3 Common SME Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Common SME marketing mistake 1. Being too broad with the target audience


"Not everyone is going to want to marry you."

"It's impossible to produce work that everyone loves all the time."


I made sure to write down these two quotes while I was listening to Adam Grant's TED Audio podcast few weeks ago because these are so relevant to SME marketing. This particular podcast episode was about imposter syndrome but some of the discussions (including the quotes above) were really relevant to marketing.


One of the most common marketing mistake made by SMEs is being too broad with their target audience. The thinking goes:

  • “The more people/businesses we target, the better chance we'll have to grab someone's attention. The wider the net, the more fish in the net, right?"

  • “My product/solution/service is top notch and can be a good fit for many different people/businesses. So I’d like to target as many people/businesses as possible to see who finds it most interesting and helpful.”

No matter what business you are in, the products and solutions your business offers are not for everyone. Not everyone will love what your business has to offer. Instead of trying to please and satisfy as many people as possible (which leads to not being able to fully please or satisfy anyone), identifying a specific target audience and tailoring your solutions/products to them will bring you a much higher chance of success. This applies not only to product/solution development but also content marketing, event marketing, and to be frank, everything else in marketing.


Here is one example: My blog is specifically for CEOs of SMEs and start-ups who are just starting to invest (or thinking of investing) in marketing. Instead of targeting everyone and anyone who is interested in marketing, focusing on this small niche helps me hyper-focus on the unique challenges they experience and useful tips to tackle them.



How to avoid the mistake of being too broad with your target audience


Defining a target audience is part of branding exercise. The four basic steps for SMEs to strengthen their brand are: 1) identifying your core competencies; 2) defining your target audience and their problems you can help solve; 3) articulating the emotions you want your target audience to feel when they encounter your brand; and 4) creating your brand purpose statement (the true reason for your brand's existence).


Identifying your target audience is the second step in the 4-step journey of strengthening your brand. When you try to clearly define your target audience, consider these:

  • For B2B organizations: Geographic locations, industries, job functions (departments and seniority), size of companies, revenue, etc.

  • For B2C organizations: Age, family status, education background, income level, location, previous purchase history and habits, etc.

More details on the 4 steps are discussed in this blog, 4 Steps to Strengthen Your Brand. Download this template and start filling out to clearly identify your target audience and strengthen your brand.

Common SME marketing mistake 2. Skipping goal setting


"We made a decision to invest in marketing. What's the wait? Let's get going already."


Can you relate to this sentiment? You aren't alone. It is totally understandable that many CEOs think and feel this way. You have no patience for nonsense and wasting time is your biggest pet peeve. You have a business to run and goals to achieve. I 100% get it. However, before you step on the gas with your marketing investment, you have to be clear with what it is that you are trying to achieve with this investment. Not having specific goals leads to lack of clarity and a suboptimal marketing ROI.

For example, let's compare these two scenarios:

  • “generating 5 sales qualified leads per month from the website by hosting a monthly webinar, publishing 2 blogs per week, and sharing a special offer via a monthly email newsletter”

  • “generating as many leads as possible”.

In the first scenario, measuring progress and results is a clear-cut exercise. In the second scenario, how do you measure success? How do you know if you've achieved your goal and what to do next to achieve even more? Lack of clarity with goals sucks productivity and energy out of your marketing and money out of your pocket .

How to create clear marketing OKRs (objectives and key results)

To establish specific marketing objectives, first think about what are your business's short-term and long-term objectives. Why did you start investing in marketing? To achieve which business objectives? What are the most important short-term business objective in this current fiscal year that marketing can help achieve? Establishing a strong alignment between your business objectives and marketing objectives is the first and critical step for an SME CEO.


Just as you make sure to have measurable and quantifiable objectives for your business, have the same criteria for your marketing objectives. As mentioned above, ditch vague and unquantifiable goal like "generating as many leads as possible" or "increasing the number of inbound leads". Instead, create specific and quantifiable goals such as "generating 2 leads per week on average in H1" or "increasing the number of inbound leads by 2 times this fiscal year compared to last fiscal year".


Refer to this blog titled, 5 Tips for Establishing Marketing Objectives. And download this template and start filling out.


To learn more about the benefits of having clear OKRs not only for your marketing but also for your business in general, I strongly recommend a book by John Doerr, Measure What Matters. Having OKRs makes all the difference for both small and large enterprises when it comes to what they can achieve.

Common SME marketing mistake 3. Not having a marketing plan


With specific OKRs written down, your next step is to create a marketing plan. Skipping this step is another common marketing mistake made by SME CEOs. They have some ideas that they want to try such as content marketing and social media marketing. They aren’t sure exactly how, though. They aren’t clear how these marketing activities are related to the marketing objectives they identified, how much content will be created by whom, how to measure each activity's success, how much budget to allocate for each activity, etc. The list goes on. Lack of clarity leads to lack of accountability and ROI.

How to create a marketing plan


For SME CEOs, I recommend the 6PM (6-Pillar Marketing) Framework.


The 6PM (6-Pillar Marketing) Framework is a blueprint for your business's marketing. It visually presents six key aspects of marketing:

  1. Establishing desired perception

  2. Attracting your target audience

  3. Engaging your attracted audience

  4. Delighting your engaged audience

  5. Growing with your delighted audience

  6. Analyzing your data and optimizing


As shown above, using house analogy, it simplifies and visualizes the most critical aspects of marketing . It helps you ensure that you don’t have holes in your marketing and at the same time, helps you be crystal clear on what to prioritize.


To learn more about the 6PM Framework and start building your own, watch the recording of the intro workshop below.