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Top 3 Stupid Marketing Strategies SMEs Make

Much of the time we spend here is devoted to discussing strategies for rapid business growth through marketing.

However, I’ve found it’s just as important to learn from mistakes as it is to follow good advice.

In this article, I’ll outline three of the most common marketing blunders made by small and medium-sized businesses.

These three “stupid” marketing strategies have killed many small businesses. Left unchecked, they could kill yours.

So here’s what not to do.

Want to know what is the difference between marketing strategies and tactics? We’ve broken it down here so you can have all the facts before you invest time, money and resources into marketing your business.

Also, check out this blog to see the hot marketing trends for 2022.


Then you need to market it. But not just any marketing will do. In my new 1-Page Marketing Plan Course I show you the exact techniques I've used to start, grow, and exit several multi-million dollar businesses, so you can too.


John Wanamaker, one of the marketing greats, famously said:

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half

While this was understandable a century ago, when it was first said, it should be a crime to say today. Yet the reality is that most small businesses do little if any tracking of advertising.

Not measuring where your leads and sales come from and not tracking ROI on ad spend is the mark of the amateur. We all have at our disposal the technology to quickly, easily and cheaply track advertising effectiveness.

Tools such as toll-free numbers, website analytics and coupon codes make this trivial. Remember what gets measured, gets managed. Be ruthless with your ad spend by cutting the losers and riding the winners. Obviously, to know what’s losing and what’s winning, you need to be tracking and measuring.


Who is your target market? If you tell me “everyone”, then I know you haven’t properly thought this through.

Trying to target everyone, in reality, means you’re targeting no one. By going too broad you kill your “specialness” and become a commodity bought on price.

By narrowly defining a target market whom you can wow and deliver huge results for, you become a specialist. A specialist is someone sought out, respected and most importantly trusted.

When you narrow down your target market, you naturally decide who you’re going to exclude. Don’t underestimate the importance of this.

Excluding potential customers scares many small business owners. They mistakenly believe that a wider net is more likely to capture more customers. This is a huge mistake.

Dominate a niche, then once you own it, do the same with another and then another. But never do so all at once. Doing so dilutes your message and your marketing power.

Read this article to Find Your Niche & Dominate It.


So many small businesses waste huge sums of money on “branding”. They see their large competitors do so and think that this must be the path to success.

I explain in explicit detail here why this is crazy.

Here’s a short illustration. Think of yourself as a hunter and your marketing dollars as firepower. You need to use your limited firepower wisely so that you can successfully hunt, come home victorious and feed your family.

If you start randomly firing in every direction, you’re going to startle and scare off your prey. You need to be targeted and clever if you wish to be victorious.

Of course, some people will argue with me and say that “getting your name out there” is the way to go.

Unless you’re a large business like Nike, Apple, Coca-Cola or similar then it’s likely you can’t afford to burn tens of millions of dollars on fuzzy marketing like “branding” or “getting your name out there”.

Rather than “getting your name out there”, you’ll fare much better by concentrating on getting the name of your prospects in here.


As a small or medium-sized business, you need to get a fast return on your marketing spend.

Putting your comparatively tiny marketing budget into fuzzy marketing is like the proverbial drop in the ocean. You need a plan.

The game of mass marketing, branding and “getting your name out there” type of marketing can only be won with atomic bomb scale firepower.

If you’re a small to medium business that’s not a game you’re equipped to play.

If you’ve found yourself engaging in any of these stupid marketing strategies, now’s the time to stop, re-evaluate and change course. 

15 thoughts on “Top 3 Stupid Marketing Strategies SMEs Make”

  1. Allan – brilliant post, and you’re incredibly spot-on with all three of these tips, particularly number #3. I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs I meet who think that small business success is predicated by massive branding campaigns – which is a very strange view, indeed. Thanks so much for the post!

  2. Vincent Flores

    Great Article Allan, really good advice. Especially about branding – I will make sure to pass this article to others

  3. Newton Weindorfer

    Allan very true. Few small businesses track their ROI and end up wasting their marketing budget. It’s very important to have this ROI mindset when marketing.

  4. I agree with all of them, but #3. I think branding depends on a lot of factors. First if you don’t have the money then don’t do branding right away. However, if there is a $1000 in the bank you are close enough to a university, higher a digital graphic artist at $12.00/hr and brand your self. A typical graduate is expecting $50.00/hr and in very rare instances it’s worth it. I am in the middle of starting my own brewery/distillery. I am probably in beer capital of America. If I don’t brand/label myself quickly, and get my name out there then people have nothing to associate my product to. “Yea, I had this incredible beer once.. umm yea I forgot the name of that company and I don’t remember seeing their logo”. At this point, you may have lost a customer. A good logo that represents you and a name that is unforgettable is essential in some markets. My logo is similar to the liberty bell, my name goes with our images, everything is carefully thought out. People know my product from Joe Shmoe down the street. A great branding with great graphics for marketing will take you a long way. I think I would say for branding or not to brand it depends on how much competition you have locally. If you are the only store on the east side of NY, NY that is selling Spices from around the world. People will know who you are. But if there is a million Spice Stores, branding becomes essential to distinguish yourself from others.

      1. You can brand and advertise at the same time. The idea that they are separate is incorrect. In fact part of a good marketing strategy is to have a defined recognizable voice in all materials, and that is branding.

        And also, most people have at one time or another chosen one product over another due to a logo or tagline. It’s pretty normal actually, it’s part of human psychology to do so. I’m not sure why you would be so highly doubtful of something so well known about human nature.

        1. If the decision to purchase product or services are taken merely because of great logo design than designers would be CEO or marketing head of the company. Its important to understand that consumers identify great product or service due to brand. But, to make that brand great you go to work hard, narrow your focus to specific group of customer and design your offers in a way that your competitor cannot imitate you. For instance, Fresh Hot Pizza Delivered in 30 minutes or less, Guaranteed. People remember domino pizza because of what it offers, not just because of the beautiful logo it has. To make your brand more effective, all you need to do is to stick to the promise you make to your customer and provide exceptional and consistent service experience.

          1. Domino’s Pizza may have a good brand visually, but here in Australia, they are now remembered for underpaying their workers. Secondly, in the circles of friends and family, I associate with, do not value Domino’s Pizza as a good pizza. I would never go to Domino’s Pizza and always choose a small independent pizza restaurant.

            So the Domino’s brand is damaged and it will only be re-built by people working in the company. In the short term and for small business, people buy people and the service the people provide and not just the product or brand on its own.

            I work in sales and marketing and its commonly know that selling requires trust/certainty before brand. Building a relationship and trust with the customer/client will always come first in sales funnel strategy.

            I also work in online advertising and it’s very difficult for a small business to build the minimum size or amount of resources required to advertise or maintain the cash flow needed to continue a large advertising campaign.

            Small businesses cannot compete online against the corporates unless you have a niche product or service to offer. Your high-end logo/brand identity won’t help you online.

            Unless the small business has a truckload of money a small business can do this but I know from experience many small business struggles with cash flow on a weekly basis.

            I am not saying a small business shouldn’t have a logo or even some kind of a style guide but a small businesses strength is to get closer personally with the customer and to build relationships, a strong customer base and then increase the brand awareness.

            The advances in technology allow small business to provide a more personal experience with their customers through building a database and building personalised sales and marketing strategies.

          2. Branding can be built into direct response advertising.

            According my thinking, there are two classes of what is called “pizza”.
            There is true pizza, lovingly made by a crafts person proud of his creation…and we enjoy his creation!

            Then there is Dominos…the equivalent of frozen supermarket “product”. I do not put Dominos in the same class as “pizza”. It is at best, sauce with cheese on bread.

            SMB’s do not have the time and maybe not even the inclination to craft and work a digital marketing plan without assistance.

      2. Interesting reply, but I think it may be more complex than that. People buy products based on the logos all of the time, particularly when the logo equates to status (Mercedes Benz), or to being part of an aspireational group or in-crowd (Nike), etc. As a matter of fact, they proudly wear t-shirts and sweats that bear such logos (Hard Rock Cafe and Margaritaville, for example). So, a cool logo may have other psychological meanings that encourage one’s purchase.

  5. It’s really a great and helpful piece of info. I’m happy that you just shared this helpful information with us.
    Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

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