Effective small business marketing doesn’t happen by chance. If you’re a startup, it can be especially tough to bring in new leads because you don’t have any customers to act as word-of-mouth ambassadors for your brand. With all the pitfalls that lay ahead, it’s easy to get sucked into a merry-go-round of campaign ideas that do nothing but tarnish your brand and empty your bank account.

Here’s 5 small business marketing mistakes that most founders make, plus simple tips to help avoid them:

1. Being paralysed by the need for perfection.

You can’t launch the website because the copy needs tweaking. The logo doesn’t render right on your business cards. You launched two months ago and people aren’t responding to the brand, time to take a break and rebrand the business all over again. The fact is, you’re a startup, you don’t know what’s going to work and not work just yet. Holding off on launch because the grammar and tense of your message needs to be perfect is silly. Same with other incidentals that you can tweak as you go and learn. Same with revising your brand name, website, social accounts, and so on. Focus on a lean startup approach, whereby you stop over-analysing everything before launching the business, its products, and marketing ideas, and instead run with and then and see how they pan out. Action often beats contemplation.

small business marketing mistakes

2. Creating campaigns that are too big for your business.

Quite simply, new small business founders and marketing teams “put the cart before the horse” going way too big too soon, exhausting their budget before they even have a measurable reputation with consumers. Whether it be taking out expensive radio ads too often, bidding on the most expensive local keywords, buying expensive trade show booths, taking out magazine ads — the list goes on and on. A small startup needs to focus on using time, energy, and networking to their marketing advantage, rather than spending mega-bucks. Avoid those expensive one-off campaigns and focus on combinations of smaller ideas using tried and true guerrilla marketing tactics.

3. Putting all your marketing focus on the wrong distribution channels.

Are your customers hyper-local, regional, national, international? This question matters when it comes time to scale up your marketing efforts to get the best ROI for all your energy, time, and money invested. Just because everyone tells you that Facebook or Twitter are great advertising mediums doesn’t mean they’re right for your business. Snapchat is great for advertising a boarding stable for horses, but if you’re selling horse manure to gardeners, you might find that platform to be a waste of time. Focus your time on research first, find out where your ideal customer hangs out, then constantly test, assess, and pivot as need to maximize ROI.

4. Throwing your money around without knowing what it’s doing.

If you can’t track your small business marketing efforts, how will you ever know what’s working? Or have any clue as to how you should manoeuvre when something or many things aren’t working? Answer: You won’t! Metrics are easy to track too, regardless of what channels you’re using. Print and radio ads should use unique phone numbers to track leads. When giving out your landing page address offline, offer a small discount with a promo code so you can track those leads.  Online campaigns need to make effective use of tracking codes and pixels, along with Unified Threat Management (UTM) codes.

Image Credit: Howstuffworks.com

5. Mirroring too much of what the competition’s doing.

It can be tough to come up with your own marketing ideas. Why not just copy what everyone else is doing instead? This does actually work at times, but if you start stalking and chasing down every idea your competitor is using, it can actually hurt your pocketbook and your brand. First, established brands often have bigger budgets, and they have enough experience with their product marketing to know what works for them, while also branching out and taking chances at riskier, potentially higher value campaigns (ie., radio, TV,  paper classifieds). You could go broke doing this and don’t know whether that business is doing campaigns they know will payout or if they’re experimenting with the market. Second, you’re just adding to the noise that competitor is making, causing consumers to tune you out, and potentially perceiving you as one of the “also-rans” in the market.

Each of the mistakes listed above are easily avoidable. All it takes is patience, restraint, research, and as already stated, lots of time and energy!

Main Image Credit: Apps for Europe/Flickr