How to market your small business

small business marketingAs a small business owner myself, I know small business marketing can be difficult. I’m lucky in that my business is marketing small businesses.

I believe small businesses often have enough to do without having to learn the art of small business marketing as well.

So to make small business life easier, I’m putting my blogs where my mouth is. I am putting together a series of small business marketing blogs with some general tips and ideas to help you get started.

Here is the first in that series is some broad strokes on how to market your small business.

Do your market research

You don’t have to pay a market research company thousands to test a product in the market on your behalf. What you need to find out is where your customers come from.

If you already have customers, ask them how they found out about you. Look for the common link in the way your customers discovered you. Look at ways to leverage that discovery channel.

If you are just starting out, think about the pain point you solve. Draw up a list of places people go to gain a solution to that problem. Ask people where they would expect to see your kind of small business marketed.

Knowing where your customers come from and a little bit about them is important. Ask them questions like:

  • Where did you hear about us?
  • What kinds of media do you consume?
  • Where do you think I should advertise?
  • Do you use Google to find things?
  • What would you put into a search engine to find a business like mine?
  • Do you use social media? If so, which ones?

Customers love sharing their opinions. You’ll be surprised how much information you’ll receive if you ask them a few simple questions.

And no, you don’t have to put prizes and big bucks behind paying for their opinion either. In fact, forget the prizes because they’ll only attract someone who wants an iPad. Not someone who cares about your business.

It’s how you frame the ask that counts.

  • Make them feel like their opinion matters.
  • Add in a little bit of flattery (I’d love to find more customers like you- how would I go about that?). 
  • Keep digging to find the common threads your customers share.
  • Rinse and repeat.

Think about local marketing

The domain of small business is still the hyper local situation. Leverage your geographical location to the best effect. Being memorable to passers-by is going to be powerful for any small business.

When you are looking at tapping into the local area, think about small business marketing elements such as:

  • Making your physical shop or office prominent.Keep it looking inviting and clean.
  • Considering signage. Make your signage simple so customers walking and driving past immediately understand what you sell
  • Investing in website copywriting. Focus on maximising your potential for locally based Google searches
  • Using blog content. This supports your local SEO amibitons, but can also promote a community positive outlook through spotlights on other local businesses in the area for genuine back-links and good will
  • Being where the locals go. Will a leaflet in a mailbox work? Would postcards or a poster in a local cafe work? Can you make use of chalk art on the main street of your suburb? Do you have a local newspaper? Think about where you’d like to be seen locally and experiment
  • Tap into the local vibe.Can you have a stall at the local markets? Can you sponsor local events? Tape part in community happenings? Think about ways you can seem proactive and invested in your local community


Have an online presence

Let’s not kid around with this. We ask our friends on Facebook to recommend businesses to us. We use Google to find solutions to our problems on a daily basis. We read reviews on online portals.

And we’re suspicious of businesses that don’t have an online presence.

For effective online small business marketing, you need to look at:

  • Creating a website. As mentioned before, use SEO keywords to show up during searches. And make sure you message clearly explains what you do.
  • Having a presence on social media.No, you don’t have to be on a particular platform. Or every platform for that matter. Match your social media with your business type. And the type of customers you want to attract. For example, a cafe works well on Instagram because people love food photos. A marketing agency will have much more success on Twitter where communication is key. Think audience + business type = social media platform to choose.
  •         Using of online directories.Directories help with SEO and exposure. Choose the reputable ones customers trust. True Local, Yellow Pages, Hot Frog, Yelp and similar sites are a great place to start


Think about word of mouth marketing

Word of mouth referrals are the best source of small business marketing around. Make your customers and your competitors (yep, you read that correctly) do the talking for you.

Here are some of the ways you can invigorate word of mouth marketing:

  • Turn competitors into business allies. Sharing customers, offering other people your overrun in busy periods, teaming up together to offer bigger services to your customers- allthese things lead to more work, not less. Lose the competitive attitude. Extend your business network through being pro-community on a business level instead
  •        Let your happy customers do the talking. Encourage your customers to send your newsletters to their friends, run refer a friend programs and 241 sales, and look for opportunities where you can let your existing customers do the recommendations
  • Think about newsworthy stories. Think about the stories that makeyour business special. Pitch them to local news, radio and in the blogosphere
  • Building referral partnerships with other small businesses. Share customers with other businesses that attract the same customer base. If you’re a pet friendly cafe, make friends with the local vet. Or if you great at bridal hair, team up with a hen’s night entertainment company. Find a circuit of businesses servicing the same kind of customer.
  • Run affiliate programs via websites and online advertising. Pay a percentage to other business leaders who bring you sales. Reach out to people that have strong network appeal. Create incentives that encourage them to sell your business

 Marketing your small business your way

Design your small business marketing to create the kind of connection you want with your customers. Choose channels that reflect the kind of business you are.

Many small businesses get sucked into the “But everyone is on Facebook” mentality.  They say things like “Yellow Pages used to work for me” and that’s where the thinking ends.

Marketing is something we’re exposed to every day. It changes as technology and customer buying habits evolve. Facebook is changing to a paid model. People request not to have the Yellow Pages delivered any more.

To have marketing work for you, you have to work on your marketing.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is it that makes my business special?
  • What do customers say about my business? How do they describe it?
  • What do I do differently and how can I turn that into a marketing campaign?

Your small business marketing needs to reflect you, the need you satiate and the value you add to a customer’s life. Once you nail that, deciding where and how to market becomes a whole lot simpler.

I’ll be popping up specific small business marketing tips blogs in the weeks to come. They will be a mix of general tips like this one and specialised tips for particular kinds of businesses.  So for example, small bars, plumbers and holiday letting.

So if you want me to tackle your industry, feel free to comment below.


2 Comments. Leave new

  • Nice post Rebekah.
    I’m sad we didn’t rate a mention, oh well one day maybe, lol
    Keep up the good work.

    • Hi David,

      I think people won’t understand the context of your comment as they don’t know you run a directory in Wollongong.

      You’re fine to list it in the comments. But bear in mind, this was a general article about how to market your small business. If I listed local city directories, it’d be for an Illawarra specific blog so as not to confuse my other readers.

      Thanks for your input. And thanks for reading!


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