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The "Ultimate" Small Business Marketing Guide

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The "Ultimate" Small Business Marketing Guide

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: October 5, 2010 Updated: May 23, 2014

Let's start by clarifying that there is no such thing as an-ultimate guide to marketing. In truth, marketing is an ever evolving, and essentially limitless, business function.

Take for example the incredible growth of new media marketing tools and tactics in recent years. If I'd written this guide two years ago, it's doubtful Twitter would have got a mention.

Likewise, what works for one business might not work for another.

Despite this, there are some universal marketing principles and surprisingly creative approaches that can help any small business owner find and grow new markets, while nurturing their existing customer base.

Here are some tips, tactics and approaches that you might want to consider as you build out your small business marketing toolkit.

Know Your Market and Monitor Your Competition

Market research should be a core and ongoing part of your business management. This Small Business Market Research Guide can help you understand how to conduct market research using freely available data.

Understanding your market also means getting to know who is competing for that market and using this information strategically. Read: 5 Tips for Getting to Know Your Competition and using it to Your Advantage.

Craft Your Marketing Message

Wha's your business marketing message? What do you tell your customers about your company, what it does, and why they should do business with you? The fact is that many small businesses are confused about what their marketing message is and how they should communicate it to the outside world. Here are seven steps you can take to develop a marketing message that grabs the attention of your customers, speaks to them, and promotes action: Stand Out from the Crowd' 7 Tips for Creating a Marketing Message that Sticks.

Marketing Planning and Budgeting

Many businesses often default to allocating a fixed percentage of their revenue as their annual or quarterly marketing spend. However, your marketing budget can work for you more effectively if you have a clear picture of not what you have to spend, but what you should spend it on. And this means having a plan. To help you build a plan and develop a budget that can support and adjust to the results that your plan generates, read: Developing a Marketing Budget for your Small Business' Going Beyond the Spreadsheet.

Use Budget Conscious Marketing Tools & Tactics

Marketing tactics are what you use to execute your marketing plan. Whatever your goals are – whether it's taking a product to market or just trying to drum up new business from existing customers – there are a variety of budget-conscious marketing tactics that can work for your business. The following article provides a snap shot of budget-conscious tactics that have worked for other small business owner: 3 Proven Tips for Growing New Markets on a Tight Budget (Listen, Engage, Educate).

Also remember that while you may be working to a budget, so too are your customers, so consider these '7 Marketing Tactics that Work in a RecessionSmallBizTrends*.

Explore and Optimize Your Online Marketing

If you operate an online business, your big focus area is generating traffic to your site, this can be done through both online and offline channels. Read 'Starting and Growing an Online Business: An Entrepreneur's Checklist for tips.

If you intend to introduce online marketing into your marketing mix – whether it's using email marketing to reach your customers, starting a blog, or taking steps to improve your search engine ranking – check out these guides:

Social Media Marketing

So much has been written about what social media marketing can and can't do for your business. Get beyond the hype with this Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing for the Small Business Owner. It features guidance on how to get started with social media with the right tools and planning; and also includes tips on how to build and engage with your growing community.

Event Marketing

Event marketing can work for all types of small businesses – from a service business to a product-oriented business and from a B-to-B company to a consumer focused company. Whether you own an accounting firm, a yoga studio, an auto repair shop, a bookstore or an office supply store, there's a way to make event marketing pay off for your business. Small business professional, Rieva Lesonsky, provides a closer look at both types of event marketing and how to make the most of them, read: Marketing Your Business with Events.

Public Relations

Is public relations (PR) an essential part of your small business marketing toolkit? It should be. Because done well, PR can help promote your business for the long term in a way that a paid advertisement never will. Here are some tips for promoting your business through public relations.

Socially Responsible Marketing

It's worth marketing the fact that your business is socially responsible – for example, if you sell organic produce, green goods or donate a percentage of your profits to support a cause and you rely on local customers. Your customers are more likely to support you if they know that you are giving back to the community. Rieva Lesonsky offers up some ideas finding a cause, promoting it and creating a community around it: Socially Responsible Marketing in Your Community.

Seasonal Marketing

Every business has a busy season, but you can make sure yours stays top of mind during the critical winter holiday and summer seasons with these tips:

Related Resources


* Note: Hyperlink directs reader to non-government Web site.

About the Author:

Caron Beesley


Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley


Brilliant! The best advice you said, and can't be stressed enough, is "Know Your Market and Monitor Your Competition". Can't stress the importance of this is. Wealth of advice in this article!
When I first read the title, I was thinking to my self how "marketing is an ever evolving, and essentially limitless business function", and for that reason, I love marketing and it's challenges. It takes a special kind of creative thinking. Like Superbowl commercials, I think lots of people are just as excited to watch the half-time TV commercials as they are to watching the game, I know I am =) I just like the creative thinking that goes along with marketing. And lets not forget about the online marketing. Having your business on Facebook, Twitter and etc, maybe offer giveaways or something for Facebook likes. I don't know, but you can do whatever you can imagine. As they say "build it and they will come". lol
I'll tell you what, when I started my first small business after college, I would have PAID to get this kind of information. As time goes on, you learn lots of stuff (the hard way), but now we have the internet and finding information like the post provided here makes life much easier... but also makes business a bit more competitive.
I would like to update my strategy in regards to "Explore and Optimize Your Online Marketing" - I did not realize how much you can learn by exploring online marketing. I analyze my competitors and after researching about 8 of them I learned a lot of great tactics. Then you take their method (that is working) and make it better! =)
thank you very much for this blog
I totally agree that marketing is an ever evolving. It is constantly changing, advancing, especially with so many cool new social websites. It takes a lot of work keeping up. But for me, it is fun trying to "think outside the box". Creativity is fun =)
One tip I would give; one that I live by... and that is brand building. It's not easy, but it's what I focus on. Socially Responsible Marketing and Publish Relations are two other I focus vigorously on. I appreciate the sources you point to for extra info.
Wow, I am finding social media sites such as Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook plus (and very importantly) video marketing very powerful. That said, great guide you drew up. Thanks!
"However, your marketing budget can work for you more effectively if you have a clear picture of not what you have to spend, but what you should spend it on." This rings so true! Of course, with any business there will be budgeting confines restricting marketing. I really believe that any small business will see the difference in their end results by implementing a business plan and marketing goals while remaining flexible but within your marketing budget. Thanks for sharing these great tips!
This is amazing and thorough guide, thank you for your efforts.


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