5 Common Advertising Mistakes Made By Small Businesses

Avoid These Mistakes for a Successful Campaign

Big Mistake
Big Mistake. Getty Images

Advertising blunders are commonplace, from mom and pop operations to the largest multinational corporations (just look at Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner monstrosity). However, while some mistakes can be attributed to bad luck, indecisiveness, or just being tone deaf, some are down to a simple lack of preparation and research. As a small business owner, you may not have the money and resources of a Fortune 500 company, but that does not mean you cannot be buttoned-up.

Here are 5 mistakes you need to avoid in order to create a truly successful ad campaign.

1. There Is No Solid Business and/or Marketing Plan

Right out of the gate, this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. If you don’t have a grasp of your business model, and how you want to market it, then how will anyone know what to respond to? Yes, you may have something rough written on paper, somewhere. And in the back of your mind, you kind of know where you want to go, and how you want to get there. But that’s not good enough.

Sit down and take several hours, or even days, figuring out the ins and outs of your business. What are potential roadblocks? What milestones do you want to achieve, and when do you expect to see a profit? Doing this will not only help you formulate a marketing plan, but it will also be vital for bringing in new investment opportunities. Just watch a few episodes of Shark Tank, and see how quickly the entrepreneurs without a business plan are kicked to the curb.

2. The Message Is All Me, Me, Me…

It’s not surprising that this mistake is made. After all, many small business owners have poured blood, sweat and tears into the start-up, and they’re proud of it. Now, they want to tell the world how awesome this new product or service is. And that is a huge mistake.

No-one cares how good your product is. No-one cares that you’ve got an amazing new service. No-one looks forward to yet more selling messages, and they certainly don’t care that you say you’re different. All they want to know is what is in it for them. How will it save them time or money? How will it improve their lives? How will they be able to spend just a little money to get a huge satisfaction return. Make your message about them. Use “you” and “your” in your pitches. Focus on their needs, and they will buy if you have a way to address them.

3. The Business Is Inadequately Prepared for Customers

Here’s the problem with a great product coupled with great advertising — it works. And it works so well that it can take a small business completely by surprise, overloading it with orders that result in a dreadful first experience for the customer. Suddenly, your great product is tarnished by a broken website, orders that take months to fulfill, and customer service that is overwhelmed and constantly on engaged.

You do not want to be a victim of your own success. So, do a soft launch first, and make sure you are fully prepared for an influx of new business. Test, test, and test again. Try to crash the website (and, hopefully, you have a fully-functioning e-commerce site ready to go).

Kick the tires completely before you roll out a much larger campaign. If you don’t, you could find yourself getting hundreds of negative reviews, alienating customers who will never come back.

4. The Target Audience Is Not Identified

You may think that everyone can use your product or service, but advertising to everyone is advertising to no-one. It is a complete waste of time and money to throw out a campaign with a broad target. Imagine a fishing crew creating a massive net and throwing it into some random part of the ocean. Will they get what they want? Will then even get anything they can sell at the market? Chances are, they’ll catch a lot, but only a fraction will be of any use.

The same applies to your marketing. You need to know just who to aim it at. That means analyzing the demographics, holding focus groups to get feedback on the product or service you want to sell, and refining these results.

You want to know the sex, age, occupation, hobbies, and income of the people who are most likely to buy from you. Use a laser focus to get them. Once you have established sales to this smaller audience, word of mouth will spread, and you can widen the net…slightly.

5. The Competitive Landscape Is Ignored

It’s highly unlikely that your business is unique. Yes, you may have put a unique spin on something, or you’ve created a bigger, better mousetrap. But, when push comes to shove, you are going to be going up against a lot of other companies offering basically the same products or services that you offer. And if you don’t know this ahead of time, you will undoubtedly get lost in the clutter.

Look at everything your closest competitors are doing. Look at the ads and social campaigns that the outliers of your industry are creating. What are they promising? Who are they aiming at? Is there a gap in the market that you can fill? Dollar Shave Club was nothing new… a company selling razors in a market dominated by big brands and slick campaigns. But Dollar Shave Club created an ad so outrageous, and honest, and funny, that it went viral and created an overnight success. If they had tried to market to men in the same way as Schick and Gillette, they would have faded into obscurity. Instead, they’re thriving.

Find your angle. Differentiate yourself. If it doesn’t look or feel like an ad for your industry, congratulation…you may just be different enough to stand out. So, learn from these five mistakes, and kick off a campaign that will really make a difference to your business.