More Common Small Business Marketing Mistakes

by francine Hardaway on July 28, 2011

Powen Shiah at Jimdo took this photo of a small business owner’s car parked across from the Jimdo office in the Mission District of San Francisco.  I asked him to send it to me because I thought  it illustrated several common mistakes small businesses make:

1) Incomplete contact information. The US began using area codes in phone numbers as far back as 1947, and yet this truck still doesn’t have them, although the owner thought enough about marketing to paint the  phone numbers on his station wagon. Clearly he meant them to be a marketing tool, but even in San Francisco proper there are several area codes so that phone number is pretty much useless. A related mistake is the lack of a mailing address or location on the business web site. You never know how someone will choose to contact your business. Your job is it to make it as simple as possible to reach you. Is one of those a phone number and another a fax? Are they two mobile numbers? One a landline? How do I know?

2. No separate business web site. I have written about this before. I’m sensitive to it because I know that with Jimdo it doesn’t have to cost anything to build a web site that a small business owner can maintain himself.  It’s downright stupid to rely on someone else’s platform to market your business. For a while, Facebook pages were sweeping the small business community, and owners were giving up their canonical sites for Facebook. Only after they make the switch do the businesses realize that just because there are 750,000,000 people on Facebook doesn’t mean anyone will find their Facebook page. The side of this truck appears to have had the URL of a website painted out, and when we looked for California Auto Glass’s web site nothing came up. Almost everyone goes to the web to look for businesses, and having a web site tells the searcher that you’re still in business. Having an attractive and functional web site tells that you are professional in the way you do your business. Auto Glass is highly competitive, and to stand out I think you need the best materials you can afford.

3. Relying on a review site for leads.  “Check us out on Yelp.” Are you kidding? Maybe that’s good for this week, but what about next week? This is perhaps the most dangerous marketing mistake of all. One disgruntled customer on Yelp can ruin your entire reputation, so relying on Yelp to market your business is fraught with potential land mines. Just ask most physicians and restaurants, who regularly take a beating on Yelp, sometimes for the wrong reasons.

4. Unprofessional looking marketing materials. It’s great to use your car as a mobile billboard, but make sure it is clean and professional when you do. The signage in this photo does not make me think the company will do a great job replacing the glass on my late model car. I want someone who cares about a clean look.

5. Over dependence on social media. Not long ago, you couldn’t get most small business owners to consider social media. Now many of them have been convinced by various gurus that it is necessary, and they are wasting hours on Twitter and Facebook to no avail. Go where your customers are. Unless you know they are on Twitter and Facebook, don’t waste precious time there.

Marketing a small business is one of the most difficult, subtle undertakings on the planet. That’s because each one is different, and it’s not the tools that make the difference, but the strategy. Before you choose your tools and tactics, make sure you have a firm strategy. That’s what California Auto Glass is missing. It’s as though they had a branded t-shirt, but it was full of holes and stains. Or a billboard covered in graffiti.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan Key July 29, 2011 at 4:35 pm
Ryan Key July 29, 2011 at 4:35 pm
Simon July 29, 2011 at 10:05 pm

While you think many businesses would not make these mistakes, many still do.  I suppose that it is good news for web designers.  I wrote a post a couple of months ago asking the question does it make sense for a business owner to build and maintain their own web site.  In many cases false economy.

Colchester, UK

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