Marketing is what makes or breaks a small business. Assuming you have a great business idea and a solid operational foundation, you’ll be relying on visibility, your brand’s reputation, and ongoing growth to succeed. In a vacuum, nobody will hear about your business; no matter how good it is, they won’t know it’s there, so they won’t be interested in patronizing it. With a marketing strategy in place, you can reach those audiences and bring them to your small business.

The trouble is, marketing can be complicated for an entrepreneur with minimal experience. And it can be expensive for a business that isn’t prepared. So what steps should a small business take to design and execute a marketing strategy from scratch? Use our how to guide below to help market and grow your small business.

Table of Contents:

Small Business Marketing: Make a Checklist and Plan

To get started, you’ll need to make a marketing checklist and come up with a plan. This phase of the process is all about establishing your high-level objectives and the foundation of your marketing strategy overall.

Marketing is much more effective when it’s consistent and unified; no matter what individual tactics you’re using, they should be conveying the same types of messages. In other words, your brand should look the same, no matter who’s seeing it or where they’re seeing it.

These steps can help:
  • Brainstorm ideas and themes Think about the types of marketing tactics you might use as part of your strategy. What themes do you want to be present in your marketing strategy? Does your brand have a personality that’s warm and inviting? Or is it more distant and edgy? Do any specific channels or marketing techniques stand out to you?
  • Identify your target audience Next, you’ll need to learn more about your target demographics. Too many small business owners adopt a marketing strategy that attempts to target “everyone” generically, but it’s much better to craft messaging for a niche, specifically targeted audience. Think about your primary demographics, including what type of messaging will be most effective for them.
  • Create an elevator pitch to clarify your value proposition Third, draft an elevator pitch to capture what makes your business unique. If you only had a couple of sentences to describe your business to someone who’s never heard of it, what would you say? Why is your business different than those of your competitors?

Build your Business Website

One of the most important steps you’ll take in your marketing journey is building a website. Your website is going to be the gateway for your customers to learn more about your brand. Depending on the nature of your business, this may be a place where people can buy products, a place where they can learn about you, or even the sum total of your business’s operations, all in one place.

Most of your online marketing strategies will funnel users to your website, so it needs to be reliable—and it needs to reflect well upon your business. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to create a website from scratch.

Options for Building your Business’ Website:

Website Builders

Most people turn to common website builders to help them put together a nice website. These options allow you to start a website for free (or inexpensively), while offering extra services for the people who need them:

  • Squarespace Squarespace is one of the most popular website builders available, with built-in templates and all the tools you need to reach your audience.
  • Wix There’s also Wix, which allows you to design your website with a WYSIWYG editor and tools to craft an entire online presence.
  • GoDaddy Known primarily for its domain name services, GoDaddy also functions as a website builder that can help you build a site from scratch.

Do It Yourself (DIY)

You could also try to build a website yourself. If you have a bit of coding knowledge and the right platform to back you, you could expand upon a template or even design your own website from scratch.

  • WordPress One of the best options here is WordPress, especially if you’re inexperienced. WordPress has WYIWYG editors and templates available, which can help you create the perfect website for your business. It also has services to help you reach more people.

eCommerce platforms

eCommerce platforms often function like website builders, but they’re designed to help you sell products online. They’re ideal if you’re building a website that will also function as your primary source of revenue.

  • Shopify Shopify offers similar website building, hosting, revenue tracking, and even marketing services.
  • Big Commerce Big Commerce attempts to make it simple to build a website and start selling as quickly as possible.

Get professional help

If you’re not sure which platform to use or how to use it, or if you’re interested in building a website entirely from scratch, you might be better off seeking professional help. Hiring a marketing agency and/or a website design firm can be just what you need to build the perfect website from scratch.

Promote and Engage on Social Media

Once your website is built and in place, one of your best options is to turn to social media. Social media platforms are free to use, and they could grant you an audience with millions of people—literally. Different platforms have different strengths; for example, Instagram is great if you’re willing to promote visual content like images and videos, while LinkedIn has forged a niche audience for itself, targeting professionals and career-minded individuals.

Build a profile for your business on as many social media platforms as you can, and choose a handful of platforms to start promoting your content. Posting once or twice a day and reaching out to new people can help you slowly accumulate a following.

How to Market Your Business With Online Ads

Some marketing strategies are both cost-efficient and reliable, but they take a long time to get going. If you’re looking for a jumpstart to your website’s momentum, you may consider pay per click (PPC) ads.

With this advertising method, you’ll only pay for the website hits you get—so you’ll be guaranteed some initial traffic if you’re willing to pay.

These are some of the most popular channels:
  • Google Ads Google Ads is the top name in the industry. They offer a litany of options and can reach a potential audience of billions.
  • Bing Ads One of the problems with Google Ads is that it’s competitive, so ads can get expensive. Bing Ads are a great functional alternative.
  • Facebook Ads If you’re interested in targeting an audience on social media, Facebook Ads could be the ideal way to go. With it, you can choose a precise audience to target and reach them with exactly the right message.

Customer Relationship Marketing for Small Business

Many modern businesses rely on ongoing relationship marketing to cultivate more interest in their brand. With the help of a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, they can collect and store information on prospects, leads, and customers—and use that information to better reach them. And with a drip email campaign, you can remain in contact with your customers throughout their customer journey.

CRM Options for Small Businesses
  • Zoho CRM: Zoho CRM is a great CRM for small businesses on a budget as they offer a free basic plan. If you grow beyond their free version you can upgrade to one of their paid accounts that provide more features like lead scoring, web forms, custom fields and workflows. Zoho also offers a variety of business focused software like business email, which starts at only $1/mo.
  • Hubspot CRM: Hubspot is a amazing software company that offers a variety of marketing, sale, customer service and CRM platforms. Hubspot CRM has a free version, as well as premium versions that range from $45/mo to $1,200/mo for their enterprise version.
  • Nimble: Nimble is a simplified CRM that is designed with social media in mind. Their contact edition is $12/mo and their business edition is $25/mo.
  • Keap: Keap CRM is geared more towards small self-employed or home-based businesses. They offer a free trial for their Grow and Pro plans which start at $49/mo and $149/mo respectively.

Local Awareness and Networking

As a small business, one of your greatest opportunities is competing on the local level; you won’t have major national competitors to contend with and you can increase your appeal and relevance to a local audience.

There are several ways you can do this, such as:
  • Local meetup groups Find local meetup groups and get involved. Simply talking to other business owners and residents in your area can help spread the word about your business.
  • Local organizations Head to your local Chamber of Commerce and other business associations. These local organizations can provide your business with more resources, more connections, and more exposure overall.
  • Social media Social media is your best friend here. Connect with local groups and local people to make your presence known.

Additionally, there are some steps you should take to register your business for local searches:

  • Yelp Yelp works like the Yellow Pages. Create a listing for your business for free, collect reviews, and build your online reputation.
  • Google My Business You should also create a Google My Business profile, which will allow you to take control of how your business appears in local searches.

Coupons, Freebies, and Other Promotions

If you want to drum up interest for your business and reward existing and new customers, you’ll want to offer coupons, freebies, and other promotions.

  • Third-party platforms Consider offering coupons and deals through third-party platforms like Groupon, which can help you get additional exposure.
  • Rewards and loyalty programs Design a loyalty program or a reward program that encourages customers to keep shopping with your brand (and not a competitor).
  • Influencers Reach out to social media influencers with free samples, and get exposure to their massive audience.

The Bottom Line

Your marketing strategy isn’t something you put together and launch once. It’s something you’ll nurture for your business over time, across years of successful operation. The more you learn from your tactics and the more familiar you get with your target demographics and competitive environment, the better your strategy is going to perform.