Marketing your small business is challenging. There’s no straight and narrow path to greatness, and there’s a lot of trial and error as you strive to get it right.

Simon Sinek — motivational speaker and marketing consultant — once said, “ People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Besides spreading the word about your product or service, marketing plays a crucial role in letting people know the “why” behind your brand. 

Digital marketing trends are constantly changing, and the landscape is full of various strategies that promise results. As a result, you’re bound to encounter mistakes and challenges that hinder you from promoting your product and telling a compelling “why” story. 

But not if you know those mistakes ahead of time. In this article, we’ll highlight six marketing mistakes to avoid this year (and next). 

1. Assuming Your Audience is Everyone

Everyone starts a business hoping to woo as many customers as possible. While there’s nothing wrong with that, the innate desire to grow a huge customer base shouldn’t blind you into thinking everyone is a potential customer. 

Customers respond well to personalized marketing, and there are a ton of tools out there that can help you tailor each message you send to the right recipient. But if you’re too busy marketing to everyone, you’ll end up sending generic messages and campaigns, and your target audience will lose interest.  

Before you kick off a marketing campaign, research your target audience. Know their needs and preferences, where they hang out online, and what they like or dislike about your product or service. Know as much about them as possible, and make sure you regroup every year or so to determine if anything has changed about your target audience. It’s possible your target audience can change completely over time. 

This information will help you deliver personalized campaigns and tweak your product to better solve customer problems. 

2. Failure to Align Brand and Service Niche

While telling your “why” story is critical if it doesn’t tie into your overarching business goal, it’s worthless. Your “why” should align with your brand, industry, and audience. 

If the story isn’t aligned with those three components, users may struggle to understand how your product can solve their problems. Nike does a great job of tying their “why” to their marketing. 

Take their Equality Campaign, for example. The company highlights sports’ ability to bring people together, and as a company that outfits athletes and active lifestyles in general, this campaign ties into their “why” nicely. 

3. Overlooking Email Marketing

Marketing strategies such as search engine optimization, content marketing, and social media marketing are geared toward sending people to relevant pages on a website. Some marketers stop at these strategies when they see an uptick in organic traffic, thinking it’s enough to drive more sales. 

Sadly, only a measly 2% of first-time web visitors buy from your website. 98% never take action, and if you don’t entice them back, they may never return. Email marketing helps get these customers back to your website with attractive offers. Sometimes, sending them an email about how your products work is all it takes to convert them. 

Besides that, email enables you to keep your business top of customers’ minds. You send the discount to entice them to come back, influential emails to build your authority, and educational articles to help them navigate the bumpy business landscape. 

The good thing with email is that your strategy isn’t at the mercy of an algorithm like Google. You’re in charge of every aspect of the content you send. Even better, email has a return on investment (ROI) of $36 for every dollar spent — the best ROI in the marketing scene. 

For this to work, it’s important for your website to have forms that encourage people to sign up for your email marketing. Popup forms are great because they can appear at the sign of exit intent, gathering information from a site visitor before they leave your site. 

4. Not Conducting Enough A/B Tests

Most of the aspects of your marketing campaigns have alternatives: the email subject line, content format, CTAs, etc. The problem is that picking the right choice isn’t always straightforward. This is where A/B testing comes in handy. 

An A/B test enables you to determine which version of your campaign will deliver optimal results. For example, you could A/B test two email subject lines to see which one brings a higher open rate. Or, put two versions of a CTA button through the wringer to pick one that inspires customers to click. 

A/B test enables marketers to stick with the best strategies out of the available options. Despite the benefits, 44% of brands rarely use A/B tests for their email and other marketing campaigns. If you’re one of them, the time is ripe for adding the A/B test to your process and seeing what you uncover. 

5. Not Leveraging Automation

Marketing automation increases sales productivity by 14.5% and reduces overheads by 12.2%. Yet, only 20% of businesses utilize marketing automation tools to the fullest potential. Failing to leverage marketing automation denies you the cutting edge you need to compete in the digital era. 

Done well, marketing automation drives better segmentation and hyper-personalized email campaigns. It’s also great for your sales and marketing strategies as it allows your teams to capitalize on opportunities to convert. For example, if someone downloads a guide on your site, you can track that download and follow up by sending them blog content related to that guide. They’ll love that you provided them with needed resources and will be more inclined to take the next step with your brand. 

6. Monitoring Vanity Metrics

As the adage goes: You can’t improve what you can’t measure. To improve your marketing strategy and achieve the stipulated goals, you have to find a way to measure progress. However, many marketers stumble in this regard because they pursue vanity metrics. 

Peter Drucker has a piece of advice when it comes to tracking progress. “You must move from metrics keeping score to metrics that drive better actions.” For example, if you want to increase organic traffic on your website, don’t fixate on the traffic numbers. Instead, track metrics like social shares and the number of backlinks to your site you’re able to achieve each month. 

Also, keep your fingers on the pulse of industry trends to understand how the significance of key metrics is changing. For example, while open rates have been a key metric for email marketing, updates such as Apple’s Mail Protection Policy could reduce its significance. In the future, the open rate may be a vanity metric for email marketers. 

Make sure you keep these six mistakes in mind while you’re facilitating your marketing strategy this year. Hopefully, by having these on your radar, you can correct some wrongs or avoid them altogether.