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Spaghetti Blog

Saturday 22nd June 2024

11 Marketing Mistakes Most Small Businesses Will Make

Thu 29th Aug 2019
By Todd

Starting a business might seem like a good idea at the time. You’re great at this one thing. You love doing it, too.

“Do what you love”, you see on an Instagram post.

You keep seeing that message: “If you do what you love, you’ll never work another day in your life!”.

“Wow… I’ll start a business!” you think.

But after a while, you realise that although you’re good at what you do, it doesn’t mean that you’re good at business.

Running a business is a skill. You either have that skill, or you learn quickly, or you fail to master it and eventually this is your downfall. It’s rarely because you’re not good at what you do.

There are many quotes out there about business success, and the one you’ll probably have heard is that 80% of new businesses fail within the first 5 years.

This will come down to many factors. There’s lots to it, and good marketing will only get you so far. But it’s fair to say that without decent marketing and a strong approach to it, the best products and services simply won’t get anywhere. It’s not very lucrative to be the world’s best kept secret.

So, with that in mind, we’d like to share 11 things we constantly see being done in our small business world.

I guess this is a bit of a rant, but we really do know that this stuff makes a big difference. We also know you don’t need much cash or time to put all this in place.

We know, without doubt, that with these 11 things done well, you have a far better chance of surviving.

Our business isn’t perfect. We’re not the best. We’re aiming for more. But we do our best to make sure that these areas are right.

11 Marketing Mistakes Most Small Businesses Will Make


1. Saying ‘yes’ to any work that comes along

In the early days this’ll feel like a risk and, if we’re honest, we failed with this one in the early days… but not for long. If you’re going to “do what you love” then don’t do it for people you hate in exchange for money.

That’s a bad move.

Make a very conscious decision to attract and work with people you get on with and whose values align with yours. There are billions of people on this earth so that is possible. We’ve said “no” to people whose emails made our hearts sink, people who wanted £20 off the quote, people who didn’t like us writing “Howdy” in emails, and people who – quite frankly – we decided just weren’t for us.

It’s not me – it’s YOU!

2. Not having consistency in your branding

This is HUGE. Get a brand and then make sure you have it etched into the very heart of your business. Branding, and brand consistency have generated us a lot of business and not just because ‘it looks good’.

Making sure that your branding is consistent across your social media, website, networking materials, clothes, communications, and even the gifs and emojis you use in instant messages is powerful.

Get your designer to pull together some good brand guidelines and make sure that every graphic, website, email, social media post, photograph, and blog follows those guidelines and brings it all together.

If you’re a cowboy or cowgirl online – be one everywhere else too!

3. Not having a good business model or not knowing your proposition

Do people actually want what you need? What’s the demand for it? What does the competition look like? Can you really stand out in your market?

We’re always amazed how many ‘business owners’ are running businesses that they’ve never really researched.

It might sound really obvious, but can you actually survive on your business idea? Do you have a network to sell to? Do you have connections you could link with?

The best idea in the world won’t work if on one wants it or if someone else is already doing it better than you ever will. Thinking about joining a niche that’s crowded (we did) then work out why you.


Why would someone choose you over others? That will help you build a brand, a plan, a marketing strategy and a business.

Do you know where you’re going and who with?


4. Registering for all social media channels and not using them


It’s all too common for a new business owner to think that getting on all social media is going to give them a really great business. Sorry, but social media takes time and effort, and not only social media is equal.

Pick the social media channel(s) that’s best for you. Don’t try and do all of them, or worse – sign up to them all because you have the icons on your website already – just remove them!

You’re far better aiming to be great at one or two social media channels than having six or seven that are under-used and look like you gave up.

Don’t spread your bets – put your eggs in two baskets!


5. Believing that your website will be on the first page of Google as soon as it’s finished

When you publish your website. No one (even Google) sees it. Nothing happens. When we re-branded to Spaghetti Agency we had a whole marketing plan AND a launch party just to drive attention to the website. It got traffic, it got hits, we got PR, we sent emails and created blogs and…

… it wasn’t top of Google.

Google (and other search engines) won’t rank your site right away because you need to build trust and authority, and it certainly won’t give you anywhere near a top spot unless you really work at it.

Create great content, work on the user experience, build links to your site, get reviews on Facebook and Google, build an email list, go networking, go social networking, and push traffic to your site.

And please stop Googling yourself. You’ll always be top of your Google searches.

You’re not top – you’re not even bottom!


6. Not building your email list straight away.

We were very anti email marketing when we started, but a few months in, that all changed. We went to a digital marketing conference in Birmingham and heard a talk about email marketing that made us realise something. Email is powerful.

We all use email. In fact, more of us use email than social media. Email marketing open rates are higher than social media reach and that tells us (and did back then) that email marketing is powerful.

Build a list right away and start emailing them. You need to send useful, interesting content (not a f*****g newsletter) that essentially keeps those people you meet in real life connected and reading content from you.

It’s not all about sales; it’s mostly about content marketing.

The one thing to consider here is this: you don’t own Facebook or LinkedIn. They could close tomorrow. You don’t really know what Google’s next move is. But email remains unchanged and the core of the way we communicate.

Your email addresses are your email addresses. You can email them whenever you like and it’s down to you how well they perform (mostly). Build a list and email them to keep talking to them.

“Inbox me hun!” If you don’t, you might as well unsubscribe me!


7. Writing about you instead of your customer

We’re really pleased that you did this and achieved that. You started business in 1979 and you’ve won an award. That’s lovely. Much of your history and how you got to where you are now is really important and adds weight to someone choosing you over another company.

… but your readers don’t care about that at first!

What people care about first and foremost is themselves and the problems they have. Your content on your LinkedIn bio through to your emails, proposals and website copy needs to show that you understand them.

Heck, this entire blog is about you. You’re a small business owner who clicked this because you wanted to see how many, if any, of the 11 things we’re laying out here you’re doing. Or you just wanted to feel smug as you’re perfect. Yeehaa!

Aim to create content about your client or customer. Add in words like “you” and remove too many instances of “we” (Stop weeing all over your copy), and build your marketing around your reader. Use emotion and feeling in your marketing so that when they read it, watch it, hear it, or consume it they feel like you get them.

Stop weeing, start caring!


8. Not creating a sales process and following up with every lead.

When you start out in business, there’s a certain amount of winging it going on. That’s OK, and it’s really normal.

But although the journey of 1000 steps may start with one step, it’s better if you know where you want the 1000th step will be!

Having a goal, a focus, and a good old-fashioned plan is essential.

  • Who are you trying to find?
  • How will you find them?
  • What will you do when you find them?
  • Why will they choose you?

Posting randomly on Facebook, boosting the odd post, turning up to a few networking meetings, and generally having a lack of focus or strategy is a waste of time and money.


What are you trying to achieve and who are you trying to help?

If you run Facebook Ads, then target the right people and keep running them.

If you go networking, FFS follow-up.

If you’re creating content for your website, then build an SEO strategy around your ideal client.

Plan. Please.


9. Taking random opportunities

As a business owner you’ll be like a kid in a very shiny sweet shop. Everyone will be able to sell you a system, a tool, a book, a course, or offer you a Joint Venture that could change your business.

Stop. Look. Consider.

Does this fit with your business?

Does anyone use banner ads anymore?

Didn’t the Yellow Page stop printing? Why do ring you so damned often?

Be really cautious of random emails and phone calls that appear to offer you the answer.

The answer is actually to get your shit sorted so you know who you’re targeting and consistently do that. Found something or someone who can help you to achieve that? Great – chat with them.

Don’t be a magpie. Contemplate, then decide.


10. Comparing yourself to others.

This is really natural but it’s really not great. You’re unique and it’s that uniqueness that makes you stand out. Don’t turn it down. Don’t hide because you’re not like the others. Don’t change the colour of your grass because someone else’s appear greener. Be yourself and be that person and that company 100% of the time.

We get copied. People steal our ideas. It’s a compliment apparently. The thing is, that’s a bad idea for those copying as they’re not being their true selves and creating content and products from their true brilliance.

Don’t compare yourself to others – you’re incomparable!


11. Blending in

“In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.” Seth Godin 

Stop working hard to blend in. You need to work hard to stand out. “Be more Boris” I used to say in my social media workshops back in 2011. I didn’t predict UK politics in 2019!

Indifference is an SME killer. You need to be memorable, and according to the current US and UK political leaders you don’t have to actually be very good either!

Working on your unique brand, proposition, and what you stand for might just be the difference between leads and no leads, “yes” and “no”, and it could well be the reason you get past the line where most businesses fail.

Stop working hard to blend in.


Be the 20% – avoid the 11 deadly sins of SMEs

We’d love to see you soar! We really would. We know how tough it is running a small business – we’ve shared more tips on how to grow an SME here.

Aim to avoid these 11 common mistakes. A good brand and a strong message all squarely aimed at your ideal (niche) customer is the key to success.

Oh… and consistency. Be consistent with your marketing, networking, and your business growth. It all takes time, and it all needs continual, consistent action!

Need any help with any of this stuff? Just ask. We love helping small business owners with their marketing.


Got more common mistakes? Add yours in the comments below. We’d love to hear them!

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