16 Ways Small Business’ Online Marketing Waste Money

Published on May 30, 2017

116 ways your business is wasting money online



Small Business Online Marketing is a an effective yet economical way to market products or services. Unfortunately, online marketing could also be a fancy way to burn marketing dollars. Here is a list of 16 common ways to waste doing Online Marketing. Some of them are just mistakes due to inexperience, others just bad timing and maybe misunderstandings about online marketing.




16. Not having a clear online marketing goal in mind.

You should not start creating ads in Social Media or AdWords without defining a clear objective. Each dollar that you invest in online marketing must have a specific and measurable goal, more importantly, you need to think how it will be measured later. My recommendation, instead of focusing on the task at hand, focus on a “cost-per-metric” indicator in that way you can optimize towards your objective efficiently:

    • Cost per click: if you want to increase visitors
    • Cost per conversion (CPA): if you are looking to increase actionable leads
    • Pages Likes: if your objective is to increase your reach or fans base.

Why is this important?

If you start executing without a clear goal, you are basically investing on instinct, or common sense, rather than for the benefit of your Small Business. Don’t be like many companies that focus on likes when they are looking for leads, or vice versa.


15. Investing too much on your website development

I have seen this dozens of times, sure your website is super important but it will not do its job without traffic. This is valid for Apps too. I do understand that a website is like the face of the business, and it needs to properly represent it. Nevertheless, you don’t have to invest tens of thousand of dollar if what you really need is a lead generating site or an informative page.

Sometimes, business owners, get soooooo…. in love with their website development project that they forget about attracting visitors to it. Not to mention that, that traffic will cost you money. You can design the most cool and innovative website with the best online tools, but without traffic it would be like having a Ferrari without the money to fill the tank.

Why is this important?

You need to budget accordingly for two things:

  • Your website development
  • The cost of acquiring new customers.

My recommendation is to start with a well organized website, investing heavily on SEO and start getting traffic. Once you get to a sizeable number of visitors your online business itself will pay for a fancy website. Recommended investment split: 80% for traffic generating and 20% for website development.


14. Not creating enough Digital Media Ads.

Do not think that by launching just one ad on Facebook you are saving money, actually it is the other way around. By creating only one ad you are asking for a small piece of content to take on the  huge task of fulfilling a marketing goal. It is like asking  one drop at the time to fill  an ocean. One single ad, will not only  lose relevance quickly but also won’t give you enough data to make intelligent decisions about your Online Marketing execution. Normally, as in many thing in life, 20% of your ads will drive 80% of your business (80-20 Pareto’s rule ring a bell?). But if you only launch a single Ad, the chances of finding the most efficient formula are slim.

I do recommend launching Ads in groups of 3, where they are just versions of the same Ad (version include variations of: images, GIF, Call-To-Action or Tagline). This includes all social media platforms as well as Search Engine Marketing Ads.

Why is this important?

This will help you understand better what makes your target convert, and you’ll have better chances of finding the winning formula earlier in your execution, saving you money and time in the long term.


13. Not preparing you execution for Testing

Nobody gets their small business online marketing execution right on the first shot, so don’t feel bad about it. Having said that, you need to prepare in advance. How are you going to test your execution? A common mistake is to invest all of your resources on creativity and forgetting how to segment your audience so that you can assess your creativity later by segment.

Let me illustrate my point with a Pay-Per-Click  campaign. You define the interest of your target, and then start discerning that group by age, ads type, device and day of the week. You may find that what is working for 25-35 Years-Of-Age thru mobile phones during weekends may not work as well for the same group on working days.

Why is this important?

By not testing, you run  the risk of targeting customer with ads that are not relevant to them. Even worst, you risk discarding good campaigns because they didn’t work for the whole group while they may be super effective for just a segment of the target. Testing is the only way to get to the optimal online execution.


12. Abandoning your Online Marketing project too soon

Small Business Online Marketing is not a matter of weeks. Even paid media needs maturation to drive results and SEO takes much more (think of months here). Certainly, if you start a Search Engine Marketing campaign you will receive the first leads as soon as the next day, but those normally are low value leads that will be expensive and have a low conversion rate. Usually, Small Business owners, pressed with time and money, will lose interest quickly abandoning the project in a few weeks. Plan for at least 6 months of execution, if that is too much for your budget you may be better served with traditional marketing tactics. But if you are patient enough the results will surprise you.

Why is this important?

By not planning for at least 6 months of execution for your small business online marketing and you may be abandoning the project just when it was going to finally ripe, losing your time and resources in the process and maybe by-passing great opportunities. Please don’t believe false advertising that promises to get you results in 2 weeks. It just doesn’t work that way.


11. Not being able to track the progress of your Online Marketing

Digital Marketing is about perseverance and method. If you do not set the right process you’ll never get to your final goal. You will either get frustrated or mishandle your execution with time. By setting multiple attainable goals and reaching them over time, you will get a better understanding of your results as well as constant satisfaction in the process that will keep you engaged. Nobody, gets a website in the first page of Google overnight. But you track the progress of your targeted keywords week after week. So even if you started in position 65 (SERP) you will be able to climb ranks until you get to the first page. How much will it take, it depends on multiple factors like: competition, number of player and how sophisticated the your category is.

Why is this important?

First you can get a better forecast of your project if you track it every week. Secondly, you can start with easy goals that will prepare you to take on bigger goals later on. Actually, nobody learned to run before learning to walk.



10. Losing track of how your big customer got to you

You should be able to track every single dollar that your small business online marketing plan invest, I mean, track every blog post, every Facebook Ad and every Tweet. Otherwise, how will you know which one got you the big fish. Google Analytics provides a great tool for attributing customer’s conversions so it worth taking the time to set it up properly. Learning the ropes of Google Analytics may be the best investment for your digital marketing. Don’t have the time to learn, get someone who knows how to do it, it will worth the cost.

Why is this important?

Imagine that you got 50 new Big-Tickets customers last week, but you don’t know if they came from: Facebook, your email campaign or if they discovered you organically. How are you going to repeat that initiative? You’ll waste tons of money trying to replicate the unknown.


9. Going all out with Digital Marketing budget

A Small Business Online Marketing plan that works on PowerPoint will not necessarily work in the online world. So please don’t put thousand of dollars on a new campaign just because it looks great on paper. Or even worse, just because you have the budget. I’ll tell you a secret: what works with a $200,000 dollars investment will work for a $2,000 investment as well. So you better test your idea, before going all out.

Why is this  important?

You can run multiple test with a fraction of your budget, and later focus on better performing ideas to drive more efficient results. I recommend using a 85-15 split, 15% beign for testing. I have seen companies that constantly plan for 15% of their digital media budget just for testing purposes, while they run their base campaigns.


small business marketing 16 ways to waste money online 8 digital marketing agency in miami

…in Small Business Online Marketing: what works with a $200,000 dollars investment
will work for $2,000 as well…


8. Using Social Media Marketing the same way as you use your personal Social Media account

Jumping into Facebook to do the same as your personal accounts will not only make your business look unprofessional but also waste a lot of money. Your personal Social Media account if perfect for having followers and getting likes, but Social Media for business  has a greater objective. Your business account should be about conquering your target and increasing your reach for an actionable audience. Yes, it should be about making people buying from you, signing on your email list or sharing your content with other people that may become new customers.

Why is this important?

To be able to get into the social media feed of a potential customer will cost you money and time, so be prepared to use that chance wisely, so you’ll get something back.


7. Not hiring an Digital Marketing Agency before things get too complicated

Regarding Digital Marketing there will always be a disjunctive. Doing it in-house or hiring an expert. In my opinion it is not about cost but rather about how prepared is your organization to execute Online Marketing. Digital Marketing requires time, expertise and method. 3 things that you may find within your marketing people, but rarely all at the same time. Your marketing resource may be an expert but lacks the time, or have the time but lacks the method, and so on.

The first 1,000 visitor are the easiest ones to get, but once you need to start executing within multiple channels it is easy to lose track and start repeating mistakes unless you have the proper method in place. By saying this I don’t expect that you go and hire a Digital Marketing Agency right away. Actually it is better if you start by yourself, but don’t lose sight that at some point it will get complicated and you may be better served with an expert.

Why is this important?

It is so easy to waste resources on Online Marketing, that after a point without someone that is completely focused on Digital Marketing it is almost impossible to make progress. Specially once you have already harvested your low hanging fruits. (these are the first 1,000 customers)


6. Hiring an Digital Marketing Agency too soon

It is always better to get your feet wet before hiring a Digital Marketing Agency. First, you need to get a better understanding of the task that are required for a successful Online Marketing execution. Second, if you didn’t tried yourself  how are you going to know if hiring an agency is what your business needs?

Why is this important?

Maybe, you are not prepared to invest in a retainer yet, or guess what? You realize that you can handle your digital marketing execution for a while before committing to an agency. Once things start getting complicated you’ll have a greater understanding of the service that you need.


5. Trying to do too much Digital Marketing

I’m guessing that your resources are limited. I am not only talking about investing money but also in the available time to focus on internet marketing. So you cannot pretend to execute a small business marketing plan that invest in every digital channel out there. Sharing content in every available outlet and being active in all major social media networks is a huge task. Trying to do everything you may spread yourself too thin to see relevant results (not including test) and at some point your execution will suffer and your customers will notice. You will end up like an online zombie that doesn’t drive any new business. Remember, sometimes is better not having a business page in a network, that having a lousy one. Customers will check, and a nice presence in Facebook may suffer for an average presence somewhere else. So better avoid the network with average execution.

Why is this  important?

Since resources are scarce you need to focus where you see the biggest chance to get the best ROI for your business. Once that profitable channel is dominated you can move on to the next. Don’t worry social media and search engines are not going anywhere for a while, they’ll stay there for when you are ready.


4. Not being prepared to receive new online leads

The worst thing that can happen to your business is; investing in a digital marketing and you later find out that there is not enough internal resources to satisfy new customers. I have seen excellent paid media campaigns that start generating phone leads that no one answers. Any Small Business Online Marketing takes times to succeed, but everyone in your organization should be aware of what is going on and plan accordingly. Please, don’t let logistic problems for later, leads from digital may start pouring at any time.

Why is this important?

Customer will only call you once, and the worst part is that they can leave a bad review if they feel that you didn’t treat them fairly.



3. Having a Small Business Online Marketing plan that is dependent on paid media

Small Business, always pressed to deliver may forget about the future. Paid traffic, in all it varieties:  Social Media Advertising, Search Engine Marketing, Affiliate Marketing and even Influencer Marketing, are not only paid channels but also channels that are not under your complete control. Paying for traffic, leads or visitors is OK, but it cannot be the only way of getting new customers. I have seen, big companies that depend heavily on PPC for years without bothering in creating new organic traction. Organic, is not only under your control but it is also cheaper than paid media in the long run.

Why is this important?

There will always be a paid component in your Online Marketing, but by creating organic traction you will, not only decrease your Cost-Per-Acquisition, but also develop a sustainable competitive advantage, that won’t be easy to copy.


2. Setting your Social Media campaign and forgetting about it

Digital media is always changing so you need constant revision. Think of small business online marketing plan, as a marathon that can only be won by sustained effort for a long period of time. For example, take SEO. Even if you managed to get your website to rank for 5 keywords on Google’s first page they will be out of the first page in matter of weeks unless you keep working on them. Just to name a few reasons: Google itself may change the rules and your ranking will suffer, your content may lose relevance over time, your competitors copied your strategy or made it better, and many more. These changes may be even more aggressive in other disciplines like Social Media, which will affect your small business online marketing results.

Why is this important?

Since your plan will have a finite life span, it will lose appeal and your visitors will decline. The worst part you may be investing in a small business online marketing that only lives inside the internet but not produce any value for you.


1. Targeting the wrong consumer

There has been plenty of buzz around Customer Journey, Buying Cycle and Readiness to Buy. Nevertheless, not many small business online marketing managers realize the true meaning of those concepts so they keep going after the most expensive customers.

As in any buying process a customer first realize the need, then starts to explore options and finally takes action and buys a product. The closer you get to the buying stage the more expensive the click will get. Plus, when a customer is Ready-to-Buy a decision has been made which will be difficult to change.

Why is this important?

A customer that is ready to buy can be 100% more expensive than customer that is starting to look for options (in terms of cost per click). So why focus on the most expensive customer instead of going after an easy to convince one? If you understand your Customer Journey well you will not only save money but be more effective with your investment.


If you one of those businesses that is wasting money and time on one of these issues, maybe it’s time to rethink your digital marketing approach. Especially, when these trends will only become more aggressive with time.


Has your company wasted resources by trying digital marketing? We’d love to hear you story and improve this blog post with additional advice, other companies may profit from your experience.

About the Author: Fernando is dedicated to digital marketing performance at 8.digital a digital marketing agency located in Miami, FL

thanks to Digital Marketing Today for featuring this article

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