What Makes Small Business Marketing Succeed or Fail?

Marketing fails
16 Jun 2022

 If you have ever launched a small business marketing promotion and the only thing that you hear is the tick of the office clock heralding the passing of yet another minute without a sale, then this article is for you.

There are 6 key reasons why small business marketing succeeds or fails. Here’s what they are and what to do about them.


1. You Need to Build Trust

Before your client assesses what you are offering, they first assess whether or not you are to be trusted.

This assessment of your trustworthiness happens in a microsecond and is based initially on first appearances and gut feel.

How your website or marketing looks, the design of your marketing collateral, the photos and images that you use and the words that you choose for your website, all form part of the assessment of your trustworthiness.

Your number one priority in marketing your business is to build your perceived trustworthiness in everything you do.

You don’t need $20,000 websites with all the bells and whistles that have taken 18 months to create.

You just need a fast-loading website that works on all different mobile and desktop devices,  looks decent and modern and is as secure as possible from hackers.

You don’t need business cards made of artisan paper hand-stamped by remote Amazon tribes in pigment made from crushed beetles. You just need business cards that are easy to read and don’t feel “thin” as people will make snap psychological judgements based on feel and weight.

If you are judged as untrustworthy on the basis of your first impressions, your potential client will disappear into the valley of lost opportunities.

If your marketing is not getting the results you are hoping for, then first do a thorough review to see where you may be presenting an untrustworthy image.

Assuming you are not judged as totally untrustworthy at first glance, people will take a few tentative steps towards your business while they explore the following.

Remember that at each stage of the process you need to reinforce your trustworthiness. Any hint of doubt as to your trustworthiness, and your potential client will do a abrupt about-face away from your business.


2. Make The Right Offer

Once a person trusts you enough, they will then take a look at your service offerings. People want to know if you have the product or service that will suit their needs.

If a person wants a leaky roof repaired and all they can see on your website are photos and text about gutter cleaning, while the section that says you also fix leaky roofs is limited to one sentence in an obscure and unvisited section of your site, then you will not make a sale.

You need to make the right offer to your clients in order to make money.

Elements of a right offer include:

  • clearly articulating what is included and excluded in your offer,
  • the features and benefits of your offer,
  • why people should take you up on your offer.

A confused mind says no, so if any aspect of what you are offering is confusing or hard to understand, then expect people to walk away.

If you believe you are trustworthy and still not getting results, then take a dispassionate look at your offer.

Is it clear and compelling? Is it logically packaged in a way that people can understand? Does it cover both features and benefits? Does it answer all the questions people may have about your services? Is it written without industry jargon? Are the photos you are using relevant and enticing? Can people easily find your offer without having to hunt for it?

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3. Check Your Timing

People only buy a product or service when they need it. You need to match your offer to the perfect time in their buying cycle.

If you try to sell Christmas decorations in February, then don’t expect many sales. If you try to sell a university course to Year 12 students after the students have already lodged their university preferences you will get a low take-up rate. If you try to sell a bikini in mid-winter, then the only people who take you up will be masochists hell bent on hypothermia.

Marketing during a pandemic is always challenging. You have to ensure you are not tone deaf with your marketing and be respectful of where people are at emotionally.

Assuming that you have the calendar and lockdowns on your side, you also need to match your timing to when a person is ready to buy.

That is why letterbox drops have such a low success rate. Aside from aggravating staunch anti-junk mail people, the likelihood that you hit someone’s letterbox at precisely the divine moment when they need your service is exceedingly low.

Every decision to buy follows a predictable path of information seeking and relationship building before the decision to buy is made.

Your website design and marketing content should be more aligned to a shop assistant saying “Hi. Please feel free to explore our store and take a look around. I will be just over here if you need a hand with anything,” rather than a shop assistant blurting,  “Can I help you” the second your foot crosses the threshold of the business.

Don’t just jump into “buy me now” as your first point of conversation – your timing is too early in the relationship and you are prematurely closing (with about as much joy as anything that happens prematurely). You need to take people through their buying decision process to reach the desired result.

If you believe you are trustworthy and have a strong offer, check your timing. Are you trying for force the sale too early or at the wrong time?


4. Market To The Right People

Who are you marketing to? Take a moment for some deep contemplation about who your marketing campaign is truly targeting. Look at your language, the images you are using and your offering for clues about whom you are currently targeting, and then answer the question …

“Am I targeting the right people?”

You may have loads of adoring fans who love your campaign, but if none of them have budgetary discretion, (or the pester-ability to get the person to spend their budgetary power in your direction), you have wasted your marketing.

If you are offering free trials or giveaways, then know you will get a lot of freebie seekers who may not be your ideal target market and will turn into shadows as soon as you have the temerity to ask them to pay for something.

You need to explicitly target the decision makers who actually have the money to buy your offering through the images, words, and call to action that you use.

If you believe you are trustworthy and have a strong offer made at the right time, then check who you are targeting. Are you targeting decision makers with budget to pay for your goods or service?

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5. Use The Right Channel

Humans are a funny bunch. We like to hang out with people who are like us, which is why you generally won’t see extreme right-wing politicians at gay Mardi Gras parades.

Part of belonging to our tribe is we read the same sort of magazines and newspapers, use the same type of social media, and watch the same sort of TV programs.

By knowing where the tribe that you are targeting hangs out, you can choose the right channel to reach them.

If you want to get in front of Brides-to-Be, then a strong Pinterest strategy needs to be part of your marketing as many brides use Pinterest to help organise their weddings.

If you want to get in front of Baby Boomers, then head to Facebook as they are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook. If you want to target Gen Z’s, then Facebook is not the ideal channel as many of them only use it for the chat feature and not much else. You may want to explore TikTok.

Don’t waste time or money on channels where your clients are not present.

Whichever channel you choose. you need to bring the potential clients back to an effective website. All roads need to lead back home!

Channels to avoid for most small businesses: White Pages, Yellow Pages, cheap SEO from anyone who has emailed or directly phoned you offering their services, and buying followers on social media.


6. Offer The Right Price

If you have everything else going for you, you can still fall at the last hurdle – price.

Price is simply perceived value. If your marketing is failing, check the perceived value of your offer.

If people believe they are getting amazing value for money for something they really want, they will generally take up the offer. If they turn down the offer, the perceived value is too low.

Yes, there are loads of psychological tricks you can play to make your prices seem small (if you don’t mind heading into manipulative marketing), but the bottom line is to ensure that your prices are justified, that people can see the value they are getting and that the benefits you promise are ones that people want to buy.

Also remember that trust and price are inextricably linked. The higher the trust the higher the premium you can charge.


Summary: The Keys To Small Business Marketing Success

Before people will buy from you they have to trust you.

Then you need:

  • The right offer
  • At the right time
  • To the right people
  • Using the right channels
  • At the right price.

If your marketing is not delivering the results you had hoped, then check each of these areas to see where the gap is located. 

About the Author

Ingrid Moyle

Ingrid Moyle is a small business web designer and copywriter. When not hardwired to her computer, she quests for the perfect decaf coffee while chasing virtual reality creatures across the backstreets of Brisbane.
Bowler hat with lightbulb.

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