Marketing 101: Small Businesses

by Laura Owens

It can be hard to take the first steps toward marketing your business. Some steps are simple and only involve creating a social media account, others, such as building and keeping relationships, can be more challenging. The deas outlined below will help you have a good idea of where and how to get started.

I don’t suggest that a small business try all of these ideas at once, instead try a few to see if they work, if they do, great! If they don’t work out well, or you just don’t like that specific idea, try another. 

Marketing is fluid in the sense that there are multiple strategies and each one works differently with other strategies, so try them out and see what works best for you.

I’ll be outlining a few ideas for new small businesses, up and coming small businesses, or established small businesses because it’s always best to keep improving and evolving. 

The Elevator Pitch 

First, create an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a short speech less than ten seconds long that briefly describes your business, what it does, and what it provides for consumers. This pitch is supposed to grab the listener’s attention, and once you have their attention, you can further explain your business and how it could benefit them. 

This continuation of the pitch should also be short: about a minute. You want to keep the listener, your potential customer, engaged and wanting more. That intrigue is what is going to keep them coming back. If you do a good job on your elevator pitch, there’s a chance that your potential customer will not only become interested but go on to tell others about your small business. 

Social Media

The next step is creating social media accounts for your business, a task which can be slightly tricky. Picking the right social media platform can be hard and takes some thinking. If your business is focused on visuals, you don’t want Facebook to be your only social media account, Instagram would be beneficial. 

If your business is more network or service-based, Facebook should be added to your social media because that’s what the platform is meant for. It takes time figuring out which social media platform would be perfect for your small business. Before making any rash decisions or signing up for all the social media under the sun, take your time and decide which one, or ones, would be best. 

Once you’ve decided on which platforms, create those accounts! Start posting content and getting followers. Content-wise, start simple, post a few products or services. Don’t try to stretch yourself too thin. As the fable goes, slow and steady wins the race. But this isn’t a race to win, this is a race to be noticed. So slowly build up your social accounts, learn what works best and then implement those strategies. 

This race, game, or whatever you want to call it, is all about learning: learning about yourself, your business, and most importantly, your customers and audience. What do they want to see from you? What do they expect from you? How best to you want to please them and show them who you are? Who is your audience?

These questions should be taken into consideration when deciding on your social platforms, and constantly revisited throughout the days, months, years to better improve your content and how you interact with your audience and customers. 

Google Resources

Along with social media, you should get a Google account. They have tons of cool features and resources to help your business, whatever it may be. One feature that’s probably the coolest, is Google My Business. This feature allows potential customers to find your business easier when in the local area. 

The way this works, for example, is if a client or customer is looking for the best dinner spot in their area, they’ll search for “best dinner near me.” Then the top three restaurants will pop up, and its more likely that the consumer will pick one of those spots. And the same goes for other businesses, like retail and services. So, create that Google account and fill out the whole profile so you can get onto that top three list. 

Another feature from Google is Google Adwords which is a service for paid ads. These paid ads would show up at the top of the search. For example, to continue with the search for the ‘best dinner near me,” no paid ads popped up before that top three list, which means that no local businesses are paying to have ads on Google for that search. Instead, they are depending on their business showing up organically, based on consumer feedback on Google and the constantly changing algorithm that goes into all search engines. 

Using these tools in conjunction with more organic development can be key to getting you in front of your audience.

Building Relationships

Now all of the above is great, but it’s nothing if you don’t put effort into building relationships in the local and surrounding community.

It is essential for a small business to engage in the community and build strong, lasting relationships.

You’ll be seen more and can expand your network more. This engagement can also open up other opportunities for you and your small business, such as collaborations with other local and small businesses, social media collaborations and sponsors, and other possible partnerships. 

All of your relationships will expand your network, your area of influence, and your reach. It’s up to you to make all of those relationships positive and beneficial for everyone involved. You don’t want to hog all of the benefits from collaborations and partnerships, because that will come and bite you in the butt down the line. With a mutually beneficial relationship, all parties with gain something and be exposed to a brand-new audience and new consumers. 

Along with building relationships with other small and local businesses, build them with your customers, other business owners, and with your staff. These relationships are the lifeblood of your small business, without them, you will not go anywhere. Starting with customers, these are the people who allow your business to survive and thrive. 

Build as many connections, personal or business, with your customers as you can. That personal connection will keep them coming back and telling others about you.

This rapport that you’ll eventually have with your customers will be extremely influential for your future success and growth. Be nice to your customers and treat them with respect; you wouldn’t be where you are without them. 

I’ve already briefly touched on partners and collaborators, but I’ll say it again: build those relationships. It’ll be easier to build them and keep them than constantly having to build new ones. Once you start down this road, there is no going back, you’ll be on a journey of constantly engaging with other businesses and growing your business and collaborating. Be prepared, be open to new opportunities, and be innovative. 

Your staff. I have to bring them up. You must understand that they help you run your business and are constantly interacting with your customers. Be nice to them. An unhappy staff member will not help you grow. Happy staff members are more likely to recommend you to other people and unconsciously help your business grow.

But besides that aspect, your staff work for you and expect to be treated fairly, so treat them fairly. Without an amicable and friendly relationship with your staff members, your business could go nowhere. 

Keeping Relationships

Once you’ve built all of these awesome relationships, keep them. Like I said before, it easier to keep relationships than be constantly building them. So, here’s where the social media and email marketing come in handy. Engage with your followers on your socials, post fun and exciting content, and interact with your followers. On platforms with direct messages, always respond, it doesn’t hurt, and it reinforces that you exist for the people and care about them. Create weekly or monthly newsletters for those who want them that include insider information, behind the scenes info, or special coupons. Mailchimp is a great place to start if you’ve never done anything like this before.

Create content for emails that will draw your customers in and keep them interested, and most importantly, don’t overload your subscribers with too many emails. It can be annoying, I know from experience, as you do as well, to get an email every day that has nothing substantial in it. So, try out a few different email styles until you decide on one that works the best.

A lot of marketing is trial and error. You’ll want to, and probably need to, try out different strategies to find what works best for you.

Document all that you try, what works and what doesn’t, so you know in the future what you’ve tried and what you haven’t. These basic steps are what is called a marketing strategy, it’s just something simple that documents what you do for marketing, in whatever form you choose. 

There is no right or wrong to marketing, though it may seem like it sometimes, just keep trying and you’ll eventually land on something that’s perfect for you and your business. 


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Laura Owens is a senior at Endicott College studying English Language and Literature. She is a self-taught baker and loves to read, with a collection of over 740 books!

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