15 Common Marketing Mistakes Small Businesses Make

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By Jacob Maslow

To shed light on the typical marketing pitfalls small businesses often fall into, we’ve gathered insights from fifteen industry professionals, including CEOs and founders. From the lack of proper marketing tracking” to stopping marketing efforts prematurely, these experts share the one marketing mistake they’ve seen small businesses make repeatedly. Dive to learn from their experiences and avoid these errors in your business.

  • Lack of Proper Marketing Tracking
  • Misplaced Focus on Paid Ads
  • Underinvestment in Link-Building
  • Overlooking Mobile Optimization
  • Inconsistent Branding Across Platforms
  • Marketing Without a Clear Strategy
  • Neglecting a Strong Online Presence
  • Failure in Identifying Target Customers
  • Underestimating the Power of Testing
  • UX Mistakes Causing Traffic Drop-Offs
  • Neglecting Customer Feedback
  • Targeting Too Large an Audience
  • Misidentifying True Competitors
  • Lack of Video Content
  • Stopping Marketing Efforts Prematurely

1. Lack of Proper Marketing Tracking

As the director of a marketing agency, I’ve noticed one common marketing mistake among small businesses: the need to track their marketing efforts properly. Many don’t utilize tools like Search Console or Google Analytics; even if they have Google Analytics, they often miss setting up conversion tracking.

Many of the small businesses we partner with need to be made aware of their primary sources of business. This gap in knowledge delays our scaling efforts. First, we must establish accurate tracking and then analyze the data. However, the silver lining is that scaling becomes a straightforward process once these systems are in place and data is available.

Chris Stott, Director, Seven Marketing

2. Misplaced Focus on Paid Ads

Going straight into running ads, whether that is via Google, Meta, you name it, small businesses need to understand the fundamental hierarchies of generating new business:

  • Referrals and word-of-mouth are still king. 
  • Then comes content and SEO, which are generally tied together.
  • Later, we have ads (with proper tracking set up), whether search, display, or social.
  • And in last place, any form of cold outreach (email, phone, etc.).

As a general rule, and from having worked with 300+ SMBs in addition to several enterprise-level corporations, I can tell you that if you have anything below a $2,000/month ad budget, you will need more money to generate new business by solely investing in paid media.

Plus, running ads is not a one-time experiment; it should be consistent so that the algorithms can be optimized in your favor. If you’re running a small business, focus on having a conversion-friendly website, producing valuable content, and delighting current customers, and only running ads.

Jorge Alberto Fuentes Zapata, Founder, Fuentes Zapata Co.

3. Underinvestment in Link-Building

Link-building is a key part of SEO, and it helps bring free, organic traffic to a website. This kind of traffic usually gives the best return on investment. But many businesses skip it because they don’t know how to measure its success.

I’ve observed that while it might be challenging to pin down immediate returns—sometimes taking about three years to manifest fully—the long-term benefits are undeniable. Neglecting to invest in link-building because of its elusive ROI calculation is a missed opportunity.

Hugo Molinaro, Digital Marketing Enthusiast, Founder, SmartLinking

4. Overlooking Mobile Optimization

A common mistake that small businesses often make is overlooking mobile optimization. Smartphones are used for everything now—from shopping to browsing social media. If a business’s website isn’t optimized for mobile use, it can seriously affect the user experience and conversion rates. 

For instance, some small business websites have mobile versions with elements that must be clickable or responsive. This can frustrate users and potentially lead to lost sales. Slow loading speeds are another common issue. Nothing turns customers away faster than a website that takes ages to load. These technical issues can drastically impact a small business’s ability to convert mobile visitors into customers.

David Rubie-Todd, Co-Founder and Marketing Head, Sticker It

5. Inconsistent Branding Across Platforms

One of the marketing mistakes that almost all businesses make is inconsistent branding. This means they use different looks, voices, and messages in their marketing, which can confuse their audience and weaken their brand image. To avoid this, make a proper plan for your branding and keep your branding the same across all places you advertise. This makes your brand clear and strong.

Alex Murray, Search Director, Tilious

6. Marketing Without a Clear Strategy

One marketing mistake I’ve noticed many small businesses make is diving headfirst into various marketing tactics without a clear strategy. Understandably, you’re excited to share your amazing products or services. But trust me, taking the time to develop a solid marketing strategy can save you a lot of time, money, and headaches down the road.

Here’s the deal: Without a well-defined strategy, you might throw money at different marketing channels without knowing which ones drive results. It’s like driving blindfolded—you might eventually reach your destination, but the chances of getting lost or hitting a dead end are way higher.

Start by understanding your target audience. Who are they? What do they like? Where do they hang out, online or offline? Tailor your marketing efforts to resonate with them. It’s like speaking their language, showing them you understand their needs and problems.

Harsh Verma, SEO Head, CodeDesign

7. Neglecting a Strong Online Presence

Remembering your online presence can be beneficial in today’s digital era. It’s crucial to establish a strong virtual footprint. If you lack a user-friendly website, active social media profiles, and easily accessible online information, potential customers may struggle to discover and engage with your business. 

A solid online presence bolsters your credibility and offers customers convenient avenues to connect and interact with your offerings.

Ansub Durrani, Digital Marketing Specialist, APPExperts

8. Failure in Identifying Target Customers

Most small businesses often need to identify their intended customers more clearly. Many think their product or service suits everyone, but trying to please a wide range of people rarely works well. It might seem appealing to target a large audience, but doing so can weaken your message and make it less powerful.

Instead, small businesses should invest time in comprehending their ideal and target customer and adapt their marketing strategies to suit them. This approach will enable them to establish a stronger connection and enhance the likelihood of turning potential customers into actual buyers.

Johannes Larsson, Founder and CEO, JohannesLarsson.com

9. Underestimating the Power of Testing

Underestimating the power of testing is understandable; it can be challenging. With nine out of ten tests often yielding no significant results, it’s common for businesses to grow disheartened. 

Consequently, they narrow their focus to several tried-and-true traffic sources and methods. While there’s merit in sticking to what’s proven, continuous testing is imperative if the goal is to be an industry pioneer. In our organization, relentless experimentation is a cornerstone. 

For example, we recently discovered how Ahrefs’ Domain Rating (DR) can be manipulated and even ventured into an innovative link-building strategy involving free photo stocks. Embracing and learning from each test, successful or not, is key to staying ahead in marketing.

Dmytro Sokhach, CEO, Editorial.Link

10. UX Mistakes Causing Traffic Drop-Offs

They spend a ton of money on bringing traffic to their website but then make UX mistakes that cause drop-offs. 

For example, if you run an e-commerce store, most shoppers will hate that annoying pop-up or surprise costs on the checkout page. People get upset. You lose long-term business because a short-term tactic annoyed them. 

This is where conversion rate optimization comes in: making sure there are no surprises for the customer, that they can trust you, and that they encounter nothing that breaks their shopping journey. 

Every slight change you make to the user experience can have a massive impact on your bottom line in the long term. 

Harsh Vardhan, Head of Content, Convertcart

11. Neglecting Customer Feedback

One marketing mistake that many small businesses make is not actively listening to their customers. Neglecting customer feedback, needs, and preferences can hinder growth. 

Conduct regular customer surveys, interviews, or focus groups to avoid this error to gather valuable insights. Embrace and respond to customer reviews and comments on your online platforms. Utilize customer relationship management (CRM) tools to manage customer data and interactions effectively. 

By truly hearing your customers, you can refine your products, marketing strategies, and overall customer experience for lasting success.

Matias Rodsevich, CEO, PRLab

12. Targeting Too Large an Audience

Small businesses most common marketing mistake is targeting a very large audience. They try to appeal to everyone, which dilutes the marketing efforts. Why? Targeting a large customer base results in a generalized approach needing a specific value proposition or personalization. They do not connect with the target audience. Their efforts could have done better.

Shivbhadrasinh Gohil, CMO and Co-Founder, Meetanshi

13. Misidentifying True Competitors

One common marketing mistake that many small businesses make is misidentifying their competitors. This recurs as these companies tend to obsess over large- or mid-sized players in their industry while evaluating their competitive landscape.

The crux of the problem is that small businesses often need to pay more attention to their true competitors. This oversight can lead to misguided marketing strategies, targeting the wrong audience, and inefficient resource allocation. Small businesses can better grasp their market position, target audience, and growth potential by focusing on competitors of similar size and status.

The key to growth lies in shifting the focus to midsize businesses.

Collaborating with a marketer is the solution to correcting this common marketing mistake.

Olga Natalchenko, PR Manager, Wiserbrand

14. Lack of Video Content

A common marketing mistake many small businesses make is not making video content. Videos are a fantastic tool for engagement and connection. Using videos give you a huge opportunity to connect with your audience. Video content makes it easy to share messages, showcase products, and make your brand relatable.

Diane Howard, RN and Founder, Esthetic Finesse

15. Stopping Marketing Efforts Prematurely

Stopping too soon? Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Even if you don’t see instant results, your marketing has succeeded. People need time to warm up to your business. 

Even if they’re not visiting you in person or buying from you right now, they’re learning more and more about your brand every time they see your marketing. Your campaigns’ timing and needs might align differently now, but continuous marketing will help you stay top-of-mind when the time is right. 

Keep going, try new techniques and channels, and work with a freelance marketer who knows what they’re doing.

Alli Hill, Founder and Director, Fleurish Freelance

Our Two Cents: Navigating the Marketing Maze for Small Businesses

You’ve just gleaned a ton of insights from seasoned professionals about the marketing traps small businesses often find themselves in. Now, let’s sprinkle in our own dose of real-world wisdom to help you dodge these pitfalls like a pro:

Listen to Your Audience, But Not Blindly

  • Feedback: Yes, listen to your customers—but don’t let them dictate your entire strategy. You’re the expert in your field for a reason.

Personalization: More Than a Buzzword

  • Tailored Content: People love to feel special. Personalized emails or product recommendations can make your brand more memorable.

Don’t Neglect the Basics

  • SEO Fundamentals: Keyword stuffing is out, but using relevant keywords naturally within your content is still essential.
  • Clear Calls-to-Action: Never leave your audience guessing what they should do next.

Stay Current But True

  • Trends: Keep an eye on trends, but don’t jump on every bandwagon. Stay aligned with your brand’s core message.
  • Continuous Learning: Marketing is a fast-moving field. Read, experiment, and don’t shy away from online courses.

Analytics Isn’t Just Numbers

  • Actionable Insights: Data is valuable, but interpreting that data into actionable steps is where the real magic happens.
  • Customer Journey: Use analytics to trace the customer’s path through your site. Where do they linger? Where do they leave?

Quality Over Quantity

  • Content: One well-researched blog post trumps five hastily written ones. Quality helps establish authority.
  • Social Media: It’s not about being everywhere; it’s about being impactful where you are.

The Power of Community

  • Engagement: A ‘Like’ is good, but sharing or commenting means you’ve struck a chord. Aim for engagement, not just visibility.

It’s easy to get lost in the buzzwords and trendy strategies, but effective marketing boils down to knowing your audience and offering them something valuable. Combine these insights with the expert advice you’ve received, and you’ll be well on your way to sidestepping common mistakes and elevating your small business marketing game.


Why is marketing tracking so important?

Tracking allows you to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns, helping you understand what’s working and what needs tweaking.

Are paid ads a waste of money?

Not necessarily, but they should be part of a broader strategy. ROI should be carefully monitored to justify the expense.

How crucial is mobile optimization?

Extremely. More than half of global website traffic comes from mobile devices, so a mobile-friendly site is necessary.

What does “brand inconsistency” mean?

This happens when your branding elements (like logo, colors, and messaging) vary across platforms, confusing your audience.

How do I identify my target customers?

Research and customer personas are your friends. Define demographics, psychographics, and pain points to focus your marketing.

Why is testing important in marketing?

A/B testing allows you to compare two campaign versions to determine which performs better, helping to refine future efforts.

How do I balance audience size and specificity?

Targeting too broad an audience can dilute your message, while too narrow a focus may limit reach. Balance is key.

Is video content really that impactful?

Video can be a powerful tool for engagement and information, particularly for explaining complex topics or showcasing products.

What happens if I stop marketing?

Your business’s visibility and customer engagement will likely decrease, which can cause a domino effect on sales and growth.

Images Courtesy of DepositPhotos