We can probably all agree that marketing is a critical componenet of any business or business strategy. But what is it exactly? And specifically, what does it look like for a small business?
Small Business Marketing can be defined as the practice of acquiring and retaining customers for a small business that lack the resources, tools and budget of a larger organization.
In a broader sense, marketing is the strategy, activites and processes designed for creating, communicating, and delivering messages, ideas and offerings that have value for customers, clients, parters, or the community as a whole.
What does marketing for a small business look like?
Before we discuss the different ways small business owners or marketers at a small busines can promote and grow their businesses, it's important to distinguish some of the core differences between marketing at a small company vs. a large one.
Small businesses clearly have some disadvantages, but they have many advantages. Let's look at them one by one.
Goals: The goals of a small busines are fairly similiar to a large one when it comes to marketing. Both organizations want to improve their brands awareness and perception amongst their buyers, increase sales, and keep customers coming back for more.
A key difference however is that a larger organization tends to be heavily siloed, compared to a small business where a single person-often the business-owner, is wearing many hats, including that of marketing.
This means that in order to be successful, the small business marketer needs to be comfortable swtiching gears hour to hour, day to day - whereas a corporate marketer is usually tasked with steering a steady ship. The small business marketer also needs to be much more innovative and thrify in their approach. There is no campaign playbook or training manual for success. They need to invent their plan as they go along.
Resources: Larger organizations may have dozens of marketers instead of one. This grants them the luxury of creating highly specialized roles.
For example, in order to create a single brochure, a strategist, creative directory, copywriter and production coordinator may play a role in some way.
In small business, the business owner will often play the role of strategist, copywriter and designer, and then send the brochure off to print with another company.
As a small business marketer, it's important to know where your skills lie, and where they don't. Your customers can tell if you made the website yourself, or if the brochure was something you high-school aged nephew put together. It's great to take ownership over so many tasks, but you need to know when it's the right time to pass it along to an outside professional, such as a freelancer or marketing agency.
Speed and Agility: Marketers at larger organizations may have more people, budget and resources, but where they benefit due to larger wallets, they suffer due to siloes and red tape.
Larger organizations are plagued by competing interests, inter-departmental fights, and painfully slow approval processes. A simple idea like changing the color of a button on the company website's homepage can take months to be implemented.
At a small business, you can literally wake up with an idea in the morning, and then see it in action by lunchtime. That's a beautiful thing.
Data: Large organizations have mountains of data. Small businesses have little to none other than your gut feeling and years of experiences serving customers directly.
While larger organiations have plenty of numbers to crunch that should be giving them a competitive advantage, many fail to take advantage of them and fall victim to analysis paralysis. Additionally, siloed roles and departments tend to disconnect marketers from the people they are attempting to target - the customers.
At a small business, you get to interact with your customers directly on a daily basis. Even if you don't - the people who do are likely one cubicle over a short walk down the hall. That direct feedback from customers is the best kind of data you can get as a marketer.
Different Types of Marketing
Social Media. Hashtags. SEO. Referral Marketing. UGH!
The marketing world has unfortunately become full of buzz-words and nonsense, making it difficult to know which marketing strategies and tactics make the most sense to pursue.
The best advice I can give is to start with your customers. How do they buy? How do they find out about things? What sources do they turn to to find solutions and compare options? Is it Google or the local newspaper? If you can answer these questions, selecting the right strategy will become easy.
Once you have identified the journey your customers go on when finding and comparing solutions, you can identify the right marketing mix for your needs.
Below are a list of some of the most common marketing strategies used by businesses today.
- Inbound Marketing
- Outbound Marketing
- Referral Marketing
- Word-of-Mouth Marketing
- Content Marketing
- Account-Based Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Print Marketing
- Direct Mail Marketing
Tactically, there are several things you'll need to learn about and master:
- Website Design
- Social Media
- Brand Strategy
- Value Propositions
- Email Marketing
- Landing Pages
- Lead Nurturing
- Pay-Per-Click Ads
- Display Advertising
- and so on...
Hopefully this article gives you an idea of marketing's role in a small business, what it looks like in action, and some of the many different tactics and strategies you can deploy to grow your business.
To begin, you need to have a clear outline of some fundamentals first. What value does your service, product or solution provide customers. Who are those customers and what do they look like? We'll walk you through how to lay this foundation in our upcoming articles and guides.