Effective Marketing for Small Business Owners

For many small business owners, marketing is the biggest obstacle to growing their business. The business owner may be an expert in the service or product sold by the business, but marketing that service or product is not within their expertise. Further, there are so many different ways to market one’s business that it can be confusing and overwhelming to figure out which ones to do. Yet, without good marketing, a business can’t succeed, as not many people will know of the availability of the service or product being sold.

In the October SkillBites Show, I interviewed Cece Smith, President and Owner of Toolbox Studios, an award-winning marketing and design firm. Cece shared several valuable tips for small business owners on the right tools to market their business.

The first step is to decide on a marketing strategy. What are you seeking to achieve? To determine this, think about the following questions:
● What is your most profitable service / product you offer?
● What part of your business do you want to grow?
● What need does your product / service satisfy?
● What attribute (s) does your target audience have that makes them a desirable client?

This last question is particularly critical. You should identify the demographics of your target audience, such as their size, industry, and location. Once you determine that, you need to determine how that audience prefers to get information. Do they read trade journals? Listen to podcasts? Watch videos? That will help inform you of the best ways to market to them.

Initially, you will make your best guess, choosing 4 or 5 marketing tools, and then you can test which ones get the best response. You’ll probably also want to test a few messages with each tool, to make sure the level of response is valid for the tool, and not for the message.

The key is to think of marketing as a long-term, on-going effort that requires consistency. If you don’t have much budget, then do a few low cost promotions, such as posting on social media and going to networking events. As you grow, you can add more tools to your marketing arsenal.

Every time you meet someone, try to capture their information. How did you meet? What are their needs? Is there someone you know who could help them? Could they be a channel partner for you? A channel partner is someone who serves the same audience you do but in a different way. For instance, an IT firm might serve the same customers as a marketing firm, and thus each could recommend the other to clients who need those services. Seeking channel partners is easier than seeking customers, and yet can open up great possibilities.

Cece distinguishes between foundational marketing tools and on-going tools. One foundational tool, for example, is a website. Virtually everybody checks out a company’s website before doing business with the company. If the website isn’t polished, up to date, easy to navigate, well maintained and mobile-friendly, the prospect probably won’t do business with that company. Other foundational tools include branding, content marketing and marketing materials such as business cards. On-going tools would include social media, blog, SEO and direct marketing.

One of the questions Cece frequently gets is how much should a small business spend on marketing. She suggests considering the value of a new client. If a new client typically results in a profit of, say, $2500, then spending $5000 per month on marketing is a good amount if the marketing will lead to at least 2 new clients per month.

The tools that are most effective today, providing the biggest bang for the buck, in Cece’s experience, are:
● Social media, in particular Instagram, Facebook (for younger clientele and B2C) and LinkedIn (for B2B);
● Geofencing, which is targeting people by demographics such as age, sex or location and sending an ad to them; and
● Direct mail, which is read by millennials in particular, and which gets a higher response rate than other marketing tools IF the database is good. Cece has seen response rates as high as 68% on direct mail pieces.

The primary take-aways that Cece identified for effective marketing are:
1. Understand who your customer and the actual consumer or end user are;
2. Understand what they need; and
3. Determine how best to craft your 30-second message using their language.

Cece offered to talk to anyone who has questions or wants more information. She can be reached by email at cs@toolboxstudios.com or on her cell phone at 210-871-9542. Her website, toolboxstudios.com also has resources that can be downloaded.

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