Small Business Marketing: A Quick Guide for Business Owners
As a small business owner, having an effective marketing strategy is one of the keys to your success. But where do you start? For many companies, marketing is not your specialty, your specialty is your actual product or service. So for many the best way to go about creating their marketing plan is to work with a professional marketing agency that can guide them through the process. But that can be daunting as well.
In this quick guide, we will provide a digestible pathway to marketing success and help your venture get on your way. Creating a successful and profitable enterprise requires more than just a great product or service: it also requires an aggressive and well-thought-out marketing plan. Proper planning and execution are key. But without the right data and strategy your business vehicle will be dead in the water. So this guide will provide entreprenuers and proprietors with a quick overview of the basics of small business marketing, including how to get started, essential principles to follow, and useful tips and strategies to help your enterprise succeed.
What is small business marketing?
Small business marketing can be defined as the effort to promote, position, and successfully sell a product or service for a smaller sized venture. This type of marketing generally involves more targeted and personal approaches that are customized to meet the needs of the target audience. It traditionally has emphasized building relationships between brands and potential customers, such as in offering samples, discounts, referral programs, local events, and special promotional offers. Currently more innovative approaches have been used regularly since the advent of digital marketing. But both digital and traditional strageties can be used in an effective campaign.
Defining “Small Business”
A small business is often loosely defined as any company with less than 500 employees, but this definition can be deceiving. There is a huge difference between a family owned restaraunt with 5 employees versus 400 employee corporation with offices in multiple states and millions of dollars in monthly revenue. Both are still small businesses but both are very different. This goes to show that successful enterprises come in all shapes and sizes and operate in a variety of different industries, markets, and regions. Despite the difficulty of accurately defining a small business, it’s important to recognize the unique challenges that smaller firms and startups face, such as limited access to capital, specialized skills and resources, tighter finances and market saturation.
For this article we will be considering small business to be limited to organizations with limited access to capital, tighter finances, and competition that often has much greater resources at their disposal. If you fall in this category, without adequate resources you will have to be creative and strategic when it comes to your marketing. You will have to focus on cost-effective solutions that will maximize your brand awareness and have the greatest ROI (return on investment).
How is Small Business Marketing Different from Marketing for a Large Company?
The approach for a small business marketing will differ from a large company in how you attempts to reach your target audience. Because small companies typically have smaller less funds having massive campaigns and nation-wide commercials likely wont be the plans. Additionally, smaller businesses typically wont have full scale marketing departments that handle everything in house. As a result, your success typicaly relies heavily on direct customer contact and more innovative approaches.
One advantage is that prioritizing experimentation over established best practices have far less risk and a much higher payoff for the small company as less financial resources are at stake if something fails to work out. However, this is not be taken as an excuse for abandoning sound principles altogether; but instead, it means that your venture should consider devoting some resources towards effectively experimenting with new ideas while also ensuring your existing methods remain stable.
Because small businesses are well, smaller, you can be more agile in your response to trends. This is a huge advantage for the small entreprenuer. Trends come and go quicker than ever, especially with social media, so being able to quickly take advantage of an opportunity is a huge advantage that a small business has over the larger ones. For a small company it is much easier to spot an emerging trend, create content immediately to capitalize on that trend, and release it. While a larger company will see the trend pass by before it ever has an opportunity to get the proposed content approved.
Common Challenges Small Business Owners Face
Finding the Right Audience
One of the most difficult tasks for small entreprenuers and smaller companies when it comes to marketing is properly identifying their target audience. Most companies can identify who their current customers are, but identifying the customers they are missing out on is a much harder target for some to identify. That is why smaller companies miss out on so many opportunities that they didn’t even know where there. Determining who your ideal customer is is much easier for a large corporation with more access to capital and tons of data. But as a smaller business you will have to be more savvy to discover the big opportunities that are in your backyard.
Another common challenge for smaller ventures is having a limited budget, or no budget, for marketing efforts. We can’t stress how important this is, and we may appear to be biased because we are a marketing company, but good business is good business. Larger companies have more money to throw at ad campaigns, and while a greater access to capital isn’t always feasible for smaller businesses that is no excuse not to have a marketing budget at all. It is critical to reinvest in your venture.
Running a company takes up a lot of time and energy, especially when you are just starting out. This makes it difficult to take on other necessary activities such as managing a website or creating content for multiple channels simultaneously. Delegating tasks or outsourcing services can help streamline processes and free up more time for marketing activities.
Starting to Market your Business
How much money should I spend on marketing?
When it comes to running a successful venture, one of the most important decisions you will have to make is how much money to allocate for marketing. Many experts and agencies recommend that small ventures should spend anywhere from 7-8 percent of their gross revenue on marketing. This may seem like a lot, but it is important to understand that investing in marketing can be essential for the growth and success of your business.
Marketing as a whole has seen companies spending on average 5.9% to 15.1% of revenues depending on industry and if you are B2B or B2C. While 32% of companies are spending less on their marketing 42% of companies are spending more money. This may seem like a lot, but it is important to understand that investing in marketing can be essential for the growth and success of your business.
How to leverage digital marketing to compete against larger businesses
Digital marketing strategies can help level the playing field and give you an edge over your competitors and allow you to compete with companies with a greater access to capital. Your website will usually be the centerpiece for your marketing endeavors. A large company will already get a lot of web traffic due to name recognition, which means there are a lot of areas that they may slack on leaving you with plenty of opportunity to grab market share.
It is now very common practice to have your website optimized for mobile. More searches are done on mobile now and this is something google will reward you for. So having your mobile friendly marketing channels will put you right in view of new customers. And when it comes to google it is important to highlight the tremendous value of search engine optimization. SEO takes time, and because of that many large companies, including your competitors may skimp on optimizing their website for search engines. This gives you an area with high ROI to outsmart your competitors. This is especially true if your local business focuses some effort on local seo.
Two key ways to make your company stand out with your digital marketing efforts is to put a good amount of time and energy into content marketing. By consistently posting fresh content and engaging with customers on social media and having informative blog posts you will keep your audience informed of your latest products and services while building trust in your business. And often times you can utilize social media marketing to compliment your business operations making your team more effective. This is an area where we have made temendous strides for our clients.
What marketing tools should I be using?
One of best tools for small business will be Google My Business. It is a free tool that is fairly easy to create. Google My Business is a great tool for local business. By having your business appear in google local searches it will help you rank higher in the search engine results and make you stand out from the competition. For most small businesses local results are far more cost effetive than pay per click advertising.
Another great tool is email marketing. This can be used to send newsletters, announce new product releases or share special offers with customers. To do this effectively you should have a sizeable database. If you don’t have one we have implemented some easy ways to build a database within your day to day operation. Simply asking for an email address at checkout can help make email marketing a viable option.
Analytics is another very important tool to use. For your website google analytics is one of the best options to help understand your customers and clients needs. It will also give you the ability to track how people are interacting with your site which will help you optimize and grow. It is also a great tool to help increase customer retention
Social Media in some form or fashion is always a must. This does not mean you have to be on every platform. But youtube, twitter, pinterest, and facebook all operate in very different ways yet are all considered social media. All of these platforms offer great ways for you to interact with your customers and build brand awareness and help drive sales.
Strategies & Tips to Help Owners Succeed in Small Business Marketing
With any venture it can be difficult to market your business effectively. With the right strategies and tips, you can create a successful marketing strategy and help your business succeed. So here are some strategies that make a huge difference.
Create an Effective Content Strategy. But what is effective? It depends on your individual business. But having a comprehensive content strategy means creating articles or blogs, images, videos, and other resources that align with your business goals. Sometimes it means making content to help facilitate your operation, other times it requires you to create content that helps to educate and inform your customers, and sometimes it means persuading people to purchase, subscribe, or some other call to action.
Leveraging Your Strengths as an Owner and as a business. If you are in business it is because you believe you can provide some products or services that other people need or want. And as an owner, you have unique strengths that can help set your business apart from the competition. Leverage these strengths by taking advantage of your knowledge and research and showcasing that through your content and core offerings. If you take time to know what makes your company special and how it stands out from others in the industry you will stand out in others minds. Asking customers what makes you different is also a great way to connect and vet out other opportunities. Honest surveys can help to establish and leveraging connections that only make your business stronger and more valued in your community.
Consider hiring a marketing professional or a marketing agency. Outsourcing your marketing activities can save time and resources while also helping you reach more potential customers. Knowing how to leverage your strengths into meaningful content takes skill if you plan to execute it effectively. So having a skilled set of eyes, or team of eyes, is always helpful. Some of our clients were pleased their competitive advantage was a core strength that was unknown to them, yet was something that came so natural to them that they didn’t just over look it, but realized it drastically cut the cost and effort of their marketing.
A good marketing agency can help you discover these things. Many “gurus” out there may know how to put together an ad campaign, but they don’t know what makes you different. Understanding core marketing principles like consumer behavior makes all the difference. Any good agency is worth the cost of an entire team, and they often employ a full team, yet they don’t just save you money they actually help you make more money. So with that it is a win-win.
Steps to Walk Away With
There are a lot of differences between small businesses. But there are also some common principles that can help all business succeed. Establish a marketing budget, learn what sets your company apart, and utilize tools that will allow you to focus on your core strengths. But most importantly understand that you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.
At 5020 Growth Solutions, we believe in helping small businesses succeed and we have spent years building experience and honing processes to help you reach more potential customers and execute on an effective marketing strategy. Even if you have questions about the content in this article give us a call or send us an email. There is no obligation to hire us when you call, but we can’t guarantee you wont want to hire us after speaking with us.