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Marketing challenges can be among the most frustrating for entrepreneurs because marketing is such a critical part of business success and growth. It’s important to get them right.

If you fail to evaluate your marketing to identify challenges keeping you from success, then ultimately any potential gaps in your marketing foundation can stop or slow the growth of your business.

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are the backbone of the American economy. Yet, it’s no secret that SMBs can experience many challenges, especially marketing challenges. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that 8 out of 10 small businesses go belly up in the first decade. That is an alarming number!

One very important marketing challenge that most small and medium-sized businesses face is educating potential customers about their brand or services. But with all the other things that an entrepreneur has to deal with, it’s not always easy to put marketing at the forefront either. Sidenote, marketing should never be an afterthought!

In a Semrush survey of small business owners, about 60% said that the business owner is the one running marketing. Only a handful of those owners used an outside agency or worked with freelancers.

Interestingly enough, those same business owners said that their marketing proficiency was only about a five on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being advanced and 1 being a complete beginner).

The good news is that there are ways to address your challenges—and fix your problems—without spending a ton of money or time.

Challenge 1: Follow the (limited) money.

Not surprisingly, the number one most pressing problem for SMBs in the Semrush survey was having a limited marketing budget. Unless you keep your business and your goals focused, marketing can become a money pit. Imagine throwing darts at a moving target!

But it doesn’t have to be.

The smartest thing to do is to develop annual goals and work backwards from there. Knowing what results you want will allow you to focus on the two or three top channels that will get you the results you need.

First, look at what you are currently doing. If there is something that is working well…keep doing more of it. Whether it is a Facebook ad or a robust email campaign, make note of what your results are and what those results have done for the growth of your business. Keeping a successful tactic is a great investment for your budget.

Second, you should be taking a look at your successful competitors to see what they are doing. Is there someone killing it with a pay-per-click search campaign? You may want to explore your own offer that way.

Are your competitors booking appointments online or using a live chat system? It may be time to look at integrating these on your own site.

Don’t forget to figure out the marketing ROI of the budgeted ideas you want to include. Here’s a quick explanation of how to figure that calculation.

As an entrepreneur, competition can keep you on your toes. And, knowing what others are doing successfully may hold the secret to your own marketing success.

Challenge 2: Pushing through the SEO jungle

There’s no two ways about it…SEO (search engine optimization) is neither quick nor easy to accomplish. But if you need to be found online by people searching for products or services you offer, then you need to address this challenge right up front.

SEO takes time, patience and some understanding of how search engines work. Improving your rankings in Google is definitely a long-term project. But there are some things that you can do to speed up the process.

First, most sites have some issues that can be easily fixed. One way to find out what problems your site might have is to create a free account on Ubersuggest or Semrush. There is a paid version as well, but if you only have one site to review, a free account can help you find out what problems exist on your current site and also how to fix them.

You’ll also be able to check out the top keywords that people use to find your site. This can be helpful as you add new content to your business website.

Semrush also offers a guide to small business SEO tips that is tailored for busy SMBs who need SEO to be demystified and made understandable.

Challenge 3: Brand awareness in the big, wide world

Your brand may be the most valuable thing about your business. Inc. Magazine says that businesses can increase profits by 23 percent just by maintaining a high quality, visual brand consistency.

But having brand awareness can be hard when you are competing with larger, established companies with more money and staff. And yet, there are things an SMB can do to compete with larger and better-funded competitors.

First, make sure your website is professional and appealing. A website is your home base to anyone who may be looking for your products or services.

While many entrepreneurs don’t like turning over their website to an outside firm, it does make sense to get some professional help as you initially create or even refresh your website. Having good graphics, a pleasing format and relevant, informative content is extremely valuable.

Once a great site is established, the SMB can maintain the site and add new content as needed.

Another way to enhance your brand is to make sure you are on the social media channels where your customers are. No matter which channels you end up using, it’s vital that the message of your brand is clear and consistent in everything that you do.

Maintaining a good social media presence over time can generate qualified leads—another marketing challenge that SMB owners face on a regular basis.

Challenge 4: Balancing new leads with customer retention

Finding new customers for your business is very time-consuming and expensive. In fact, the cost of acquiring new customers has increased 60 percent or more over the past six years. At the same time, your current customers still need attention to keep them happy and buying more from you.

But expensive or not, an SMB needs to seek new customers to keep the business thriving. In fact, many companies see new customer leads as a significant part of their marketing budget.

One key to finding new customers is knowing exactly who they are. At Tomato Fish, we’ve come up with a persona worksheet to help you figure out those perfect customers. Once you’ve determined who those customers are, your business can create content on your website that will interest them.

But while you are looking for the perfect new customer, don’t forget your existing customers. They are the ones who are loyal and have proven their spending power with you.

For both groups, a great way to focus your marketing efforts may be email marketing. Many marketers believe that email is a great way to bring a prospect along the customer journey. And many current customers have said that email marketing directly influences their spending decisions. Check out our own strategy to retain those loyal existing customers in this previous blog.

Setting reasonable and effective marketing goals is a SMART thing to do. That is, choosing goals that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely.

You should know exactly what you want to accomplish, by when, how you plan to do so, and how you’ll measure success.

If you need some help with knowing where to start or where you need to shore up your marketing foundation, take our quick, free quiz to get a snapshot of the situation.

It’s important to identify what’s going wrong and come up with an achievable plan to allow your business to move forward and fill in those gaps.

And once you do, your marketing challenges will become business successes.