Marketing Basics for a Small Business

Learn the basics of marketing your small business on a budget

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Marketing is the process of communicating with your customers in order to persuade them to buy your products or services. This kind of communication requires understanding your customers' needs and presenting a solution that only you can deliver.

The Basics of Marketing

The marketing for your small business is composed of a variety of strategies that you can use to communicate with and persuade customers. These can include paid advertising, event appearances, public relations campaigns, online traffic, social media, email promotions, and more.

Each of these marketing tools connects with a different type of customer, reaches a different number of people, and costs a different amount to execute. As a result, each business will need a different mix of tools to create an effective marketing strategy. This is known as your business' marketing mix.

An effective marketing mix leads to business growth, which can happen in one of four ways:

  • Acquiring more customers.
  • Persuading each customer to buy more products.
  • Persuading each customer to buy more expensive products or up-selling each customer.
  • Persuading each customer to buy more profitable products.

Each of these options increases your revenue and profit. The final three, however, all depend on the first. Before you can persuade customers to change their buying patterns, you first have to acquire those customers.

The Importance of Target Market in Small Business Marketing

Acquiring customers depends on knowing and understanding your target market.

For any business, only a portion of the buying population will ever turn into customers. Effective marketing must speak directly to the concerns, needs, and values of this target market. Otherwise, you will waste time, money, and other resources trying to attract consumers who will never turn into your customers.

The demographics of your target market will impact every choice you make in your marketing. Understanding your customers will help you answer questions about your marketing choices, such as:

  • What language should you use in your ads, slogans, tagline, and other messaging?
  • Which media platforms should you use for advertising?
  • Which keywords will you target in your web content and search engine optimization?
  • Are there other businesses or organizations that you can partner with?
  • Are there sponsorship or community outreach choices that will gain your customers' attention and goodwill?
  • Should you offer any sales, promotions, or discounts?
  • How will you interact with customers in order to make sales and distribute your products?

For each of these marketing choices, understanding your target customer will guide you toward making effective choices. If you have trouble answering any of these questions, you may need to conduct market research. This will help you better understand your target market, which will then inform your marketing choices.

Presenting Your Value Proposition

Once you know who your target customers are and how you will reach them, you need to present them with your value proposition, sometimes referred to as a unique selling proposition or USP.

This statement is the core of both your business and your marketing. It is a promise you make to your customers that outlines what you are offering, how customers will benefit, and why you are the best business to choose.

Creating a strong value proposition depends on understanding not only your customers but also your competition. To convince customers to choose you rather than a competitor, you have to demonstrate the benefit that only you can provide. This benefit can take many forms, such as accessibility, price, status, or value.

Once you have defined your value proposition, it should be the core of every marketing message you communicate to customers.

Small Business Marketing On a Budget

The majority of small businesses work within a limited marketing budget. Unlike large businesses, which can afford to try multiple expensive marketing strategies to find the best one, small businesses must be creative and careful with their marketing choices.

In addition to traditional advertising, both on and offline, small businesses can use effective and budget-conscious marketing tactics such as:

  • Asking vendors or associates to participate in co-op advertising.
  • Sending existing customers' referral and buying incentives.
  • Using websites like HARO to appear in the media and position yourself as an expert in your field.
  • Piggybacking on local events to interact with prospective customers in or out of your place of business.
  • Sponsoring an event, sports team, or charity drive.

Another effective way to market a small business within budget constraints is to create a well-rounded program that combines sales activities with your marketing tactics. Combining the two will both decrease your out-of-pocket marketing expense and add valuable interaction with your prospective customers and clients. This interaction will provide you with insight into their needs, concerns, and values.

Wherever you choose to spend your marketing budget, create a way to track each campaign with tools like coded ads, dedicated landing pages or phone numbers, or simply asking prospects where they heard about you. This enables you to determine when a marketing tactic stops working and replace it with a more effective strategy.