For your business to really be successful—for it to take off, to grow, to reach heights you never even imagined—you need a good marketing strategy. But the approach to marketing for small business owners will probably look quite different from the typical marketing tactics you see larger organizations deploy. But what’s the difference, and how can you ensure your small business marketing efforts are successful? Let’s take a look.
What Is Business Marketing?
So, what is business marketing, you ask? To put it simply, business marketing is a set of actions a company takes to help spread awareness, spark interest, and gain an ever-growing base of loyal customers.
Business marketing can take a lot of different shapes. Think Budweiser’s annual Super Bowl commercial, the billboards you see on the highway, the sponsored products Kim Kardashian shares on her Instagram. That’s all business marketing.
But those three tactics are better suited to major organizations with larger budgets—much larger budgets. When marketing a small business, things like commercials and influencer marketing are probably out of the question. In 2020, for example, a Super Bowl commercial cost more than $5 million. That’s no small potatoes.
How Is Small Business Marketing Different?
Small business marketing requires being a bit more scrappy. You’ll still need to implement a marketing strategy in order to get your business in front of people—it’ll just look more like knocking on doors than showing up on TV during the nation’s most popular sporting event.
If you’re looking to learn more about marketing for small businesses, today’s your lucky day. Below, we introduce some of the fundamentals of small business marketing and provide a list of some of the best marketing tools for small business owners.
Small Business Marketing Strategy
If the word “strategy” seems overwhelming to you, that’s okay. Here are six totally doable tips you can use to help build yours today.
1. Identify Your Audience and Get to Know Them
First and foremost, it’s critical to pinpoint who your target audience is. Exactly who is your product or service for? Sure, it’d be awesome if everyone on the planet wanted to buy what you’re selling, but that’s probably not realistic. And, honestly, it’s going to be a heck of a lot more effective—and less expensive—to market to a specific group of people, whether it’s those of a certain age or gender identity, people who love punk rock music, or elementary school teachers.
Once you’ve defined the audience for your small business, market research will be key. Here are some things you’ll want to know:
- What are their goals?
- What challenges do they face in meeting their goals?
- How do they prefer to communicate? (i.e., email, text, phone call)
- How often and when do they want to hear from you?
- Which social media platforms do they spend the most time on?
This is all invaluable intel because it’ll help you figure out how your product can help them meet their goals. Then, you can craft your messaging and determine the best ways to deliver it accordingly.
Now, you might be wondering, How exactly do I find all of this information? Good question. There are some great small business market research tools out there you can leverage (we’ll cover that later in this article). But here’s a simple way to get started: Ask your current customers if they’re open to a user interview or send them a survey to fill out. (Pro tip: It usually helps to provide some sort of incentive to encourage interview and survey participation.)
Need to Learn More About Your Audience?
How to Find Your Ideal Customer With Market Research
2. Connect With Your Audience on a Regular Basis
When you’re doing your research, try to find out at least a little bit about how to best communicate with your desired audience—and yes, you can and should tweak and refine your approaches as you go. (More about that below.)
If members of your target audience spend a lot of time on Instagram, for example, post on that platform each day, whether it’s in the feed or a story or a Reel. When people leave comments or slide into your DMs, respond as soon as possible. If your budget allows, consider investing in a very targeted Instagram ad.
As soon as possible, start collecting email addresses from those in your niche audience. You could do this by advertising your newsletter on social media, hosting giveaways, creating and promoting gated assets, and so forth. Even when you have just a few emails on your list, start emailing those people regularly. A weekly cadence is a great place to start.
3. Set Up a Website
This should go without saying, but you should absolutely, without a doubt, build a website for your business.
Once people hear about you, they’re going to want to learn more about you. After all, more than 80% of customers like to do their own online research before making a purchase, meaning you need to have something out there for them to actually research. A few components you should have on your website include:
But, most importantly, your website should display a very clear call to action. What is the number one thing you want people to do when they come to your site? Purchase something? Set up an informational meeting with you to learn more? Whatever it is, make sure it’s front and center and easy for people to understand and use.
4. Create Compelling Content
Your content shouldn’t be 100% product-focused. Yes, you want people to know what it is you’re selling. And yes, you want to gain loyal customers. But the best way to do that is to become a trusted, engaging resource. If you sell delicious coffee beans, for example, you could share things with your audience like:
- Background on the regions you sourced the beans from
- Featured profiles of the workers picking the beans
- How to make an Instagram-worthy latte at home
- The benefits of drinking coffee regularly
And remember: There are several different types of content you can make—blog posts, videos, GIFs, graphics, podcast episodes, and so much more. Don’t limit yourself to just one kind.
5. Put Yourself Out There
One of the main goals of business marketing—especially small business marketing—is to generate awareness about what you have to offer. And while you can definitely do that on social media, it’ll also be incredibly helpful to spread the word in other ways, whether that’s attending a trade show or setting up a booth at a community event, providing a free virtual or in-person workshop, or pitching yourself to be mentioned or featured in relevant publications and podcasts.
In addition, consider forming cross-promotion partnerships with other small businesses that’d be of interest to your target audience. It’s brutal out there (according to Olivia Rodrigo, anyway)—small businesses must stick together. Of course, you might not want to partner with a direct competitor.
6. Analyze and Refine Your Approaches
As you try out different small business marketing techniques, it’s important to track any data associated with them so you can assess how successful they are. On social media, what types of posts get the most engagement? Try to make more of those. Did you notice that a specific hashtag brought a lot of people to your page? Use it more often. For your blog, what posts receive the most page views? What subject lines seem to yield higher open rates for your newsletter?
There are several different metrics you can track. The most important thing here is to do more of what works and to eliminate what doesn’t—because you don’t have time for that!
Small Business Marketing Tools
There’s a plethora of marketing tools for small business teams to leverage. Here, we’ve provided a list of some of the very best, categorized by purpose.
Data Tracking Tools
Heads up: This specific group is a bit different, as your data tracking will depend on the other tools you use. Each email service provider and social media platform has its own data and insights capability, so make sure you take advantage of those! But, here are a few other data tracking tools you can use, too.
- Google Analytics
- Heap Analytics
Email Service Providers
- Constant Contact
Graphic Design Platforms
- Google Forms
- Google Trends
- Answer the Public
Social Media Management Platforms
- Sprout Social
Website Builders and Hosts
Video Creation Platforms
- Hippo Video
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Well, there you have it—all the basic information you need to form a great small business marketing strategy. Remember: It won’t be perfect at first, and that’s okay! You can learn as you go. Good luck!
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