13 of the Most Common Small Business Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)
Running a small business has very small room for error. You’re often investing limited resources and time, and any mistake has the potential to set you back gravely.
To help your business command its rightful place in the market, I’ve complied a list of 13 of the most common mistakes I see from small business owners so that you can avoid these and save precious time and money as you set the stage to make your mark.
1. Lack of research
One of the first questions I ask when I meet with a new client is “Have you ever done any market research?” Over 90% of my clients answer no. What is Market Research? Market Research is the process of gathering different types of data about your industry (or market). This insight will help you better understand if your target audience is likely to buy your product or service, based on a number of different factors.
Market Research answers questions like, “Is your target audience actually looking for your service?” Or do you just think they’ll need it? I’ve seen small businesses fail time-and-time again because they don’t invest in the proper research up front. I’ll talk more about the ins and outs of Market Research in future posts, as it’s inherently important to the foundation of your brand and business.
2. Not having a USP
What exactly is a USP? USP, or Unique Selling Proposition, refers to all of the things that make your product or service unique in its market. It defines what actually sets your business apart from others in your industry. I’ve found that quite often too many business owners are unable to define their USP.
To define your USP, you have to know what you stand for, and what you’re known for. Then, you need to be able to articulate that to your target audience. Because you’ll never be the only one that provides your service, a strong USP will catapult your brand to new heights and give you and edge of your competition.
3. Not understanding timing
Depending on your audience, timing may be a huge factor to consider. If you have conducted Market Research before starting your endeavor, you’ve probably started thinking about timing considerations of your audience. For example, are most of your clients parents? Well, when it’s back-to-school time or the holidays, you should probably expect there to be a lull in activity.
Knowing factors like this will help you prepare your personal finances to accommodate for less revenue. Perhaps you’ll want to take on more in the months leading up to (and after a down time) to try and maximize your profits.
4. Not capitalizing on repeat customers
If a client keeps coming back to you, that means they see value in the service or product you provide. These people are your brand ambassadors, and quite often, I find that business owners aren’t leveraging that support. These people can help grow your brand in so many different ways. Don’t just say thank you for returning, work with them by offering special incentives if they bring you referrals.
5. Not meeting your customers’ needs
Do you know what your customer’s really need? Or do you just think you know what they need? Because they’re often two very different things. The core of marketing (and ultimately business success) is understanding who your customers are and what they’re struggling with. Once you really understand this, you’ll (1) make sure that your services better meet their needs and (2) you’ll be more productive in your efforts to grow your business.
6. Not having a website (or having a bad website)
So let’s look at this scenario. You just had an amazing conversation with a prospective new client. Your meeting went better than you could have ever imagined. When the meeting wraps, your prospect says, “Oh yeah, what’s your website address?” You respond “I don’t have one” or “it’s under construction.” Immediately your credibility diminishes in their eyes. Websites build credibility! Period. You can be as well-spoken and knowledgeable as you want, but without a working website most people won’t take you seriously.
7. Going after multiple audiences
One of the most common mistakes that I see when working with small business owners is that they’re trying to reach too many different types of people. You want to reach old and young, teens and working moms, college graduates and PhD candidates. It won’t work!
You must focus your efforts on single audiences because each audience has its own need. When you overlap, you’re forced to combine your marketing messages, and that almost always ends in failure. The key word is focus. Focus on one audience at time so that your marketing messages are more effective and you’re not wasting your time.
8. Not having a well thought-out plan
Another thing that I see quite frequently in minority business owners is the lack of a well thought-out plan. Whether it be a business plan or marketing plan, most of my clients don’t have them. If you don’t have a plan, how will you know what success looks like? How will you know when to improve and adjust? Business plans provide a written summary of your business’s future. Developing this plan forces you to dig deep and strategize on how you plan to make your endeavors successful. A Marketing Plan on the other hand, assesses your business goals and helps you fine-tune your creative ideas to determine the timing (and budget) needed to execute effective strategies to grow your business.
9. Being more focused on your social media accounts (Facebook & Instagram) than your website
I can’t tell you how many business owners and entrepreneurs I meet that are solely focused on their social media presence. Quite often they skip a website altogether. Now, they may have had some nominal success from social media (sure, they’re keeping the lights on) but overall, they’re missing out on a significant amount of revenue. Though your social presence is important, solid business growth often depends on a strong,compelling, and user-friendly website.
10. Not doing any real marketing
You’ve had your business for a while, and you’re busy. You don’t really understand marketing, so you don’t do it. Your company is not sinking, per se—but you’re also not growing. The common misconception is that marketing is selling. Well let me tell you one thing if I tell you nothing else: Marketing is so many things, but Marketing is not selling. Marketing is understanding, improving, influencing, and educating, which results in sales and growth. When done properly, it can be a game-changer to your success.
11. Refusing to change your direction
Just because something didn’t work, doesn’t mean your business idea wasn’t good. There can be any number of factors that contribute to success or failure, but the number one thing I notice is that often time’s business owners aren’t willing to evaluate their strategy and change course.
12. Ignoring the competition
Competition is a real thing. A really, real thing. Don’t assume that you have no competition because your product or service is so unique that no one can compete with you (because that is a lie). Anyone that offers a similar product or service to yours is your competition; whether you believe that or not. You need to know your competition’s strategies like you know your own. Check out their website, know how much they’re charging, view their social media presence. All of it matters. You may need to go back and reassess your businesses strategy according to what you find. However, if you develop a strong USP, many times you won’t have to change a thing.
13. Focusing on your products and services
Good business acumen is never about you. It’s always about the audience you serve. How are you helping them? Shift the focus from messaging centered around “us,” to messaging centered around “them.”
To learn more about how to effectively brand yourself and/or your business, grab a copy of: CRAVED: The Secret Sauce to Building a Highly-Successful, Standout Brand.
If you need help crafting a marketing strategy to get you to your next level, request a virtual one-on-one marketing strategy session with Keli.