This is a guest blog post from Mike Kamo, CEO of Hello Bar.

Running a small business is a complex and constantly evolving challenge. Small business often means small teams, small budgets, and small margins. Mistakes can be made in any setting, but with small businesses, there’s a lot less wiggle room.

Marketing can be especially hazardous. With constant changes in social media, technology, and browsing devices, there’s a lot to keep track of. Every professional marketer seems to have different techniques to try – it can be overwhelming.

That’s why I’m taking a different approach. Instead of telling you what your business has to do, I’m going to lay out what marketing mistakes your business ought to avoid. There are a few marketing mistakes that almost everyone in the industry can agree are big no-nos – and I’m here to share them.

1. Not Taking Advantage of Every Opportunity in the Sales Funnel

Marketing is all about taking advantage of every opportunity in the sales funnel to make a significant connection with your customer. While most small businesses are conscious of creating a sales funnel to guide their marketing efforts, I frequently come across small businesses (and even bigger ones, too) that neglect opportunities to generate leads at certain intervals in their sales funnel.

This is a huge mistake. Leads who are nurtured through the sales funnel spend nearly 50 percent more than those who aren’t.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves… What is a sales funnel?

The term sales funnel refers to the process that businesses lead their customers through in order to nurture them into making a purchase. The funnel itself is a visualization technique. At the top of the funnel, businesses are collecting leads that will trickle down the funnel towards the end goal of making a sale.

The funnel is most broad at the top because this is where the greatest volume will be – it’s easier to collect leads than to sell products or services, although the goal is always to usher as many consumers through the funnel as possible.

Along the funnel, there are multiple opportunities to interact with your consumers and draw them deeper into the nurturing process. Many business owners miss out on these opportunities or only take advantage of a limited few.

Of course, taking advantage of every opportunity is difficult – there is no blanket “how-to” guide for sales funnels. Every company has a unique sales funnel and interacts with its customers in their own way.

However, there are some guiding principles all business owners should keep in mind to be sure you’re not missing marketing opportunities in your sales funnel.

For starters, when you first approach creating a visualization of your nurturing process, such as through a sales funnel, be sure to take inventory of all the places that you might encounter a potential customer. The easiest way to do this is to visualize your ideal customer’s journey to finding your site, navigating it, and ultimately making a purchase.

Your potential customers might encounter you on social media, forums, or on blogs recommending products or services like yours. You’ll want to place lead magnets in all of those places in order to capture people’s information and draw them into your sales funnel.

Lead magnets, for the unfamiliar, are special items that a business might offer in exchange for a consumer’s information. But more on that, later!

The key point is that once you’ve collected someone’s information, you’ll want to nurture this lead and follow up via email. Think about how you might be able to get your potential customer onto your site, and where they might go on your site. Place incentives to stick around wherever you think they might go.

If you sit down and map out every single point of contact along your sales funnel, you’ll be able to reel in many more buyers. Any point of contact should be a point of marketing and, with the right marketing materials, a point of conversion that keeps your sales funnel (and revenue) flowing.


2. Not Using A Lead Magnet That People Actually Want

A lead magnet plays a significant role in creating a sales funnel that actually works. It’s also incredibly important to the success of marketing campaigns. While the biggest mistake I see small business owners making is not using a lead magnet at all, this doesn’t mean that just because your business has a lead magnet, you’re in the clear.

Lead magnets need to provide specific and relevant value to your audience. Whatever you’re offering must be of enough interest to actually spur the viewer into action – which means your lead magnet needs to be a ripe and juicy offer.

For the uninitiated, a lead magnet is like bait; it can be used to entice visitors and reel them into your email list. Lead magnets are free offerings that your company gives away, like an ebook, downloadable recipe, or coupon code, that are only accessible when the consumer provides their information. Typically, companies will trade lead magnets for email addresses.

When you’re choosing a lead magnet to offer on your site, keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Your best fitting lead magnet will depend on your community and what they’re interested in – hence why one of the most frequent mistakes I see is companies trying to copycat others’ offers and flopping.

For example, a vacation-style resort wouldn’t want to use the same lead magnet as a jewelry business  – a downloadable list of each month’s birth gem just wouldn’t catch beach-goers’ eyes. Instead, the resort might offer a downloadable map of the island that they’re located on, with relevant landmarks and tourist attractions recommended. This would be enough to persuade site visitors to give them their email address – even if they weren’t quite ready to book yet.

When visitors come to your site, they often aren’t ready to make a purchase. It takes a while to warm them up to your business and build their trust in your brand. While every marketer dreams of accomplishing this with the website alone, that simply isn’t how the best results are produced.

Instead, the best businesses will collect as much as the visitor is willing to share the first time that they stop by the site – hopefully, the visitor’s email address in exchange for a lead magnet – and then they will follow up by email to nurture the lead and transform the lead into a customer.

Stuck for lead magnet ideas? I’ve compiled 50 lead magnet examples to choose from, so you’re sure to find one that suits your unique niche best.

3. Not Using Popups or Using Way Too Many

There are a lot of rumors floating around that popups are dead. There are also a lot of revivalists who are aggressively keeping popups alive on their site, and doing so in hordes and flocks. Neither of these groups is making their best marketing moves – they’re actually making huge mistakes.

Popups, when used correctly, are extremely useful for sites. They allow you to dangle a lead magnet directly in front of your visitors, letting you collect visitors’ information, and sending that information directly to your email marketing service (like MailChimp, Klaviyo, etc.).

In fact, 98% of visitors will visit your website without purchasing anything. Popups catch these visitors before they go, which means leaving a whole lot less on the table.

But how do you use popups correctly, if so many businesses are using them wrong?

There are a few common mistakes. For example, some businesses will set their popups to appear as soon as someone clicks into their site. This alienates visitors, as they are visiting your site to see – surprise, surprise – your site. They aren’t there to see a bunch of popups in their face.

Another flaw in many people’s popup strategy is to cover their site in wall-to-wall popups. These make it extremely difficult to navigate your site and are altogether intrusive. Preferences aside, these popup walls also don’t convert well – with so many different popup windows and unique messages in sight, people become so overwhelmed that they give up and leave your site.

Luckily, it’s easy to dodge these popup no-nos. Here’s what I keep in mind each time I design a popup to ensure that it converts as well as possible:

1. Strategically time your popups.

This isn’t just to avoid the mistake of popups that appear instantly when a visitor comes to your site. You can also use strategic timing to capture more leads by placing the right message in front of your consumer at the exact right time.

One of the highest converting timing mechanisms is to set your popups to appear only when your site visitor goes to exit your site. At Hello Bar, we call this an exit intent, and it is triggered by the visitor moving their mouse up to the url bar in an attempt to type in a new site or click the back button.

We’ve been testing an exit-intent page takeover (a type of popup that covers the entire screen) on our site at Hello Bar. It has brought in an extra 730 sign-ups in the month of June alone!

Of course, exit intents aren’t your only option for timing. Another pro tip is to use a heat mapping software like CrazyEgg, which allows you to see exactly how your visitors are interacting with your site. Using a tool like CrazyEgg, you can see how long visitors are staying on certain pages of your site on average. With this in mind, you can time your popups perfectly so that they appear right when your audience is starting to lose interest.

2. Put your popups in the right place

I’ve already covered that popups shouldn’t appear side-by-side across the front page of your site. But if they aren’t being used there – where should you put them?

Many small businesses struggle with this question. Having a small business often means having less traffic than larger companies. With a traffic deficit, many site owners think it’s best to put popups on as many pages of their site as they can. Why not catch as many leads as possible and leave no visitor un-encountered?

While the thought process behind this makes sense, it’s helpful to look at the analytics. Most sites experience the majority of their traffic on just one or two of their pages. Identifying those pages is crucial – this is where Google Analytics comes in.

By using Google Analytics, you can see exactly where your page views are happening. With this knowledge, you can be certain of where to place your popups. For example, if your site has a blog post that ranks high in Google and draws in a bunch of views, you’d want to place a popup on that page. If you have another post that rarely garners any clicks, a popup probably isn’t worth adding to that page.

3. Choose one or two popups that really pull their weight

Once you’ve identified where to place your popups, you’ll want to be sure that you’re using the right type. There’s a lot to choose from out there:

Top bars rest on the top of your page (or can be adjusted to rest on the bottom instead), greeting visitors who come to your page in an easy to see, always visible display.

Modal popups, also known as lightbox popups, appear in the center of the screen.

Sliders are like modal popups, but instead, come in from the side of the screen to catch your visitor’s eye.

Page takeovers, as their name suggests, take over the page and cover it with your message.

There is no one popup that is superior to the rest. Instead, the best popup will be the one that fits your goals best. For example, if you have a particularly active home page and have a big sale coming up, a top bar will be your best bet, as you can use it to announce the sale to everyone who visits your site.

If you’re having issues with visitors coming to your site and leaving quickly without making any purchases, i.e. a high bounce rate, a page takeover upon exit would be your best bet, as it gives you one last chance to persuade your visitor into making a purchase or sharing their information.

I tested a page takeover upon exit on our site and gathered an extra 730 sign ups in the month of June alone. But the only way I knew it was so successful was by testing it – don’t be afraid to try a few different popup styles or even combine multiple site assets to see what converts best for your unique site.


4. Slacking When It Comes To Blogging

Small businesses are incredibly busy. When you’re starting out and in the initial stages of business growth, it’s hard to make time for everything, let alone the little things.

Many businesses make the mistake of letting their site blog be one of the little things that gets ignored. Blogs are just for sharing some thoughts, announcing occasional new products or features, and giving your company a voice, right?

Wrong. Blog posts are extremely important when it comes to marketing. And they’re getting more and more prominent – 89% of companies think blogs will be more important in the next five years.

Blogs serve a multitude of purposes for any site, especially for small businesses. For starters, adding articles to your blog is a great way to increase search engine traffic and help boost your site in search engine rankings. This will get more eyes on your business and drive more traffic your way – which means more leads and ultimately more sales.

Additionally, blogs help educate customers about your company and, ultimately, they build trust between you and the consumer. A hefty 70% of consumers learn about a company through its blog versus through ads, and an additional 60% of consumers will feel positive about a company after reading its blog.

Ultimately, 61% of customers have made a purchase based on a blog post that they read. Blog posts can be highly influential when leveraged fully. So why aren’t more businesses using blogs?

Well, starting a blog can seem daunting. But keep in mind your blog doesn’t have to be updated on the daily. Instead, get started by scheduling a post every week or even every month. The more often you update your blog, the sooner you’ll see its results, but any little bit counts.


5. Skipping A/B Testing

It happens frequently: a business will be extremely excited to give a new product or tool a test on their site, but within a few short weeks that excitement trails off and the tool falls to the wayside.

However, achieving success in marketing – or when using marketing tools – isn’t so easy as installing a new tool and letting it run wild on your site. Instead, it comes down to a whole lot of testing with the end goal of optimization.

The best way to optimize your marketing strategies is to use A/B testing and to do so regularly, and especially at any point in time when you introduce something new to your site. A lot of people misunderstand A/B testing and how it ought be performed; however, once you get the basics under your belt, it’s an easy and fun way to see improvements to your site.

A/B testing is frequently used in marketing to determine how a specific aspect of a design or element impacts the overall reception of the site. Using A/B testing, you can pit a few different designs against each other to see which converts better. This typically means comparing an original design to one or two designs that are slightly modified from the first.

Many would-be marketers go wrong in their A/B testing when they get too overzealous about the process. It’s very exciting to see which variations test best and often you want to rush to put your best foot forward; however, too many changes too fast can lead to a testing breakdown.

If more than one change is made to a variation during testing, it is no longer possible to trace back the cause of the changed conversion rate once results are received from the testing. This means that you cannot optimize your set up fully and know with certainty why your popup is converting the way that it is.

Let’s imagine you were testing a recipe instead of a marketing tool. If you compared an apple pie recipe with butter to one that is exactly the same but without butter, you could taste both and easily declare butter’s impact on the taste. However, if you compared an apple pie recipe with butter to an apple pie recipe without butter and with a different type of apple, you wouldn’t know which reason caused the recipe to taste better or worse. A/B testing is exactly the same.

Another misstep that many businesses are guilty of is inconsistent testing. I typically recommend that businesses check their A/B testing results once a month to be sure that they aren’t missing out on opportunities to improve. While a good conversion rate can be reached within a few cycles of testing, it can always be made even better.

At Hello Bar, we test extensively on our own site as well as on Neil’s blog. That’s how we’ve been able to achieve a crazy high conversion rate of 9.9% on one of our popups. It’s all a matter of constant trial, error, and tiny changes to keep boosting those rates.

Adopting a marketing mindset of testing everything is the biggest piece of advice that I can give you. Don’t make the mistake of missing this super important aspect of site optimization.


6. Ignoring Mobile Users

It’s no surprise – mobile phones aren’t just sitting uselessly in their users’ hands. They’re being put to use on the big, wide, web, and online sites are seeing the results of this shift towards mobile.

All the studies show that mobile browsing is going up, and up, and up, especially when it comes to browsing online stores. In the last six months, 62% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device. And the amount of smartphone users is no small number – there are 125 million consumers that own smartphones in the United States alone.

With mobile use being so prominent, any business owner who ignores their mobile site is making a huge mistake – 57% of users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly-designed mobile site. Further, 40% of users will go to a competitor site after a bad mobile experience.

The best way to optimize for mobile is to be meticulous about the tools you install on your site. The best tools will allow you to use targeting features so that your site is custom-formatted for a mobile experience, meaning that when consumers view your site from their smartphone, they will have a pristine experience leading them to stick around and make a purchase.

If a tool doesn’t have targeting or isn’t compatible with mobile, it probably isn’t worth using. Keep looking for alternatives that help your mobile users as best as possible. And don’t forget to check the mobile and tablet layouts for any designs you create – it’s easy to get sucked into desktop view and disregard the mobile view.

Even if you’re a brick and mortar business, mobile is just as important – if not more so. When your customers are on the move in your area, it’s important that they be able to access your site. Additionally, 80% of shoppers use their mobile phone inside of a physical store to either look up product reviews, compare prices, or find alternative store locations.


7. Thinking You Don’t Have The Budget

Even if your business is small and your budget is limited, you can still accomplish a lot when it comes to marketing. Many marketing tools offer free plans that are not just accessible, but incredibly useful. They also pave the path for good marketing practices moving forward.

Getting into the habit of using multiple tools to boost your marketing practices is incredibly important. Instead of focusing your entire budget on one marketing strategy or tool, keep in mind that there are options that can supplement your efforts.

For example, Hello Bar offers free accounts to let you create popups for your site – and many other sites offer their tools for free, too, starting out. While you might miss out on some features, you will get situated for success. When your budget increases, you’ll have just enough of a taste of how a tool works that you’ll know when it’s worth it to invest in a higher plan.

We’ve had a lot of small business owners start out using our free version of Hello Bar, and they’ve seen great results. By using Hello Bar, they were able to boost their conversions and grow their email list – which meant growing their conversions, and in turn, their revenue.

Once conversions went up, their revenue went up, too, and they were able to invest in a higher plan and start the cycle all over again.

Don’t think of your budget as limiting – think of it as a time to test different products so that when the budget is there, you’re ready to make the right decision.

As I’ve mentioned, testing is super important. So is trying out products for free to see what suits your needs best. That’s why I’ve decided to offer the Main Street ROI community 30 FREE days of Hello Bar Growth. Give us a try – we’re confident this won’t be anything close to a marketing mistake!


Mike Kamo is the CEO and co-founder, alongside Neil Patel, of Hello Bar and Neil Patel Digital. He is a renowned digital marketing and conversion optimization expert.