Marketing mistakes small businesses can avoid |

Marketing mistakes small businesses can avoid

Sydney Schalit/ For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Steamboat Pilot & Today

— Thanks to the vast and fast availability of information on the internet, it has never been more appealing to start a small business. Whether you are connecting people looking for a service, selling homemade goods or are starting a retail shop, it takes more than a quick few clicks to make it work.

While there is some truth in the idea that it’s easier to start a business now than it may have been in the past, it is important to remember that more than 75 percent of small businesses fail within the first 18 months. That said, if you’re starting or have a small business, marketing it correctly — no matter how tech savvy you are — is key to your success.

This short list of no-no’s will guide you and your small business on the path to marketing success.

Don’t skip your due diligence

All too often, budding business owners take the leap without doing their research and homework, particularly in the realm of marketing. Before building a budget or finding funding, look into what others in your industry are doing. Note what tactics are working and, more importantly, what tactics are not. From pricing structure to web design, sales and promotions to social media presence, use the internet as a resource for scouting out ideas, sizing up your competition and building your business.

Pro tip: If you’ve created a new product, it might be wise to contact a patent lawyer to discuss its viability, originality and legality. Take the time to conduct research and identify an actual gap in the market before you take things further.

Planning is not only for the Future

It is crucial to any business to have a marketing and business plan. It might seem backwards to start with a formal document stating your budget, goals and overall vision, but remember, it’s a document that will be updated, edited and reformulated. The business plan states your goals and vision, while your marketing plan outlines how you will succeed at it.

Your marketing plan should outline the ways in which you will reach your target audience. For example, if you’ve identified second homeowners between 40 and 75 as your target audience, a marketing approach built on local television ads, radio spots and targeted online ads will likely be more effective than Snapchat and Twitter.

Pro tip: Though social media marketing has its place, knowing your audience and understanding how it best receives information is key to your marketing strategy. Having a marketing and business plan isn’t a just good idea — it’s essential.

Inflexibility no longer an option

“The only thing that is constant is change.” Heraclitus knew that in 500 B.C., so why would we be surprised at changes today? Small business owners have to be both steadfast and flexible, as that is the nature of business. The market changes a lot, and as the market morphs, as the seasons pass, even as staff or facilities come and go, it is not only wise to be willing to reassess your marketing and business plan; updating and changing it should also be a part of the plan itself.

To reassess your plan, you will want to use analytics to keep track of visits to your website, check in on your advertising dollars, ensure that marketing is leading to sales and customer engagement. Online, you have the ability to always improve as analytics will guide changes in your plans.

Marketing may not be your strong suit

Just as you know your product, your industry and your goals, someone else knows communication, marketing and strategy. Sharing your expertise, product or service with the world and, more specifically, with the right people, is just as important as having a highly functioning product. Finding specialized marketing professionals is easy, even in a small mountain town. Not only do marketing firms know you need a user-friendly website, they also know you need to command your SEO, that social media has a great deal of value, that consistent content is critical and that online reviews can make or break a company.

Seeking help in the vast, fast world of digital and print advertising is a good use of time, funds and resources. And, as with everything else, do your due diligence, have specific questions for each firm you connect with and, again, it’s your business, it’s your brainchild, it’s your money; when selecting a digital marketing agency, go with your gut.

In this day and age, small businesses are in the unique position to find their audience and, better yet, have their audience find them. Having a great product is one thing; having it marketed correctly is another. Do your research, plan to change, find your inner flexibility and consider asking for help. Following those simple guidelines, especially in the world of small business, will dramatically increase your odds of success.

Sydney Schalit is the content manager at Steamboat Digital, a local digital advertising agency specializing in web design, video production, social media marketing strategy and beyond.

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