Online marketing mistakes made by small businesses

Whether your business is spending thousands on a range of channels or a few hundred pounds here and there on some paid advertising, you’ll be aware of how important it is to ensure you get your online marketing strategy right.

You’re also likely to be aware that – as with anything – there are pitfalls to online marketing. Unfortunately, some mistakes can cost a lot, so we’ve compiled a list of the major blunders that can be made in small business marketing so you can avoid them.

  1. Neglecting to put tracking in place

One of the reasons digital marketing took off in the way it did is because it’s easy to track.

Most platforms offer a way to follow the user journey from advert to conversion – including the free ones like Google Analytics.

If you’re not tracking your adverts, email campaigns and other channels, you’re losing valuable data that will help you refine your strategy and improve your return on investment.

By tracking, you can find out which parts of your campaign are working and which need tweaking, from the content of your adverts to the layout of landing or product pages. Without this, you’ll effectively be groping in the dark.

Setting up tracking is relatively easy – it usually just requires a line of code to be added to the header or footer of each page that matches the code on your ads.

Many email service providers supply tracking too, which even at the most basic level tell you how many recipients opened your email, how many clicked and which links they clicked on.

  1. Omission of local targeting

This is a particularly salient point for businesses with physical locations, such as shops, salons and dealerships. For such establishments, many customers live in the surrounding area, so omitting local targeting could negatively impact your overall success in a big way.

Not only is keyword targeting on a national level more expensive and competitive, it’s likely to be serving ads to people for whom your business has little or no relevance. A customer in Newcastle, for example, is hardly going to travel to Watford for a haircut or private landscape gardening services.

As such, targeting customers within a smaller radius will not only save you money, it will ensure those seeing the adverts will find them relevant too.

Ensure a Google My Business page is set up, detailing your opening times, address and map location, and create content for your website and advertising that includes location terms.

  1. Failing to optimise for conversions

As we suggested above, tracking is an important part of marketing but tracking without taking action is equally pointless. There’s little sense in knowing the previous six months’ metrics by heart if you’re not going to do anything with the information.

Studying the results of your tracking can tell you where customers are leaving your site. Is there a barrier on the landing page that’s preventing them from making a purchase? Are they dropping out once they’ve seen the price for your service or do they add the item to their basket before leaving? Are they getting enough information or images from the landing page?

Incorporating A/B split testing or making tweaks to pages will help you to gradually improve the number of conversions you’re receiving over time.

  1. Trying to juggle it all

Another easy online marketing mistake to make is trying to handle all the marketing – along with all the other day-to-day tasks you need to fulfil – yourself.

Yes, outsourcing is more expensive but at least you can guarantee you have someone dedicated to your marketing for a set number of hours each month. That’s better than trying to do it all yourself and ending up not doing anything at all because a large project comes in or you’re behind with the month’s sales.

Recruit a freelance content writer or Virtual Assistant to help out if an agency is out of the question.

A monthly newsletter and some paid advertising may be all you can afford but it’s better than nothing.

  1. Not following up

Marketing is all about lead generation – about bringing the customers to the front door.

That’s where sales takes over.

Your marketing could be producing hundreds of leads a month but if you’re not doing anything about them, you can’t blame the marketing team.

Your sales staff need to be trained to pick up leads and follow up with a call.

Alternatively, automated emails need to be set up to try and capture customers who have added a product to their basket but abandoned the site before purchasing.

Either way, it’s critical to ensure as many leads as possible are properly followed up so that you can benefit from the investment you made in generating them.

  1. Ignoring reputation management

What people are saying about you online will influence potential customers before you even know they’re interested in your brand.

So even if you have one of the best marketing strategies for a small business out there, it pays to give some attention to your online reputation.

Check your social media pages and review sites for your sector on a regular basis to see what people are saying about you and address any negative reviews with a polite and helpful response.

You can also boost your overall ratings by encouraging happy customers to leave a review, which you can share on your website.

  1. Under investing

Finally, the best ways to market your business do involve some spending.

Of course, the more you have to spend the better you can make your campaigns and the more people you can reach.

But if you have the budget but aren’t keen to spend it on marketing, you may want to rethink. Underinvestment is the cause of many a failed strategy, so take a look at what you’re doing and decide objectively if it requires more funding.

It may be that you need to spend more initially to find out what works and what doesn’t but you should then be able to refine the channels, communications and audiences to get quality leads without spending as much.


Avatar for Jon Pryse-Jones
About Jon Pryse-Jones

Since joining THP in 1978, Jon Pryse-Jones has been hands on with every area of the business. Now specialising in strategy, business planning, and marketing, Jon remains at the forefront of the growth and development at THP.

An ideas man, Jon enjoys getting the most out of all situations, “I act as a catalyst for creative people and encourage them to think outside the box,” he says, “and I’m not afraid of being confrontational. It often leads to a better result for THP and its clients.”

Jon’s appreciation for THP extends to his fellow team members and the board.  “They really know how to run a successful business,” he says.  He’s keen on IT and systems development as critical to success, and he continues to guide THP to be at the cutting edge and effective.

Join The Conversation
Cyber Essentials Plus certification
Sign up for our Newsletter