Small Business Marketing 101
For many small companies, business development responsibilities rest on the owners or the first few employees. Usually, the establishment of a formal marketing or sales team comes later—for some, much later.
I’ve found that businesses who are new to marketing either oversimplify or overcomplicate it—both can hurt you in the end. Whether you are looking to hire a professional to fulfill your marketing needs, or you are trying to put on another hat, there are a few fundamental questions we should cover.
What is Marketing?
You’d be surprised how many different answers I’ve gotten to this question from individuals in a variety of industries. It’s important to define what marketing is. If you Google the term “marketing”, you’ll get a slew of different answers.
My answer isn’t all that fancy, but I always say that marketing creates value for, adds value to, and communicates the value of a product or service that results in an increase in revenue. The role of marketing is to generate leads; sales then turns these leads into customers.
I make answering this question sounds very black and white, but it often isn’t. Marketing activities are constantly evolving and being reengineered. As quickly as technology, customer interests, and buying behavior changes, marketing must also.
Why do Marketing?
There are many businesses that have experienced growth primarily through “word of mouth.” These companies often say this is why they do not need to do marketing (though “word of mouth” is a form of marketing). And sometimes, I’d say, they are right.
Marketing is all about strategy and goal-setting. If you are a business owner wondering if you need to do marketing, I just ask that you define what your goal is for your company. While “word of mouth” is a great way to grow your customer base at the onset, eventually this will not continue healthy growth year over year. For example, if you’re a full-time freelance designer who is the sole employee of your company, you might not want to put a lot of resources into marketing because, eventually, you’ll run out of hours in the day. Now, this isn’t to say that all freelancers shouldn’t market, it’s just to say that your need for marketing depends on the kind of growth you hope to achieve.
Many marketing professionals liken the customer life-cycle to a funnel. The top of the funnel holds your largest set of possible customers; the bottom of the funnel holds your actual customers. The more likely an individual is to become a customer, the further down the funnel they get. A simple explanation of why marketing is important is that it widens the top of the funnel or, at least, makes it more full. If you want more customers at the bottom of the funnel, you must attract more leads into the top of the funnel.
How Do I Know My Marketing is Working?
The most important part of marketing is measurement. You must measure everything in marketing. The “Catch 22” is, though, it can be very difficult to do this. The rise of digital marketing has also opened incredible measurement capabilities. There are hundreds of resources available to assist you with your business development efforts.
To start, I’d recommend getting a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System and a Marketing Automation System. The Capitalist Alliance’s preferred solution for both of these tools is Lead Liaison, a very robust marketing platform that specializes in visitor website tracking, marketing automation, and website personalization. Having such a tool will help you scale much of your business development efforts and track your activities. These are the essentials, but there are plenty of other platforms that are available depending on what kinds of marketing and sales efforts you’ll be targeting.
How Do I Start Marketing?
I recommend starting at the end. Ask yourself the big picture questions like:
What do we want marketing to help us achieve for our business?
What is the ideal outcome of our efforts?
Then, you should get down to more specific questions like:
What will our marketing budget be for the year?
How will we fund these efforts?
What kind of ROI are we hoping for?
What kind of revenue growth are we aiming for?
What will the effort be to implement, and can existing resources handle it?
It’s important to know where you want to get to before launching your first marketing effort. However, you have to start somewhere.
What I have found is when you consistently market, new leads come in, often from unexpected and unrelated places. And when you stop marketing those unexpected leads stop also. So whatever you do, it’s important to at least get some marketing efforts started. Don’t spend all your budget in a single place – try a few different avenues like direct marketing (email and mail), social media, content marketing, etc.
Want to get started on marketing but don’t know where to start? Have you struggled with keeping marketing efforts consistently going with existing resources? Contact us to learn about how The Capital Alliance can partner with you to achieve your marketing goals.