Quite often when it comes to marketing, small businesses are quick to just start the ‘doing’. They post to social media with the hope this will drive sales immediately [and then give up when it doesn’t]. They pay thousands of dollars each month to the local SEO agency who have promised: “we’ll get you over 4000 new visitors to your website a month”. They even hand substantial sums of money to PR companies to “get their name out there”.

When customers don’t come running through the door, marketing is put to a stop. Then come the excuses like “Marketing isn’t working for us”, “Marketing is too expensive”, “I don’t have the time to focus on marketing”.

With marketing comes a sense of anxiety, confusion and overwhelm for a small business owner and their team. Over the years I’ve seen many businesses fail at marketing, and usually, it’s because of one or more [or all] of these 6 reasons.

they have no plan or direction

I have this conversation with owners all the time, “Do you have a marketing plan?”. The common response is nearly always a simple “No.” If there is no plan, how can we achieve a goal? Without a plan, you are left with hope, and hope is a very dangerous word in marketing.

Related article: Commonly overlooked elements of a marketing plan >>

Marketing plans are not what they used to be. No small business needs a 20-page document of marketing “wanker” speak. A marketing plan can be as simple as a one-page strategy outlining target markets, key messages and marketing channels to attract leads, nurture those leads and convert them into paying customers.

my advice: get a plan… please!

they aren’t willing to invest

Marketing is frequently known as a cost centre to the business. Owners are pouring large sums of money into marketing activities and don’t see the effect it has on the bottom line. This is either because it’s a crap marketing strategy that hasn’t been planned out correctly so it’s not performing at all [bye bye money], or there is no visibility over the marketing performance to show how certain strategies are influencing growth in the business. This could be growth in new customers, increase in customer lifetime value, or increase in market share. If you have visibility over the data, you will know where your marketing spend is going and maybe you can turn the cost centre into a profit centre.

my advice: get some visibility over the numbers

they only focus on top of funnel activity

Marketing can be a costly exercise if you aren’t converting leads to customers. Small businesses put an immense amount of effort into filling the top of the marketing funnel with new leads and little focus on nurturing prospects and building trust. Growth marketing has changed the way businesses think about driving demand and creating successful customers instead of only thinking about the top of funnel. It requires a focus on the entire customer journey with strategies to attract more engaged customers who will become advocates.

my advice: focus on nurturing and converting as well as attracting

they are constantly changing their focus

Without a direction [a marketing plan], owners will often change their marketing focus every few weeks. This is either because they aren’t seeing instant results from their marketing efforts, or because they are drawn to the next big shiny object. They abandon a channel, strategy or tactic and move onto something they “think” will bring the customers running.

Today, nearly everything can be measured. The data used analyse the performance of your marketing is easily accessible if you have the infrastructure setup correctly. Don’t be so quick to desert marketing activities if they aren’t delivering the results right away. Analyse, revise, relaunch, repeat. If you have a marketing plan and have identified a specific strategy plays an important role in achieving your goal, keep testing until it works or until you’re 100% certain it’s not going to deliver results.

my advice: focus on a few key strategies and do them well

Related article: How to measure your marketing >>

they aren’t consistent

You may have heard the phrase “Consistency is key” when it comes to marketing. This is often interpreted as always needing to have some form of marketing occurring on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Whilst this is true, consistency in marketing also correlates with behaviour, voice and quality.

Just like you need to be consistent in your marketing activity, you need a consistent message that connects with your audience and relates to the brand. This message would then consistently be used throughout all marketing activity to get the same point across each time. The voice or tone in your marketing needs to be consistent so you don’t confuse your audience. Finally, the quality of your marketing needs to remain at the standard that you can maintain. This means your website needs to be the same level of quality as your other digital platforms, your brochures, print ads, and your overall brand identity.

my advice: be consistent in your message, quality, and voice

they don’t seek help

Business owners already have so many hats to wear, marketing is just one of them and usually the one that sits to the side while they work with clients or their team. This is why a lot of businesses rely on referrals to bring in new clients. If you want to grow, marketing [if done right] can help make this happen, so it needs the focus and attention. You can’t afford to have a scattergun approach to marketing and only focus on it when you have time.

External agency partners, part-time marketing coordinators or even interns can help get the wheels turning and deliver on a consistent [and hopefully strategic] marketing approach, one that can be measured and deliver a return on your investment. Finding the right help can take time but will only be a benefit to the growth of your business.

my advice: seek help, duh!

Do you have any gaps in your marketing? It’s easy to avoid falling victim to these marketing fails. You just need to allocate time to set the foundations first, narrow your focus, and find the right help to drive things for you so your marketing never turns off.


Originally authored by Tyson Cobb.