I’ve searched through dozens of lists of small business marketing tips and aggregated them to see which ten lists I thought were most valuable. Each has a link to the list in the title. I am going to summarize them and pick one item from each list that I like and give my thoughts and opinions. These are not ranked and I am not suggesting any list or tip is better than another. Like different tips or other lists? Tell us what you think.
Summary: This is a fun list. Some of the tips like “Create a Cool Giveaway” are interesting and unique in the lists. Others are fairly common to lists of business services marketing books , link building books, and blogs. The more common include items like “Attend Networking Events”, and “Support a Cause”, but they are valuable nonetheless. From personal experience I know networking works for business services companies in particular. However, one has to commit the time to actively participate in networking to see the real benefits. Many people start networking and give up before they see results.
- Give Your Stuff Away
- Attend Networking Events…
- Or, Create Your Own Event
- Volunteer to Lead an Organization
- Start a Podcast
- Be Helpful
- Send a Weekly E-mail
- Support a Cause
- Sponsor an Organization
- Create a Cool Giveaway
Favorite: “Start a Podcast” – This is something I’ve always thought would be fun and interesting. I haven’t pursued it yet because I am a bit afraid of the time commitment. If anyone has any thoughts or advice on this topic I would love to hear it. Maybe I am overestimating the time involved? I do listen to podcasts about topics I’m interested in. I’m assuming many others do as well.
Summary: This list starts off by mentioning that many entrepreneurs say they live by word of mouth advertising only, but most of them say that because they’ve been burned trying other forms of small business marketing. The author then goes on to explain that much of this is due to poor execution. Many of the tips are related to how to handle ads and advertising and are fairly standard stuff like “Create a sense of urgency”, and “Create a marketing budget”. However, there are some very good tips on this list that you won’t find in other lists.
- Your ads should aim for the heart – not the mind
- Watch for silly errors, e.g., don’t lose out on the savings…
- Repeated punch-lines are subject to the laws of diminishing returns – update your ads regularly
- Market to the right audience – everyone is not a potential customer
- Increase the frequency of your ad placement
- Be consistent in your messaging – a unified front in all places you advertise
- Do not place too much content in your marketing
- Quantify value, e.g., a $25 dollar savings…
- Create a sense of urgency, e.g., this week only
- Do not mimic the persona of a competitor
- Develop a branding strategy – a consistent mood/theme for all marketing efforts
- Do not use self-aware ads, e.g., we’re number one in service…
- Present one contact point per ad. A single commercial should not havecall, click and stop by…
- Update your webpage – preferably to a “responsive” format (mobile friendly)
- Don’t be too creative, e.g., Shakespearean word play
- Allow consumer preferences to shape your marketing
- Don’t use volatile marketing tools, e.g., flyers on car windows
- Create a marketing budget
- Use a slogan that includes the customer. I’m Lovin’ It, is supposed to be a declaration of the customer – not McDonald’s
- If you have no charisma, resign as company spokesperson
- Get to the point – arrest my attention in 5-seconds
- Use social media to make friends – not dig for customers. Remember, it’s always easier to ask a friend to become a customer rather than asking a total stranger to do the same
- Heed the advice of a marketing professional
- Seek objectivity. Get your ads reviewed by an outsider
Favorite: “Heed the advice of a marketing professional” – Did you really expect me to pick anything else? Actually this is one of the biggest misunderstandings I think small business owners have concerning marketing. The small business owner is an expert in their field. It is unlikely that any marketing professional is going to know as much about a business as the owner of that business. This is also true of marketing. When someone has decades of experience in all types of marketing it stands to reason they would know more about the opportunities and pitfalls of marketing than people without similar experience. I believe most businesses would actually spend less and make more with the help of a marketing professional than marketing by themselves. To be fair, my opinion, while based on experience, is biased.
Summary: What I like best about this list is the depth and take away. Jim takes topics that seem like standard fodder and expands on them with real insight. He gives examples to show what he is talking about and makes the tips real. Don’t let the first tip fool you. The rest of the list and the content that supports it is very good. Its well worth your time to read the whole list.
- Throw that old marketing guide in the bin!
- Content marketing
- Email marketing – Start using email marketing NOW!
- Build a well-connected network
- Internet marketing – Start taking your website seriously
- Match your fees to your promises
- Use ‘attraction marketing’ and not pursuit marketing
- Do some competitor research
- Joint Ventures
- Endorsed Relationships
- Don’t mistake movement for progress
Favorite: “Internet Marketing – Start taking your website seriously” – I’ve had direct experience with this one. I often have new clients come to me and tell me they’ve never received an inquiry from their website. When I start digging into their sites I find that they often don’t even have very basic SEO. They haven’t submitted their sites to appropriate directories or local listing sites. Basically, they expected, and were told, “build it and they will come”. Small business marketing is not like the movie “Field of Dreams”. This is akin to making a brochure and pasting one copy of it on the back of an abandoned building. You certainly have a brochure. If no one sees it, does it make a difference? There are more ways to promote a website than anyone would have time to list. You don’t have to do them all to succeed in small business marketing. You do have to do something besides just building the site.
Summary: This list is about leveraging social media for small business marketing. Social media seems overwhelming. Social media start ups don’t seem to happen as often as they used to. It still seems like there is a new one every day. In the end you have to pick the ones that work best for your business and industry. For example, “Mobile & Local” talks about Yelp and Foursquare and the benefits to small local retailers. Very few small businesses take advantage of these opportunities. Pretty much every item on this list has real value from a social media marketing perspective. Its worth your time to read and explore in depth the items you think have worth for your business.
- Mobile & Local
- Comments & Conversation
- Brand Consistency
- Leverage Combinations
Favorite: “Twitter” I like the way the author expands on the use of Twitter. He also gives some useful tool information and links. Twitter is often an underutilized social media tool for business and I think if more people read this part of the list more people would more fully understand ways of extracting value.
Summary: If you had asked me about mobile small business marketing even just 5 years ago I would probably have told you that I didn’t take it that seriously. This was especially true for larger ticket and longer buy cycle products and services. However, recently I have seen clients with 30 day to 6 month buy cycles and greater than $1,000 average purchases seeing real and increasing conversions from mobile. Some of this is due to the use of tablets. It doesn’t matter. Mobile is here and here to stay. If you don’t address mobile marketing your competition will. This is a great list detailing some real action items and tactics you should explore.
- Assess Your Readiness for Mobile Marketing
- Launch a Mobile-friendly Version of Your Website
- Use Responsive Design for All Pages Great and Small
- Target New Device Owners for Holiday Marketing
- Keep Your Mobile Site Simple, Easy to Navigate
- Be (Extra) Smart With Text Message Marketing
- Take Advantage of Mobile Social Media
- Don’t Silo Mobile Marketing
- Optimize From the Ground Up; Make It Live Off the Device
- To Succeed, You Must Test, Test and Test Some More
Favorite: “Don’t Silo Mobile Marketing” – This one could not be emphasized more. One of the key elements I’ve seen in mobile marketing is its presence in the conversion path. In plain English this means people may find you with a mobile search but convert on a web browser. Some people research a purchase several times before they convert. You want your product or service to be where their eyes are. Even when mobile doesn’t convert as last click it is very often present somewhere in the funnel. If you want more information on how this process works you should research multi-channel conversion attribution models. This is a great article by my favorite author on that subject: “Multi-Channel Attribution Modeling: The Good, Bad and Ugly Models” by Avinash Kaushik.
Summary: Many of the tips offered in this list are covered by other lists. I included it because there are a couple of unique gems about advertising and pricing for small business. For example many small businesses try to advertise like big businesses, and many people don’t think to segment prospects by price sensitivity.
- Don’t Advertise Like a Big Business
- Offer a Cheaper Version
- Offer a Premium Version
- Try Some Unusual Marketing Methods
- Trim Your Ads
- Set up Joint Promotions with Other Small Businesses
- Take Advantage of Your Customers
Favorite: “Take Advantage of Your Customers” – This is one I am surprised isn’t covered in more of the lists. Soliciting repeat customers is often the most effective method to drive increased revenue. One caveat to this is that you have a product or service that either lends itself to repeat purchases or has extensions, different dimensions, or have other products these customers may be interested in. However, most small businesses do fall somewhere in this category and should explore this opportunity. I once had a client, for whatever reason, tell me he was only interested in new customers. Eventually he agreed to try marketing to his previous customers and he saw a significant increase in revenue at a lower cost than he did with new customer acquisition.
Summary: This tips list focuses on content for small business marketing. It offers some interesting takes on how a small business should approach content marketing. Some of the tips seem fairly bland and obvious. To extract real value from this list you need to ask yourself if you are really already doing what the tip suggests. Is your content really useful, interesting, and engaging to your target audience? Are you just creating content to have something new on the site?
- Make your marketing more useful.
- Create marketing that is intensely interesting.
- Use visual content to tap into the image boom.
- Tell true and engaging stories.
- Invest time in marketing your marketing.
Favorite: My favorite from this list is “Use visual content to tap into the image boom.” – I think this is an area that many of us miss out on. Visitors who view product videos are 85% more likely to buy than visitors who do not according to Internet Retailer. This stat alone tells most of the story. Photos and videos both have much higher link and conversion rates than pure text. We have explored this area a little, but need to do more. Here is our video about a small business owner struggling with his marketing and advertising.
Summary: This is another list with a lot of similar tips that show up on other lists. There are a some that are different and worth taking an extra look at. We’ve already seen a version of “Leverage your Network”, but this version is expanded in a different way. Among the more unique and valuable are “Be personal and authentic in your communication”, and “Capture Information”.
- Be personal and authentic in your communication
- Leverage your Network
- Google rankings
- Create your own TIPS
- Photos are king
- Collaborate with the competition
- Create contest giveaways
- Knowledge is power
- Partner with a charitable organization
- Capture information
Favorite: “Capture Information” – In the post the author talks about offering a reward for action to help generate tracking information. I also believe better integration of various types of analytics into your web marketing platform is critical. In fact, the more data you gather the more you can act and respond to customer and prospect behaviors. You don’t know what you don’t know. Capturing as much data as you can is a great way to help you improve future marketing and advertising efforts.
Summary: This is an interesting list because it is supposed to be for startup marketing. The first tip “Pick the right brand name” definitely makes sense for a startup. The tips are good for any small business. What I like most about this list is that it has different content than all the other tip lists. Sure, the list is small, but the tips that are listed have real potential and are worth the time it takes to explore them.
- Pick the right brand name.
- Try native advertising.
- Choose the right social media channels.
- Use trending topics to create buzz.
Favorite: “Use trending topics to create buzz.” – This is more difficult for some types of businesses than others. You would have to explore the hot topics of the day and find a way to spin them so that they were relevant to your particular niche. The key here seems to be monitoring news in your vertical and quickly writing something up that addresses it in a way that intersects with what you are trying to communicate to your potential customers about your business.
Summary: This is a great list. Some of the tips are different ways of handling some traditional marketing tactics. For the most part, not only are the tips good and relevant for small business marketing, but they are unique. I haven’t found most of these tips on any other lists. Probably the most interesting thing about this list is the way it takes what would be consider normal tactics like direct mail and turns them into something new and different like “Stick It!”, “Mail Outs”, or “Send A Second Offer To Your Customers Immediately After They’ve Purchased”.
- Print your best small ad on a postcard and mail it to prospects in your targeted market.
- No single marketing effort works all the time for every business, so rotate several marketing tactics and vary your approach.
- Use buddy marketing to promote your business.
- Answer Your Phone Differently.
- Stick It!
- Send A Second Offer To Your Customers Immediately After They’ve Purchased
- Seminars/ open house
- Mail Outs
Favorite: “Use buddy marketing to promote your business.” – This is a great idea and way to leverage relationships you’ve developed over time. It takes networking to the next level. Now, not only are you referring potential customers to one another, you are actively promoting each others businesses. It saves money in that each of you are already spending the money on distributing your materials, but now you are creating an effort multiplier. Each of you saves time and money and increases the reach of your products or services. This is mentioned in the context of direct mail, but could just as easily be used for email newsletters and other types of communications. Find a buddy and promote each other.
Whatever tips you decide to use in your small business marketing efforts you need to remember one key word: action. You can read every list of tips that exists, but if you don’t act on those tips you still won’t accomplish much. Its often better to try and fail than it is not to try at all.
I hope this list of small business marketing tip lists helps you on your journey to success with your business.