Having trouble attracting customers to your small business online? Chances are, you might be making one of these three fundamental mistakes that most new small business owners do.
Back when I took my first shot at starting a business in 2015, I made these very same mistakes. They kept me busy and feeling stuck — but luckily, I learned some valuable lessons from them that I want to pass on to you.
What’s even more interesting is that when new and overwhelmed business owners reach out to me for support, I’ve noticed these are the exact same mistakes they’re often grappling with.
But don’t let that overwhelm you. No mistake is too big to fix, and you’re never too far down the road to turn things around. So, let’s dive right in and tackle mistake number one together:
01 – Poor Goal Setting
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know how to set goals when I started my first business in 2015. In fact, I was pretty clueless about it.
Back in the day, as many business owners do, I used to set vague goals that had no real meaning to me or my business. You know, vague goals like writing down “gain 5000 followers” in some notebook at the beginning of the year, only to never really figure out the “how”.
Then, I’d start to feel down on myself because I wasn’t hitting my goals. Self-doubt would creep in, and I’d start thinking that everyone else was way ahead of me. There were times I was ready to throw in the towel because I didn’t feel like I was “good enough”. Sound similar to how you’re feeling?
What I didn’t know at the time, and what I’m telling you now, is that the problem isn’t us. The problem is in how we set goals and follow through.
If you aren’t setting goals with intention, you’re essentially leaving your business growth up to chance and luck. That’s when you start to feel out of control because you don’t know what to prioritize or where to spend your time.
What I’ve found is that without clear, specific goals aligned with YOUR vision — and by your vision I mean the money you want to earn, how you want to run your business, and how you want your life to look like — it’s hard to follow through and you’ll get easily distracted with shiny object syndrome.
Oh trust me, I’ve been there — tempted by the latest trends or someone else’s strategies, jumping from one thing to the next without a solid plan.
So instead of setting goals based on wishful results, I set goals based on my own actions.
Let me break it down with an example:
When I decided to create a passive income stream by launching a digital product shop, I didn’t set a goal like, “Earn $20,000 per year from my digital product shop.” I set the goal of creating 10 digital products with clear pricing and a marketing plan, with the goal of adding them to my shop by a specific date.
That meant I had to figure out where I could fit this goal into my weekly schedule and decide what I needed to reprioritize to make this happen.
Doing this allowed me to focus on the progress of my action, not just wait for results to come.
Did I stick to my plan 100% of the time? Of course not — life happens to all of us! But thanks to my weekly and monthly routines, I could reassess my goals and get back to what was is the important in current season of my business.
Your goals and plans are like a shield that protects you from the world of distractions. Shiny object syndrome is a REAL struggle and staying focused requires discipline. That’s why it’s important to check in with yourself weekly so you can stay on track, keep your eyes on your goals, and continue to follow through. Then, the results will follow.
Let’s move on to reason #2.
02 – Not taking time to understand the needs within your niche
So, what exactly is a niche? Well, think of it as the specialized area your business focuses on. I’ve actually got an entire blog post dedicated to this topic, so if you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend checking it out if you want to dive in deeper.
What I’ve noticed time and time again is that many small business owners dive into a particular niche because they see others doing it, someone else convinced them it was a great idea, or simply because they’d like to turn their hobby into a business. But what they often forget to consider is that they’re entering a market where established businesses already exist.
The thing is, the more competitive market you choose — meaning, the more people selling something similar to what you sell — the more effort it will take to grow.
That means you’ll have to study the competition. Like for example, are they doing limited product launches? How are they running their business? After reading their reviews, what do their customers like or dislike about their work? All of this gives you insights into a certain niche.
And why does that matter? Because by doing this initial research, it sets you up to be strategic in what you offer, how you price your products, and how to differentiate yourself from a saturated market. It also helps you carve out an image for your business that’s distinct from everyone else out there in a way that highlights your strengths and values.
Otherwise, there’s a chance you could get lost and blend into the competition.
And that takes us to mistake number 3 which is…
03 – Not having a clear plan for how to market your business
You probably already know that an awesome product or service isn’t enough to get consistent sales for your business. This is where a marketing plan comes into play. It’s such an important piece of growing a sustainable business, yet many small business owners shy away from it because it sounds too complicated.
To be honest, when I began my first small business, I was also intimidated by the idea of a marketing plan. I ended up convincing myself that a marketing plan was something only big businesses needed. Obviously, I was wrong.
Creating products and crafting services is the easy part. The real challenge that small business owners face is selling those offerings in a profitable way so they consistently attract online customers.
So what does having a marketing plan really mean? First, it means having a big-picture marketing strategy which includes:
- Identifying and understanding your ideal audience — knowing their problems, desires, and reasons for choosing your product or service
- Building a consistent brand identity that reflects your business values, personality, and visual style
- Defining topics you’ll create content around to draw in your ideal audience
- Planning out incentives and promotions that line up with different seasons and months throughout the year to guide your marketing efforts
- Analyzing your competitors and differentiating yourself to show up in a way that sets you apart
- Selecting your primary social media platform to focus on for brand awareness and audience growth, with a plan to later delegate or outsource some tasks
- Identifying secondary platforms for repurposing your content effectively
All of this lays the foundation of your marketing strategy. Then comes the tactics — the nitty-gritty details. This includes decisions like how you’ll build trust through Instagram stories, which accounts you want to build relationships with, the frequency of your reels posts, the stories that align with your business, even down the hashtags you’ll use, and so on.
You see, for most small businesses they start at the wrong end — worrying about things like what times they should post. But honestly, without that big-picture strategy, these individual efforts probably won’t make a significant impact in attracting online customers.
Having a well-defined marketing plan gives you a clear direction for your marketing. More importantly, every social media post will have a greater purpose, and you’ll know they’re all contributing to your overall business goals.
You don’t have to make these same mistakes
Once you’ve taken these lessons and created a solid plan of action, that’s when you’ll start to see more results, sales, and growth in your business.
So, here’s the deal as we wrap up — when it comes to setting goals for your business, don’t just set goals focused on outcomes. Set goals based on the action you can take, because ultimately, that’s what you can control.
If you’re in a sales slump and feeling stuck, it might be time to reevaluate your niche. Take a moment to dive into your competition and your niche’s needs. Sometimes, the missing piece is figuring out what makes you stand out and why someone should choose you over the rest.
Once you have goals set with intention and you understand your niche, that’s when it’s time to focus on a marketing strategy — the key to making sales online. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does need to give you a clear enough plan on what to market, when to do it, what to say, and how to showcase your business online so it speaks to the right people.
Learn how to stay away from these common new-business-owner mistakes by tuning in to today’s podcast episode here 🎧.
Until next time,