123 Reg logo Blog

Seven small business marketing techniques that are wasting your money (and where to spend it instead)

By Alexandra Gavril - March 8, 2017

Ask any marketing agency or consultant whether marketing is a waste of time and money, and they’ll probably say it’s not. But things aren’t as simple as that.

If you don’t know the answers to these two essential questions:

  • How much time and money have you invested in your marketing last year?
  • How much was your return on that investment (ROI)?

Then you may be throwing your marketing budget away.

The truth is many small business owners waste money on marketing, but that’s because they lack a direction or are pursuing the wrong efforts.

Does this sound like you:

  • Profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and any other social network that catches your eye.
  • Active blog to ensure you have lots of content, although you’re not really sure if your target audience is interested in it.
  • Free resources like ebooks, checklists, infographics, white papers because, hey, everyone does it, which means you should too.
  • Obsessing over search engine optimisation (SEO) and what else you can do to get your site high in the results.

If you’re doing one or all of the above, you might think you’re doing pretty well. But here’s the problem: the no-strategy, throw-everything-and-see-what-sticks kind of marketing is a sure and easy way to burn through your marketing budget, with little to no ROI.

And it’s not just about wasting your money, but also your time and resources that you could use in better ways.

So if your marketing budget is limited and you want to make the most of it, here’s what you shouldn’t waste it on (and what to spend it on instead):

Waste of money 1. A pretty design

Money is easily wasted when pretty is viewed as more important than effective when it comes to design. A pretty site is nice to have, but it’s not nearly as important as your message, your targeting, and your testing.

These days, (almost) anyone can create a good looking landing page or brochure. But if you make design a priority, and then spend too little time on crafting a message that resonates with your potential customers, or if you don’t pay any attention to whether your site actually functions the way it should, then you’re likely to spend time and money, and not get any results.

The smarter strategy: Focus more on your message and the site’s functionality, and less on getting your site to look “pretty”, because it’s your message that tells people who you are, what you do, and how you can help. A nice font or a slider won’t entice them as much as powerful message, backed up by a site that’s easy to use.

Waste of money 2. Just building a following on social media

Social media is a fantastic tool to build a relationship with customers. The problem is too many businesses dive in with no better strategy than to “build a following”. The theory that the more followers a business has, the more trusted and reputable it is, is false.

Sure, you need to work on attracting potential customers to your page, but this is the one place where you shouldn’t obsess over numbers. Take Facebook as an example. There are so many small businesses that have thousands of fans but only a tiny fraction of those fans ever see or interact with their content.

The smarter strategy: Focus on attracting only people who are genuinely interested in your business, otherwise anything you share on social media is just noise.

You’re better off investing your money into social media advertising as this allows you to target potential customers based on location, interests, and more. When you run a Facebook campaign, for example, you can narrow down precisely who sees your ad. It could be single women from London who love handmade jewellery. Or maybe you want to target 27-30-year-old men who earn at least £50,000 and have an interest in personal training.

Take our free course on social media advertising to learn how to get started with your first campaigns on Twitter and Facebook, and how to increase the chances of getting your content seen and clicked.

Waste of money 3. Targeting… everyone and anyone

Targeting the specific audience that is actually interested in your business is not only important for social media, but for everything else you’re doing to market your business. If you don’t know who your customers are, and if you don’t understand their pains, wants, and needs, you might as well donate your marketing budget to charity.

The smarter strategy: The whole point of your marketing is to reach your target audience. You can’t do that if you don’t know who they are, or if you target everyone. So before you do anything – choose which social platform to build a presence on, decide what to write about on your blog or where to advertise – make sure you first figure out who your customers are. This will then help you to determine what to say to them, how to say it and where to say it.

Make sure you do proper research to learn who your customers are, what problems they have, and how you can solve them. Then use all that great information you’ve gathered to create a message that will entice them to buy from you.

Here is a useful guide to help you identify your ideal buyer (also referred to as buyer persona) based on factors like gender, age, location, previous purchases, and more. You can also learn more about understanding your website visitors in this online business training course.

Waste of money 4. Writing about whatever you want

The most common reason why content marketing fails is because business owners write about whatever they want instead of about topics their audience is interested in. If you’re running a business that sells oak furniture, but your business blog mainly talks about the latest celebrity gossip, then the time you’re spending on those posts isn’t going to help your business.

The smarter strategy: Writing a blog post is not easy, and it takes time. So if you’re looking to use your blog to increase your brand’s visibility online and to attract more visitors, make sure you’re doing it right. That means that any blog article you write needs to bring value to readers (who should also be potential customers), otherwise don’t bother publishing it as it will only be a waste of your time and resources.

Take our course on blog and content marketing to learn more about what it means to blog for business and what you should be writing about.

Waste of money 5. Focusing more on attracting new customers than retaining existing ones

You probably already know that it costs more to try and win new customers than it is to sell more to existing ones. So why is it that so many small business owners obsess over attracting prospects instead of enticing existing customers to buy more? Why put so much effort into winning a new customers and so little on keeping them?

The smarter strategy: Try to woo and win as many customers and clients as you can. But know that getting one is just the start of the journey. Keeping them is far more important.

If you want to learn more about ways to sell more to existing customers, we’ve got you covered with an in-depth course that’ll teach you how to keep customers coming back time and again.

Waste of money 6. Going all in without testing anything first

There are lots of cool marketing tactics you can try. Some you’ve seen your competitors use, others you’ve read about. Some work great, others don’t.

So what do you do? With a limited budget on your hands, you dive into a five-figure marketing campaign and hope it works for you too. But then it doesn’t because, hey, it’s not the same audience or the same product or the same business. What now?

The smarter strategy: If you see or read about a campaign idea that has been successful for another business, test it first. Don’t go all in with 90% of your marketing budget, hoping you’ll get the same amazing results. It doesn’t work like that. Instead test it first using a small budget and if it works, you can then invest more. But if it doesn’t, at least you can still afford to try another campaign idea.

Waste of money 7. Not tracking your marketing results

You plan out your marketing campaign, you set a budget of hundreds, or maybe even thousands of pounds, you set everything going and you wait.

Your sales go up, and so you decide to do the same thing again, but this time you spend even more.

This time your sales drop. Dramatically.

What happened? Well, if you’re not tracking your marketing results, then you won’t have any idea.

Maybe the increase in sales during the first campaign was just a coincidence, and your marketing money was actually wasted.

That’s why it’s so important to track every penny you spend on marketing as best you can so you know where to go next.

The smarter strategy: Every business is different, so what works great for your some, might not work as good for others. For example, LinkedIn can be a golden nugget for sites in the tech industry, but for a business that sells flowers it might not work so well. So just because a social network works great for some sites, it doesn’t mean you should invest a big part of your budget in something that’s not suitable for your type of business.

But you won’t know what works for your small business unless you measure the results. If you don’t know how well your brand is performing on social media, or how much money you’re making for every pound you spend on marketing, then you’re almost certainly losing money on your marketing.

There is a plethora of analytics tools to choose from, including the free Google Analytics, that can help you to better understand what’s working and what is a waste of money. So you might as well use them. Take a closer look at those stats and number, and actually listen to them so you know when it’s time to move on from an idea that’s wasting you time and money. Check out our course on Google Analytics to learn how to get started.

Wrapping up

You can’t grow a business that’s wasting all of its money on marketing that isn’t even working. Hopefully you now have the information you need to avoid making these mistakes and not only save money on marketing but also reassess your strategy and make a few changes.

What other marketing techniques have proved to be a waste of money for your small business? Tweet us your comments @123Reg