In today’s business world, you cannot get by without doing at least a little marketing. Whether that involves creating an online or social media profile, sending out print ads and flyers, or sponsoring local events, the idea is to get your brand name out into the world. It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is, either. Every business can benefit from strong, successful marketing efforts.
It makes sense then to invest time pouring over a helpful marketing guide to ensure you have a good understanding of the concept, and what it means for your business. That’s what we’re here to do today. Welcome to marketing 101.
As we go along, you’ll learn everything from basic marketing knowledge to more advanced tips, and you’ll see how it connects to everything you do to support your business. But first, let’s explore what the term marketing means?
What Is Marketing?
Marketing involves everything required in the process of transferring a producer’s goods or product into the hands of the consumer. This includes the initial advertising the product or service underwent, down to the way the product is packaged and shipped.
While a broad definition, it does reveal that marketing is present across all phases of a business from product planning to customer support.
Truthfully, marketing is simply the process of recognizing your businesses’ successful aspects. This includes understanding why those aspects are successful and changing or improving upon various operations to ensure you reach success.
If you want to start a small business or begin a career in a larger company, the process of marketing can seem daunting. Worse yet, you’ll be asked right off the bat to tackle concepts that probably seem foreign to you:
- “What is a website bounce rate?”
- “What is the difference between inbound marketing and closed-loop marketing?”
- “How do I cut the friction of this web page?”
Many of the technical concepts behind marketing can seem scary to the uninformed, but as soon as you have a good grasp of the basics everything makes a whole lot more sense.
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The Small Business Marketing Guide: Beginner’s Tips
To cap off our marketing guide, we’ll first take a look at some of the easier tips you can take advantage of. Every business owner should begin their career by following a strict set of rules and practices, especially helpful ones rather than offering nothing more than theoretical knowledge and concepts.
Building Your Base
Building up your business, and the intended audience for your business is the most vital practice you should follow in marketing. The rest of the advice in this list means nothing if you cannot apply it to an already solid foundation.
The basics you should follow, include:
- Knowing your audience and what they want from your product or service
- Communicate with your audience regularly, simply and from multiple different sources
- Provide your product or service to the extent you have promised and to the needs of your audience
While these ideas seem particularly straightforward to many of you with marketing experience, the basics are necessary and not as obvious to those with little experience in the field. This practice is fundamental to your marketing success. Without it, you may find yourself unable to improve your marketability.
Take these two scenarios as examples:
- Unless you know your target audience and communicate well with them, you can’t use them to improve your product or service.
- Failing to provide your product or service as advertised can result in loss of trust with your target audience.
It would take blind luck or radical innovation to see your business succeed without this essential step in the marketing process.
Using Your Customers
Encouraging customer engagement, between business and audience and customer to customer, opens another portal for good marketing practices.
With every person who buys your product or enlists your services, an experience builds. You can further your marketing efforts and shift attention toward your business by creating a place for dialogue. Review platforms and discussion forums create a place for customer to customer or business to customer conversations to take place.
By providing you with accurate feedback of people’s experiences and problems, you can further develop your product or service. This makes sure you cater to the desires of your audience. Additionally, this practice can also create free advertising for you, especially if the customer has a warm reception.
Mind Your Competition
You aren’t the only one interested in marketing, nor are you the only one taking advantage of its many practices and benefits. Nearly every business on the market utilizes a form of marketing. You better believe your direct competitors are taking full advantage, as well.
Why does this matter? Learning by example is helpful, sure, but sometimes it’s better to learn by taking a step back and observing others. Pay attention to what other businesses around you are doing. What works for them? What was a mistake or caused them problems?
The point is not to copy or clone their efforts but instead to gather insights for your future campaigns. What works — or doesn’t work — for another business is not always going to play out the same way for yours, but you can still learn about your audience, how they’ll react and how it will affect your brand.
Build an Online Presence
Get your business online and work on building a digital reputation and experience for your customers. This could mean launching a business website if you don’t already have one. It could also mean maintaining social media or community accounts and finding ways to drive social media traffic back to your site. You may even need to access other networks like Yelp, Amazon or review sites to respond to comments and concerns.
The digital world plays a big role in how businesses succeed today, even if they are strictly brick-and-mortar operations. So, get online and start building up a rapport with your customers otherwise you will lose a lot of your forward momentum.
The Small Business Marketing Guide: Intermediate Tips
Once you have a little more experience under your belt, you can incorporate some more challenging marketing practices.
Experimenting with Your Methods
Experiment! Be different! But not too different.
Experimentation is a tactful marketing practice with potential benefits to your overall strategy and marketing skills as a whole. Think about the product or service you’re looking to market before diving into marketing experimentation.
- Inbound marketing creates inviting content without extensively advertising it. You can generate interest in your product or service without annoyance from your potential customers.
- Engagement marketing encourages interaction with your potential audience to improve your product. You can increase interest in your product or service while making positive changes suited to your audience.
Experiment by trying either of these types of marketing!
The Blair Witch Project is a fantastic example of experimental marketing. This marketing campaign created the illusion that the events of the 1999 horror movie were real, that the legend of the Blair Witch existed and the actors were real students who died making the film. This resulted in an over 500 percent profit from the initial budget, a resounding marketing success.
However, experimenting proves a difficult marketing practice, possibly the trickiest one on this list. You should only experiment in moderation to gain success. Taking a chance in marketing can sometimes backfire, which creates an opportunity for controversy and disaster to affect your marketing plan. Complete thorough research and strategically execute experimentation to use this tactic effectively.
Networking With Other Marketers
Choose to network and partner with other relevant marketers and creators. This establishes good marketing roots, furthering your research and exposing your business to new markets.
Working with others could involve collaboration efforts, such as a partnership between creative producers like musicians or artists. Equally, it could mean an agreement to promote another business’s product or service along with yours, or vice-versa, to increase the audience.
This practice helps with your marketing by primarily expanding your audience. By collaborating with a business that has a similar audience to yours, you could engage a higher proportion of that group and make sure they are aware of what you are providing.
Alternatively, through collaborating with a wholly different audience, you could see if this different audience is receptive to your product or service. This introduces the potential to expand into other audience areas and capturing them as customers.
Get Involved with Your Community
Small to medium-sized businesses could stand to benefit from local community involvement — big business can too, but smaller brands tend to benefit more.
It’s a simple concept that can have a huge impact on brand outlook, your company’s reputation and incoming revenue. It’s also a form of relatively inexpensive advertising that banks on traditional word of mouth tactics.
For example, sponsoring a local baseball team and getting your brand’s logo and name on their jerseys could generate a lot of exposure. You can also host events like fundraisers, networking parties, or even on-site festivals. Maybe a day full of free food and good music in the parking lot would bring more customers into your business?
It’s not always about you hosting the events either. You can participate in community activities or make an appearance which is equally as effective.
The Small Business Marketing Guide: Expert Tips
For our final section of the marketing guide intro, we have expert tips that will elevate your marketing campaign to make it truly exceptional. It’s important to understand that even though these practices are a bit more challenging, that doesn’t mean they should be passed over by beginners. Some of them are vital to building a successful marketing campaign and platform, such as analyzing and using the data available to you.
Analyzing Your Data
Making full use of the data provided to you is another great marketing practice everyone should use for their product or service. This practice, also known as closed-loop marketing, enables you to make your business more efficient. Many different online analytical services, such as Google Analytics, provide you with an incredible amount of data on marketing and popularity trends.
Google Analytics enables you to check different phrases’ and topics’ popularity, along with the data directly related to particular websites and articles. One such piece of information is known as the bounce rate of your website. This is the number of visitors who immediately leave your website or article after it loads. This information is invaluable to your business as it allows you to see what issues exist in your content and adjust your deliverable accordingly.
The use of Google Analytics, and other tools such as Clicky.com, are vital to your marketing strategy. You need in-depth analytics to make an informed decision about changes you could make to your product or service. You should find analytics useful regardless of what you are selling.
If you fail to appreciate this data, and the number of free resources that exist, you could misjudge the atmosphere of your product and make bad decisions.
Provide Trial or Freemium Services
Sometimes, the best way to demo a product or service is to offer a trial or free experience to interested customers. It’s important to note that you can still make this happen even if you don’t have the capital or resources to give away material items for free. You could, for instance, give out valuable advice or feedback instead.
Hardware stores could host a workshop or quick course on DIY projects. Service brands could maintain a helpful blog with plenty of useful guides and insights. Try to think of ways you can make your customers’ lives easier or contribute to their health and happiness.
Work with Influencers
These days, beyond the average customer you can also tap into online influencers or popular media users. They could be YouTubers, renowned Instagram users, or Twitch streams. It’s whatever works best for your business and what you want to accomplish.
Did you know 39 percent of active Instagram accounts with over 15K followers are influencers? Furthermore, 22 percent of 18 to 24 year-olds made a large purchase after seeing an online influencer endorse an item.
Influencers have built up a strong relationship with their viewers and followers, so they can help generate a lot of support — or hate — for a brand and its products. Why not try striking a partnership with an up-and-coming social media star to generate some free advertising, promotions or product placements within their content?
Stay Tuned for More of Our Marketing Guide!
Now that you’re familiar with the basics, we’ll move on to some of the more complicated topics in the rest of our marketing guide. Be sure to check back often and read the rest.
This article was originally published on 8/08/2017 and updated on 7/22/2019.
The Small Business Marketing Guide
Chapter 1: Successful Viral Marketing Campaigns
Chapter 2: Influencer Marketing
Chapter 3: Conversational Marketing
Chapter 4: CMS Marketing
Chapter 5: Brand Marketing
Chapter 6: Scarcity Marketing
Chapter 7: Transactional Marketing
Chapter 8: FOMO Marketing
Chapter 9: Neuromarketing
Chapter 10: Close Range Marketing
Chapter 11: Guerrilla Marketing
Chapter 12: Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Chapter 13: Target Marketing
Chapter 14: Diversity Marketing
Chapter 15: Undercover Marketing
Chapter 16: Cause Marketing