5 New Ways to Think About Marketing for Small Businesses

Have you had this kind of marketing experience? 

Advertisers call and call and call, trying to sell you ad space somewhere; like a supermarket, local publication, or another random location that seems so on target with where you think your customers are. You give said advertiser hundreds (or thousands) to feature your ad there and wait.

But first, the design team they have charge you an extra fee to create the ad since you don’t have time or even know how to create one. Its nice, but it doesn’t really look like your business much, does it? Sure, your logo is there, but the rest doesn’t really match your colors or style.

The sales person convinced you that you’d get “eyeballs” but how do you really know if it’s effective? Months later, your ad is still there, but you haven’t had a single person call you or walk in your store. Now you’re thinking, I’ll never do that again and you’ve lost all faith in marketing and choose to do nothing else.  “I have a sign, they’ll find me,” you say to yourself.

Sound familiar? 

Placing an ad somewhere is not marketing, it’s a tactic. Without a clear strategy and campaign, its wasted money and time. 

How about social media? You’re on Facebook, but I bet you’re thinking it doesn’t really do anything for you either. Again, a tactic. You figure you’ll hire a young person to post for you and it will get better. Is it better? 

You’re a business owner. How do you possibly have time to come up with a strategy or campaign for promotion. And the price tag must be astronomical, right? Nope, not right. Let’s look at this a different way.

1. What is your “why”?
Why do you own your business? What makes you feel good about what you do every day, week, month, year? The answer to this question is the value you’re giving to your customers and the foundation for your strategy. A marketing strategy should offer clients the reason they should buy from you and not someone else, even if its a subconscious thought.

Here’s an example. I started working on Downtown Bernardsville initiatives because I wanted to see more for the town in which I own a business and raise my family. I’m not alone here. Public officials created town hall meetings and surveys in which the top responses called for the same desires. With all of the other groups in our town working on ways we can improve, why are we still looking for more?

My why is to help our town thrive again and by having this focus, the campaigns and plans for events reflect this. We listen to what the community wants and what works in other places and we give our town a chance. Remember to think about the value you are providing to your customers and if there is more you can give them in the process. 

2. A Planned Campaign of Promotional Tactics Don’t Require Taking Out a Second Mortgage
I like to base my campaigns on what I call the “5 Fold Strategy.” In this fast paced society, it takes most people 5 times seeing something for the message to sink in. Back to our first scenario, that one ad you placed at the local supermarket won’t do squat for you, unless you release at least 2-4 more tactics that look the same, carry the same message, and give potential clients the same call to action.

Choose 5 places to relay your message: social media, print, an event, an email newsletter, multiple networking events, commercials, videos, a news release or other source.  Every single one you choose should reflect the same colors, message, and overall branding so by the time your target customer sees that 5th item, they recognize it before they have to read it.

The most crucial aspect to remember is to direct everyone to the same place. The most effective location is your website. This will help you to track results, simply by measuring web traffic. During Restaurant Week in Bernardsville, DowntownBernardsville.com traffic increased by 1,000% because of the multiple tactics we included in our 5 fold strategy.

If you choose tactics that have little cost involved, it doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. Email newsletters, social media, networking events, PR news releases, and creating a quick iPhone video have little to no cost at all and you’ve created your 5 Fold. 

3. Timing is Everything
You don’t have it. Time, that is. Who does anymore these days?

If you want to have a successful business, devoting the time to building your strategy and campaign is super important. All you need is an hour a day or a few hours one day a week to build it. There are super helpful scheduling sites for social media like HootSuite.com that can help you schedule your social media posts all in one day for the rest of your week, freeing up your time to run your business.

A carefully crafted plan will help you know exactly what you need to do, so you are not spending hours figuring it all out. I love using MailChimp.com for my email newsletters. They feature scheduling options and automatic emails that can go out to someone the moment they make a purchase or remind someone of their appointment without you having to lift a finger. Digital Marketing Automation is a world of time and cost effective promotion that we’ll get into in another post 🙂

4. Social Media is not about young people.
Please do yourself a favor. Just because a young person knows how to use Facebook, that doesn’t mean they are a good resource for you to promote your business. I cringe every time I hear someone say they can just hire a young person to do their social media for them. Unless that person is educated in following branding and strategy guidelines, you’ll continue to waste time and money. 

The most common social media mistake among small business owners is to constantly talk AT your followers. Break up the monotony of always talking about yourself (aka your business) by asking questions or posting something that people can use to engage in conversation.

The key component there is to make sure the message still encompasses your brand. It will confuse your customer base more if you sell jewelry and start releasing videos about using the law of attraction, unless there is a common thread among the two. Keep what we have talked about so far in mind when it comes to social media and maintain your why. 

5. If Money Still Doesn’t Grow on Trees, How Can Your Strategy Work Overnight?
Have you ever seen a new celebrity seem to hit the big time overnight? Its like they were no one yesterday and the hottest new thing today. But, what we don’t see, is how hard that person worked to get there. The Beatles travelled all over Europe, playing small venues and building their fan base before coming to America and playing sold out arenas. Most recently, singer, Meghan Trainor worked for over 10 years playing dead end bars, going on auditions, and singing wherever she could before her hit, “All About that Bass” blew up a few years ago.

Your marketing strategy and campaign efforts won’t take 10 years to be successful but will take time before you’ll notice a response. Be persistent and continue building a campaign around topics that are relevant for you, like holidays, special events or other items that make sense. If your first campaign is quiet, don’t give up, keep the campaign flow going and in 6-12 months, you’ll start to see a response. 


Small business owners wear so many hats to keep their businesses going. Marketing is one of them and to keep your business afloat, you need a smart plan to be effective. Every couple of weeks, we’ll be releasing more information and content like this to help you learn and stay on top of your plans. Each of the topics in this article alone can be their own series of content pieces, so there is a wealth of information coming your way. Make sure to read, research, and understand what works for you and your business, whether from us or any marketing resource. Just don’t say yes to those pushy ad salespeople if you don’t think its a good fit for you! 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *