Research from SalesForce suggests that 66% of small to medium business owners are personally responsible for at least three of these areas of their business: product development, marketing, operations, human resources, finance, customer service, and/or information technology.
It’s no wonder then small businesses need marketing tactics that are not only effective, but also efficient. Small businesses simply don’t have the same time and resources as large enterprises.
Here, we’ll take a look at eight marketing tactics that small businesses can use to boost their marketing efforts.
Overview: What are marketing tactics?
Marketing tactics are specific and targeted marketing actions. That is, they’re more specific than a broad marketing plan.
For example, after you’ve built out your strategy from a sample marketing plan, you can implement specific tactics to push closer to achieving your goals.
Marketing tactics your small business should try
Given their limited resources, small businesses need to leverage marketing tactics that are efficient, simple, and high impact. We’ve kept those criteria in mind as we assembled this list of marketing tactics your small business should try.
By the end of this list, you’ll have a handful of actionable ideas to help jumpstart your small business marketing.
1. Identify your most valuable customers
There’s no one-size-fits all approach to marketing, and this tactic will help you decide which of the other tactics here will work best for you.
Using data to identify which customers are the most profitable for your business can go a long way. With this information, you can make better decisions about who to market to and what marketing channels will be most effective.
This idea is straight from marketing 101 and the concept is simple: you need to identify the segments of your customer base that are the most valuable and market in a way that resonates with them.
If you’re operating a local restaurant, which customers seem to spend the most each visit? Families? Professionals from a nearby office? Seniors? Depending on the answer, your optimal marketing plan for your small business may vary significantly.
Of course, some insights about your customer base will require more nuance and detail to analyze. CRM software and database marketing can help you make more advanced insights and develop more targeted campaigns as you go.
How to identify your most valuable customers:
Simply put, identifying your most valuable customers can be boiled down to two marketing KPIs (key performance indicators): customer lifetime value (CLV), which is how much revenue a customer generates, and customer acquisition costs (CAC), which is how much it costs to acquire a customer.
It's important to understand that revenues don’t tell the whole story. A customer that spends $500 but costs $400 to acquire isn’t as valuable as one that spends $200 and costs $50 to acquire.
Use these steps to get started identifying which of your customers are most profitable:
- Keep track of your customers and their purchases: For very small businesses, a spreadsheet or even pen and paper may be enough. For most others, investing in CRM software can better inform your decision-making, and it doesn’t have to break the bank. For example Insightly offers a “free forever” two-user tier to keep marketing spend low.
- Keep track of your costs: This is the flip side of the above point. Tracking your expenses and being able to attribute them to customer acquisition will help reveal how much it costs to get a customer onboard.
- Don’t forget about your promoters: While the raw CLV and CAC data will tell a lot of the story, it’s important not to forget your promoters. These are the customers who will help draw in other customers and help your brand grow. They can also become a big part of your referral programs (more on those below).
2. Build an email list
Email marketing makes it onto seemingly every list of digital marketing tips, and for good reason. Lyfe Marketing reported that email marketing return on investment (ROI) is 122%. Additionally, an industry report by Emma found that 59% of marketers get more ROI from email than any other channel.
By building an email list, you’ll be able to leverage one of the most reliable low cost and high impact direct marketing channels to your advantage.
How to build an email list:
We recently took a deep dive on creating an organic email list, so we’ll give you a crash course to get started here.
- Don’t buy lists from third parties: Purchasing third party email lists may violate the US’s CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing) Act and the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). Additionally, the probability a purchased email list consists of the audience your small business should be targeting is often low.
- Incentivize signing up: Whitepapers, industry reports, and other useful content can incentivize your target audience to join your email list. It also helps ensure those signing up for your list are more likely to be interested in your products and services.
- Use the right software: Managing and segmenting an email list manually is time consuming. Email marketing software can be a great way to manage your email lists, send targeted campaigns, and track success. With plans starting at $3/month, Zoho Campaigns tops our list of email marketing software for small businesses.
- Send targeted emails: One of the biggest benefits of using email marketing software is the ability to send targeted emails. Take advantage of that benefit. Sending emails that aren’t relevant to your audience may lead to them ignoring and unsubscribing from your emails.
3. Leverage content marketing
Building a library of useful content can serve as the cornerstone of a pull marketing strategy. Interesting and engaging content will draw users to your brand and help establish your business as an authority on a subject.
As a result, content marketing is useful for both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) marketing strategies.
As a small business, your target audience may not be aware of your brand at all. However, if a blog, whitepaper, or instructional article you put together helps them solve a problem, you can capture their attention.
How to leverage content marketing:
Content marketing is all about creating content that your target audience finds useful.
Blogs, whitepapers, case studies, videos, podcasts, and e-books are just a few examples of potential channels for content marketing. Here are a few tips to help you get started with content marketing:
- Be reader-focused: Regardless of where a piece of content falls in the marketing funnel, focus on the value to the user. While there should always be a way for a user to reach you or make a purchase if they want to, don’t make every piece of content seem like an ad.
- Create targeted content: There is more competition than ever for people’s attention. As a small business, you can benefit from building a library of content around a specific niche.
- Start a blog: A blog is an excellent way to build brand awareness and share content. It can also prove to be an important part of your SEO (search engine optimization) strategy.
- Learn to repurpose content: One piece of content can be used in multiple ways. A quote from a blog can make a social media post. An infographic can be posted on your website and shared. Longform videos can be edited into shorter pieces. Learning how to strategically repurpose content can increase your content marketing ROI.
4. Build a social media presence
Today, most people in your target audience are likely on at least one social media network. As a result, social media has become an important part of most businesses’ digital marketing strategy.
By building a social media presence, you’re able to engage your customers where they are, on a channel they are comfortable with.
Paid search can be an important part of social media marketing, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Instead of, or in addition to, paying for ads, this tactic is all about creating a presence organically.
How to build a social media presence:
There’s no step-by-step formula for social media success. The smaller communities that make up larger social networks each have their own intricacies that make them unique.
In addition to identifying your target audience, you’ll need to clearly quantify your goals. Are you trying to build brand awareness? Increase traffic to your site? Build a community? All are possible on social media, but it is important you’re specific in your objectives.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Pick the right channels: Are your users on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Reddit? Of course, the right answer is probably, “Multiple, plus a few others.” However, focusing on the channels with the highest concentration of your target audience is a good starting point.
- Be responsive: Don’t just post your latest content and leave. Engage in conversations. Reply to people. Make sure your social media connections feel the human side of your business.
- Track your effectiveness: When you do make a promotional post, you need to be able to track how well it does. Using software like HubSpot and adding UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) codes to links can help you do just that.
5. Use referrals
One of the biggest challenges a small business faces is building brand awareness and establishing credibility. Referral programs can be an excellent way to overcome this challenge.
In fact, Nielsen found that “recommendations from people I know” was the most trusted information source for consumers.
With referrals, you can use this to your advantage. Referrals enable you to leverage your existing customers to gain credibility with new customers.
How to use referrals:
Referrals can be a powerful source of social proof your products or services are worth a consumer’s investment.
Here are two ways you can get started using referrals to boost your marketing efforts:
- Create a referral incentive program: This is the standard approach to creating referral programs. Offer your existing customers incentives to bring in other customers. The specific incentives you use can be anything from cash to discounts to free products and services.
- Promote user-generated content: A less-traditional approach to gaining the benefits of social proof referrals is promoting content your customers create. Resharing positive experiences with your brand that your existing customers have shared helps promote brand awareness. It also creates a positive feedback loop where other customers will be more likely to create content that promotes your brand.
6. Focus Your SEO Strategy
SEO is hypercompetitive. With multinational corporations investing heavily to rank for specific search terms, small businesses must be strategic to be successful here. One of the most effective ways small businesses can compete is to focus their SEO strategy.
Ranking for “deli sandwiches” is much harder than ranking for “deli sandwiches in Lubbock Texas.”
How to focus your SEO strategy:
Focusing your SEO strategy can be difficult. There’s so much you might want to rank for but going too broad too soon may be ineffective. Try these tips to help you get started:
- Conduct keyword research: Researching keywords, their potential value, what your competition ranks for, and how hard it is to rank for a phrase can help guide your SEO strategy. There are plenty of tools out there to help with keyword research, with Ahrefs and the Google Search Console being two popular choices that can help you get started.
- Create quality content around those keywords: Once you decide on your target keywords, build content around them. You won’t be able to determine exactly how the Google algorithm works, so focus more on content quality than SEO “hacks.”
- Nail your technical SEO: Content is an important part of an SEO strategy, but technical SEO is also important. In simple terms: technical SEO is optimizing your web pages for web crawlers that index sites for search engines. You can take the do-it-yourself approach to technical SEO or work with a specialist to get it right, but do it.
7. Don’t Overlook Paid Search
With the allure of SEO, it can be hard to justify spending for search results. However, doing so can yield an impressive ROI.
Additionally, while SEO takes time to build up, paid results pop up in searches shortly after payment. This means paid search can be an effective way to quickly grab your potential customers’ attention.
How to use paid search:
Getting your paid search or PPC (pay per click) strategy right can be tricky. You’ll need to do some research and make an informed decision about budgets to succeed. Consider these steps as you get rolling with your paid search tactics.
- Get familiar with Google Ads: Google is far and away the biggest player in the search engine world. Getting familiar with their Google Ads platform is a good place to start your paid search journey. Note: It’s true Google is the biggest player in the market. However, if you have a tech savvy and privacy-conscious target audience, you may get more bang for your buck on DuckDuckGo.
- Do your keyword research: Just like with SEO, you need to decide what keywords are worth chasing.
8. Use Google My Business
You know those panels that appear on the right side of Google results with star ratings and contact information for local businesses? Like this:
They’re part of Google My Business and you can use them to improve your small business marketing. While results vary significantly by industry, Google My Business listings can lead to a decent chunk of customer actions every month: website visits, calls, or direction requests.
In fact, according to BrightLocal, the average business has 59 actions per month occur from their Google My Business listing.
How to use Google My Business:
Fortunately for small businesses, getting started with Google My Business is straightforward. These three steps can help get you going:
- Claim or add and verify your business: In many cases, your business may already be listed. Claiming it is as simple as going to Google Maps, popping in your address, clicking “Claim this business,” and following the prompts. Alternatively, you can add your business to Google My Business by creating an account and inputting the required information.
- Verify your business: After you add or claim your business, verifying it helps ensure information is accurate and only authorized parties have access to modify it. The verification process can be done by mail, phone, email, or online. You can learn more about verifying your business on Google’s support site.
- Flesh out your profile: In addition to verifying your information is accurate and up to date, be sure to spruce up your profile and remain active. Images can help a lot. Google reports that businesses with photos on their accounts get 42% more driving directions requests and 35% more clicks for their website. Additionally, responding to negative reviews can help show that you’re engaged and provide good customer service.
Final thoughts: use the right marketing tactics for your business
Like most things, getting your small business marketing right requires context, nuance, and trial and error.
By using some of the tactics we’ve covered here, you can help jumpstart your efforts and hit the ground running. There’s no need to try everything at once, rather pick a few tactics that make sense for you today and grow from there.