Most small businesses are fighting for a share in very competitive markets, and getting your message and proposition heard and understood is crucial for profitability. Marketing is core to business success. But you need to get your marketing right and integrate it with the rest of your business. If you don't you'll be wasting money and opportunities as well as making life difficult for your sales teams.

6 marketing sins and how to avoid them

1. You value quantity over quality

Small businesses (and large ones for that matter) have limited resources – primarily time and money. You need to make sure that any marketing activities don't drown your team in leads that will never convert. 

For example, running a competition with a great prize where entrants give you their name and email address so you can contact them. Lots of those people aren't likely to ever be interested in buying your product or service – just winning the prize. 

You would probably be better off with fewer leads that come from people who are in your target market and who might actually be interested in buying your product. Consider where you are most likely to find them and create ways that they can find you too – both online and offline. Make the best use of your resources by directing your marketing efforts towards getting quality leads. Then by prioritising them appropriately so the sales team can concentrate on the ones most likely to convert.

2. You're focused on the wrong metrics

Everyone loves to talk about the success of their campaigns – especially in meetings. But are they really a success?

What might be a success for one business may not be for another. Metrics for success can depend on any number of variables from what industry you’re in and how mature your business is to what your goals are at that moment in time. 

The classic example is social media. You can spend a lot of time generating X likes and Y shares but, for small businesses, getting money through the door is often what counts. And unless likes and shares equal sales it might not be the right strategy for you right now. But maybe for an SME with a healthy cash flow and an awareness issue, social makes sense and these metrics become key. 

You need to be very clear in what your main objectives are and what the measure of success is. 

Make sure you understand what campaigns are driving leads and sales. You need to be able to fully track leads from every source whether it's email, paid search, social or even offline. And even more importantly how many of those people turn into sales. 

You could write an entire article just about which metrics to track... So we did! You can read that here: 6 essential sales and marketing metrics for small businesses

3. Marketing sets its own agenda

Marketing people usually keep an eye on what everyone else in the field is doing. They will often want to be doing the latest ‘en vogue’ marketing tactic or using the latest techniques, tools and design – website carousels being a great example. Everybody seemingly wants to put them on their website, to feature as much content as possible, but did anybody stop to consider if they should be using a carousel

But beautiful-looking campaigns promoting the wrong product, to non-key audiences on the wrong platform will cost you money instead of making it. Don't let your marketing team take the lead from competitors, and avoid  "me too" campaigns based on the ones featured in marketing magazines or the ones individuals find most personally satisfying, interesting or easy. 

Marketing needs to take its lead from sales. What needs to be pushed, when and to whom? What does the sales team want the campaigns to achieve? 

Sales should help marketing be aware of what really matters to customers and prospects, how they make their buying decisions and what makes your product or service stand out from the others available in the market. This kind of information should help them craft the most valuable campaigns – and provide marketing material that works for the sales team – so they don't have to spend time making their own.

Once the objectives have been set by sales, marketing needs to marry these with something prospects are looking for and come up with some creative with compelling reasons to buy.

If you divorce your marketing team from your sales operation then you'll end up with beautiful marketing campaigns that aren't focussed on the right things for your business. Sales and marketing alignment is key to success.

4. You don't know where the lead came from

Like most things, with sales context is everything. Understanding where a lead came from can help you formulate the right pitch to meet a particular need and understand potential objections. It helps your sales team formulate the right story and angle for the client. For example, if a lead comes from a campaign offering a discount this tells you that the prospect could be price sensitive. If someone responds to a campaign about a particular service or product this is a pointer to the problem they are trying to solve and are specifically interested in.  

If you don't know where a lead came from you'll also be missing out on insights like:

  • did the lead have brand awareness or not?
  • were they in research or buying mode?
  • how long it is likely to take to convert them.

By knowing where the lead came from you are giving your sales team the best ammunition for their pitch. 

5. You don't know how well your budget is being spent

Track everything. Whilst there are some great lead-generation methods for SMBs that won't break the bank, marketing costs money – advertising, brochures, leaflets, stands at shows, time spent writing articles for your blog and social media postings – it all needs to be paid for whether directly or via salary costs. 

But it is no good just putting all this stuff out there without understanding if it’s working or not. To do that you need to be able to tie leads, pipeline and sales numbers back to individual marketing campaigns. 

Once you've got the figures you can compare the return on investment (ROI) on the different aspects of your marketing spend and see what works best for you. 

When campaigns are being set up make sure there is a direct way of attributing sales to the campaign – for example a dedicated landing page on your website or a promotion code in a direct mail campaign. That way you'll be able to directly track the benefits of that piece of collateral.

Someone may have spoken to one of your sales reps at a trade show 18 months ago but they only now have the budget and the approval to buy your product. This deal won't be attached to any of your current campaigns but if you recorded the lead as part of the original campaign you'll know exactly where they came from so sales can get the follow up right.

6. Marketing is spending too much of their time doing admin or repetitive tasks.

In business time is money. Your marketing team face a lot of the same issues as sales. They may spend time sending out follow-up email campaigns and nurturing potential business. But while these things are important, many aspects of them can be done by technology now. So let marketing automation do the work where possible. Sending follow-up emails on how to get started on a free trial and then another to ensure that trialists are making the most of it can easily be done by automating the process . This helps to maintain velocity in the pipeline without someone having to remember to do it. More importantly, it frees up valuable time, allowing your marketing team to focus on strategy and the stuff that really matters.  

By implementing these six small changes, you can ensure that your marketing activity isn’t doing more harm than good to your business. Get them right and you could see a big improvement in both marketing efficiencies and bottom line sales. 

For more tips on aligning you sales and markering teams to really maximise your imnpact, grab a copy of this simple to follow guide: Sales and Marketing Alignment Made Easy