How to Effectively Scale Your Small Business Marketing

Small businesses don’t have unlimited time or marketing budgets. So, when they’re starting out, it makes sense to focus on a few key marketing channels rather than trying everything at once.

“For small business owners, I always advise to limit the amount of initiations that you have,” says small business marketing consultant Jacqui Genow. “See how they’re working, gauge their effectiveness.” But as your business grows or as you notice something isn’t working, you’ll likely want to branch out into new marketing strategies to attract new clients and grow your business. Regardless of what you decide to do, the effort you put into building relationships with your customers will always be time well spent.

Ben Lane, business manager at Judy Pound Cakes in Memphis, Tennessee, says, “If people believe in your product and you have a good product, it will market itself, but nobody cares about the product like you do, so the more you’re out there in the community and getting your hands dirty and marketing yourself that way, the better.”

Here’s how to scale your marketing the smart way and decide when it’s time to add on additional marketing initiatives.

Get the Basics in Order First

Before you invest time and money into, say, sponsored tweets or a postcard campaign, make sure that your overall messaging is clear, your phone lines are ready and your website is up-to-date and easy for customers to navigate to get more information and contact you. “Without those things, any resources that you devote to any marketing channel, whether it’s paid advertising or social media, can all be wasted.” Genow says.

If your website has broken links or your pre-recorded message doesn’t make it clear that callers are in the right place, those oversights can be an immediate turn-off to potential customers and lose you the sale. Take the time to upgrade your phone system or your website before you launch any new marketing campaigns.

Sometimes a small tweak to your internal process can make marketing run more smoothly and effectively. Genow points to past work she did with a law firm: “Existing clients and previous clients are the best referral source for any business, so they decided they wanted to keep in touch with clients.” she says.

They wanted her to create an email campaign, but she discovered that their database was missing email addresses for more than half their clients. Once they made sure that getting email addresses was more of a priority when a potential client first calls, they were able to stay in touch with contacts more effectively through email.

Maximize Your Existing Marketing Efforts

It’s not always necessary to implement a brand-new marketing campaign or strategy from scratch. To make the most of your business’ hard-earned time and money, maximize your existing marketing efforts first. If you’ve already implemented local newspaper advertising, brochures and promoted your business at an event for example, make sure you have given those efforts a fair shot before you try something new. Test varied newspaper ads for a few weeks to see if you get leads, or if there is more you can do at events to make a bigger splash, invest there.

If you attempt to do too much at once, you may risk spreading your marketing dollars too thinly. You should also not abandon the methods that have worked for you in the past to afford something different or newly popular. Make the most of your current marketing programs before you move on to the next.

Meet Your Customers in the Right Place

Just because the small business down the street had success with a shiny new brochure or an Instagram campaign, that doesn’t mean your business should try those same tactics. The most successful marketing strategies target the places (online or in real life) where your potential customers already are, not the marketing platform that’s trendy that month.

For instance, LinkedIn might be an appropriate platform for a small recruiting company to get new leads, but it probably doesn’t make sense for a business that caters to new parents. That business might find its customers at Mommy & Me classes or in local Facebook groups for young families. In that case, leaving brochures at Mommy & Me or posting targeted Facebook ads might be better avenues for marketing to that audience. Find out where your customers are by asking them directly or doing online research about the habits and interests of your target audience.

Building customer relationships through samplings is what allowed Judy Pound Cakes to expand their customer base outside of Memphis. They now ship their cakes all across the U.S. and sell them in local stores, including the Memphis Whole Foods Market. Due to the nature of their business, this company found in-person marketing tactics to be their most powerful asset: “I think the best way to market yourself is face-to-face so the customer is confident in the product that you have,” Lane says.

Often, small business owners do the actual marketing themselves, so Genow advises them to “…see if there are avenues that make sense for your target [audience] that build on what a business owner likes to do and is good at.” If you view social media as a chore, then you may not do an effective job or you might find that it gets pushed to the bottom of your to-do list. Rather than forcing yourself to post on Instagram or shoot funny videos, you could decide to focus on other marketing channels. If it’s important enough that your business be on a certain marketing channel, see if someone on your team, a family member or a friend who enjoys social media can help you promote your company. You might also decide to outsource that aspect of your business.

Outsource Strategically

If you have the money to outsource part of your marketing, that can make more sense than spending hours trying to figure out an online banner or drafting brochure copy yourself, especially if you don’t enjoy those tasks.

Look into online business outsourcing platforms like Freelancer, which works well for project-based work, or Fiverr, an ideal service for entrepreneurs. If you’re looking to outsource graphic design work, explore our services here.

Remember that a marketing consultant or agency can only do so much. If you have disorganized processes — say you or your staff don’t answer the phone in a professional manner or answer emails promptly — that can cause your marketing initiatives to fail. Get clear on your goals and processes before you hire someone to handle marketing so that you can maximize your return on investment.

The best way to scale your marketing is gradually and strategically so you can tweak it along the way and figure out what works. “Follow a plan and don’t allow yourself to become victim to shiny object syndrome,” Genow says. “Plans can change as new information comes in, but when you don’t have a plan, you wind up wasting money.”

Here is a helpful list of steps you can use to implement our scaling tips:

Get the Basics in Order First

  • Ensure your overall company message is clear.
  • Check that your website and marketing materials are up-to-date.
  • Tweak any internal processes that need work.
  • Keep in touch with previous clients for referrals.
  • Collect and keep track of accurate customer information.

Maximize Your Existing Marketing Efforts

  • Jot down a list of all your current marketing efforts.
  • What are the results for each? Be sure to keep track of these and future results so you can determine if you’re improving your success rate.
  • Select a couple of efforts you’d like to invest more time into.
  • Observe the collective results.
  • Identify new methods you’d like to try.

Meet Your Customers in the Right Place

  • Find out where your customers are by asking them or performing online research.
  • Focus your marketing efforts in those places.
  • Seek out other marketing opportunities based on where you find your target market.
  • Continue to build customer relationships.
  • Outsource or ask for help with tasks where needed.

Outsource Strategically

  • Identify the marketing tasks you dislike the most or those that take the most time.
  • Think about a team, family member or friend that might be able to help.
  • Outsource anything that is outside of your expertise, or look into exchanging services.
  • Use online outsourcing platforms to find services.
  • Evaluate the overall value of outsourced work to make sure it is advancing your marketing goals.

About the Author

Susan Johnston Taylor writes about small business and marketing topics for The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, Learnvest, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. You can find her on Twitter @UrbanMuseWriter.

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