How to Improve Your Small Business Marketing: Lessons From Failures

Small businesses are on the rise in the US, with over 99% of companies qualifying under that umbrella phrase. And only about 50% of small businesses make it past their fourth year. Those statistics are a recipe for competition. Any business, regardless of the size, will depend on effective marketing techniques to gather new customers and drive sales. Those two factors, in turn, are what leads to survival, growth, and success in your competitive market. But not everybody gets it right out of the gate. In fact, some companies don’t seem to get it right, ever. The best thing to do when someone make a colossal mistake? Learn from it so you can avoid it yourself. Let’s take a look at some marketing failures and see what the takeaway should be for smart small business marketing.

Don’t Be Stingy With Marketing

It can be tempting to think that, with a small business, you can just skip marketing entirely. Well, here’s a marketing failure for you: Sears cut their marketing budget “to the bone” and that failure of foresight contributed significantly to the company losing customers, revenue, declaring bankruptcy, and closing stores. Yes, that’s a bit of an extreme example, but it does go to show that marketing is an important part of keeping a concern alive and well. And if a big company like Sears can’t rely simply on word of mouth, it’s probably not a good idea for a small company to make its marketing budget nonexistent, either.

That doesn’t mean that you have to pour tons of money into marketing, of course. In fact, if you have a creative bent and you’re able to make your own materials and website, your investment may be more of time and effort rather than money. But whatever you have to put into marketing, definitely budget for it. A lack of marketing doesn’t do any company any favors, no matter how big or how small.

Do Re-Brand — But Carefully

The public can be a fickle thing. We all like new stuff, but we like the things we’re used to, too. When it comes to rebranding, this means that a design decision can be hit or miss. And it may seem completely random. Case in point is the rebrand of Gap. They switched to a new logo design — and almost immediately switched back due to the customer backlash.

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What was wrong? Was the new logo horrible? Was it offensive? Did it go so badly off-brand that it was no longer recognizable? Well, no, not necessarily. The new logo was pretty inoffensive. But it wasn’t anything fantastic, either, and the original Gap logo had been around since 1986. With the new one, every single aspect had changed, from the palette to the whitespace, to the typeface, to the distribution. As a result, the new logo lasted only six days, which is something of a record. And when Gap finally did rebrand years later, in 2016, they stuck to the original logo and built their rebrand around it. The ultimate lesson from this rebrand failure is how important it is to know why your customers love your brand, and what they are attached to. The lesson is not “never change your look.” It just underscores how important it is, when designing a logo yourself, do your research, test your designs, and above all, know your audience.

Don’t Be Afraid Of Social Media

Social media is one of the fastest growing ways for businesses to communicate with their customers and potential customers. As a matter of fact, more than one in every three internet users turn to official social media accounts in order to find out more about any given company or brand. However, not everyone is jumping on this trend as quickly as they could. Almost 90% of marketers say that social media has significantly increased brand awareness for their company, but only 44% of small local businesses state that they depend on social media for that end. If you’re one of the other 56% and you’re not using that avenue, you’re really missing out on some of the best opportunities to market yourself.

Do Educate Yourself On Social Media Trends

On the other hand, there are occasional disasters by companies who do market on social media. DiGiorno Pizza had a doozy when it misunderstood the Twitter hashtag “#WhyIStayed” and tried to turn it into a marketing ploy. Unfortunately, the hashtag was used for discussions of domestic abuse, and DiGiorno’s appropriation came across as incredibly insensitive and offensive.

The lesson here? Don’t be afraid to use social media, but at the same time, educate yourself on how to use it properly. It’s great to jump on the hashtag bandwagon sometimes, but misappropriation and misuse will make your company seem ignorant, or, much worse, insensitive and uncaring.

Marketing: Success And Failure

The saying goes that those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. The great thing about learning from the mistakes of others is that you never have to fall into those holes, to begin with — so you don’t waste a lot of your precious time digging yourself out again. That doesn’t mean that a marketing failure means complete doom for your company. And it doesn’t mean that you’re inured to failure completely, either. There are lots of trips and falls on the way to a successful company. Hopefully, these four lessons will help you to avoid these particular potholes. And there are plenty more bad examples to learn from out there! But the point, ultimately, is that when we do make a marketing mistake, we don’t give up. We keep trying, keep learning, and keep going.

As you lead your company onward to the next big goal, make sure to look out for the potholes, but don’t forget to keep an eye out for the horizon, too.

Author Bio

Bill Watson is a digital strategist whose passion is to promote startups and small businesses via online media. He loves creative tattoo designs, dogs and lots of coffee. Connect with him here.


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