• Small business marketing refers to connecting with audiences to attract and retain customers through channels such as social media, email marketing and blogs.
  • A strong marketing strategy can help your small businesses improve its leads and customer base, even when competing against bigger companies.
  • Effective marketing starts small, focusing on the brand’s target audience with few but impactful objectives.

Marketing a strong online and local presence is essential for small business success. About 47 percent of small business owners manage their own marketing strategy in addition to numerous other responsibilities involved with running a business, which means it’s important to stay on top of trends and get the best ROI for their marketing efforts.1

If you’re a small business owner new to marketing, this article provides you with tips and strategies to get started.

What Is Small Business Marketing?

Small business marketing refers to communicating with your brand’s audience to attract and retain customers. Common marketing tools include social media, email marketing, websites, blogs, and paid advertising. Effective marketing strategies can improve sales and business growth and provide benefits such as:

  • Target Ideal Customers: Narrow your audience to those more likely to engage with your brand’s products or service.
  • Compete with Bigger Brands: Digital marketing is cost-accessible and allows brands to advertise outside their local community.
  • Boost Search Engine Rankings: Utilizing SEO makes it easier for your customers to find you.
  • Dynamic Strategizing: Digital marketing generates real-time results so you can adjust and optimize your marketing strategy.

Start Small and Simple

Your business’s marketing can go in many directions, and it’s easy to make the mistake of overcomplicating your strategy. When you’re just starting out with marketing, less is usually more.

First identify your business’s growth and marketing goals, then narrow those goals into singular and impactful objectives. Focus your strategy on those objectives and set performance goals and KPIs to measure their effectiveness.

Your initial marketing strategy should be fast to implement and see returns on. Starting small may not result in huge business growth right away, but it can give your business momentum and small growth to reinvest into your marketing strategy. As you access more resources over time, you can expand and adapt your strategy.

Understand Your Audience

Larger businesses may be able to appeal to wider audiences, but small businesses can leverage marketing strategy to target and attract niche audiences.

Understanding who that niche audience is as well as their buying problems, needs and triggers can help you create a buyer persona. A buyer persona is a representation of your business’s ideal customers which you can use to tailor your marketing and focus on qualified prospects. This results in valuable leads, visitors and customers whose needs match the products and services offered by your business.

For example, a sustainable and equitable cosmetics brand may identify Conscious Cassie, a fashion-forward and socially conscious Gen Z audience. Targeting Conscious Cassie, a small business can focus their efforts on TikTok and Instagram with curated content.

Invest in Customer Relationships

Attracting new customers is important for business growth but increasing retention rates by only five percent can increase profits by up to 95 percent.2 Focusing on marketing to and retaining existing customers can increase customers’ lifetime value and overall business revenue. Loyal customers not only make purchases from your business routine and spend more later in the relationship, but also refer other customers and generate inbound leads.

To retain customers, identify opportunities for repeat purchasing and upselling. Whether it’s an educational blog or an email informing them of upcoming products or events, create value beyond products and services by supporting positive experiences through marketing.

Free Marketing Tools

Although some paid marketing tools are useful, free marketing tools can help you get the most for your time and dollar when you’re just starting your marketing journey. These tools can help improve operations or performance for marketing avenues including social media, SEO, content creation and more.

Some free tools include:

  • Buffer: Schedule social media posts on multiple business profiles.3
  • Canva: Use built-in templates to create images of social media, blogs, websites and more.4
  • Hotjar: Provides user research data such as click maps, visitor recording and heat maps.5
  • Charlie: A free CRM tool to help you manage current and future customers.6
  • WordPress: Create free web pages and blogs with built-in templates.7

Social Media

As of January 2022, social media platforms host 3.96 billion users, and adults spend an average of 95 minutes per day across all platforms.8 Marketing your business on social media is not only free, but can offer advantages such as improved audience engagement, search engine rankings and domain authority.

Keep your target audience in mind when choosing which social media platform to focus on. For example, 31.1 percent of Instagram’s user base is young millennials aged 25 to 34, while 25 percent of TikTok’s users are between ages 10 and 19. In contrast, 38 percent of Pinterest users are between ages 50 and 64.9

Email Marketing

Although social media platforms continue to grow exponentially, many customers still prefer to receive emailed brand communications. Email marketing is a free and easy way to nurture leads and communicate with new and existing customers across all stages of the buyer’s journey. Connect to customers with emails such as:

  • Welcome emails;
  • Newsletters;
  • Promotions;
  • Transactional emails, and;
  • Re-engagement emails.

You can email to manually created lists or set up an automated email marketing tool to streamline this task. For example, Mailchimp is a free tool that allows you to create email lists, schedule emails and analyze your email marketing results.10

Get a Website

A professional website shows customers who your business is, what it offers and how a customer can access it. Having a website increases your business’s credibility and gives it a reputable first impression next to competitors. A website also helps you stand out from competition by showcasing your business’s brand voice and values.

Your website also has the potential to convert traffic into leads, creating inbound customers and improving your ROI. A complementary SEO strategy can also increase organic traffic to your website, improving lead generation and growing your customer base.

Optimize Blog Posts

Blog content that answers questions and provides relevant information to your target audiences helps establish your business’s authority and credibility. You can see which topics your audience engages more with and learn about how to help them along the sales funnel.

Writing and publishing blogs with relevant keywords and search phrases can help your site rank higher on search engines. As you publish more blogs and earn more organic traffic, search engines crawl your site, analyze and index its content and update its ranking accordingly. In fact, blogging can result in a 434 percent increase in indexed pages.11

A higher ranking generally results in more website traffic, which in turn results in more leads and up to 13 times more ROI than companies without a blogging strategy.12

Customer Reviews

Customer reviews can serve as more than feedback about your business and can be repurposed as an impactful marketing tool. Positive customer reviews can strengthen brand loyalty, assist your SEO strategy, and convert more leads.

Many customers won’t make a purchase without reading positive reviews on sites such as Google, Yelp, and Amazon. Rather than waiting for potential customers to find these reviews, you can incorporate your positive reviews throughout your marketing. That means featuring reviews on your website’s landing page and social media and in marketing emails and blogs.

Paid Ads

In addition to long-term strategies for organic leads, paid ads can help you expand your brand reach and awareness to larger targeted audiences. Many businesses compete for rankings for relevant keywords and phrases, but paid ads can give you a boost over large companies with longstanding digital presences.

Pay-per-click ads, where you pay a fee each time someone clicks on your ad, are among the most common paid ads. These appear on search engines, social media, websites, and other platforms.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn have paid ads and campaign analysis built in. You can target users based on location, demographic, and profile information according to your set budget.

Word of Mouth Marketing

Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is a valuable form of marketing that establishes your business’s credibility and reputation through organic conversations. With 90 percent of people more likely to trust a recommended brand and WOMM roughly five times as effective as paid ads, these conversations can have a significant impact on your business.13

Modern WOMM targets dialogue opportunities as well as natural conversations, and these conversations can take place online. For example, Coca-Cola ran a campaign in 2014 that encouraged customers to find bottles with their names on it and share it online using the hashtag #ShareaCoke, effectively creating a designated space for conversations about the brand.