February 16, 2021

What are the 7 Small Business Marking Mistakes?

Knowing what these deadly small business marketing mistakes is the first step. Taking the steps outlined here can help you avoid stumbling into them.

Small business owners often make these seven mistakes. They are tied to some fundamental questions that are tied to your business goals, your marketing objectives, the competition, the choice of your target market, understanding your customers’ needs, and how you uniquely solve them.

The marketing plan and marketing strategies you create needs to keep these in mind. Also, you need to have a large enough marketing budget to ensure that it works.

7 small business marketing mistakes - no clear goal

#1 No Clear Aim or Goal

The first mistake many people make is not having a logical goal in mind. People have a general idea of where they want to be, but that is not enough. The best metaphor this brings to mind is the partner who will not stop to ask for directions because they know where they are going.

A goal differs from having a general idea. A goal is specific, measurable, and achievable. It applies to the business and has an end.

#2 Unclear or Ill-Defined Target Market

Almost everyone has a general idea of the target market. They can typically describe it in broad strokes. It’s common to hear definitions like: “mom’s with kids”, “young professionals”, or “people who like fitness”. 

For a target market to be effective, it needs to share a similar set of attributes that make it different from the rest, and those people need to react to problems in the same way. A mom who lives in a large city is probably not likely to react in the same way as one in the country. Similarly, a young lawyer might react differently than a junior engineer.

Everything in marketing is based on your target audience. If the target is unclear or ill-defined, your message is not likely to resonate or be as effective as it could be.

7 small business marketing mistakes - unclear target market

#3 Poor Understanding of Your Customers’ Needs

This is why defining your target is so important. If you have a loosely defined target, you get generic needs. Generic needs are usually not very motivating. It is hard to stand out if what your product or service is seen as basic. You will probably blend in with the noise.

However, if you know the ‘why’ someone needs something, you can generate more interest. It shows you have taken a genuine interest in them. It is human nature to respond positively to someone who has attempted to get to know you.

#4 It is Not Clear What You Do

This is tied directly to the prior mistake. If you do not understand why someone needs what you offer. It is unlikely you will communicate what you do in a way that is easy for them to understand.

You only have someone’s attention for a few seconds. If they do not understand what you do and why they should care in a sentence or two, you probably lost them.

7 small business marketing mistakes - not clear what you do

#5 Not Knowing the Competition Well Enough

The key point is “well enough”. Most people can make a list of competitors. While this is a good start, it is not nearly enough. This goes back to understanding why your customer needs something. 

There are common ways that needs are met, and these are likely the competitors that you list. For example, if you were a movie theater, you would rightly consider other movie theaters as competition. 

Sometimes people go to the movies because they want the experience, but other times, it’s simply one option for viewing content. If you only consider movie theaters your competition, you would have missed the streaming services, and other ways to view the same content you offer.

They are as much your competition as other theaters as they are competing for the same investment in time and money. It’s not only important to position yourself versus the common competitors but also against those who could be seen as substitutes by your customers.

7 small business marketing mistakes - fail to focus on why your special

#6 Fail to Focus on Why Your Special

As we hinted above in numbers 3, 4, and 5, you need to be seen as special in the eyes of your customer. First, the need to understand what you are offering them meets their needs. Second, you need to show him or her how you differ from all the other options they could choose from to solve their needs.

We call this positioning. Positioning is effective when you clearly understand your customer and what he or she really wants on a more personal level. Then, you need to articulate clearly why your offer is the best choice from them because of how you solve their needs better than other options they could consider.

A poorly positioned business quickly gets lost in a sea of sameness. 

#7 Cannot be Heard

You avoid all the first six, only to get stuck here at the finish line. For marketing to work, people need to hear your message. If your message is not seen, acquiring new customers will be difficult. This is challenging because all of us today are constantly bombarded by messages welcome or unwelcome.

There are three common mistakes businesses make that cause their message to go unheard.

  1. They aren’t sending their message using the media that their customers use most. This is tricky, it is difficult to know exactly what your customers watch, read, etc. 
  2. The message is great, but the delivery doesn’t stand out. It may be a great email, but if the headline looks like everyone else’s, your customer may never open it
  3. They don’t spend enough to break through the clutter. It’s an old advertising adage that a person has to be exposed to an ad at least three times before they notice it.
7 small business marketing mistakes - cannot be heard


Now that you know what the seven deadly marketing mistakes small businesses make, you can use techniques and marketing tactics outlined in “How to Avoid the 7 Deadly Mistakes” to avoid them.

A marketing agency can often help guide your marketing efforts so your marketing activities and campaigns avoid these pitfalls.

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About the Author

Brian Cairns, CEO of Prostrategix Consulting. Over 25 years of business experience as a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and small business owner. For more information, please visit my LinkenIn profile

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