Top 3 Reasons Small Businesses Fail at Marketing

I often speak to groups of small business owners and I keep hearing the same comment over and over again with many of them saying that marketers don’t matter or marketing doesn’t matter anymore.

There are many reasons I’ve heard as to why marketing doesn’t matter: “all my business comes by referral,” “I never spent money on marketing and my business grew,” “marketing is a waste of money,” “I see no value in marketing,” “marketing is all luck so why spend money on it,” and so on.

Oh, how they are so very wrong! Below are the top 3 reasons why:

1. Their definition of marketing is wrong

When business owners tell me that marketing doesn’t matter, they usually have a totally different understanding of what marketing is than those who recognise how marketing contributes to business goals where it enables you to charge the most money you can for your services and products.

Marketing is first about spending time building a solid foundation based on strategy before proposing a series of tactics aimed at lifting sales. Until the business finds a way to change the context of how their ideal customer views what they do, and then becomes become the obvious choice provider, they’ll find that their marketing efforts never seem to build momentum or gain any return on investment.

You must be able to enter the conversation taking place in the head of your customers. Or, to look at it in a different way, to be able to address the number one question on your customer’s mind at exactly the right time.

So, how do you do this? The conversation that is taking place in every prospective customer’s mind revolves around two major points. There is a problem they have, and that they don’t want… and there is a result that they want, and they don’t have.

Those who often misunderstand marketing believe that it is only about advertising campaigns, brochures, flyers, website, email marketing, SEO, tradeshows, social media, copy, etc. These are the tactics – the way you implement your marketing. I’d argue that marketing is essentially the core of business strategy because it is about understanding the current customer, tapping into their fears, their goals and their aspirations and then creating products and services that the ideal customer is willing to buy from a brand they now they know, like and trust.

2. They believe either they or their co-worker can do it

Sometimes in the “do it all yourself” world of small business (or even big business when it comes to it), it’s difficult to identify the areas that require outside help. A business may be able to set up their newsletter, add plugins to WordPress, write a Facebook or LinkedIn post, and clumsily create header graphics, but you need somebody who is trained, practiced, and skilled at looking strategically and holistically at the marketplace, understanding the customer, and then creating unique opportunities based on this understanding.

Just think about it for a minute; just because you have a calculator and excel does that mean you are an accountant? If you have a ruler, pencil and have watched some episodes of Grand Designs – does that make you an architect? If you post regularly to your friends on Facebook and Instagram – does that mean you are a social media expert?

So why do small businesses believe that by buying a Mac and some software they will become a designer, marketer and communications expert?

It needs to be led by a strategic marketer who can then develop an integrated marketing approach. Can you or your co-worker do this? In some cases, you can. But those who can are most likely to either come from marketing or consulting backgrounds where they have transferable skills and experience defining AND delivering against a growth strategy.

If you are a small business, you need somebody who will have a very solid, process, streamlined, consistent, repeatable approach. First, they will research and learn about your company in great depth, the dynamics of the marketplace and identify shifts, trends, and changes. From there, the strategic marketer will be able to present the different elements of your marketing plan in logical order of how you should construct them, update them, or revise them; and identify the key areas you should be focusing on – be it generating leads, converting leads, increasing transactions right down to changing prices.

3. They hire the wrong marketing help

There is a huge misunderstanding around marketing strategy, marketing tactics, and marketing execution.

There is a difference between being strategically capable, creatively capable and executionally capable.

Small business owners don’t hire a strategic marketing coach/firm to develop creative graphics and headers; nor should you hire an advertising/graphic design agency to handle marketing strategy. A small business doesn’t need to hire a consultant or a firm who is a strong marketing executor when their biggest need is a strategy for sustainable growth. You may get more attention, but not the best results.

Hiring a Marketing Expert Vs Doing It Yourself

Marketing is a complex field that includes different strategies designed to improve visibility, establish a brand presence, engage prospective customers, and earn more revenue as a result. Business owners need to invest time and money into marketing if they want to stay ahead of the game and stand apart from the competition. A good marketing strategy can help businesses grow and enjoy more success.

However, many small business owners hesitate to hire professional marketers to handle their marketing campaign. It could be lack of trust, no budgetary means for it, or that they feel it’s a manageable task. In the end, they struggle to share responsibilities and delegate tasks while they run a business; which means they don’t outsource marketing and rely on inexperienced in-house employees to plan and implement the strategies that they end up overseeing.

Why Hiring a Marketing Expert can Help

Modern marketing is an expansive field, and it includes everything from digital marketing online to traditional offline marketing. Business owners rarely have enough time to learn different marketing techniques and understand how to implement them well on their platforms. All kinds of businesses, especially small companies, can benefit from professional assistance. Here are some reasons why hiring a professional is a good idea:

1. To Navigate the Complexities of Modern Marketing Strategies

Modern marketing strategies involve a wide range of techniques, tools, skills, and platforms, which is why people work in teams to implement it. The digital marketing team includes professionals with different skills and qualifications who handle different tasks. These strategies are just too complex for a single person to manage, even if they’re qualified in the field. Even the simplest marketing strategy requires steps like:

Establishing Your Audience
Branding the Service for the Audience
Graphic Design & Collateral Creation
Creating a Website that Sells
Making the Website SEO Friendly
Promoting the Website
Creating Social Media Profiles
Establishing Brand Presence
Generating Content
Creating Ads for Paid Platforms
Managing Ad Spend
Managing Authoritative Links to the Website

All of these things require different skills and most business owners have to invest time to learn these skills if they want to handle marketing without professional assistance.

2. To Create Content that Establishes Industry Authority

Content is an important aspect of modern marketing strategies because it helps establish authority in the industry, engages with customers, distributes information regarding products and services, and include keywords to catch the attention of search engines. The Internet is saturated with content, so users are very selective about what they read. It’s not enough to just create generic content and include relevant keywords in the text. The content should provide the target audience with significant value.

Content should be well-written with sound grammar and spelling.
All the information should be current and relevant to the keywords included in the text.
The content should be in long-form and range from 1,000 to 2,000 words. The average word count of the web pages search on the first search engine results page is 1,890.
The keywords used should be specific, and the content should include long-tail phrases.
All information should be well-researched and as accurate as possible.

The primary purpose of content marketing is to attract organic traffic to the website and to ensure that users stay long enough to become interested in the products and services offered. The secondary purpose of content marketing is to establish authority and win the trust of the visitors.

Skilled and experienced content marketing experts know just how to generate the right kind of content for their target audience. This job requires skills, training and deep knowledge on the nitty-gritty of writing for online audiences. It’s something most individual business owners aren’t able to manage.

3. To Develop Creative and Interactive Resources

Content marketing doesn’t just involve text though it is one of the most commonly used formats in modern marketing. Text content is easy to create, and business owners can develop good articles and blog posts if they put in some time and effort. However, experienced marketers know content marketing must be diverse and approach the target audience from different directions. A sound content marketing strategy will include:

Videos and tutorials
Podcasts and live streams
Infographics and animations
White papers and research papers relevant to the industry

These types of content require different skills and software, and a business owner doesn’t usually have access to them. In comparison, professional marketers have all the tools and knowledge required to create visual and text content and can handle it with a marketing strategy in mind.

4. To Deliver your Brand Socially

Social media is a great platform for small businesses because it allows them to reach out and connect with their target audience. They can engage with their audience regularly, establish a personal relationship, hear customer concerns, complaints, and provide resolutions promptly; this helps ensure customers remain interested in the brand.

However, social media is a double-edged sword if it’s not handled properly. Even the smallest mistakes can compromise the reputation of the company and alienate the target audience. Experienced social media professionals know how to navigate these platforms well and will:

Understand different platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., and develop unique strategies to engage audiences on every platform.
Explore the paid ads, promoted content, and other such paid marketing options available on these platforms and use them to the best advantage.
Monitor engagements and interactions between the business and target audience to understand customer preferences.
Handle complaints, questions, and requests from customers on the social media platforms.
Build and maintain a good reputation on these platforms and establish authority through content.

Professional marketers will use sophisticated social media management tools to keep track of all this activity and ensure nothing goes wrong. Managing social media requires time and commitment, but it can be very rewarding. Social media marketers are very savvy on these platforms and know how to engage the audience efficiently.

Many small business owners struggle with this aspect of marketing and have neither the time nor knowledge to keep track of their social media accounts. The time to update, post content, respond, and then interact with their audiences just isn’t there.

5. To Develop your Brand and Website Concepts

A marketing campaign will fail if the business doesn’t have a well-designed website and a carefully crafted brand presence. A website is the foundation of all marketing campaigns and needs to provide a good user experience to visitors, regardless of the platform they approach it from.

The website should be easy to navigate, mobile-friendly, SEO-friendly, quick to load on all platforms, aesthetically pleasing, and informative. It should be designed in accordance with the branding to ensure it conveys the right message to the target audience. Experienced website developers and marketers will consider the factors mentioned below when they create a platform and branding:

Target audiences and their preferences
Type of products and services provided
Competitors and the industry in general
The company’s ethics, goals, and message
The location of the company