Press Marketing

The 7 Deadly Sins of Small Business Marketing

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Everybody makes mistakes, but some mistakes are worse than others. Some mistakes are almost deadly—to your marketing, at least.

The following seven mistakes are dire enough to make your marketing fail. But the good news is once you know how to spot them and avoid them, your marketing has a dramatically better chance of success.

So keep reading, apply what you learn here, and carry on. You’ve got a business to promote!

1. You’re underfunding your marketing

It is possible to do some marketing for free, but you’ll almost always pay in time, even if you don’t pay in money.

So how much money is enough? The Small Business Administration advises that “small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7 to 8% of their revenues to marketing,” but not nearly enough businesses are meeting that goal. In fact, 71% of small businesses are investing less than 7% in their marketing, according to our latest research. Forty-two percent of them—nearly half—invest 3% or less, including some who make no investment at all.

We all know the old adage, “It takes money to make money.” This is especially true for marketing.

So if you’re underfunding your marketing, don’t be surprised if it’s not working. Despite some talk about guerilla marketing or the very rare people who can make marketing work with slim to no resources, most of us have to treat it like everything else in our business: We have to fund it properly.

2. You’re trying to do it all yourself

Here’s an interesting stat: 54% of small businesses outsource graphic design and website design, but only 14%  outsource marketing, public relations, and advertising.

It’s fine to do things in-house, of course. But if you pair this lack of outsourcing with the lack of funding for marketing as mentioned in the last point, it compounds a serious problem: Marketing doesn’t get enough attention.

The good news is you can outsource many simple marketing functions safely. For example, you could hire a virtual assistant to set up an email newsletter and send it out every week. Most VA’s are also good writers, so they can write some content for your newsletter, your website, and your social media accounts, too. Many VA’s are also good at paid search engine marketing, simple search engine optimization, and Facebook advertising.

A little strategic outsourcing might be an excellent way to finally get some marketing work done.

3. You haven’t learned the basics of modern marketing

While I encourage you to outsource as much of your marketing work as is feasible, I also want you to be a smart buyer—and to be a smart buyer, you need to know what you’re buying.

You don’t have to be an expert (that’s what we hire people for), but if you’re clueless about marketing, you’re less likely to hire the right expert. To use a metaphor, if you know utterly nothing about cars, you’re more likely to buy a lemon.

Fortunately, the solution to this is pretty easy: Get educated. And there are plenty of marketing education resources available. Start with best-selling books, then work down to reading the top one to two sites in each major marketing category.

4. You aren’t balancing consistency and variety enough

I see a lot of small business owners go from one extreme to another on this issue. Either they try every single marketing tactic that comes along, or they try too few tactics (like less than five), try them very briefly, and then give up.

You need to find a middle ground here; you simply cannot do every marketing tactic that’s out there. But at the same time, marketing is evolving rapidly, and you do need to test new things now and then.

This is why I like the approach Coca-Cola takes with its content: 70% is “low risk, not overly time consuming, and . . . pays the bills;” 20% is “new, innovative, and deeply engaging with specific audiences;” and 10% is “high-risk, high-reward.” While this 70/20/10 model applies to Coca-Cola’s content, it works for small business marketing, too.

So how do you apply this approach to your marketing? Start by picking two to three marketing tactics that consistently work for you. For example:

Having a great website
Sending weekly email newsletters
Investing in about 10 hours of social media marketing per week

These are your low-risk, “pay-the-bills” marketing bread and butter. Put 70% of your time and money into these projects.

Use the remaining 30% on more experimental things: 20% should go toward things that are a stretch, but a pretty safe stretch (e.g., getting a mobile app made for your business or creating a video series); the remaining 10% should go toward something really experimental (e.g., creating a chat bot for your business, launching a simple loyalty program, or partnering with a complementary, but not competitive, business).

An approach like this keeps your marketing profitable, but not inflexible. Things change, as you know, and so it’s smart to have a repertoire of effective marketing tactics.

5. You aren’t doing any marketing at all

The single biggest way to fail at marketing is to not try at all. Not too surprising, right? But incredibly, many small businesses are making this mistake. They aren’t doing any marketing: No digital marketing. No print marketing. No loyalty program. No direct mail. No . . . you name it.

Now, I know many owners would tell me that marketing doesn’t work for them. But clearly, they aren’t trying very hard. And marketing doesn’t have to be hard, either. You could start by simply making your business easy to find. Just having a presence on Google My Business and Yelp are ways to get started.

We’ll talk about your website next.

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17 Key Lessons for Entrepreneurs Starting A Business

6. Get a website

It’s hard to believe people like me are still saying this in 2018, but unfortunately, it still needs to be said: Nearly half of all small businesses still don’t have a website. In our own WASP “State of Small Business Report,” we found that 44% of small business owners still don’t have one for their business.

Your website doesn’t have to be a complicated, expensive thing. Even a one-page website with your hours, location/s, major products and services is a great start. Add in a section about your employees and your hiring needs if you want, or get even “fancier” and have a contact page.

And if you already have a website, take a look at the following graphic to see how your existing site compares:

How small busineess use website

Image source: 2017 WASP Barcode Technologies “State of Small Business Report”

7. Separate your business and personal social media accounts

Most small businesses are already doing social. That’s great, but they are also making a dangerous mistake; they aren’t separating their personal and business accounts.

Our survey of small business owners found that 37% of small businesses use designated business social media accounts to reach their audience. That’s great for them, but it means that 63%—nearly two thirds—don’t have a designated business account.

Think of this as just good housekeeping, if you want, but it’s important to separate business and personal on social media. Your customers don’t need to see your comments about a friend’s new baby, and they certainly don’t need to know your reactions to politics. It’s just too easy to fire off a Facebook post, or like a tweet without thinking things through. And it’s Murphy’s Law that just one dumb post could get you far more attention than you ever imagined.

So don’t risk alienating your customers. Create a business account for every social platform you’re active on. It’ll also make selling your business much easier, too.

RELATED: What 10 Years of Content Marketing Did for This Startup

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Press Marketing

How to Rock MozCon 2018 Like the Marketing Superhero You Are

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Posted by FeliciaCrawford

MozCon is just around the corner, meaning it’s time to share one of our absolute favorite posts of the year: the semi-official MozCon Guide to Seattle!

For those of you following the yellow brick road of I-5 into the heart of the Emerald City to spend three days absorbing all the SEO insight you can hold, this should help you plan both how you spend your time at the conference and outside of it. For those watching on the sidelines, scroll along and you’ll find a treasure trove of fun Seattle ideas and resources for future cons or trips you might make to this fair city by the sea.


And if you’ve been waffling on whether or not to take the plunge (to attend the conference — I wouldn’t recommend plunging into the Puget Sound, it’s quite cold), there may still be time:

Register for MozCon!

We’re now over 99% sold out, so act fast if you’ve got your heart set on MozCon 2018!

Official MozCon activities:

We know you’re here for a conference, but that’s only part of your day. After you’ve stuffed every inch of space in your brain with cutting-edge SEO insights, you’re going to want to give yourself a break — and that’s exactly why we’ve put together an assortment of events, activities, suggestions, and Seattle insider pro tips for how to fill your time outside of MozCon.

The MozCon kickoff party!excess energy

With day one behind you, we’re guessing you’ll be some mix of energized, inspired, and ready to relax just a bit. Celebrate the first day of MozCon at our Monday night kickoff party with a night of networking, custom cocktails, and good music at beautiful Block 41 in Belltown.

Meet with fellow marketers and the Mozzers that keep your SEO software shiny while you unwind after your first full day of conferencing. It’s our privilege and delight to bring our community together on this special night.

Our famously fun MozCon Bash

There ain’t no party like a MozCon party! We invite all MozCon attendees and Mozzers to join us on Wednesday night at the Garage Billiards in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. From karaoke to photobooth, from billiards to shuffleboard, and peppered liberally with snacks and libations, the Wednesday Night MozCon Bash is designed to celebrate the completion of three days of jam-packed learning. This is the industry party of the year — you won’t want to miss it!


Birds of a Feather lunch tables

In between bites of the most delicious lunch you’ll find in the conference circuit, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with your fellow community members around the professional topics that matter most to you. Each day there will be seven-plus tables with different topics and facilitators; find one with a sign noting the topic and join the conversation to share advice, learn new tips and tricks, and discover new friends with similar interests.

Monday, July 9th
Google Analytics & Tag Management hosted by Ruth Burr Reedy at UpBuild
Content-Driven Link Building hosted by Paddy Moogan at Aira
Mobile App Growth hosted by Emily Grossman at Skyscanner
Content Marketing hosted by Casie Gillette at KoMarketing
Local SEO hosted by Mike Ramsey at Nifty Marketing
Podcasting hosted by Heidi Noonan-Mejicanos at Moz
Workflow Optimization hosted by Juan Parra at Accelo
Tuesday, July 10th
SEO A/B Testing hosted by Will Critchlow at Distilled
Community Speaker Connection hosted by Sha Menz at Moz
PPC + SEO Integration hosted by Jonathon Emery at Distilled
Meet Your Help Team hosted by Kristina Keyser at Moz
Agency Collaboration hosted by Yosef Silver at Fusion Inbound
Site Speed hosted by Jono Alderson at Yoast
Featured Snippets hosted by Rob Bucci at STAT Search Analytics
Voice Search hosted by Dr. Pete Meyers at Moz
Wednesday, July 11th
Content Marketing Q&A hosted by Kane Jamison at Content Harmony
Paid Search Marketing for High-Cost Keywords hosted by Trenton Greener at the Apex Training
SEO A/B Testing hosted by Will Critchlow at Distilled
Team Hiring, Retention, & Growth hosted by Heather Physioc at VML
Local Search hosted by Darren Shaw at Whitespark
Machine Learning & Advanced SEO by Britney Muller at Moz
Reporting Q&A hosted by Dana DiTomaso at Kick Point
The delight is in the details

MozCon is literally brimming with things to do and ways to support our attendees when they need it. Aside from our hosted events and three days’ worth of talks, we’ve got things to fill in the cracks and make sure your MozCon experience is everything you’ve ever wanted from a conference.


Photobooth with Roger: Admit it — you see that cute, googly-eyed robot face and you just want to hug it forever. At MozCon, you can do just that — and memorialize the moment with a picture at the photobooth! Roger’s a busy bot, but his photobooth schedule will be posted so you can plan your hugs accordingly.

Ping pong play sesh: Don your sweat bands and knee-high socks and keep your paddle arm limber! During breaks, we’ll have ping pong tables available to burn some excess energy and invite a little casual competition.

The world map of MozCon: Ever play pin the tail on the donkey? Well, this is sort of like that, but the donkey is a world map and (thankfully) there’s no blindfold. You’ll place a pin from wherever in the world you traveled from. It’s amazing to see how far some folks come for the conference!

Local snacks galore: Starbucks, Piroshky Piroshky, Ellenos Yogurt, and Top Pot Donuts will happily make themselves acquainted with your tastebuds! Carefully chosen from local Seattle businesses, our snacks will definitely please your local taste pallet and, if past feedback is to be believed, possibly tempt you to move here.

Stay charged: Pining for power? Panicking at that battery level of 15% at 10am? Find our charging sofas to fuel up your mobile device.

MozCon is for everyone

We want marketers of all stripes to feel comfortable and supported at our conference. Being “for everyone” means we’re working hard to make MozCon more accessible in many different ways. The Washington State Convention Center is fully ADA compliant, as are our other networking event venues. But it’s important for us to get even better, and we welcome your feedback and ideas.

Here are a few of the ways we’ve worked to make MozCon a welcoming event for everyone:

A ramp on the stage
Live closed captioning of the main event
Walkways for traffic flow
Menus featuring options or special meals (that actually taste good) for dietary restrictions
A nursing room
Gender-neutral bathroom options
Lots of signage
T-shirts that fit different body types
Visible staff to help make everyone’s experience the best possible
A proud partnership with 50/50 Pledge, furthering our commitment to better representation of women on stage
Strict enforcement of our Code of Conduct and TAGFEE
Bespoke city exploration — Get to know Seattle!

In years past, Tuesday nights were reserved for our MozCon Ignite event, where brave folks from myriad backgrounds would share stories in lighting-fast Ignite-style talks of five minutes each — the only rule being it can’t be about marketing!


While MozCon Ignite has always been a much-loved and highly anticipated event, we’ve also listened closely to your feedback about wanting more time to network on your own, plan client dinners, go on outings with your team, and in general just catch your breath — without missing a thing. That’s why this year, we’re folding Ignite into the official MozCon schedule so everyone can benefit from the tales shared and enjoy a fun five-minute break between SEO talks.

Wondering about what topics will be covered at Ignite this year?:

The Ninja Kit to NOT Get Sick While Traveling by Dana Weber at Seer Interactive
My Everest: How 10 Years of Chasing Tornadoes Came Down to One Moment by Tom Romero at Uncommon Goods
Baseball Made Me a Better Engineer by Tom Layson at Moz
Trailblazer: How Reading One Book Changed My Life for Good by Lina Soliman at OSUWMC
Drag Queen Warlocks, Skateboarding Sorcerers, & Other Folks by Jay Ricciardi at Tableau
Voice Dialogue Therapy: Listening to the Voices Inside Your Head by Kayla Walker at Distilled

We’re opening up Tuesday night as your chance to explore the Emerald City. We’ll have a travel team onsite at the conference on Tuesday to help you and your friends plan an exciting Seattle adventure. Perhaps you’ve met a fantastic group of like-minded folks at a Birds of a Feather lunch table and would love to talk featured snippets over fresh fish n’ chips at the Pike Place Market. Maybe you’ve always wanted to catch the view at the top of the Space Needle (recently renovated and reopened to provide even better views!). Or perhaps a quiet sunset picnic overlooking the water at Gasworks Park seems like the perfect way to relax after a long day of learning and networking. Regardless of whatever floats your boat, we encourage you to plan local meetups, invite your newfound and long-standing friends, and forge a few irreplaceable Seattle memories.

Wondering what there is to do, drink, eat, and see in Seattle?

Well, who better to ask than us Seattleites? Using tons of real suggestions from real Mozzers, we’ve put together a Google Map you can use to guide your exploration outside the confines of the event venue — check it out below!

Seattle’s got more to offer than we can name — get out there and discover the renowned Emerald City quirks and quaintness we’re famous for!

Travel options:

Seattle’s got a pretty solid transit system that can get you where you need to go, whether you’re traveling by bus or train. The city also has its share of rideshare services, as well as taxis, bikes, ferries, and water taxis, depending on where you’re headed.

Public transportation
King County Metro Trip Planner: Traverse the city by bus! You can also download an app to get real-time bus info (I like the One Bus Away app, developed here in Seattle by University of Washington grads)
Light Rail: Connecting the north end to the south, the Light Rail can move you across Seattle quickly (and even drop you off right at SeaTac for your flight home!)
Water taxis and ferries can float you right across the Sound (and offer a lovely view while they’re at it)
A Transit Go ticket or ORCA card will happily power your public transit excursions
Bikeshare programs: As you wander the city, you may notice brightly colored bicycles patiently awaiting riders on the sidewalks. That rider could be you! If you’re feeling athletic, take advantage of the city’s bikeshare programs and see Seattle on two wheels.
Rideshares and taxis
Uber & Lyft can get you where you need to go
Moovn is a Seattle startup rideshare company
Two taxi services, Seattle Yellow Cab and Orange Cab, allow for online booking via their apps (or you can call ‘em the old-fashioned way!)
Are you ready to rock MozCon?!

If you’re already MozCon-bound come this July, make sure to download the app (must be on mobile) and join our Facebook group to maximize your networking opportunities, get to know fellow attendees, and stay up-to-date on conference news and activities.

online booking

If you’re thinking about grabbing a ticket last-minute, we still have a few left:

Grab a ticket while you can

And whether you’re going to be large, in charge, and live at the conference or just following along at home and eagerly waiting the video release, follow along with the #MozCon hashtag on Twitter to indulge in the juicy tidbits and takeaways attendees will undoubtedly share.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


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