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Business, Marketing

Your guide to small business marketing

We'll share our top tips for marketing a small business.

Jon Davis · June 7, 2024
Your guide to small business marketingYour guide to small business marketing

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For small businesses, especially in their first years, your approach to marketing can often be sink or swim. Making sure you get your message across - who you are, what you do and how to find you - is crucial when considering how to grow your business.

That said, marketing can get very expensive and, while bigger companies can spend millions on marketing, small businesses need to make every penny count.

Effective small business marketing means keeping your costs low and your impact high. We’ve put together a guide to marketing for small businesses to help you make well-informed marketing decisions that could help put your small business in front of all the right customers.

What is marketing for small businesses?

Marketing is all about spreading the word about your small business, products and services. It’s about taking positive action to raise awareness of your business account, your brand, your business website and connect with prospective new customers.

You’ll also use marketing to keep in contact with your existing customers, stay relevant and maintain your position in the market.

Part of your marketing strategy needs to be about keeping your existing paying customers returning to your business, rewarding their loyalty with offers or discounts, while reaching potential customers with a clear overview of how you offer them value (your value proposition).

All small business marketing should be mapped out with a carefully thought-out marketing strategy, which should start with defining your target market, the customer journey and carrying out thorough market research.

Identifying your target market

Identifying your target market as a small business owner means pinpointing the people most likely to purchase your product or service. You need to build an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Your ICP should be based on shared characteristics, such as:

  • Demographics (age, gender, income)
  • Psychographics (interests, values)
  • Behavior (purchasing habits, brand loyalty)

Understanding your target market is crucial for small business owners because it shapes all aspects of your marketing strategy—from the design of your products and the crafting of your marketing messages, to the choice of media channels for advertising and value proposition.

To identify your target market, start by analyzing your current customer base to detect common characteristics and trends. Use market research tools like surveys, interviews, and focus groups to gather more data about potential customers' needs and preferences.

Analyzing your competitors can also provide insights into who finds your product category appealing.

Finally, refine your findings into a detailed buyer persona that represents your ideal customer, guiding your marketing efforts to be more focused and efficient.

Carrying out market research

Market research is used to gather, analyze, and interpret information about a market, including understanding your target audience, competitors, and industry trends.

Market research helps small businesses to make informed decisions about product development, marketing strategies, and overall business planning. For example, you can use the results of market research to:

  • Assess the feasibility of a new product or service
  • Gauge the potential success of marketing campaigns
  • Identify needs amongst your target audience that aren’t currently being met
  • Improve your existing products or services
  • Collect thoughts on your brand or brand identity
  • Explore new potential markets

All-in-all, market research enables small businesses to stay competitive and responsive to consumer needs and market dynamics.

Market research for small businesses

While big companies can often afford to shell out millions on market research, small business marketing needs to work to a much tighter budget.

The good news is that as a small business owner, there are plenty of ways small businesses can carry out effective market research to inform their small business marketing strategies.

Here are just a few ways that small businesses can carry out cost-effective market research on a smaller marketing budget:

  • Surveys and questionnaires - you can send out surveys and questionnaires inexpensively by using platforms like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms
  • Focus groups - gather a small group of people from your target market to provide opinions and feedback on your brand, products or services
  • Product testing - offer members of your target market the chance to test your product or service in exchange for honest feedback
  • Social media monitoring - regularly check social media channels for comments about your business, either through comments on your own pages or posted elsewhere
  • Competitive analysis - carefully analyze your competitors and take note of how you could improve based on your findings
  • Observational research - take some time to observe and analyze your paying customers’ purchase behaviors and preferences
  • Suggestion box - if you have a brick-and-mortar location, consider adding a suggestion or feedback box so that your customers can suggest room for improvement or let you know what they think you’re doing right.

Implementing these strategies when mapping out your small business marketing can help small business owners to gain a competitive edge by understanding your market better and tailoring your offerings to meet customer needs more effectively.

What sort of small business marketing is right for my small business?

There are hundreds of different types of marketing, all suited to different businesses. With small business marketing, there are often restrictions on how much you can spend on marketing, making some marketing types more viable than others.

However, most of these marketing types can be adapted to work for a small business marketing strategy to some extent.

Content marketing

Content marketing is a dynamic inbound marketing tactic that involves crafting valuable and relevant material to inform and captivate your target audience, with the main aim being to rank highly on search engines.

This approach helps potential customers discover useful information about your products, your brand, or other businesses in your industry online. Forms of relevant content marketing include:

  • Blogging (including optimizing for search engines)
  • Organic posts on social media channels
  • Digital guides
  • Videos

The goal of content marketing is to equip your audience with knowledge that aids them in their decision-making processes regarding purchases. It’s one of the most accessible forms of small business marketing since you can produce and post content yourself at no cost, and it supports search engine optimization.

Of course, content marketing is only effective when it’s carried out properly, with the right planning and execution.

Social media marketing

Social media marketing is an extension of content marketing and is generally considered one of the most powerful forms of marketing for small businesses today.

It allows you to meet your target audience on their own social media timelines, taking up a little space to get your message across.

Getting your social media strategy right is a challenge but it starts by choosing the right social media platforms for you and your audience.

For example, B2B companies often see more success on LinkedIn and Facebook due to their professional networking and broad demographic appeal.

Platforms like Instagram and TikTok are more effective for visually-oriented businesses, like eateries, homeware manufacturers, clothing stores and such, thanks to their high engagement rates with visual content on social media posts.

Regardless of the platform, a well-crafted strategy is essential to connect effectively with your target audience.

You can also look into paid social media marketing. Paid social media marketing involves paying for advertising space on social media platforms.

This is particularly beneficial for small business marketing strategies as it allows you to target your specific target audience.

Influencer marketing

Some may consider influencer marketing a subset of social media marketing, while others consider it a separate, event marketing strategy. With influencer marketing, businesses can leverage the relationships influencers and thought leaders have already made with audiences.

Because influencers are thought leaders in their industries, they have gained a level of trust many small businesses never will, so their followers are likely to listen to product recommendations.

As a result, influencer marketing can help your brand earn more exposure, boost brand awareness, and increase sales.

Influencer marketing isn’t always particularly viable for small business marketing, as many influencers charge high fees for sponsored content.

There are two ways around this for small businesses who want to incorporate influencer marketing into their small business marketing strategy for business growth:

  • Consider micro-influencers - ‘micro-influencers’ (influencers with around 10,000 followers or less) charge lower fees for sponsored content and often have a more local follower base, which can be very useful for small businesses looking to build a reputation in their local area
  • Try ‘gifting’ - some influencers may be happy enough to post a review for gifted items or experiences from your brand, although it’s worth remembering they cannot be contractually obliged to post about gifts and you can’t guarantee whether their reviews will be positive or negative
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Paid search marketing, often referred to as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, involves advertisers paying to have their site appear high in the search results for a relevant search term, paying a fee each time one of their ads is clicked.

There are a few reasons why paid search marketing can be an ideal addition to your small business marketing plan:

  • Quicker results - unlike organic search engine optimisation, which can take a long time to implement and even longer to see results, PPC often allows you to see increased traffic fairly quickly
  • Targeted advertising - paid search allows for detailed targeting, including geographic location, time of day, and user demographics, meaning small businesses can tailor their advertising to reach the most likely customers.
  • Cost control - with PPC, you can set a marketing budget for how much you want to spend per day or per campaign, making it easy to manage costs
  • Measurable results - PPC campaigns provide detailed analytics that show exactly what you're getting for your money, such as the number of clicks, impressions, and conversions

These features make paid search marketing a great tool for small businesses looking to grow their online presence and reach specific audiences quickly and effectively while adjusting strategies as needed.

Email marketing

Email marketing involves sending targeted emails to both customers and potential clients to keep them up-to-date on offers and news related to your small business.

Carried out carefully, email marketing can be a great way to secure new customers, keep in touch with existing customers and drive conversions. It can help you to connect personally with a mass audience.

To start email marketing, you first need to build a subscriber list, which can be challenging without prior groundwork.

However, once you have an email marketing list, you can engage your audience with a variety of emails, from product announcements to reminders about abandoned shopping carts and informative newsletters.

Creating an effective email marketing campaign means sending well-crafted emails with eye-catching subject lines, relevant content and clean CTAs. It takes practice to get right but can be very rewarding once you do.

It’s worth considering email marketing as part of your small business marketing roadmap - you can even streamline the email marketing process with the help of CRM software to make email marketing much easier and often more effective.

PR marketing

Public relations (PR) functions as a strategic marketing tool aimed at enhancing a business's reputation through media exposure. It focuses on cultivating favorable relationships between a small business and the general public by securing earned media coverage, which helps manage and improve the company's image and standing.

The goal of PR is to establish the company or key individuals within it as authoritative voices within their industry, thereby elevating brand visibility and fostering trust with the audience.

The downside of PR marketing is that it's generally used by larger companies who can afford to outsource their PR strategies to a third-party company.

However, small businesses can often incorporate PR techniques into their small business marketing strategy to gain local exposure, through local newspapers or other regional media.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that PR marketing is a more high-risk-high-reward marketing strategy as a small business owner, so shouldn’t be your first approach to marketing your small business.

Print marketing utilizes physical media to enhance brand visibility. This form of marketing employs various channels such as magazine ads, brochures, and billboards to disseminate information about a company's products or services.

While tracking the direct effectiveness of print campaigns can be challenging, strategic placements can yield good results.

If you’re looking to include print marketing within your small business marketing plan, it pays to choose your print advertising platform wisely.

Consider placing small advertisements in local newspapers or magazines, or if you have a larger budget to work with, you might place advertisements on local billboards or public transport.

Direct mail marketing

Direct mail marketing is the analog counterpart to email marketing - essentially, you’re just delivering physical marketing materials right through letterboxes rather than via email.

These materials often include calls to action and special offers similar to those found in emails. However, the effectiveness of direct mail can be limited as recipients may disregard these materials as junk mail, quickly discarding them without really reading them - it could even mean recipients start to see your small business as a bit of a nuisance.

Since direct mail marketing involves upfront costs and materials are often discarded by recipients, this is a fairly high-risk marketing strategy unless the content is particularly compelling.

Incorporating direct mail marketing into your small business marketing plan is generally most effective if you’re using it to deliver coupons or news about sales, since discounts may act as an incentive for new or existing customers.

Broadcast marketing

Broadcast marketing means to advertise through TV or radio. Again, this type of marketing is generally favoured by larger companies with high advertising budgets, as TV and radio advertising can be very expensive.

However, broadcast marketing can be used effectively within some small business marketing initiatives.

If you’re looking to build a customer base in your area, it may be worth looking into advertising through local TV and radio stations.

However, this generally isn’t worthwhile if your small business is based online or has a predominantly young target market - in this instance, advertising through digital marketing is much more effective.

Creating your small business marketing strategy

Once you know which marketing options are available and who your target market is, it’s much easier to decide how your small business marketing strategy should look.

Your marketing plan should include your budget and if/how you’ll split it, the length of your marketing campaign and how you’ll monitor your spend and conversions.

Decide your budget

Knowing how much you have to spend on advertising will help you to decide how you split your budget amongst your chosen marketing types. It’s worth spending between 2% and 10% of your annual revenue on marketing.

You should also consider what would be a reasonable return on investment (ROI) for your small business - your marketing costs should never outweigh your potential returns.

Decide your campaign length

Once you have your budget in mind, you’ll be able to decide how long your campaign can run. If you’re hiring advertising space (through print or broadcast advertising) this is fairly simple - whoever you’re advertising with will let you know how long you can afford to hire the space within your budget.

If you’re advertising through PPC or paid social media advertising, you’ll need to keep a closer eye on ad spends over time.

Monitor your success

To effectively track the success of a marketing campaign, it's essential to establish clear, measurable goals aligned with your business objectives.

Start by identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) such as website traffic, conversion rates, engagement levels on social media, and overall sales numbers.

If you’re working with digital marketing, utilize analytics tools to gather data from various platforms - Google Analytics for web performance, and platform-specific tools for social media insights are invaluable.

Regularly review this data to assess the campaign's impact, comparing it against your initial goals. Adjust your strategies based on these insights to optimize future campaigns. Effective monitoring of tools such as google analytics not only measures success but also provides insights for continual improvement.

How Capsule CRM could boost your small business marketing success

Capsule CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software can significantly enhance your digital marketing campaigns by centralizing and organizing all customer data for you, allowing for more targeted, personalized marketing efforts, and improving engagement and conversion rates.

With Capsule CRM, you can segment your audience based on various criteria such as demographics, past interactions, and purchase history, enabling you to tailor your messaging effectively. You can use Capsule to optimize your contact management. 

Capsule also offers automation tools that streamline campaign management, from scheduling emails to posting on social media, ensuring consistent and timely communication with your audience.

Try Capsule free today and find out how CRM could transform your small business marketing strategy success.

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