5 Common Advertising Mistakes Small Businesses Make

Casting too wide a net

When we picture successful advertising campaigns, often the first things that come to mind are large scale social media campaigns, star-studded commercials, and shiny sponsored Google search results. While these are all great strategies, evidenced by how often they’re employed by hugely successful businesses, small businesses aren’t likely to see huge net gains by using them. For a newly blossoming business, what’s most important is building a strong base of customers in your local area that will consistently support your business while venturing into wider markets. Not only are large scale campaigns more (often prohibitively) expensive than local, but they’re not likely to bring the type of business a startup needs to survive and thrive.


Relying on coupons and discounts

Probably one of the most popular strategies small businesses use is offering discounts and sales through advertisements, whether in print or on social media. You might advertise a flash sale, print a coupon in your local paper, or post a printable one to your Facebook page. Yet, coupons and exclusive discounts have some particular weaknesses. First, they most often have an expiration date, asking your customers to commit to purchasing or using your service within a specific period, making them feel pressured to make their decision quickly. Second, discounting your products or services at a large margin can communicate to customers that these things are not worth the regular price at which they’re offered. A much more successful alternative is to offer a downloadable gift card that may cover 50-60% of the usual price. Not only does this offer the usual boons of a coupon to yourself and the customer, it also avoids cheapening your products and relieves the pressure of limited sales and expiring discount codes.


Applying too much pressure

Like with physical businesses who use coupons, consulting businesses are quick to use the most readily apparent avenue to making contact with prospects. In their case, this often takes the form of asking potential customers to call or otherwise contact them for a free consultation, custom report, or other type of trial service. And like with coupons, these strategies are simply asking more from the prospect that they’re willing to commit to at that time. If your business is in real estate and you ask prospects to call for a free housing report and consultation, what they hear is that the information they want (the report) will be attached to an immediate sales pitch. Yet, most potential customers aren’t quite ready to make such a commitment. Using these tactics will actually drive them away, rather than draw in their business.


Advertising to too many target markets

When you draw up your advertising plan, you may assume that the best strategy is one that appeals to the most target markets as possible. If you own a gym, you may jump to using a single advertisement to appeal to beginners and fitness enthusiasts alike. The fact of the matter is that the same strategy is unlikely to work for both markets at the same time. While it may seem limiting, you will find far more success by tailoring individual campaigns to fit specific target markets at a single time. Ultimately, they will appeal to and draw in that group in much higher numbers than a general advertisement would. And when that campaign concludes, you can move on to the next target market.


Focusing on activities more than results

When you offer a service, whether it be a trade or consulting, your natural instinct may be to center advertising around what happens when a client does business with you. For example, a hairdresser may emphasize the personality of their stylists or the comfort of their studio. While these are all great things to put out there, certainly important to highlight, what customers are most interested in at the end of the day is the result of working with you. If the focus is exclusively placed on the activities you do or the experience you offer rather than the results you achieve, you can lose sight of the forest for the trees. A picture of a beautiful haircut will always have more advertising value than a video of the process.

Justin Starbird

About the Author: Justin Starbird I have been fortunate to have had several entrepreneurs that came before me take the time to “pull back the curtains” and allow me to be a part of their multi-million dollar companies… and actually value my input. They allowed me to see their mistakes and learn from their real-world lessons so that I wouldn’t have to pay the expensive costs of experience on my own. Additionally, they taught me what really works and the importance of action - not just ideas.

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