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Avoid the Leading Causes of Small Business Failure

The challenges of launching and sustaining a small business are numerous and formidable. Statistics on failure and success rates for businesses that started in 2016 indicate that nearly half, or 49.7 percent, failed to achieve a fifth anniversary in 2021. Remarkably, even with such adverse odds of success, the United States Census Bureau reported that a record-breaking 5.4 million new applications for businesses were filed last year. They joined the more than 30 million small businesses that account for 99 percent of all businesses.

The reasons for failure can be attributed to a seemingly endless list of missteps, from poor financial planning to unforeseen circumstances like an international pandemic. One common element across all business sectors is marketing. Developing a strategic marketing plan and budget is the single most important act necessary for achieving success in any business venture. “A marketing budget that is well thought out acts as a map of revenue generation for a business,” says David Phillips, CEO and Founder of SayWhat Consulting, “and it is important that as the business owner they are involved in every aspect of the process.” Developing a long-term plan to achieve an objective is not a groundbreaking initiative by any stretch of the imagination. Any budding entrepreneur will attest to being indoctrinated with the elevated importance of having a strategy for achieving goals and objectives before starting out on the journey. Creating an affordable strategic marketing budget is vital to establishing a clear objective and purpose and gaining an advantage over the competition.

Digital and social media marketing is revolutionizing the advertising and marketing environment across all industries. While it is creating numerous and more economical pathways to connecting brands with consumers, the digital space can seem foreign to many inexperienced entrepreneurs.  If your marketing expertise has proven to be lacking in experience and leaking the marketing budget, it may be time to reconsider the price of your learning curve.

More and more small- to mid-size companies are discovering the benefits of contracting with outside marketing services firms to remain relevant in an ever more competitive marketplace. The rapid changes in digital communications can complicate managing social media and digital advertising and marketing campaigns. Choosing a digital marketing firm to guide your business through the process of creating effective advertising, social media marketing, and a strong online web presence will help a new business avoid the pitfalls associated with inexperience and misunderstanding. Being independent doesn’t always mean that going alone is the best pathway forward.

With the array of social media channels and a highly mobile and dynamic consumer, making better decisions on how and where to invest marketing spend to optimize return on investment is extremely important. Using attribution models to evaluate the performance of campaigns helps marketers better understand which efforts are driving consumers to make a purchase by tracking the entire journey from initial contact to conversion.

One of the most overlooked actions many small businesses fail to perform is a full competitor analysis designed to better understand the competition. Keeping aware of what the competition is doing successfully will reveal important insights into what fails and what succeeds. Imitation is not only flattering to the competition, but it can save valuable time and wasted dollars by not remaking someone else’s mistakes. By being attentive to the competition’s marketing efforts you can learn from successes and failures and better allocate marketing resources to connect with new customers. Chances are good that the competition is doing a lot right, so seek to differentiate your brand by offering innovative approaches the competition is unwilling or unable to offer. Being a me too is a map leading to failure.

The statistics expose the fact that small businesses don’t have much margin for error. With a short supply of time and resources there’s often no cushion to break a fall into failure, but being proactive in recognizing and practicing the leading causes of success can improve your odds of being one of the 50 percent who survives to celebrate another anniversary.