Small business owners who take charge of their marketing are the best. They’re passionate and dedicated to doing whatever it takes to grow their business and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty in an area that they may not have any formal training in – which can be both a good thing and a bad thing.  

Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of small business owners who run their organization’s marketing efforts, and in that time, I’ve seen some common mistakes that frequently trip many of them up. Let’s talk about what these mistakes are and how you can avoid them so your digital marketing is more impactful. 

Marketing Mistake #1: Choosing Marketing Channels for the Wrong Reasons

It’s not uncommon to hear of business owners choosing a marketing channel because their friends have had success with it or it’s what their competitors are using. (And not to name names, but the channel in question is usually Facebook advertising).

The success that two different business can have on a single platform can vary wildly, however, which is why it’s unwise to just select a channel just because other people are using it.

So how do you choose a channel? You need to know a bit about your target audience. Where do they go online? What types of content do they like? What are they searching for when they turn to Google to learn about businesses like yours?

This information can help give you a more accurate idea of whether Facebook advertising will be a bust, if Google AdWords could potentially be a gold mine or if maintaining a consistently-updated Pinterest profile will be useful. 

Takeaway: You can’t choose the right marketing channels without knowing what channels will best capture your target audience. Never jump into a new channel or advertising opportunity without doing more research on how effective it can potentially be for your business. 

Marketing Mistake #2: Trying to be on Every Social Media Network

While being on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Periscope, and Tumblr might seem like a smart move, devoting resources to be on all of these channels is usually just a huge waste of time.


As we already discussed, you need to be choosing your social networks for the right reasons. Your target markets probably aren’t using all of these networks. As a business owner, your time will be much better spent learning where your customers and leads are hanging out on the internet, rather than just posting to as many social networks as possible. You’ll be able to better optimize your social profiles and content to speak to your targets and gather useful insights about them that may be helpful when making decisions about your business.

Takeaway: Spend time researching what social networks your target markets actually use and commit to only spending your time marketing on those channels. You’ll be spending your time and energy more effectively.

Marketing Mistake #3: Sharing Irrelevant Information with Followers and Readers

You know those Facebook pages that always seem to have a post wishing followers a “Happy Friday!” every week, despite the fact that no one ever likes the post except for the mom of one of their employees?

Please don’t be one of them.

People like or follow your brand on social media because they are genuinely interested in your brand. Having a group of people that actively chose to follow your brand’s updates online is a huge accomplishment in itself; don’t make them regret the decision by flooding their feeds with irrelevant, dull and off-brand content.

If you aren’t sharing information that’s on-brand and relevant to the interests of your followers, why are you publishing anything at all? Seriously, think about this for a minute. These social networks are your marketing channels. Why are you wasting an opportunity to talk about your brand to people who have chosen to receive your messaging with a generic nicety like “Happy Friday”? This doesn’t help improve how your followers perceive or understand your brand, it doesn’t delight them and it sure as heck can’t be justified as a valuable use of your time.

You should stay on-brand in all of your digital communications, including social media. On a basic level, this could mean telling followers about your products, services and client success stories. However, if you really want to excel and use your time wisely, you’ll need to do more than share posts that encourage followers to become customers. Your followers will be expecting conversational and useful content to be shared. They need to feel like they are gaining something from following you to justify allowing your company into their news feed – even if the thing they gain is intangible – like knowledge. It’s important that your posts sound like they are coming from a real person instead of a sales bot. Don’t be afraid to express emotion, share advice, or offer useful feedback.

Unsure if your content meets these criteria? A simple litmus test is to ask yourself if you would stop to read and engage with the post if you didn’t work for your company. Honesty is key here, by the way (and if you are too biased for this activity, ask your most honest friend for their feedback).

Takeaway: If you’re going to be writing – whether it’s on social media, your blog, or even a brochure – make sure it counts. If it doesn’t tie back to who you are and what you do, you should go back to the drawing board.

Marketing Mistake #4: Marketing Without a Style Guide

A style guide is a document used by marketers to help ensure consistency among communications. It’s meant to help keep all messaging and creative on-brand, no matter what marketing channel they are using.

More often than not, small businesses don’t have a style guide of their own. And that’s a problem.

While your company may not need a 20-page document outlining every time it’s appropriate to use a specific version of your logo or niche formatting guidelines (though these are all good things to include if you can swing it), you should have at least a one-page document that covers: 

  • Tone and voice – Should your written communication be fun and playful? Serious and professional? Accessible or upscale? Whatever tone you choose should be used throughout all communication you produce.

If you aren’t sure, spend some time considering what your organization’s culture is like, as that often sets a strong foundation for the content you’ll produce. Content Marketing Institute recently shared a great overview of how Adidas worked to tie their internal culture to their external marketing, which may help you uncover ways to do the same at your own organization.

If you need some more help in this arena, consider where your organization falls on the brand personality spectrum below.


Via the Content Marketing Institute

  • Logo – Include all versions of your logos that are acceptable to use, and in different formats (.jpg, .pdf, etc.).
  • Language do’s and don’ts – If there are any words or phrases that you want to be sure are (or aren’t) used, include them in the style guide.

For example, a dentist’s office may want to avoid using the word “patient” and instead use “client.” A restaurant may want to describe itself as “organic fast casual” when introducing the brand for the first time in a document. A car dealership may choose to use “auto experts” instead of “sales person.” 

Whatever terminology is important to your brand should be outlined in writing. This will ensure consistency among how your brand communicates and will make it easier to onboard the help of others to contribute to your marketing.

Takeaway: A style guide serves as a contract and reference document that helps communication stay consistent and on-brand. Having one will make your content creation and social media management easier and more effective. We offer a free worksheet to help you create your own style guide – get it here.

Managing a business and all of its marketing is a major challenge, and I can’t commend anyone who does both enough. As your business grows, you will eventually reach a point where you’ll no longer be able to successfully manage the business and your marketing all on your own, however. As you lay the foundation for your marketing now, be sure to consider a long-term plan that involves bringing in additional resources to continue to execute and grow your marketing activities.