Effective Small Business Marketing For Beginners

Effective small business marketing is the lifeblood of any small business. An unsettling high percentage of small businesses fold within the first year of operation with most of the first year survivors closing shop by the end of the third year.

One of the major reasons that small businesses fail is a cash flow crisis. Effective small business marketing is one of the few business tools available to a small business owner that GENERATES cash.

Effective small business marketing starts with being able to write a simple and practical marketing plan, specifically for your business. This marketing plan then forms the basis of all your marketing efforts and acts as a reference point when you have to decide between two or more courses of action.

The result of following a well constructed marketing plan is that all your different marketing efforts form part of a co-ordinated strategy aimed at attaining your predetermined goal. That is in stark contrast to the marketing efforts of most small businesses and immediately puts you ahead of the pack.

Effective small business marketing naturally comes with some challenges – and advantages. Challenges might include a lack of marketing savvy, a limited marketing budget, time constraints especially if you are a one person business and so on. Anyone who has run a small business should recognise the danger of spending too much time working in the business rather than on the business.

There are many advantages however in marketing a small business as opposed to a corporate giant. These include a lack of a hierarchy of decision makers, no red tape to fight through to get anything done, direct contact with your target market and many more.

Effective small business marketing should and can be the cornerstone of every small business. Your simple yet effective marketing plan is the map that will guide you out of the woods towards a profitable business, irrespective of the market segment you operate in.

Starting a Small Business: Dreaming

There are many phases to starting your own small business. Lots of steps to go through to get from that initial idea to a fully functioning business. My husband and I are just beginning this journey, and as we do so, I want to walk you through the steps we are taking based on the advice and insight we’ve received from successful entrepreneurs and my years of business marketing experience.

Phase one is at once simple. Almost like taking a breath it can come unexpectedly and give you everything you need to dive into the depths of a new adventure. It is simultaneously complex. Just like breathing, if you stop to think about it too much, you may just freeze up and forget how to get started.

Jon Acuff talks about a rule he and his wife have. He is allowed to talk through his dreams and she just listens. No questions of how or the cost from her planning brain, and no spontaneous purchases from him during this “Wow” time. When I first heard this concept, I knew it was perfect. For every dreamer out there, they probably have a close relationship with a planner. Spouse, friend, business partner, whoever that person is for you, this safe atmosphere to dream is a must.

As you start dreaming about your small business idea, find someone you can safely dream with, maybe several people even. Jot down your ideas or have your phone take a voice memo. Just keep thinking of things you enjoy, things you are passionate about, things you think will make a difference or that need changed.

Truth be told, you may not even realize you have a small business idea during the dreaming phase. You may just be dissatisfied with your job or you may have a frustration that you see a solution to that no one has thought of. While the first phase of starting a small business is dreaming, often this phase will be over before you realize you do want to start a small business.

But even if you have already begun your business or if you a veteran business owner, you should always be dreaming. It is in the creativity of imagination that we continue to grow and find new avenues for enjoyment and even profit.

The dreaming phase may be the beginning, but it should also flow throughout the life of your small business. In our family, my husband is the dreamer. He has tossed out a lot of ideas brainstorming about his goals. He has finally settled on one that is a great starting point, meets a real need, and has a low starting overhead. This dream is one that we can both latch onto, and in the coming months, I will share our journey in launching our very own small business.

Small Business Marketing Strategies for Tackling Big Competitors

One of the great challenges facing small business owners is that they must often battle for customers against larger competitors, who can afford to run more advertising, offer lower prices, and who are better established in the marketplace.

And yet some small business owners do it very successfully. How?

There are some proven marketing strategies to use when competing against larger, more established competitors. These strategies have been used successfully by companies of all sizes to drive sales and carve out a sustainable position in the market. They apply to online commerce and traditional small businesses.

Here are details on two such strategies that you can use as a small business owner to help grow your business when competing with larger competitors:

Take the “Alternative” Position

If you are up against the market leader in your business, shift your market position so you don’t compete directly with them on their turf. Become the “alternative” to the market leader – that is, promote and advertise an aspect of your product/service that the leader simply can’t offer. This is a classic marketing strategy that has been used successfully by small companies and major corporations, because it allows you to compete with the leader in a part of the market where they may not be very strong.

Pepsi couldn’t beat Coke at the cola wars, because Coke was viewed as the original cola drink that had no substitutes. That was fine with Pepsi. It let Coke have that territory, and instead marketed itself as the “Choice of a New Generation”. Its marketing appeal and target audience was young and cool – everything that Coke couldn’t be with their more traditional positioning. Pepsi successfully carved out the number 2 position in the market by becoming the primary alternative to Coke, and made billions in the process.

The rule applies to everything from .com companies to local furniture stores. Survey the competitive landscape in your market and determine how you can position your business as the best alternative to the established market leader. Second place in a given market can be a very nice place to be from a profitability standpoint.

Sell what they don’t have – You!

Many small business owners have found success by building their personal reputations as experts in their field, with significant benefits to their small business. They have become the “public face” for their company.

Some large companies have a “public face”, a person who represents the company in the minds of customers (Richard Branson for Virgin is one). But most don’t. As a small business owner, you can effectively represent yourself as an expert in your area of expertise, and drive awareness for your small business in the process.

One of the most effective ways to build your reputation is through the credibility that comes from publicity and media relations activities.

Here are some guiding principles to working with the media as a small business owner:

View it as a relationship – reporters need story ideas and expert sources – you can offer both when it comes to your area of expertise to create a win-win situation

Pitch story ideas about what’s new and what’s changing – the media likes to break news about emerging trends, either in your industry or related to your experience as a small business owner

Strive for repeat business – once a reporter has identified you as a good source of information on a topic, they will keep coming back to you – so ensure that early in your relationship you are available to them and willing to offer help in getting information for them to pull a story together

Having a single person leading the charge to build media relationships and run the company makes it easier to transfer the goodwill that you achieve in the media over to your business activities. This doesn’t work nearly as well for larger companies, so leverage this competitive advantage and take a personal approach to building your business through publicity.

You Can Compete!

Small business marketing is all about leveraging the built-in advantages of being a small enterprise in the battle against larger competition for customers and sales. Establishing your business as an alternative to the market leader in your business, and building personal credibility that can be transferred to your small business are just two strategies that you can implement to help your small business succeed against bigger competitors.