Why Small Business Marketing Fails So Often

Marketing is complicated and resource intensive.

Which is why big companies, with big resources, tend to excel at it and smaller businesses, with fewer resources, often fail.

While failures range from underperformance to complete disasters, small businesses that want to better market themselves—in other words, cost effectively increase their leads and sales—face some fundamental challenges:

  • Lack of In-House Expertise
  • Lack of Coordinated, Integrated Marketing Plan
  • Reliance on Single-Tactic, Silo Marketing Vendors

Lack of In-House Expertise

It is very common today to find small businesses that have no marketing employees (as the sales force generates its own leads). And sadly, even if they do have 1 or 2 people devoted to marketing the company and generating leads, no matter how competent those people may be, it is nearly impossible to have all the marketing, technology and analytics expertise in-house that’s needed to grow revenue today:

  • Sales
  • Inbound Marketing (aka Digital Marketing) – Blogging, social media marketing, white papers and other content that is attractive to, and can be searched/found by, customers
  • Advertising, branding, direct marketing, promotions, public relations, sponsorships, telemarketing and trade shows that spread the word and generate demand
  • Sales-enabling technology
  • Analytics and benchmarking
  • Strategy
  • more

The result is that most small businesses have to rely on outside agencies much more than big companies. Unfortunately, most marketing problems are multidisciplinary yet most marketing agencies are specialists, solely focusing on one marketing silo: advertising, PR, trade shows, SEO, websites, direct mail, telemarketing, social media, etc.

Worse, small businesses don’t have the marketing infrastructure skilled at finding and managing all these separate vendors like big businesses do.

Lack of Coordinated, Integrated Marketing Plan

Further compounding the problem, most small businesses don’t have the time or marketing experience needed to develop an integrated growth plan. So they often “go with their gut” and pick a marketing tactic, or pick the tactic that worked for a colleague in a different business with the end result being expensive disappointment (e.g., a new website that doesn’t help as much as you hoped it would or a direct mail campaign far less successful at generating qualified leads than your colleague’s).

This has presented small businesses with a stark choice as they were forced to either:

  1. Focus on a single marketing strategy in isolation and live with the lessened power and inherent inefficiencies of a partial solution.
  2. Hire non-experts because it is the path of least resistance (e.g., hiring your PR firm to do SEO even though it isn’t their core competence).
  3. Spend the considerable time required to synergize and manage their in-house resources and outside agencies.

Reliance on Single-Tactic, Silo Marketing Vendors

And they can’t rely on outside marketing or technology vendors for an honest assessment either because they’re trying to win your business. Inbound, or digital, marketing agencies, for example, exclude from consideration proven marketing tactics like advertising, direct mail, networking, or trade shows because they simply don’t offer them.  Single-tactic vendors, meanwhile, can’t help themselves: if you ask an ad agency, telemarketer or web developer what’s the best way to grow your leads or brand, they will undoubtedly say advertising, cold calling and a new web site respectively.

Maybe worst of all, even if they had a great plan, marketing today is so multi-disciplinary and complex that most small businesses cannot afford to supplement their existing staff by hiring and managing all the missing marketing, technology and analytic talent required for successful implementation.