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Small businesses have long been viewed as the backbone of the American economy. According to the SBA, nearly 34 million small businesses currently operate in the United States, employing 61.7 million Americans. That’s over 46% of private sector employees. Learning how to market a small business successfully is an integral but challenging part of daily life. Many owners struggle with identifying the right channels and launching the most effective campaigns for their brand.
How to Create a Marketing Plan for a Small Business
As a business owner it is essential to know how to make a marketing plan for a small business. In this guide, we will review how to market a small business, the various marketing channels and their associated benefits. We’ll also highlight one of the best ways to market your small business with ease.
1. Define Your Marketing Goals
While the term “small business” separates smaller organizations from larger corporations, a wide range of companies can qualify as small businesses.
Before determining your marketing goals, it’s important to consider the type of business you have and the services you offer. This will help define your target audience.
A local mom-and-pop shop is a small business just as much as an online-only e-commerce store. A small business may have a few locations, or it may have a regional presence across different states. The differences lie in the type of customers and potential customers each of these business models is designed to attract.
Once you have a target audience and buyer persona in place, you can then set key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine your reach and impact on the market. Regularly reviewing and evaluating the trends of your KPIs will help your marketing initiatives succeed.
2. Understand Your Market
One of the benefits (usually) of small businesses is the proximity between decision-makers and customers. Larger enterprises have a long chain of operations and customer service representatives between executives and the brand’s customers. However, small business owners and managers often interact with customers on a much more frequent basis.
This close dynamic makes it easier for small business leaders to capture feedback. They can speak to customers directly about their in-store or online experiences, depending on the nature of the business.
Understanding how to conduct a market analysis for a small business can help you maximize the value of your existing resources to make enhancements to your current business model.
3. Leverage Customer Reviews
Online resources such as Google Reviews or Yelp are also great feedback sources. While negative reviews and comments may not seem like a positive outcome of running a business, they actually can provide great opportunities for improvement. While some customers may leave rude or inaccurate reviews on these sites, others may offer constructive criticism that can provide you with insight into the customer experience issues at a given location or on an online site. It’s important to address these reviews in a polite and engaging manner, as these are the types of customers who might be return business.
Beyond responding to reviews, it’s even more critical to use this feedback to address the challenges listed by your customers. Half of the battle is identifying the issues with your customer experience, and your customers have already done that for you when they provide feedback online. Take advantage of these insights and try to implement improvements that address the concerns of your target audience in a timely fashion.
4. Ask Peers for Feedback
Reaching out to your partners and colleagues within the industry can be a great way to get additional opinions on your products, services, branding, and other aspects of your business.
While you may be initially hesitant to engage with competitors, a lot of value can be exchanged between both parties. Not every interaction will be successful, but you may be surprised by just how many people in your niche are willing to offer guidance to those who ask for it. If you can find someone willing to help who also sells a similar product and has the attention of the target audience you desire, you’ll have struck gold.
Document their positive views about your business to inform future marketing campaigns and take note of the areas they feel need improvement. Leverage their experience and industry expertise to further penetrate the market and overcome obstacles that they’ve already overcome.
When all else fails, independent online research can always help. One benefit to conducting research is the ability to vet sources and find entrepreneurs who align with your interests. With social media platforms available at your fingertips, you can begin networking today. Gain valuable connections to people who can help accelerate the development of your small business.
Online Marketing for Small Businesses
A strong digital presence is almost non-negotiable for small businesses in 2024. The word “almost” is intentional, as there are many success stories of owners marketing small business shops and e-commerce sites through in-person promotion and word of mouth. However, underestimating the strength of a strong digital presence would be quite foolish.
Millions of people access the internet each day. Thousands are searching for the products or services your business and competitors offer. By expanding your branding efforts, you can beat out the local competition and potentially broaden your market by tapping into new audiences from different areas of the world by engaging with them online.
The real challenge with establishing a strong digital footprint is mastering the ways a small business is expected to market its products and services online.
Best Ways To Market a Small Business Online
Where do I start? This is the question thousands of small business owners ask themselves when they begin their marketing journey.
There are so many ways to market your small business and increase brand awareness. Determining which ones are best for your brand will likely take a bit of trial and error, but it’s a good practice to learn a bit about each one to gain a foundational understanding.
1. Social Media Marketing
Using social media for brand promotion is one of the most common strategies used by owners marketing small business operations. Some choose to promote products and services by joining the conversation on Twitter, whereas others opt for a more visual approach by uploading pictures and videos to Instagram. More recently, video marketing on platforms such as TikTok and YouTube has become one of the most popular marketing vehicles for individual creators and brands alike.
Regardless of which platform you choose, social media marketing for small business operations requires a mix of creativity and consistent community engagement to be effective. You should use your social media channels to drive traffic to your website or in-person locations.
2. Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing is a great way to attract customers who are searching for the products and services you offer online and funnel them toward your business. For businesses with physical locations, establishing a Google My Business profile (GMB) can assist with this funneling effort. GMB profiles are organized as a directory that are served when users search for businesses near their location. Creating other profiles on directory sites like Yelp can help drive more organic traffic to your website.
On that note, you should make sure you have a functional website that is easy to navigate. When users click on your site, whether through an organic search or a directory site, they want to find the information they are seeking as quickly as possible. If your main product and service pages are easy to find and help users find what they are looking for, Google will increase your site’s authority and page rank, making it easier to locate from the top search results.
3. Email Marketing
Nearly every business, regardless of its size, has some form of email marketing strategy in place. Email marketing serves as the core promotion vehicle of communication for many companies, mainly because email itself is the primary means of communication for most professionals.
That said, far too many companies misuse email marketing. Some launch promotional campaigns without audience targeting, resulting in the campaigns being spammy or irrelevant to the audience. Others are too sales-focused, to the point where engaging elements of the campaign are lost in the overwhelming sales copy.
Email should be used to stay in contact with your audience. The focus should be to nurture existing customer relationships while simultaneously engaging prospects with interesting and worthwhile content. In doing this, you are building rapport and enhancing your brand’s perception. Next time you choose to run a promotional sales campaign via email, your customers will likely pay more attention. They’ll know that your brand is either a thought leader or an organization that emphasizes the customer relationship.
4. Content Marketing
Content marketing involves creating and syndicating written assets such as blogs, whitepapers, case studies, and other forms of content. If executed properly, it can be the best way to market a small business. A strong content marketing strategy can enhance your brand reputation as the insights from your content can help you and your team members get recognized as authorities and thought leaders within your niche.
Quality content can also assist with the previously mentioned forms of marketing. It can help improve your organic search rank, enhance your social media and video posts, and improve your email marketing campaign performance.
Proper syndication is an important part of the content marketing formula. By distributing your content to the right channels, you increase your brand’s visibility in the market and inbound marketing efforts. When your brand story and unique value proposition are made clear through the content you have shared online, it is more likely that leads and prospects will find their way to your website or your storefront.
5. Paid Advertising
If you have successfully launched marketing campaigns through the aforementioned strategy, you may want to try your hand at paid advertising.
Paid advertising is usually one of the final channels to consider when marketing small businesses. This is because there is a higher level of uncertainty regarding your return on investment. If you are unsure which pages on your website are converting, whether you convert more customers via email or phone, or if you have a solid email nurture track, you should answer these questions (among others) before spending any money on advertising.
Once you’ve gathered all of your marketing campaign metrics and conversion data, you can make informed decisions regarding your ad spend. Whether you want to launch display ads on Google or video ads on Facebook, leveraging your business’ data is essential. You’ll want to test different ads to see which perform best, so having analytics set up is crucial.
You should be monitoring your analytics across all of your marketing campaigns to evaluate performance and make improvements, but when it comes to paid advertising, it’s extremely critical to do so. Why? Well, if you are paying for the creation and placement of ads that are not working, you are simply wasting your time and money.
If your ads work well, you need to know how many leads you’ll get from a certain amount of spend. Then make future advertising decisions based on your capacity to field that amount of leads. What good are converted leads if you cannot provide your new customers with any of your products or services?
Start Marketing Your Small Business Today
A lot was covered in this guide, but we only scratched the surface. You may still be a bit unsure how to create a marketing plan for a small business. You may be worried about scaling your marketing strategies as you grow.
It can be pricey to pay for the salaries of an SEO expert, a paid search expert, an organic social media expert, a paid social media expert, a content marketer, and all of the project managers and strategists involved in marketing small business operations.
Getfused is a full-service marketing agency providing services across channels and development to our wide variety of clients. If you want to learn how to market a small business efficiently and gain access to a team of industry experts who specialize in each of the marketing channels discussed in this guide (plus others), connect with us today!