “me versus them” when there is much to be gained by participating in a dialogue with peers, collaborating to benefit the industry as a whole, and building relationships with suppliers and vendor partners that build efficiencies. – Kathy Etemad Hollinger, RAMW

5. Ignoring your origin story
Don’t forget your origin story and your inspiration for creating your business in the first place. It’s easy to get lost when you’re trying to promote new features, attributes or marketing angles, but stay true to the original idea that made you think, “There’s a real business here.” – Mary-Cathryn Kolb, brrrº

6. Being inconsistent
I’m guilty as charged with not being consistent with marketing. Consistency provides confidence that you do what you say you are going to do and certainly feeds your integrity. Determine a promotion schedule and stick to it with consistency. – Bryan Sarff, True Wealth & Company

7. Thinking people will fall in love with your product or service
We often want to promote and build our marketing by instilling a sense of love for our product or service. However, in reality, that is an emotion you cannot control, and designing a campaign with the goal of making audiences “love it” will fail. Educate, build connections and encourage the consumer to take a journey with you. – Jansen Tidmore, Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation

8. Trying to be all things to all people
Many small-business owners underestimate the importance of getting their brand positioning, business narrative and messaging right. Scaling requires unified messaging that maps to key audiences. The biggest mistake is saying everyone is your target audience and trying to be all things to all people. Picking the top three to five “buyers” can help solidify your corporate story and inspire focus for a team. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

9. Looking past the low-hanging fruit
Often, small-business owners forget to start with the free stuff — I call it the low-hanging fruit. Create a Google My Business page, as well as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube accounts. Then post all of the relevant information: your hours, products, services, and frequent questions and answers (and much more). Everything else comes after that. – Keith Woods, KB Woods Public Relations

10. Trying to compete on price
Being cheap is expensive, so don’t engage in a race to the bottom. Lower prices rarely work, especially for small businesses. Rather than decrease price, add value to what you’re charging. Then customers will know they’re getting more when they pay more. The race to the bottom is bad enough; it’s even worse if you come in second. – Sam Davidson, Batch

11. Not fully buying into your marketing efforts
A common trap many entrepreneurs or small-business owners fall into is that they simply don’t fully buy into their marketing and PR efforts. You have to be fully committed for it to work, and it doesn’t work overnight. Additionally, I see people pick only one channel when they need a multi-pronged approach. In other instances, they think they can do the marketing themselves when they really need a professional. – Jenn Kenning, Align Impact

12. Not identifying your niche
Resist the urge to be all things to all people, or to go after the entire market — that’s a futile effort for a new business in a crowded marketplace. Start with a small niche of your audience and work to build loyal brand ambassadors. Those customers will amplify your message and extend your reach (and legitimacy), and you’ll be able to also learn what works to make tweaks as you grow. – Melea McRae, Crux KC

13. Not defining and communicating what sets you apart
A common mistake in promoting a small business is failing to clearly define what makes you different from the competition. In identifying and communicating what sets you apart, you can develop resources for creating a marketing strategy that enhances your brand awareness. – Justin Livingston, Reflektions Ltd.

14. Going all-in on a strategy without testing it
Don’t push all your chips to the center too quickly. Test your messaging to see what resonates, then invest in the areas that have proven successful. Allocate a portion of your budget for testing new media outlets and demographics to identify additional ways to successfully attract consumers. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

15. Trying to do it yourself
Many entrepreneurs try to do it themselves — with limited time, limited dollars and limited expertise. For most, marketing is simply not a core area of focus. There are four legs of the business stool that a small business should outsource (at least until you get going) — HR, marketing, legal and finance. An objective marketing counselor can save you money and pitfalls. Don’t go at it alone — enlist the help of a pro. – Rodger Roeser, The Eisen Agency

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