3 of the Worst Ways Small Businesses Waste Money on Marketing

For years, I threw tons of money at marketing that never really worked.

In one of my previous businesses, we redesigned our website, cranked out brochures, and went to tradeshows — always hoping that whatever we tried next would FINALLY be the “magic” strategy that actually drove registrations.

Spoiler alert: none of it ever worked — even though we had a great product.

We had fallen into the marketing money pit — spending too much money on great-looking marketing materials that just didn’t work.

Does that sound familiar?

If you’re like most small businesses, you can relate. We interact with about 3000 clients every year at StoryBrand. Time after time, we’ve heard clients tell us about their expensive rebranding campaign. We wince and tell them as gently as possible that it was all a waste of money.

I’m so tired of seeing business leaders waste money on marketing. It tends to happen in one of three ways. I want show you what they are PLUS how to avoid them so your precious marketing resources go toward strategies that will actually grow your business.

Redesigning a website without clarifying their message first

We all know how it goes.

You say to yourself, “I need a new website.”

You shop around and finally find someone to help you create it. They design and build out the site, and it looks absolutely gorgeous. This is your baby, and you are the proudest parent ever.

But once it launches, nothing happens. Sales don’t increase. New customers don’t come in the door. You’ve got this beautiful new website, but nobody’s paying attention to it.

The problem? Graphic artists get degrees in design. They master tools like Photoshop and Illustrator. They’re incredibly talented and they know how to make something beautiful.

But very few of them ever study sales copy. They don’t write words that sell things.

People buy your products based on the words they hear and read.

People buy your products based on the words they hear and read. And yes, the design can make those words more noticeable and readable. But ultimately, it’s the words that motivate us to take action.

When you go to a graphic designer or agency to create a website, and they aren’t trained on how to write the correct words that’ll sell that product, you’re losing money. Websites can’t get by on their good looks alone.

Are you relying on design experts to write the words on your website? If so, you’re probably using the wrong words and it’s costing you money.

Before you redesign your website, check out our field guide to every step of the process — and don’t assume that a beautiful site is an effective one.

Sponsoring a trade show booth without a solid one-liner

Are trade shows a part of your marketing strategy?

Exhibiting at a trade show helps you connect face-to-face with qualified potential customers and can dramatically increase your brand’s influence.

If you’re a typical company, you’ve allocated a whopping 31.6% of your overall marketing budget to trade shows.

If you’re a typical company, you’ve allocated a whopping 31.6% of your overall marketing budget to trade shows (according to this research). And you’ve dropped some serious coin on your displays, materials, and travel costs.

And it all looks great. Heck, you’ve even got the on-trend succulents and modern furniture.

But what words are your team members saying when prospects visit your booth? How are they conveying what your company does and the problems you solve?

If you don’t know, you’re wasting all that investment. Because your eye-popping booth may attract attention, but it’s ultimately the words you use inside the booth that will earn you more business.

You need a one-liner: a well-crafted sentence that you can say that gets people to buy your product.

First, this sentence describes the problem your typical customer has. Then it describes how your product or service solves that problem. And finally it describes a resolution, how the customer’s life is better as a result of using the product.

Once you have a one-liner, make sure any employee who staffs your booth knows it cold. When you use that formula to say what you do, those prospective customers will listen and remember it. And you’ll actually get a great return on your trade show investment instead of throwing away your marketing dollars.

Developing an email newsletter that no one reads

If you’re asking customers to sign up for your email newsletter, you’re wasting money.

Here’s why.

Nobody wants to sign up for your email newsletter!

Nobody wants to sign up for your email newsletter!

Honestly, how many newsletters do you sign up for in a given month? In a year? And of the ones you get, which ones do you actually read, much less click on?

Let’s say somebody does sign up for your newsletter. That means, every week or every month, you’ve got to send one.

You’ve got to write or collect the content, track down images, design, format, and test it all, and send it. Or you’ve got to ask one of your employees to spend their precious time doing it — instead of the other important tasks on their list.

In either case, what does all that effort really do to drive business?

It’s time to go beyond the newsletter. There are far better email strategies out there that can:

Generate more email signups than a simple “newsletter” offer ever could
Develop stronger, more trusting relationships with customers
Strengthen your authority as a leader in your industry
Drive sales straight from the emails you send

One of those strategies is simply to offer a free piece of “lead generating” content your subscribers get when they sign up for your emails. Here’s how to grow your email list with a lead generator. Implementing this strategy — plus a series of smart follow-up emails — will probably take the same amount of staff time as a newsletter, but it will deliver a far stronger return on that investment.

Too many companies waste enormous amounts of money on marketing. I don’t want that to happen to you. If you’re doing anything on this list, I want you to stop. I also want you to check out this free video series. In it, I go into a lot more detail about what to do instead so you can avoid the marketing money pit and start creating marketing that actually grows your business.

FREE VIDEOS: How to Avoid the Marketing Money Pit

Stop throwing away your marketing dollars. I grew my business from $350K to 3.6 million in three years — without spending a dollar on marketing. I show you how you can do the same in this free video series.


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