Top 5 small business marketing mistakes

In this 6-minute read:

  • Why you shouldn’t spend money on advertising right off the bat
  • How crucial is an online reputation for local businesses?
  • Do you know who your customers are and how to market to them?
  • Are you using outdated advertising methods?
  • Do you actually NEED to spend money on advertising?

Say the word “marketing” in a room of partygoers and you’ll likely get 15 treatises on the best way to approach it, all of which contradict each other. Marketing is one of those things that all business school graduates think they know how to do, until it comes time to actually do it.

With Womply Email Marketing, you can turn customers into regulars and get more repeat business with targeted emails that send automatically when customers transact with you. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

For local, small businesses, there are 5 key marketing mistakes you want to avoid in order to get started out on the right foot and get the most bang for your buck. Let’s go over them briefly and discuss the implications of making these marketing faux-pas.

1. Spending money on advertising too early

The tendency of many local business owners who are scrambling to compete with the Amazons and Walmarts of the world is to start throwing money at “advertising.” 

This might seem like it makes sense, since these megacorporations are spending multiple billions per year on local advertising, trying to woo over your local customers. And that’s billions with a “b,” folks.

However, the way today’s customers find local businesses has totally changed. It doesn’t matter if you run a local restaurant, retail store, auto shop, nail salon, donut shack, or dental office, people use the internet to find your local businesses. 

The bad news is there’s no way you can compete with billion-dollar corporations as far as ad spend. The good news is… you don’t need to.

If you keep your eyes open (or look for local businesses yourself) you’ve probably noticed this trend, but if not, here are some juicy stats for you:

  • 84% of consumers search for local businesses online (Google)
  • 97% read online reviews for local businesses (BrightLocal)
  • 88% trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends or family (BrightLocal)

The message is clear: even brick-and-mortar businesses need to take control of their “online presence”—a process which can be totally free other than your time—BEFORE they spend a dime on “advertising.” Why? Because right now, people are searching online for local businesses like yours, and what they find (or or don’t find) determines if they’ll spend money with you. NOT whether they hear your clever advertising jingle or even if they get sent to your shop by a family member.

Read more: How the explosion in “near me” searches can drive customers to your business

2. Ignoring your online presence and business reputation

Brad Plothow, VP of Marketing for Womply, says, “One of the worst mistakes any small business can make is to ignore their online reputation. Today’s customers search online for local businesses, even if they’ve gotten personal recommendations. What customers read about your business online is a key factor in their decision to spend money with you. Dedicating time and resources to building and maintaining a strong online presence for your business is not just a good idea… it’s absolutely crucial.”

As an absolute first step in your marketing plan, you should make sure you’re nailing your online presence, review profiles, and free business listings because (a) it’s the way most customers find your business, and (b) it compounds the effectiveness of all your other marketing efforts.

Not sure how to get started? If nothing else, start reading and responding to your online reviews. According to our research study, people spend up to 49% more money at businesses that regularly reply to reviews. Read our guide to learn how to respond effectively, and try Womply Reputation to make this critical-yet-time-consuming job a lot quicker.

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3. Not having a system in place to know who your customers are and how to get a hold of them 

After you have strengthened your online presence, you need to start engaging more effectively with your customers to build loyalty and repeat business. This is also basically free, and you should be doing this in any case (as a good small business owner).

You definitely want a way to collect customer contact information and, ideally, track their spending habits with you. A “CRM” or customer relationship management solution for small businesses can be invaluable. Why?

Think about your top 10 customers. Can you name 10? Better yet, think about your LAST 10 customers. What do you really know about them? Other than a few “regulars,” most small businesses don’t know anything meaningful about their customers other than “this person spent money with me.” In a week will you remember their names? Can you say with confidence whether they’ve spent money with you before, and how often? Do they spend a lot or relatively little with each transaction? Can you market to them in any meaningful way?

You may start to see the value of a good dynamic customer directory that automatically updates itself with each transaction, including customer contact information, spend history, and transaction information. Big corporations pay billions for customer research, and you can get the most meaningful and valuable customer information without lifting a finger.

Once you have a system in place to help you know who your customers are and you have a way to get hold of them, you can start marketing to them. And don’t worry… the vast majority of people actually want marketing messages from businesses they like. 

4. Spending all of your marketing budget on “legacy” marketing methods

Once you’ve begun optimizing your online presence and have started engaging your customers to build loyalty and repeat business, you’re ready to spend some of your marketing dough on proactive advertising.

Depending on when you grew up, you may distrust the internet or downplay the importance of online marketing efforts. Local marketing agencies seem like they know what they’re doing, and spending your advertising funds on a nice big billboard, TV advertisement, radio spot, or a printed ad in the local “bargain mailer” or even the printed “yellow pages” (which, by the way, ceased printing in 2019) might feel like a solid way to get a good bang for your marketing buck.

However, as noted above, your online presence trumps any “megaphone”-type marketing messaging. Even if your customers hear a radio spot or see a TV ad, the first thing most people do before visiting a business is… you guessed it, search the internet and read the business’s reviews. 

Google Local ads, Facebook ads, Instagram ads (if this makes sense for your business), and especially email marketing are much more effective avenues to meet your local customers where they are really going to be looking for you: online.

Check this out: 11 free ways you can use PR to grow your small business

5. Not spending any money at all on advertising

You might be tempted to believe that if you nail your online presence and customer engagement online and in person, you don’t actually need to spend any money at all on advertising.

In some cases, hot new businesses can get away with this, but in general, the trend doesn’t last for long. In order to reach the right new customers and grow your clientele, you do need to spend some of your marketing budget on advertising. And, yes, every small business needs to have a marketing budget. 

Your next logical question is probably going to be, so with my limited marketing budget, how do I get the most bang for my marketing buck? Well, believe it or not, the advertising avenue with the highest ROI (return on investment) is email marketing. Depending on which study you read, each $1 you invest in email marketing has the potential to return $42 in revenue. 

But you shouldn’t ignore Facebook and Google ads, and specifically Google Local ads. With These kings of demographic information on your side, you can tailor your advertising dollars to specific types of customers, by location, by age, by income, and dozens of other demographic criteria. This is a lot more sophisticated and effective than pasting your business’s name on a bus or a park bench.

Go deeper: 

Strengthen your business’s online presence and earn new customers with Womply

As discussed above, there’s no better way to start a solid small business marketing plan than beefing up your online reputation. This is the first step, and most important step, in attracting new customers to your business.

Womply Reputation makes it easy to keep up to speed with your online reviews on multiple sites at once. Our dashboard allows you to read and respond to all your reviews on all the popular platforms, all in one place with one login. Plus, you can set up automatic replies if you so choose, to help build customer engagement and loyalty, and improve your local SEO.

Womply also offers email marketing to keep the momentum going with your customers as your build and maintain those relationships. And don’t forget about Womply’s exclusive Dynamic Customer Directory that allows you to get smarter about your customers and their impact on your business to target the right ones, every time.

Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

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