Small Business Marketing Mistakes: 10 Things to Avoid

The owners of today’s successful small to mid-sized businesses are doing all they can to serve their customers, stay on top of industry trends and run profitable companies. It can seem impossible to do it all, and marketing efforts often fall to the bottom of the priority list.

But this is a consequential mistake. Every day, great companies take a backseat to second-rate competitors—just because the other guys have a better strategic marketing plan. So what do you need to look out for? And how do you dodge these marketing mega don'ts?

We discuss the top 10 marketing mistakes even the smarties companies make and the easiest ways to circumvent them. 

1. Assuming You Don’t Need to Market Yourself 

You’re busy. You have more people interested in your services than you have hours available to deliver them. As a result, you’re too afraid that marketing will overwhelm your business, so you don’t pursue marketing at all.

No matter how much business you have today, failing to market will drive your business into the ground.

What if Microsoft, Amazon, or Apple stopped marketing themselves when their brands went global? It’s hard to imagine, but their brands would have lost their clout. Without a consistent effort and focus on marketing, you’ll be forced to navigate substantial peaks and valleys.

You need to market when you are busiest, so you still have prospects in your pipeline when the busy season gives way to the slow doldrums of your most uneventful season. 


How to Avoid This Mistake: The best thing you can do for your business is to know how to handle excess business when you’re just starting or in a slow period. If you wait until you have too much business to begin thinking about this, you’ll be too late.

For more on meeting your business goals with marketing, take a look at the article “How to Set Business Goals and Achieve Them (With Marketing).”

2. Employing a “Shotgun Marketing” Strategy

When small business owners are overwhelmed with the demands of the business and their clients, they fail to devote the time necessary to plan their marketing programs.

If they’re lucky, the management team may sit down to create a list of desired marketing initiatives for the coming year. But they typically decide to market as different opportunities arise instead of outlining a real plan. 

Say, for example, Google is running a promo for a $300 ad credit. Consequently, the business begins a Google Adwords campaign.

Or a business-school classmate publishes an article in a national magazine, so now the focus is on Public Relations. The problem with this approach is that each marketing activity has its purpose and message and works independently of the other. The efforts are effectively siloed and don’t sustainably build upon one another.

However, an integrated plan can make every investment into website design, content strategy, and promotion build upon itself, paying dividends further down the road. 


How to Avoid This Mistake:  Create a long-term, sustainable marketing plan that incorporates a solid message that becomes the theme for all marketing activities.

Understand how each marketing program will leverage the program before it and be integrated with the one after it.

Ensure each program has a clear objective and is highlighted in everything you do – ensure that your social media strategy supports your blog strategy, your blog strategy informs your SEO strategy, and so on. 

3. Employing “We-Centered” Marketing 

Many businesses are great at telling people what they do. The problem lies in companies who fail to tell their potential customers how their product or services helps solve their problem.

When you talk only about what you do, you create a commodity that looks like everyone else does. Your real differentiator is to discuss why what you do matters to them. This differentiator is known as your value proposition. 

People do not care about your products and services alone. They care about how your products and services can make their lives better. Start turning conversations away from features and focus on the benefits you offer.

Think about how what you do makes a difference for your clients. For example, will you make them more money? Simplify their systems and processes? Give them more time with their family? Realize your value and ensure your clients know how it helps them reach their goals. 

How to Avoid This Mistake: A strong value proposition can be discovered at the intersection of three things: 

  • What your market already thinks 
  • What the competition does not say 
  • Your goals for the business 

Gather this information and think about how what you do positively affect someone’s life or business. Use this solution to frame the pain points of your prospects. 

4. Giving Away Too Much Value 

Most business owners undervalue their solutions. Because they don’t state their value clearly, they end up negotiating price.

Some people think they’ll make more money by offering the best price, which can be a strategy for selling high-volume products. But B2B buyers seldom buy just on price – they buy on total value delivered.

Make sure you let people know what you do for them. If, for example, you purchase products for clients as part of your services, let them know. The value of this effort is that you are buying the right product at the right price, and the client doesn’t need to hassle with the transaction. 

How to Avoid This Mistake:  Take the time to document all you do for those that purchase your product or use your services. Then, determine how to communicate that value to them.

List everything you do, even if you think it doesn’t matter. Once you have a clear picture of the total solution you offer, you’re better positioned to set the most appropriate price.

Include this value in proposals so that clients shake their heads “yes” the entire time they review your proposal. If they see the absolute value of your services and how it will directly impact them, then it becomes much harder for them to say “no.”

5. Not Including a Clear Call-to-Action

An engaging white paper, checklist, advertisement, or website may be nice to look at and inviting to read, but it’s worthless if your audience is not compelled to take action after reading it.

By failing to identify what you want people to do when they receive your marketing piece, you waste time, effort, and expense on the communications because the program will not generate results. 

How to Avoid This Mistake:  Every communication you have with subscribers, prospects, and clients is an opportunity for you to get business from them. But you need to make it as easy as possible.

Clarify what you want readers to do – call you, stop by, visit your website – and then ask them to do it.

Every page of your website paid social post, and email should include a clear Call-to-Action.

6. Forgetting Existing Customers 

Many business owners spend money attracting new clients but fail to upsell or cross-sell to their existing customers.

Existing customers already know your capabilities, have already heard your message, understand your value, and have paid you money!

By focusing all your efforts on attracting new clients, you spend more money than necessary and neglect a significant portion of your existing user base.

Read more: How to Use Customers to Drive New Revenue

How to Avoid This Mistake: Continue to nurture your customers long after they’ve purchased your product or engaged in your service.

By keeping in touch with existing clients via email, phone calls, or even holiday cards, you stay top of mind and help turn your existing customers into promoters of your business. 

  • Provide customers with educational content to ensure they get the most out of their new purchase 
  • Provide incentives for them to refer a friend
  • Provide promo codes or incentives to buy from your company in the future
  • Send your customers a Net Promoter Score survey to gauge their overall satisfaction

6. Not Measuring Results of Your Marketing Efforts

How do you know where to spend your money next year if you don’t know what worked this year?

Companies are often happy just to get a marketing program done – the website finally goes live, they published a new guide, they wrote and promoted blog posts – that they forget the essential step: tracking the results.

Companies save valuable time and money by learning quickly which marketing efforts are working and which aren’t. 

How to Avoid This Mistake:  When beginning a marketing initiative, set a clear objective. Do you want prospects to download a guide? Schedule a consultation? Strengthen your brand recognition in the marketplace?

To avoid this common mistake, centralize your data by implementing interdepartmental closed-loop reporting, holding routine meetings, and keep track of resources in one transparent location.

Making data available to the entire company prevents duplication (or inaccuracies), streamlines communication, and contributes to time and cost savings.

6. Failing to Budget their Money

Small business owners wear many hats- as owning and running a business requires multitasking at the highest level. As such, the marketing budget is often susceptible to inflation. 

How to Avoid This Mistake:  Look for ways to increase productivity – Where is there a hiccup in your marketing? Are your metrics revealing problem areas? Wherever possible, restructure and preferably automate marketing processes to improve control and efficiency and reduce production costs.

Successful small businesses often succeed by planning their company’s expenses for the entire year. If possible, plan for your company’s fixed expenses twelve months ahead instead of one at a time. 

It’s crucial to consider seasonal changes and other potential spending spikes to ensure that you’ve covered yourself if something goes awry. This may mean setting aside revenue during the business’s peak sales months to make up for times where sales see a decline. 

7. Failing to Brag About Successes 

Business owners must learn how to brag about their successes comfortably and gracefully.

So many companies receive awards, win significant new contracts, hire new staff, move to a more prominent location or contribute to a community cause, only to fail to tell the marketplace about it.

People want to do business with successful companies, so start looking at your accomplishments as your ticket to generating more credibility with clients and more revenue for your business.


How to Avoid This Mistake: When you have good news, share it with your target market by posting it on your website. A “News” or “About Us” page is excellent for this purpose, and continuously updating it will boost your search engine rankings. Share your recent awards with social media posts and add the award logos to your website or email distribution.

For larger companies, consider sending a press release to your media list or writing about your latest news in your city's business journal. 


Successful marketing is not difficult. It just takes time, planning, and follow-through. Companies that continue to produce results are the ones that treat marketing as an ongoing process.

If your company wants to coordinate and streamline your marketing processes by engaging with an outsourced marketing firm, we invite you to schedule a free consultation. 

Questions to Consider Before Hiring an Inbound Marketing Agency PDF


Taylor Rennick | Marketing Strategist
About the Author
Taylor Rennick, Marketing Strategist

Taylor Rennick is an experienced marketing professional, specializing in digital content creation and strategy, email marketing, and website optimization. Taylor has helped several clients increase their online conversion rates, leading to double-digit revenue growth in several markets.