11 Painful Mistakes Small Business Owners Make | How to Avoid Them

As a new business owner, it's easy to make the same common mistakes small business owners make all across the United States. Here are those mistakes.

mistakes small business owners make (like this picture of a man trying to grab a falling sword)

Anybody who has done it at least once knows that there are quite literally dozens of things that you must do in order to start a successful business. As a new business owner, it's easy to make the same common mistakes small business owners make all across the United States.

Even if you have been running your business for a while, you may have missed some of the things that will make your life much easier, and earn you some more sales in the process.

The common mistakes small business owners make

That is why I decided to take some of the research work off of your plate.

I have compiled a short-list of the top 11 common mistakes small business owners make that you can easily avoid.

When you become pro-active with the things discussed on this short-list, you will help make your business highly visible and (as a direct result) drive more traffic to your business.

If you are capitalizing on that traffic (in-person, online, over the phone, etc) thenyou will see a growth in sales.

NAPW: Why It's Important

There are business databases (think GMB, Facebook, Yelp, Yellow/White Pages, FourSquare, etc) all over the internet and they all acquire your business information one way or another.

These databases help establish your online presence and provide you with credibility to both the general public, as well as to online search engines that rank your business website online on SERP's (Search Engine Result Pages).

Your business listings (also called "citations") across the internet must be providing IDENTICAL information, otherwise, the major search engines will penalize your listings and your business listings will be moved lower down in online search results.

Your BUSINESS NAME, ADDRESS, PHONE NUMBER, and WEBSITE (NAPW) must all be consistent across ALL online databases.

Unfortunately, sometimes they get inaccurate information.

When your NAPW can become a problem

The problems start when you make the mistake of not paying attention to your online listings, which can become a problem pretty early on. It may seem like it's just another checkbox on your to-do list, but it's an extremely important checkbox that can cost you actual financial losses.

If one online business listing database has DIFFERENT information from another business database, it can affect your overall online ranking in search results.

The more inconsistencies there are, the less trust search engines can place on the accuracy of those listings. 

It can be difficult to recover your search rankings even after making the corrections, so the sooner you start checking and correcting your online business listings, the better.

It is imperative that you ensure that your business listing (citation) information is consistent across ALL databases online at all times. 

Because there are 100+ databases, it is impossible to keep track of them all. 

The more high-quality citation databases your business is listed on, the more visibility and credibility you have online.

This is a well-known company that helps you automate it and save you a significant amount of time and headaches in the process: BrightLocal

Claim and optimize your free GMB (Google My Business) page

If you have been in business for even a short period of time, you may be surprised to learn that you are already listed on a Google My Business page.

The common mistakes small business owners make with their GMB listings, is they do not claim them.

I have a tool which automatically scans businesses based on keywords, and it tells me whether a business has claimed their listing or not. I cannot tell you how many businesses I've found that have not claimed their GMB listing.

It's tragic!

Oh, by the way... anybody can claim your GMB listing

CAUTION: If you are listed on GMB, but have not claimed your business listing, ANYBODY can claim it! In fact, I've read about businesses who had to go to court just to get control of their GMB listing from someone who claimed it before they did.

You don't have to take my word for it. Google's support center has multiple posts on this very topic where a person claimed someone else's business on GMB.

So before an upset customer decides to take advantage of your unclaimed listing, you should probably claim it now.

image of an angry customer shaking her finger (after taking over an unclaimed GMB listing) as an example of one of many common mistakes small business owners make

If you search Google Maps and your business is not listed, you can head on over to https://www.google.com/business/ to get that setup

The quicker you get it set up, the better. 

After you claim your GMB listing, it’s extremely important that you do the following:

  • Optimize your GMB listing with keywords related to your business, location, etc

  • Regularly post to your GMB page (minimum of once per week)

  • Regularly upload branded imaging to your GMB page (minimum of once per week)

  • Pro-actively respond to your Google reviews (negative and positive)

  • Create an “FAQ” on your GMB page and answer commonly asked questions

  • Set your business hours and indicate which holidays you are open/closed

Optimize your Facebook Business Page 

Facebook is still one of the biggest players in the world of all things internet when it comes to driving traffic and helping people find your business

The Facebook Business Page feature allows you to control your brand, your online reputation, and more. It’s one of the first places that people will go to see if anybody else has had a good experience with your product or service.

It’s also one of the few places where someone may find you completely by accident because Facebook “suggested” that they like your page simply because they follow another page with similar interests or because they joined a group with similar content.

Common Facebook business page mistakes

The mistakes small business owners make with their Facebook Business Page are:

  1. Not setting one up in the first place

  2. Not providing detailed information on their business listing

  3. Not regularly posting content (or even just syndicating content from another platform)

To make the most of your Facebook Business Page, you need to make sure you have:

  • Created the business page in the correct type/category/industry

  • Filled out ALL of the information (address, phone, email, website, description, etc)

  • Optimize the description and your “about us” section with SEO friendly content

  • Regularly post to your Facebook Business Page and share relevant content

Remember the 80/20 rule: You should only post “sales-y” content 20% of the time and educational, informative, or entertaining content 80% of the time.

Engagement is key to retaining your audience on Facebook.

Claim and optimize your Yelp Business Page 

I do not personally recommend paid advertising on Yelp if you're just starting out, but the mistakes small business owners make with Yelp is that they ignore it completely.

It's not as well known of a business platform as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, so unless you're writing a review on another business you've visited recently, it can be easy to forget that your business should be listed there too!

A Yelp business page is helpful for ranking your business online, particularly if you have a local, physical location where customers can go see you. 

Even if you do not have a physical location, as long as you provide a local service or product (delivery or otherwise), you would still benefit greatly from having an optimized Yelp business page.

Yelp is mostly seen as a “review” site, so make sure to be very pro-active with both positive and negative reviews and respond quickly if/when they get posted to your business page.

Get on Instagram (if your product/service is visual)

Instagram was designed to highlight the visually appealing things of life. If your product or service is visually appealing, then (assuming your demographic is there as well), by all means, you should be creating content on Instagram.

Instagram has been monetized since Facebook (they own IG) created business tools that simplify the buying process on Instagram and made it easy for users to shop on the platform.

The common mistakes small business owners make on Instagram is that they do not intentionally craft their Instagram content for the audience on Instagram.

Your Instagram audience is not typically going to be engaging with the same type of content as your Twitter audience, and your Twitter audience is not going to be engaging with the same type of content as your Facebook audience.

Each social media platform is unique and provides an opportunity to present your brand story in a different context.

Things to remember on Instagram:

  • Research and use hashtags related to your product and audience

  • Network with other business owners who use IG to cross-promote

  • Create highly attractive visual or engaging content that is easy to “like” and "share"

  • Post regularly (once per day minimum, is preferred)

  • Frequently comment and like other posts within your niche’ (including on your competitor’s posts)

Designing and publishing creative content for social media accounts can be time-consuming and the learning curve on each platform can be tedious.

For that reason, we recommend that you either delegate this to someone else on your team who is up to speed on social media marketing, outsource it (message me here), or automate it with software (most automation software will just schedule it, but it still requires that you take the time to create the content).

Youtube is your 2nd best friend

Youtube is the second largest search engine in the US. It is second only to the Google search engine.

The common mistakes small business owners make are:

  1. They ignore Youtube entirely as part of their business growth plan.

  2. They create content but then forget that Youtube is a search engine, and don't optimize the content for SEO.

  3. They don't create quality content that provides value and answers relevant questions that their audience may be asking.

If you need to outsource your social media marketing (including Youtube content), connect with me here.

placards of all the social media platforms - the common mistakes small business owners make are they treat them all the same.

Much like the Google search engine, Youtube traffic is driven by engaging, relevant content that is optimized through SEO.

Meaning, the keywords in the title, description and metadata all play a significant role in whether or not your video gets found by people browsing or searching for content to watch on Youtube.

It’s still relatively easy to get your videos found on Youtube, but even more than that, having your business links on your Youtube profile, Youtube videos and in comment threads on relevant videos can play a role in the overall SEO ranking for your business website. 

Create your Youtube branding and strategy

There are a lot of strategies out there on how to best utilize Youtube for business, so be sure to research which strategies work best for your brand.

You will find that I write extensively about this topic in the emails that I send to my exclusive small business owner group.

At the end of the day; people continue to consume inordinate amounts of video content online and that trend only continues to grow. So it’s better to regularly put out imperfect content than it is to put out no content at all. 

Like most other things in life... Just get started!

Create a professional, business website

In 2020 and beyond, the common mistakes small business owners make with their business websites are:

  1. Not understanding that even if they do not conduct business online, their online website is their digital business card.

  2. Not understanding that 70% or more of all web users now use mobile devices or tablets, so their website must be built with "mobile-first" in mind.

  3. Not having a branded website domain.

When you are just starting out, it is better to have “any” website than it is to have none at all. If you can not afford anything other than a free subdomain website or a free Google business website, that is fine.

However, as soon as possible, you need to shell out the coins necessary to have a professionally branded business website. Depending on which route you take and your technical abilities you can get started with a website for anywhere from $5/mo - $500/mo.

If you are in e-commerce or are just not very tech-savvy in general, then I recommend going with Shopify. It provides a fully optimized and secure platform with the option to add-on fully integrated apps and comes with world-class support for all subscription plans.

Websites do not have to be expensive or difficult

You do not need any programming skills to run a professional website.

You can start with a free trial using the link above. They have a great plan available for $29/month which is a great price for everything that they provide.

If you are semi-tech savvy and want a cheaper alternative, you can get set up with a WordPress website for a slightly higher upfront cost, but cheaper in the long run (as little as $4/mo).

If you need a simple, but professional website set up, but aren't sure where to start, connect with me here and let's get your website up and running.

Create professional, uniform business branding across all platforms

There are quite a few platforms that your business needs to be on and some will take more of your attention than others.

No matter how many platforms your business ends up on, it’s important to maintain consistency with your branding across each platform. It does not look good if you upgrade your logo and the old logo is still shown on your Facebook Business Page, but the new one is on your website and your GMB (Google My Business) page.

These are all common mistakes small business owners make when it comes to the uniformity of their brand online.

You want to avoid unnecessary confusion for your customers and give the impression that your business is well put together (even if it feels like you’re not, perception matters).

Create a blog

If you want to drive organic (free) traffic to your business website, then a blog is still very much a necessary element for any business website. 

Your blog is a great place to bring in traffic, educate your customers, and tell your brand story.

More often than not, you write your blog content for your existing customers, or to educate your new customers about your brand. A blog can also play a significant role as part of your PR campaigns.

If you aren't much of a writer, don't worry. You can have articles written for as little as $5 through HireWriters.com. You can always edit and optimize the article for your website's SEO, but having the framework of the article done for you is a great way to save you a lot of time.

We will cover blogging much more extensively in future emails, so keep an eye out for future emails from us in your inbox.

I write blog articles like the one you are reading for a handful of exclusive companies. If you are serious about creating high-quality, SEO focused article content for your website, you can contact me here.

Make customer reviews front and center

Where do you go before buying a product online that you have never purchased before?

Chances are, you go to a site website for Walmart, Amazon, Target, Best Buy, etc, right? Because you want to scroll through some reviews and verify that someone else has had a positive experience with that product.

At least that’s what I do!

If it’s a 2 star product, I may pass on it. But if it’s got 4 stars there is a good chance I will buy it.

Unfortunately, the mistakes small business owners make with reviews are:

  1. They do not provide a place for customers to leave them reviews.

  2. They do not promote or encourage happy customers to leave reviews when they do have a place for it.

  3. They do not respond to negative (or positive) reviews online

  4. Or they simply handle negative (or positive) reviews incorrectly and the way that they handle them, damages their reputation even more.

People look for affirmation

The reason for that is we always want some affirmation that the product that we are about to buy is a quality product.

The same goes for your business. 

If someone has never done business with you, then chances are, they’re going to look for some kind of information about you or the product you are selling. 

It is imperative that you make that information about you or your product as easy as possible for them to find.

Here are some helpful tips: 

  • Reach out to some of your customers and ask them to write a short review

  • ​Publish the reviews on your landing pages, the home page, product page, etc

  • Mention your positive Google Reviews (you should be proud of them and they will instill confidence in those thinking about doing business with you!)

  • A very simple method for this is to simply find your business on google and screenshot your current review rating and upload the image on your website

If you need help managing your social media accounts including:

  • Crafting a uniform brand across all of your social media accounts

  • Updating and optimizing your social media account profiles and settings

  • Promoting encouraging positive reviews

  • Responding to negative and positive reviews

  • Creating rich media content for your various social media networks

  • Running social media promotions, giveaways, and other growth campaigns

  • Regularly posting quality content relevant to your audience

Then let's chat. Contact me here.

Remove all obstacles from the buying experience 

“I’m going to sleep on that and make a decision in the morning.”

We do not always buy things that we “need” and more often than not, the thing the customer is buying from you is not a “need” either.

When people have the opportunity to “sleep” on something, chances are, they will not be buying.

When purchasing a product or service, it’s important that the customer has a buying experience free of any distractions or obstacles that would prevent them from moving forward with their decision.

On an e-commerce website, for instance, some mistakes small business owners make are:

  1. Having popups or links present which interrupt the customer during the checkout process.

  2. Requiring customers to create an account on the website in order to complete a purchase.

  3. Forcing a customer to use an uncommon payment processor that requires a third-party account.

In other words, remove every unnecessary barrier in the process for whatever your objective is for a customer to complete.

If you want them to pay for that pair of shoes in their cart on your website, then make sure they get there quickly and smoothly. If you want them to schedule a free consultation, then schedule the consultation and get the appointment - don’t ask for a million pieces of information along the way - you can do that later.

The buyer experience must be smooth and seamless and the objective you want them to accomplish must be clear of any distractions along the way.

Find someone you can talk to

Last but not least, this is one of the biggest most common mistakes small business owners make:

  1. Not networking with other small business owners

It’s lonely at the top, especially if you are at the top of a one-person business. 

Find someone (not an employee or spouse) with whom you can share business problems, ask advice, bounce off ideas, etc.

When you network with an experienced business colleague, they can help you keep your balance during the roller-coaster ride of setbacks and successes.

This is where business networking comes into play. So if you haven't joined it yet, I recommend joining the Texas Small Business & Networking group on Facebook.

We'd be glad to have you as a member!

In Closing…

I get it… there is a lot of information on the list that we just shared with you. But it’s important information and it’s crucial that small business owners take action on at least 75% of it.

At the end of the day, you need to make sure that you are eliminating the things that don’t matter and simplifying the things that do.

Once you have done those two things, you can automate everything that can be automated (social media calendars, planned posts, etc) and delegate (outsource, hire someone else) the remaining tasks to other people while you focus on the things that really drive the engine behind your business. The things that drive revenue. The things that YOU are personally great at.

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This article was first sent as an exclusive email to small business owners who are subscribed to my exclusive Small Business Insiders Group. Want to be the first to get information like this? Subscribe to my exclusive group here.