Small Business Marketing Startup Guide
From pie makers to barber shops, your guide to get customers heading to your door.
Small business marketing may be one of the hardest things to tackle while running your small business. Running your own business is hard enough without worrying about how to get more customers. Don’t have what I call the BBB? No, not talking about the Better Business Bureau, I’m talking about a Big Buncha’ Bucks. Then you have to be frugal and make your marketing dollars count.
For instance, if your name happens to be Patty, and have a talent for creating and baking pies, you may be looking at owning your own pie shop. Now you have to worry about paying rent, ordering raw goods, hiring labor to bake pies, and ringing up orders for the flow of daily customers. Not to mention cleaning the toilets, washing the windows and a host of other daily tasks. Who has time to think about marketing?
Here’s a simple checklist to get you going.
Get a Strategy
The first step in your small business marketing travels is to create a marketing strategy. If you’re working with a marketing agency, they will tell you the same. The essence of marketing is this: solving problems. Your most basic marketing strategy is to decide what product you offer, what your target audience is, and then have a solution to their problem(s). For instance, many people in big cities dislike using taxi cabs. They are expensive, you have to tell the driver in detail of your intended destination and paying by cash or credit card is just a hassle. The founder of Uber saw this problem and created a solution called ride-sharing. Now Uber is a mainstay and used regularly by millions of people worldwide.
You don’t have to necessarily create a 40-page top-to-bottom assessment of your market and the history of pies, I’m simply talking about a quick and dirty rundown of who and what your business is. Are you trying to offer a unique product? Or is your goal to be the low-price leader? (Think Walmart)
Any marketing consultant worth their salt will ensure you answer these questions:
- What problem does my target audience have, and what is my solution?
- Fundamentally, what is the product/service I offer? Actually, write this down. Sample: We make homemade pies for downtown Tacoma business owners.
- Why is my product/service different from others? This one is somewhat hard but think about your perfect customer and create products or services that are tailored specifically to them, and then throw in a kicker as to why you’re different. Might be, “Custom baked, homemade pies in 2 hours”. Try to arrive at this goal, to make your prospective customers say to themselves: “I would have to be an absolute fool to work with anyone else, at any price”. You accomplish that and you will be hugely successful.
- Who is my perfect customer? Actually, create a perfect customer profile… how old are they? How much do they earn? What do they drive? Where do they live? What are their needs?
Create an Elevator Pitch
What can you tell people about your business, products, and services in 30 seconds or less that keeps them interested and wanting more? Every small business marketing plan should have an elevator pitch. This helps you to fine-tune your messaging, as well as helps you during conversations at local business networking events. Sample: “Hi, I’m with Patty’s Pies! We create handcrafted, homemade style pies that are customized for your event. We’re located in downtown Tacoma.”
See! That was easy.
Get a Brand
With your small business marketing plan, it doesn’t mean you have to look like a mom and pop operation. Your brand is that iconic image you use to help your prospective customers remember who you are and the right branding will make you look credible and solid. Think of the swoosh. Who’s that? Nike shoes of course. Think of a big orange ball rising above your local gas station. Yep… Union 76. In many small business marketing endeavors, they will actually go the extra step of working with a branding consultant.
If nothing else, my suggestion is to spend a few bucks and hire a graphic designer to create that memorable logo and build some company colors into a brand. Then place that brand all throughout your physical store location. Create a branding experience like your local AT&T store, or Bath & Body Works. Stop into one of their stores and you’ll see what we mean by a branding experience.
Get a Website
The first thing anyone does when they research a business is Google them. No website? They probably can’t find you. If you bake pies, they will want to gather some pieces of information. Who are you? Where is your store located? What types of pies do you offer? Do you deliver? What’s the turnaround time on a special flavor of pie? How much do your pies cost? Your hours of operation? All of this is typically part of your website as well as social media channels.
Your small business marketing plan should include an effort to get you listed and ranked on Google. But, be sure to avoid the many vendors out there promising to get your website on the first page of Google. First off, there really is no such thing as the first page of Google. There is, however, a first page search engine results page (aka SERP) on Google for a specific search term.
This entire process is called Search Engine Optimization, also known as SEO. This art form is designed to structure your website in such a way to add search terms on your website so that when people search for a given product, your website shows up on the first page of Google, for that specific search term. That’s assuming Google finds it more relevant for that search than your competitors. SEO is consistent hard work and is normally left up to an SEO professional. All of this is why you need a website.
To get a website, you will need the following:
- Domain Name This is your own, custom URL for instance PattysPies.com. The beauty of owning your own domain is when people remember your name, they can easily find your website. Plus, you’ll get the added bonus of having your own custom email: email@example.com
- Website Hosting This is a service whereby online providers allow you to use their servers to upload your website to, and then everyone can find it. Typical providers like HostGator
- Someone to design your website This is the tricky part. A poorly designed website or one that looks amateur will reflect poorly on your business. Great web sites are designed by artists with a background in art. Not IT people! Find a good designer and then let them build you a great website that will not simply be an information source, but a tool you will use to grow your business. A great framework in which to have your website built on is WordPress. Makes your website easy to manage and administrate.
Use Social Media
The world has changed and small business marketing has changed as well. In the old days, your local town would hang out at the local coffee shop where you might see a large bulletin board with everyone’s business cards hanging. These days it’s called Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
There are thousands of local, prospective customers just hanging out on these forums waiting to hear about how awesome your pies are! Why not find one of your local residents who has a couple thousand followers, then invite them to come by your store to pick up a free pie? Then ask them to talk about it on Facebook. Word travels very fast on social media and before you know it you’ll have a steady stream of locals coming in to buy your pies.
I suggest the first item on your list is to set up a business page on Facebook. Make sure your graphic designer brands your profile section at the top. Then begin talking about interesting stuff that your prospects will want to hear about. Like solutions to their problems with baking their own pies. You could write articles on special pie recipes.
The next item on your list is to “claim” your business on Google, especially if you’re a physical, local business like a bakery or pie shop. Simply go to Google’s website below and follow the instructions:
If all else fails, connect with a digital marketing professional and they can handle this for you.
Advertise on Google Ads
While SEO can get your business listed on the first page of Google for a specific search term, it takes a bit of time to accomplish this. Sometimes it can take months or longer so if your small business marketing timeline can’t wait for weeks and months to generate new customers, you should look at what is known as SEM. Search Engine Marketing also is known as SEM is closer to an old fashioned advertising model. You simply pay when someone clicks on your advertisement. The beauty of this method is that you can get your business at the top of the first page for almost any search term within a day or two. Of course this depends on how competitive the search term is you are bidding on.
This is also known as Pay-Per-Click Advertising or just PPC. You can burn up a ton of money if you don’t know what you’re doing here, so make sure to speak with a PPC specialist. Most people don’t realize this, but this is how Google generates 95% of its revenue. Facebook also offers PPC type advertising which allows you to show your ads to very localized and specific demographics… so you might research them as well.
Create Local Awareness Through Networking
Especially if you’re a local business, local networking can pay off huge dividends. Think in terms of joining your local chamber of commerce as they are familiar with small business marketing and your needs. Most of them have weekly and monthly networking events. Imagine attending regular events with 60-100 local business owners. You get to hang out, meet new people, and hand out your business cards. In our pie example, imagine a business card that has printed on the back side:
“Give your loyal employees a delicious locally made, handcrafted pie”
I’m thinking you might get a few orders.
For local businesses, you want to create loyalty early on. Happy customers that love your product and the service-with-a-smile you deliver will come back and tell their friends and business associates about you. Your small business marketing should get a buzz going with brand ambassadors such as family and friends who help promote your products or services… so why not give them a discount coupon to hand out?
I’ve heard it said a million times… “Advertising is a waste of money!” Well, that’s partially true. Bad advertising, not targeted to your audience, with no compelling message is, in fact, a waste of time. Well thought out, very targeted advertising with a succinct, simple message pays off huge dividends.
If I were to ask you to give me one dollar and then I gave you three… how many times would you want to do that? I’m thinking about forever! It has been said that every dollar you spend in marketing and advertising (if done properly) you get three dollars back. That’s actually great ROI. (Return On Investment)
Having the best pies in the world mean absolutely nothing if no one knows you have them. Whether it’s online, radio, tv, or your local newspaper, you simply must advertise.
Ultimately you have to focus on consistent, day-in, and day-out branding, messaging, and promotions. As marketing consultants, we believe in the “rule of seven”. The rule of seven says your target audience needs to see and hear your message at least seven times before taking any action. When I worked in radio, we used to write ad copy for radio commercials. One of the rules we used to create an effective radio commercial was the rule of threes. Tell the listener what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you just told them. Ha, ha, seems redundant but it works.
We are perpetually connected to mobile devices, advertising, television, and the Internet. We are bombarded by constant advertising with everyone screaming to buy their product. In order to be heard, and get your product noticed, you have to make a lot of noise and do it every single day.
Small business marketing takes time and patience and before you know it, customers will start trickling in, then that trickle becomes a steady flow.
Next thing you know, you’ll be taking frequent vacations to Hawaii.