The #1 Mistake Small Businesses Make in Marketing and How to Solve it

Over the past 20 years, I have heard the same thing from companies “we tried PR, advertising, content marketing and it didn’t work.” I’m betting you are nodding your head and thinking about all of the money you’ve spent that generated little to no results.

The challenge is that you know you need to market your business; communicate your business to your audiences to generate sales. However, you seem to be missing the magic bullet.

Before you hire an expert, agency or consider spending more money on your marketing, think about this:


Your biggest mistake in marketing your business is focusing on selling,

not telling a story that will build a relationship with customers


When you think about today’s brands, what do you think about? Product, product design or benefits, logo, the millions that the companies have sold?  They could never have put a plan in place to successfully execute all of these to achieve millions in sales without understanding their powerful, compelling story and how to use it to connect with their customers; create an emotional connection and desire to “have”.

This is a very common mistake with small businesses and startups. I see it all the time. Entrepreneurs and inventors become so wrapped up in the product and its features and benefits, that they fail to identify the very valuable “Whys” that are meaningful to customers. 


Answer these questions:

  • Why did I start this business?
  • Why did I create this product?
  • Why is it unique and different in the market or among the competition?
  • Why and how will it change the world?
  • Why and how will it change people’s lives?


People don’t have time to figure out what your story is. You have to tell them.

As a former journalist, who works with journalists regularly and markets businesses, the “Why” is your story. It matters to media and your ability to interest them in a story on your company. It also matters to customers that visit your website or see an ad. It mattes to investors, vendors and partners. It matters to employees. It can motivate them in common mission and vision and can be the foundation of your company’s culture. The “Why” is what interests customers and if they feel the “Why” meets the perceived value of your product or service, then they will buy or call.

It can be tough, when you’re in the weeds of running your business, to step out, away and look at your company from the perspective of your key stakeholders, and customers, but it is a necessity if your business is going to not only survive, but truly grow and thrive.


More important to consider…

You have only a few seconds to grab the attention of your audience and generate interest to learn more, so your story cannot be long and drawn out. It can’t be hidden somewhere in your website. It’s got to be upfront, short, concise and to the point. Like your elevator pitch, your story should tell people what you are and why. It should be enough to encourage questionsor scroll down and learn more.


Additionally, your “Why” – your story – can be told in photos, videos and graphics, social media posts – all things that help further communicate and build an emotional connection between customers and your business.


Your “Why” is everything for your business. Everything.

If you are struggling with acquiring customers and generating sales, then it’s time to sit down and re-evaluate your company’s story and then make a plan to tell it well, consistently, across all other marketing platforms.


Guest post courtesy of Jennifer Fortney, a PR and marketing communications expert with more than 20 years’ experience. She the former PR Instructor at SCORE Chicago and author of Pitched: A Simple DIY Guide to PR for Small Business.

Mercy - CBNation

This is a post from a CBNation writer. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue 16 Media.

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