Small Business Marketing Ain't For the Timid

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Marketing a small business takes some guts. It’s not necessarily rocket science, more like showing up and doing a lot of the same things over and over again, but one of those things is the ability to stick with a plan, even if you are bit uncomfortable with some aspect of the plan.

A good marketing plan will have the following 5 elements:

  • Strategy – Think long term about what you want your company or your brand to stand for and focus every tactic on supporting that unique point of difference. Resist the urge to follow the heard and blaze a meaningful, but unique trail.
  • Simplicity – Keep your marketing simple so that the tactical aspects actually get done and so that your message doesn’t get confused.
  • Consistency – You will be bored with your marketing long before it has the desired impact. Keep at it, send the same thing to the same people over and over again.
  • Multiple facets – People gather information and learn in many different ways. Make sure that your message is presented in those different ways. A prospect that hears your ad on the radio and then reads about your firm in the local press may feel an uncontrollable urge to pick up the phone and call you.
  • Self-promotion – This one is hard for many business owners. You’ve got to be your companies’ biggest raving fan. Sure, there are ways to be obnoxious in this regard, but there are many ways to self promote that are powerful brand builders. Look for opportunities to use self promotion in conjunction with other facets of marketing and advertising for full impact.


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  1. As a fellow business consultant and business owner, I think John’s five points are right on target. The one that most people fail to achieve, I think, is Consistency.

    So many of my clients expect results and ROI tomorrow, which simply sets them up for failure. Direct Mail is a good example of how short-term thinking and over-hyped expectations lead to failure.

    In my three decades of experiencel, far too many businesses employing direct marketing send out a post card and wait for the phone to ring. And when it doesn’t, they blame direct marketing as a failed tactic.

    The blame is misplaced, as the fault lies with the use of the tactic (tool). Instead of creating a direct marketing plan, wherein the post card simply represents the ringing of a door bell, these businesses expect the card to ring their cash registers. Like any marketing tactic, a post card is but a piece of the puzzle, which remains unfinished until all the pieces are in place.

    To repeat, the error of this approach lies in starting the process with a tactic, when first steps should include measurable goals, followed by strategies to achieve those goals, and then the launch and implementation of tactics, all of which must undergo the close scrutiny of metrics and frequent evaluation of how the tools are working. And then, if necessary, adjusting, revising, improving or even changing the tactics.

  2. So agree with the self-promotion bit.
    If I don’t believe in my product enough to tell the world,
    why should my customers?

  3. All 5 elements are so critical but I have to say that consistency – sticking with a plan beyond when we lose faith or get tired of it – really is the key. Of all those things, even as a consumer – I know that I don’t immediately act on something but the more I see it, hear it and when I’m ready… I remember who offers what I’m looking for – that is effective marketing.

  4. John,

    Right on! I’d say the biggest piece is MAKING a plan and working it CONSISTENTLY. Having a nice variety of vehicles in your marketing mix ensures good visibility: blog, newsletter, direct mail, daily/weekly blast emails, and regular website updates. The goal is to talk to your audience enough to build a close relationship and they remember who you are.

    John, I love your blog. I’d like to offer a gift for your readers. I believe if you help enough people get what they want, you can get anything you want out of life.

    And so I’m on a mission to help 10,000 people make more money with the online business.

    Anyone reading this can get a free copy of my home business success book, “I Love My Life: A Mom’s Guide to Working from Home” for just the cost of postage here.

    This book is loaded with ideas on how to organize your home office, market online, and take your home based business to the next level.

    So grab your free copy of this book today – quantities won’t last long.

    Keep up the great work Mr. Duct Tape Marketer. Reading your blog is always at the top of my “to do” list in the morning!

  5. Wow, do I heartily agree with everything being said here. Plus, don’t forget the additional challenge of a small business, which is the non-existent advertising budget most have when first opening. I own an arts center in Chicago, for example, and our entire advertising budget for the first YEAR is only $500; it’s forced us to get a lot more creative about viral marketing, experiential marketing, selective corporate partnerships and the like, which I feel has ultimately all been for the better. This is the flip-side of challenges in the business industry, after all; the inspiration to do truly groundbreaking things, that others without those challenges might not think of themselves.

    As far as your last point, about self-promotion, I definitely agree that such a thing can quickly reach the point of annoying shilling when handled wrongly. I encourage small-business owners to think of it this way instead; that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being excited about the business you’re trying to start, and with sharing the reasons you’re excited. Instead of thinking of yourself as a traditional salesperson, I encourage small-business owners to simply see self-promotion as exactly that — an excuse to explain the company to others, and to explain why you’re going to all the trouble of opening your company in the first place. If you’re passionate about the reasons, that will effectively promote the company much more profoundly than any “pitch” you can devise.

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