In this article, I’m going to explain the 9 sins of small business marketing and how to avoid them.  Use this as a checklist to review your current marketing systems and identify the areas where you need to improve.

By fixing or making small changes in just one of the 9 sins can have an enormous impact on the profitability and reliability of your marketing.

So without further ado, here are the 9 deadly sins you need to avoid:

  1. Relying on one source of traffic
  2. Not using a lead capture
  3. Not following up
  4. Not converting prospects to customers
  5. Not over delivering
  6. Not upselling
  7. Not asking for referrals
  8. Not testing
  9. Not tracking


1. Relying On One Source of Traffic

The number one is the worst number in marketing because it means you’re extremely vulnerable to inevitable change.  For example, if you rely solely on search engine optimization (SEO) for traffic to your website, then you could be out of business tomorrow if Google adjusts their sacred algorithm and you lose your rankings.

Or maybe you think you’re safe with all your eggs in the Google AdWords basket… But what happens if strong competition drives up your bids so your profit margin shrinks to zero and you can’t afford to buy traffic anymore?  You could be left with nothing but a trickle of traffic from your ad campaigns.

The solution should be obvious… never rely on just one source of traffic.

Instead, always be on the lookout for more profitable traffic sources.  Your goal should be to identify and set up at least one new traffic source per quarter so by the end of the year you have 4 reliable systems driving traffic and sales to your website.

Here’s a short list of traffic sources to help you get started:

  • Try MSN AdCenter if you’re only using Google AdWords now
  • Form partnerships with other businesses with complimentary services
  • Write guest articles on popular blogs
  • Present on webinars or teleseminars as a guest expert
  • Social media advertising (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
  • Test direct mail with sales letters and/or postcards
  • Media buying directly or via an ad outlet like BuySellAds or Ad Ready
  • Advertise in Ezines
  • Test TV and/or radio ads (note that Google offers TV ad spots and it’s not too expensive to test)


2. Not Using a Lead Capture

A lead capture is a valuable piece of content (i.e. a report, audio or video presentation, etc) that you offer on your website in exchange for prospect information like name and email address.  I’m sure everyone has seen this by now, but you may not be aware of how important this is for your business.

The fact is that only about 5% of your website visitors (if you have a great website) are going to pick up the phone and call you.  That means at least 95% of your website visitors are going to read your website and leave WITHOUT giving you any contact information for you to follow up.

So if you’re paying to drive traffic to your website, and you certainly are either with time or money, then you’re throwing away 95% of your investment.  That is clearly a sin!

You can recoup some of your lost traffic by simply adding a lead capture to your website.  Then some of your visitors who would have otherwise left without a trace will gladly give you a name and email address for you to follow up with later.

And this brings us to Sin #3…


3. Not Following Up

A recent study across multiple industries showed that 50% of leads will buy within 18 months.  And 85% of those buyers will make the purchase 3 – 18 months after expressing initial interest.

That means 85% of your buyers are not going to make a purchase until AT LEAST 3 months and in some cases over a year.  Of course, if you don’t follow up and stay top of mind, then those potential buyers will most likely go to one of your competitors when the time is right to finally make the purchase.

So if you don’t have a follow up system to nurture prospects for up to 18 months, then you are committing a grave marketing sin.

But don’t worry… most businesses are either too lazy or too unorganized to set up a follow up system so it can be a huge competitive advantage for you.


4. Not Converting Prospects To Customers

The point of sale is arguably the most important step in your marketing funnel.  You can set up multiple traffic sources, capture leads on the website, and nurture the leads until they are ready to buy, but if you have a faulty sales process then all your hard work is quickly flushed down the drain.

Most businesses do not document the optimal sales process for their product or service.  Many just wing it and that leads to unsteady, unpredictable, and unrepeatable sales month after month.

Very small tweaks to your point of sale can cause dramatic increases in sales so it’s worth every minute it takes to document your sales process.  Then after each month or quarter, review your process and identify areas to improve it even further.

Optimizing your sales process is an iterative process that never ends, but the results will give you more than enough motivation to keep improving.


5. Not Over Delivering

Sin #5 is not over delivering, which is typically a symptom of not understanding the true value of a customer.  Sales are obviously essential, but the end goal of your marketing should not be sales.

The goal is lifetime customers, or more specifically, zealots who can’t help but tell all of their friends and family about your products and services.

When you succeed at producing zealots, then marketing becomes easy because all the numbers are in your favor.  One sale could really equal 5 sales when you factor in repeat sales and referrals.  Think about how your marketing and advertising would change if every sale was multiplied by 5!

That’s only possible if you over deliver on your promised product or service.  You must “wow” your customers.

Remember, small investments in your delivery and customer nurturing system will be repaid over and over again with repeat sales and free referrals.  And luckily your competition is probably dropping the ball in this area so it won’t take too much to “wow” the typical jaded customer.


6. Not Upselling

An upsell is the process of providing additional value to your customer at the point of sale.  For example, if you clean windows and siding, then you may upsell customers to your gutter cleaning service while you’re at the customer’s home.

In this example, the upsell helps solve another problem in addition to your basic product or service.  Upsells can also enhance or upgrade your basic product so that the job is completed faster, safer, and/or with less annoyance to the customer.

There are endless examples of upsells and it’s a sin to NOT provide one in your business.  If you do not currently have an upsell, then I guarantee you are not satisfying all of your customers’ wants and needs.

So by adding upsells, you create another opportunity to over deliver and create more zealots like we talked about in Sin #5.


7. Not Asking for Referrals

As I mentioned in Sin #5, referrals can almost magically multiply your sales.  It’s an unforgivable sin to miss this amazing opportunity since in most cases it’s as simple as asking your customers.

If you are over delivering on your promised product or service, then your customers will be more than happy to refer you more business.  It’s human nature to want to help those who have already helped you as an act of reciprocation.

So if you’re not over delivering, then first go fix Sin #5 and then come back to work on referrals.


8. Not Testing

Testing is the process of optimizing your marketing campaigns.  If you’re not continually testing, then you’re wasting opportunities to increase your number of sales, frequency of sales, and total value of sales.

In other words, it’s a sin to not improve on the sins we’ve already discussed.

Here are some areas in your marketing that you should always be testing:

  • traffic sources (so you’re not too reliant on one)
  • lead captures that appeal to specific prospects you want to target
  • different follow up combinations like email, phone, and direct mail
  • sales scripts
  • customer welcome calls, letters, and unannounced gifts
  • upsell products and services
  • referral strategies for prospects and customers


9. Not Tracking

In this day and age, with all the fancy technology available for free or virtually free, there is just no excuse for not tracking your return on investment for EVERY marketing campaign.

Too many businesses try to make important marketing decisions based on assumptions, guesstimates, or sheer gut feelings and that’s a time tested recipe for failure.

For example, if you’re advertising in Google AdWords, then you better be able to measure how many phone calls, email inquiries, in-office or in-store visits, and sales are generated each month from your campaigns. How else are you going to calculate your ROI?

And if you’re also investing in SEO, then you need separate tracking in place to differentiate sales from AdWords vs. SEO.

Without tracking, you’re flying blind and there’s no way to determine what’s working or where you need to make improvements through testing.


Need Help With Any or All of the 9 Marketing Sins?

If you’re currently committing any or all of the 9 sins listed above and you would like more advice to get your marketing on the right track, then I have some great news.

Later this month, I’m excited to announce we’re opening up Main Street Inner Circle, which is our new monthly membership that delivers step-by-step internet marketing training and affordable “virtual” consulting. As a member, you’ll get access to our constantly-updated library of internet marketing strategies, a monthly step-by-step guide, plus expert answers to all of your questions.

You can learn more at