Maximizing Impact: How to Market Your Small Business Effectively

Setting up a new business is a dream for many, but it’s not easy to achieve success. In fact, most small businesses fail within the first 10 years of operation, while many others never bloom as hoped by their founders for the reasons listed below. That’s because marketing your small business is often an afterthought. Instead, would-be founders should take a page from agile development and start marketing your product before (or as soon as) they start coding. Yet, according to the cited author, most founders avoid doing any marketing because they’re afraid someone will steal their idea or they’re just too busy coding (or building) to think about marketing. As the CMO for a tech startup who dealt with a bunch of other startups and potential founders, I can add another excuse to this short list — they don’t know anything about marketing. So, today, let’s discuss how to market your small business.

marketing your small business

Market your small business

Before we can discuss how to market your small business, let’s first understand what marketing is. This will also give you a clearer idea of why you must start marketing well before you launch your product.

According to the American Marketing Association, marketing is:

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. (Approved 2017)

Marketing is not, or at least is only partially, about advertising (the communicating) part of this definition. And, while you can wait for the advertising part of marketing until closer to launch, you MUST start marketing TODAY! Let me use the process I employed as a lesson in marketing your small business. You can easily adapt this process to fit your own needs and have a greater chance your new venture will succeed.

Steps to market your small business

Idea validation and development

Whether you’re small business plans to launch a new product (products include both tangible goods and services) or simply open a new service business, you must validate your idea and then develop it based on feedback from your target market.

  • Is there a market for your idea, ie. a group of consumers with the need, money, authority, and desire to buy what you have to offer? Is this market large enough to support your business?
  • Is there a need for your business idea? Is the idea valuable enough to your target market to warrant further development? I can’t tell you how many times I heard potential founders propose a slight variation on Grubhub or other delivery service. None had legs (the potential to capture a sufficient market).
  • Who are the major competitors in the market? What are your unique selling propositions (USP) that can attract consumers away from these competitors in sufficient numbers to make a viable business? Does your target market care about this USP? Price competition is the WORST way to compete with another business as it favors the business with the largest bank account. Unless you can significantly lower costs to offer a better price, don’t rely on price as a unique selling proposition. For instance, Airbnb operates without the high costs of hotels to offer a better value to its customers.

Once you have validated your idea, you can start developing the idea with feedback from your target market and/or experts. In our case, we were building a SaaS product. We mocked up the interface to show prospective users what a typical journey might look like. I took the mockup to prospective customers to ensure the journey was intuitive and provided something valuable. We iterated this after each test by including the feedback with our own insights then produced another mockup. We went through this several times before hitting on something that suited our target market. Then, we turned it over to the development team to begin coding. Even during the coding process, we worked with prospective customers, showing them pieces of the finished product until we had an MVP (minimum viable product) that passed muster.

minimum viable product
Image courtesy of Upsilon

Sure, you likely don’t need to go through an extensive iteration if your product is something simple like a new neighborhood grocery store, but you still need research to identify your target market and what will make them shop at your store as well as a competitive analysis to understand your USP over them.

Develop personas

Of course, all this assumes you were able to develop personas for each group within your target market. I can’t tell you how many times I heard would-be founders tell me everyone when asked who was in their target market, was now represented by richer personas. Of course, you’ll sell to anyone, but a persona represents the characteristics of the consumers MOST LIKELY to value what you offer and pay for it.

Don’t guess. Research.

Understand not only who is in your target market (i.e., age, gender, income) and where they are (i.e., city, country) but also what’s important to them and how you can reach them. Armed with this understanding, you can plan effective ways to market your small business to them.

Plan your strategy

The next step in marketing your small business is to develop a strategic plan. First, you should plan for your business launch, but every year, you must develop a plan that thoroughly considers your actions for the following year. Commonly, businesses create a five-year strategic plan, with each year fleshed out in generalities and the upcoming year containing not only the strategies in great detail but action plans to accomplish these plans.

If you’ve never developed a strategic plan before and don’t know where to start, you’ll find I cover this, especially the marketing plan, in great detail on other website pages. You can start here.

Advertising and promotion

As a new business owner, one of the biggest challenges is to convince customers to choose your products. By providing value with your USP, you’ve already accomplished part of this task. The rest is helping your brand stand out from the crowd. There are lots of ways to do this involving using various communication channels and market tools like incentives. Maximize customer value, for example, by offering branded freebies with a purchase (which have the added benefit of sharing your message with your customers’ friends or free delivery.

Tailor your strategy to suit each persona and marketing channel. If you’re at a show or an event trying to make sales, for example, handing out samples and using promotional products to attract a crowd is a brilliant idea. If you’re marketing your products on social media, consider running a giveaway. Ask people to like and follow your brand, share posts and stories, and tag friends and family members in exchange for entry into the competition.

Research new trends

Having a successful small business doesn’t allow you to rest on your laurels. You need to constantly seek out new opportunities and threats. Being adaptable is essential, as consumer behaviors and trends change continuously. Research new trends by collecting and analyzing data from your own platforms, industry reports, and monitor economic trends. Ask customers to provide feedback and share ideas. Keep a close eye on what people are buying and look for patterns in your data, for example, more leads from social media or increases in cart abandonment. Use analytics to detect trends and customer reviews to identify weaknesses and make improvements. React to emerging trends and try to stay ahead of your competitors.

Encourage customers to leave reviews

The best source of new customers is your existing customer base. More than 90% of shoppers read reviews and use them in making purchase decisions. Encouraging customers to leave feedback is one of the simplest ways to attract new customers quickly and affordably. Add links to confirmation emails for online orders or leave feedback cards in salons, restaurants, bars, and shops. Use reviews to get ideas to improve your score and address issues that are affecting your ratings, such as long waits or high delivery costs.

reviews
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Conclusion

If you’re launching a new business, it’s essential to have an effective, targeted marketing strategy. Research the market and tailor your campaigns to your target buyer. Get to know your ideal customers, offer incentives to promote your products and services and shout about your USP. Use feedback and reviews to improve your business and attract new customers.

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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.