Marketing for Your Small Business: A Class in 1,000 Words

Marketing’s job is to generate qualified leads for your business. Halfway decent marketing doesn’t cost, it pays (consider it an investment, not an expense). Good/great marketing is what drives a business to heights considered unattainable by the less well schooled the art (and science) of marketing. This blog is meant to provide a bit of “schooling” around Great Marketing. 

What’s a lead – someone who responds to your marketing with an interest in your service. In the case of a small business, a qualified lead would be someone who has a need for your service and the means to pay for it. 

So, what’s broke about your marketing? What needs to be repaired by the business? Not sure about you specifically, but in general: 

  1. You spend too much (forget the old adage, spend 5% of your top line on marketing). 
  2. Your website doesn’t do its job. 
  3. You lack a marketing plan.   
  4. You don’t test and measure. 
  5. You lack follow-up with existing customers. 
  6. You don’t pay enough attention to your online reviews. 
  7. You put too much emphasis on ineffective marketing channels. 

Let’s address each in turn, feel free to skip around… 

  • How much should you spend on marketing? 

If you’re doing it right, it doesn’t matter how much you spend. If your marketing is truly an investment and not an expense, the more you spend the more money you’ll make. Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to prioritize the spend. Following are my views of what it takes to effectively market your Small Business. The spend may be minimal, <1% or substantial, >20%. The answer is, it just depends, but a one size fits all number such as 5% of revenue is not the right way to set your marketing spending levels. Read on… 

  • Website? 

Your website needs to be great (go ahead, do some market research, find a few that you like and have your web designer build a template with the features you’ve selected). I’ve had good luck with ( If your website is over 3 years old, it’s time for a facelift or perhaps a full re-write. 

  • Marketing plan? 
    • Target – who are you marketing to 
    • Offer – what are you “selling”, at what price? 
    • USP, what is your unique selling proposition?  
  • What sets you apart from your competition 
    • Channel – how are you delivering your message? 
    • Social media, SEO, Pay Per Click, radio, TV, print, YouTube, SMS text messaging, etc. 
    • Copy – What is the layout of your marketing message? 

Keep in mind that here in the USA the average person is exposed to over 2,000 marketing messages a week (double that if the person goes shopping at any big box store). What are you doing to cut through the clutter? 

  • Website – per item 2 above, must be part of the plan 
  • Quantify your plan, how much will you spend at each step of the plan, how many leads you expect to generate and what is your cost per lead?  
  • Testing and Measuring?  
    • A wise person once told me, “Bill, 50% of marking doesn’t work, the problem is, you don’t ever know what 50% that will be!” 
    • That is, until you test and measure 

The old school way of measuring where your leads came from was to ask your customers how they heard about you. Keep doing this. 

New schoolers have automated reports that tell who’s looking, who’s clicking, who’s scheduling. The channel you are using should be able to give you a pretty good idea of how your marketing is working. You can do the math. 

  • Follow-up? 

Sometimes your best marketing is to your existing customers. You can’t follow-up if you don’t know who they are. Build your database of existing customers. Get their consent to send them SMS (text) messages.  

Build an automated process that works for you. For example, 6 months after the oil change a customized “time for your next oil change” message goes out, using dynamic tokens to let the customer know this message is tailored specifically to them. 

This is a great opportunity to test and measure things like specials, discounts, something “free,” etc. 

  • Online reputation? 
  • It’s not everything, but it’s the tool your new prospects will be using to decide if they want to do business with you. (Note, a prospect is anyone in your target market). 
  • Negative reviews always have to be addressed, in writing. 

If you are getting too many of these, do some soul searching. The odds are good you need to change something in your business to be more attuned to your customer’s needs. 

I personally don’t subscribe to the notion of working with companies who have figure out how to “wash” the negative reviews away. You can’t please everyone, that is understood by most; a few negative reviews aptly responded to are acceptable. 

  • How do you get lots of good reviews? Ask for them and make it easy for people to leave them for you. 
  • Which channel? 

Worthy of repeat, a useful ratio is the cost per lead generated. If you know where your marketing dollars are maximizing the leads generated; you will know where to put your money for future campaigns. 

I’m a bit biased here but one marketing channel that has surpassed all others for the last 15 years is the humble but not forgotten SMS text message. I see statistics like 98% of all texts are read within 10 minutes of receipt. Texts are ridiculously inexpensive to send (pennies per message), very easy to read the results and simple to adjust the message. The trick to this channel is to establish you data base of people who have agreed to let you message them. (Keywords are effective, again, asking for sign-ups is critical.) 

Well, that’s it. Marketing 101 for your small business in 1,000 words. 

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