I’ve worked with a lot of small business owners. Sometimes I have the luxury of working with a brand from its conception. Most of the time though, I come in to clean up the mess some other website design team, public relations agent, or marketing agency has made. I’ve rebuilt websites from scratch after an angry ex-webmaster deleted it. I saved one business $30,000 by helping them escape the astronomical rates their marketing team was charging for non-existent services. I saved another client hundreds if not thousands by advising him to avoid a fake SEO scam. Frankly, I’m tired of seeing small business owners get ripped off. I hope by publishing this article, you can avoid some of the costly mistakes I’ve witnessed.
Trust Your Gut
I have encountered so many – too many – small business owners caught in contracts with unethical marketing agencies and even outright con artists. If you have a recurring worry that your PR firm, marketing agency, or website design team are ripping you off, trust your gut. Even if you’re wrong, you don’t need the stress of being in a business relationship that makes you uneasy. Find a professional or firm you communicate well with and feel comfortable trusting. Your life will be so much easier, and you’ll probably avoid wasting your money on sub-par or fraudulent services.
Get Referrals From Friends & Colleagues
Don’t hire some random guy from out-of-state who just happens to email you a coupon for 20% off Facebook hosting. (Yes, that’s a real scam I’ve seen. Don’t ever pay anyone to host your Facebook Page. It’s free, and hosted by Facebook). It’s real money wasted when people pay for fake or sub-par services. Always get referrals from friends, colleagues, or nearby businesses. Does the shop down the street have an awesome website? Do they love their marketing team? How long have they worked with them? Do they have any complaints? What problems have they had resolved? Talk to people. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel or venture into unexplored territory when seeking PR, marketing, or website design services. Someone you know, or who knows someone you know, will know someone awesome.
Own Your Domain & Social Media Profiles
You need to have 100% control over your website domain name, Facebook Page, Twitter profile, etc.. You should be able to log in at any time to update DNS records, change profile photos, view analytics, etc.. Make sure you’ve got all your usernames and passwords saved in multiple secure places. Update those passwords at least once a year, or whenever someone leaves your team. Make sure your name and email address are set as the administrator, and that you’re the person who your domain registrar, Facebook, PayPal, LinkedIn etc. recognizes as the owner of your business. I cannot tell you how many hours I’ve spent sweet-talking disgruntled ex-employees, disinterested tech support guys, fired marketing agents, and butt-hurt website design specialists, trying to convince them to divulge passwords or transfer administrative permissions. It’s a waste of my time, but more importantly, it’s a waste of your time and the money you work so hard for.
Understand Your Marketing
No, you don’t need a college degree in smart technology. You don’t even have to know what SEO stands for. However, you should understand and agree with your …
- Campaign Goals
- General Strategy to Achieve Those Goals
- Campaign Results, and
- How Your Agent is Planning to Develop Your Campaign for Even BIGGER Results Next Month or Next Quarter.
Marketing campaigns should be organic strategic processes that evolve as needed to maximize results. Your website design and setup should also facilitate this. You and your marketing team should be able to monitor website analytics and update your site to better appeal to your audience and streamline traffic flow.
Stop Over-Paying & Buying Stuff You Don’t Need
Don’t buy services you don’t need or trust people that recommend you do. If you’re a plumber, you probably don’t need that cutting-edge e-commerce store. If you’re a flower shop, you don’t need enough website RAM to power the New York Times. Hosting for a typical small business website should be around $20 a month. Unless you’re handling massive traffic or have some other special service you’re buying (such as SEO or blogging), you shouldn’t be paying $100 or $1,000 a month for a website that just sits there, barely shows up in search results, and never gets updated. I also highly recommend consolidating your payments into one affordable, regular, monthly fee. If you’re paying one person for website design, another to blog, another to manage social media, another to do press releases, another to manage online advertising, and another to manage mailers and ad placements, you’re likely spending too much money for marketing that’s not strategic and doesn’t match. Consolidate at least some of those actions, and if you do need to hire multiple people, make sure they’re in regular contact coordinating with each other. They should be emailing daily to weekly, and having regular conference calls to ensure they’re all on the same page.
Be Strategic & Patient
If you understand your marketing plan, you should also understand approximately how much time it will take to hit your goals. Don’t jump from one marketing tactic to another in a panicked attempt to draw customers. I’ve seen business owners switch from digital ads, to physical mailers, to marketing gimmicks, to even setting up multiple identical websites because someone told them it would help their SEO. (It won’t, by the way). Have a plan. Stick to that plan for a reasonable amount of time. Track your customers and income. Where is your website traffic coming from? Who is clicking what links? What CTA drew the most clicks on Facebook? Know what’s working. Know what’s breaking even. Know what’s failing. Scrap the ads that aren’t paying off. Adjust your campaign as-you-go to maximize results. Invest more money in the campaigns that are seeing healthy results, and scrap the ones that are eating your lunch. You should never pay $50 to make $10 … at least, not more than once. If a $100 campaign makes $300, invest $500 next time and see what happens. Start small and grow. Don’t start big, learn nothing, and deplete your budget.
You’re Busy. Delegate!
A huge challenge many entrepreneurs face is that they’re too good at too many things. While this may sound awesome, it also makes it very easy to get lost in busy-work, wasting your time and talent on projects that don’t demand your expertise. Your skills can be used elsewhere. Your time can be better invested. Spending eight hours scheduling Facebook updates and networking with journalists on Twitter is most likely not how you need to be spending your time. You’ve got a business to manage, clients to meet with, and a team to train and inspire. Focus on where your true love is. Let someone you trust handle the tasks that can be accomplished without you. I’m not saying completely relinquish control or don’t be involved at all. I’m saying delegate wisely and resist the urge to micromanage.
Delegate, But Don’t Neglect
It’s awesome to find that marketing guru you trust 100%. However, resist the urge to let them run wild. Communicate. Talk to them about their ideas. Tell them what you like. Tell them what you don’t like. Make sure they know about upcoming events like sales. As a Marketing Agent, I’m always honored when a client trusts me to the extent that they decline to proof-read their monthly email newsletter or press release. It also scares the living daylights out of me. If you don’t have the time to regularly communicate with your marketing team, or edit the occasional marketing copy, delegate that task to someone else. Maybe Joe-Who-Designs-Product-Manuals or Susie-In-Sales can add Proof-Reading-the-PR-Lady’s-Stuff to their to-do list.
These are the top eight most common mistakes I’ve seen small business owners make in regards to their marketing and website design efforts. I hope this article gave you some good ideas, saved you some time, and saved you some money. What are some marketing mistakes you’ve seen? If you have questions or feedback, feel free to email me or share your thoughts in the comments below.
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