How to market your small business

In a highly competitive market, promoting a small business can be a real struggle. Owners and entrepreneurs can face an overwhelming amount of marketing information and advice, and with limited budgets, it can be hard to know where to invest your time and resources.

In this guide, we’ll look at the top eight things a small business can do to successfully promote its products, services and brand.


Step one: Who is your customer?

Market research is essential in understanding who your target customer is. This research will also help you identify market trends and keep an eye on what your competition is doing.

Understanding who your customer is, forms the basis of all your other marketing efforts. Even if you think you know who they are, it never hurts to do some research every now and again; things might have changed.

Learn more about the importance of understanding your audience.


Step two: Organising your customers

Once you understand who your customer is, you will need to learn a bit more about them so that you can organise them into groups (segments).

Trying to promote your products and services to absolutely everyone on your target customer list will be extremely expensive and ineffective – even if you believe everyone can use or benefit from your product/service.

Grouping or segmenting your potential customer based on particular characteristics will allow you to focus your marketing efforts – and find that low hanging fruit. This grouping could be based on:

  • Geography
  • Demographics (age, gender, occupation)
  • Behaviour (loyalty, readiness to buy)

Learn more about organising your customers to grow your business.


Step three: Understand yourself

Once you know a bit more about your customer, it’s easy to assume you can jump straight in and start cleverly marketing your business in all the right places. But why should someone buy from you? What makes you different to your competitors?

Sounds simple, but formalising this ‘Know thyself’ stage is often overlooked.

To do this, you need to clearly understand what your unique selling propositions (USPs) are. What makes your business stand out from the crowd. Why do your customers buy from you instead of your competitors?

Once you understand this, you can then develop your marketing message.

Learn more about developing your USP.


Step four: Create a clear message

Your business offering needs to be straightforward and easy for people to understand.

All your communications with clients and prospects should include how your business can solve a particular problem. If you’ve done the research and successfully segmented your customer base, you can start tailoring messages based on each group’s needs.

You should always try to avoid industry jargon and assume the reader is relatively new to the market. For example, we’re business and management consultants. However, we can’t assume everyone knows what that means. So, following this business classification, we elaborate by saying, “we help small businesses grow and become more profitable”.

Learn more about creating a clear, strong marketing message.


Step five: Create a marketing plan

A marketing plan needn’t be an overwhelming, complex document full of clever marketing terms. A good marketing plan outlines:

  • Where you’re spending resources
  • Why you’re spending resources – applying it to your customer research
  • What you’re going to say (message and design)
  • Where you’re going to say it (online, in a magazine, via email)
  • What you expect the outcome to be

For example, your marketing budget might be small, so competing against larger competitors on social media, Google, or on billboards might be too expensive. Therefore, you might want to construct a guerrilla marketing campaign – a low budget means of being creative and an unconventional way of sharing your message. View HubSpot for more information on guerrilla marketing.

Learn more about creating a successful marketing plan.


Step six: Build a database

Your database is the lifeblood of all your marketing (and sales). Building your own database will help you directly and regularly communicate with your contacts.

Remember, all those contacts you have on LinkedIn or Facebook aren’t yours. If LinkedIn stopped tomorrow, could you still speak to your connections?

Your own database allows you to send things like monthly email newsletters and promotions that will help nurture prospective clients into leads, and ideally, customers.

Learn more about building an effective marketing database.


Step seven: Build loyalty

Your customers are the key to your success, so it’s essential you look after them and encourage loyalty.

Typically, someone who uses your business for the first time isn’t particularly loyal. Their first-time experience with your company determines their return. Developing loyalty and trust with that customer can transform them into advocates, someone who is willing to refer your business to others. And ultimately, you want to develop all your customers into brand ambassadors; those who believe in your business so much they act as an unofficial sales team.

Loyalty is usually earned by focusing on delivering exceptional customer service and exceeding their expectations on multiple occasions. However, you can encourage loyalty by rewarding customers for their repeat business by creating a loyalty scheme (like Costa, Boots, Ikea and Tesco).

Learn more about building customer loyalty.


Step eight: Monitor, review and learn

It is important to regularly monitor and review your marketing activities to ensure they achieve the desired outcome, such as increased sales.

Ideally, you should review your marketing plan every three months. Today, it can be relatively easy to determine what marketing activity has led to a sale. Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRMs) can track customers’ behaviour and identify what information they saw before a sale.

Continually monitoring and reviewing your marketing will allow you to build on what is working and change what isn’t.

Learn more about measuring your marketing success.


How ETC can help

If you need help with your marketing and obtaining new clients, please get in touch.

If you are new to ETC, why not contact us for a free new business review? We’ll spend two hours with you, giving you professional coaching and will leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

George King

George’s career started with a distinguished 18-years in the Royal Navy as an engineer. When the time came to leave the navy, the skills he had gained put him in high demand. Over the following 13 years, he was a key engineer and project manager on many defence-related projects centred around aviation systems.

The experience gained on those projects was invaluable. They led to a deep understanding of the need for solid commercial contracts and robust business processes. Having these in place protects both companies and goes a long way towards ensuring project success. Recognition of George’s abilities came via a move to Newcastle University as Head of Commercialisation. His role there was to maximise the IP and commercialisation opportunities for a new spin-off venture. George achieved his targets on time and under budget, which is a testament to his capability to apply the skills developed and honed over many years. In 2010, George achieved an MBA from Newcastle Business School. Wanting a new challenge, George became a paralegal, specialising in commercial contracts. He also consults on optimising operations processes and the complex world of export control. George brings an engineering mindset and in-depth commercial experience to all his clients. With this approach, he can mentor businesses in creating systems that bring clarity, profitability and scope for future growth and success.