5 Online Marketing Mistakes Small Businesses Should Avoid

“Everything has changed for small business marketing.” 

If you’ve heard that once, you’ve heard it a hundred times; even on this blog.  And it’s true.  The internet, and then Small Business Marketing Mistakes
social media, have profoundly changed the possibility for small business to reach more people.   If you don’t embrace the changes, what does it really mean to your business?

I’ve been working with small business for over 20 years.  I have had thousands of marketing conversations with small business owners. It is a profound pleasure to help a hard working small business grow and thrive by altering or creating a new marketing strategy and sticking with it, watching the new found revenue literally change people’s lives.  The owner/manager can stop worrying and start brainstorming, and often entire organizations are transformed by the stability that more revenue can create.  It’s what makes me get up every morning; the opportunity to help people and organizations grow.

I have also had the opposite experience too many times to count; discussing what is possible, and often necessary, with the decision maker only to watch them hold back on essential pieces of a plan, knowing they will fail because I’ve seen it too many times.  Half efforts leading businesses back to the same failed marketing strategies they’ve implemented for years.  This is doubly true for online marketing, an arena that so many small business owners still don’t fully understand.

If you want to avoid failing with your online marketing efforts, beware of these 5 pitfalls:

  1. Your website is your platform:    Don’t build your community on property you don’t own.  Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or any other online forum or network is not your community, it is a channel to communicate with them.  Bring them back to your website, your blog, your property.
  2. Your website design is essential:  I do NOT mean that your website needs to be slick and visually cutting edge, I mean that it needs to immediately tell the visitor how you will help or inspire them, or where they can buy what they came for. Navigation is king.  You have 15 seconds to make them want to stay.  Extra tip: your nephew, or uncle, or college roommate may not be the best choice for building this most precious piece of your online real estate.
  3. SEO cannot be ignored:  SEO is what determines where you show up on Google; too many small business owners still don’t understand that their website is invisible without SEO work, and SEO is not free. Are there cases where it isn’t important? Sure.  Example:  A custom home builder who only does 15 homes a year and is booked, perpetually, through referrals.  A website for a client like this is simply an online catalog.  But for the great majority of small business owners, SEO is the un-plundered goldmine of internet leads.  Do your homework. Talk to a lot of people. Educate yourself. There are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there, but you need expert help in this area; it is constantly changing.
  4. PPC is over rated: PPC, or Pay Per Click advertising, gets you into the first 3 or so links that show up in the top, colored box on Google, or in the columns. They are paid advertisements, and each time you click on them you cost the advertising business money; thus, Pay Per Click.  It is the quickest way to get your business to show up online, and, for temporary SEO it can be a boost.  However, it’s a short term fix; organic SEO is where you should be putting most of your efforts because the results are long lasting.  Once you quit paying for PCC, you disappear from that 1st page. Again, educate yourself and hire someone who really understands SEO.
  5. Commitment is essential: This is probably the single most frustrating part of my job, for both on and offline marketing; the client gets excited, commits to change… and then wearies, or becomes afraid, or starts to cut the budget.  They sabotage their marketing plan and then blame it ON the plan when it fails.  Your online marketing efforts won’t be successful if you only work on it in spurts.  There are smart plans that work, but you must stick to them.

The one thing my 20 years has taught me is profound respect for the scrappy small businesses that fight, every day, to exist.  I understand that the key players in these organizations work an insane amount of hours and wear so many hats it’s hard to think straight.  I know time is their most over stressed resource.

I also know how to make their lives easier, their businesses more successful, their company prosper.   None of it is done without planning and commitment to a strategy.  When it’s built and worked properly, it is a tremendously beautiful thing.

Featured image courtesy of www.sxc.hu.