Simple Concepts: Top 10 Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

I often get asked, “what is the best types of marketing for small businesses”? This actually is a tough and very broad question. There are so many things that lead to a successful marketing campaign or strategy. Although it is hard to pinpoint one marketing strategy that works for all businesses all of the time, I included 10 really great marketing strategies that will work for almost any business at any time. These strategies will need to be customized with your business in mind but the basic strategy will remain the same.

  1. Create “Elevator Speeches”.
    These speeches/pitches are a phrase/paragraph, no longer than a minute that you have memorized that you can pull out at any time. Most people think of these pitches as simply a quick explanation about what you do, which should be the first one you master, but you can also create these based on the most common questions that people ask you. For example, people often call us to price shop our products. I would say our prices are pretty average, we’re not the cheapest and definitely not the most expensive. Sometimes someone will get angry because Such and Such prices their So and So at this Price and then they proceed to ask me whether we can match their prices. I almost always say the exact same thing. “We price our products/services in such a way where we feel confident that you are happy with your product every time. That may mean that So and So is priced a little higher but if we priced it like Such and Such does, we wouldn’t have time to do any quality control. We care more about long-term relationships with clients and gaining their trust, than about getting a one-time sale by undercutting our competition.” I can’t tell you how many times those people have said, “That sounds really good, I wouldn’t mind paying a little bit more for a bit more care and attention”. This is an example of  how you can turn a prospective customer into a customer.  And it is also a weeding out process that helps make sure that you are getting the clients who are actually your target market. Here are a few examples of Elevator Speeches that you should always have up your sleeve:

    • Your Business Summary (what do you do?)
    • Your Pricing Strategy (why do you price things the way you do?)
    • Your Specialties: Customer Service, Innovation, Technology, One-Stop-Shop, etc. (really think about this one and take time developing it because if prospective clients see the value, they may be willing to pay a premium for your service vs. your competitor’s)
    • Your Mission Statement/Purpose of the Business
    • Your Niche (what makes you different and better)
  2. Look for ways to establish yourself as an expert in your field.
    One of the most important ways to convert a prospective customer into an active customer is for them to gain trust in you and your business. If someone calls just “needing advice” then don’t be bashful about giving them some free advice. Yes, you will risk them going off and doing things on their own, but more often than not, they will respect your knowledge and decide its smarter for them to just use you because they trust that you will get it right the first time. We put this into practice by offering a Free 30 Minute Marketing Consultation once a year for any of our clients or any prospective client. We always tell them that if they are No-Pressure consultations and that we try to make sure they leave with good information whether or not they use us to produce their marketing materials. Why would we give away our time or expertise in this way, you may ask? 9 times out of 10, they will become customers because we have proven that we are experts in our field. We are investing time in their business upfront so that they can understand how we run our business and test whether or not they feel comfortable with us. Those two things “sell” a person on a business and if it is a good fit, it will make them life-long customers. If they feel that we care about their business more than their money, they gain trust and want to pursue a relationship with us. If they feel like we are just trying to get a quick sale or pressure them into buying something, then they will run as fast and as far as they can. We feel that even though we are giving some of our time for “free” that in the end we will get it back 10-fold as we have shown our expertise, gained their trust and gained a loyal customer. I did want to mention that on the other side of the coin, we are also testing them. If we can sense that they just want “free” stuff and don’t have any plans for loyalty or long-term commitment, then we can pass on them as well. See more about this in the next section…Green, Yellow and Red Clients.There are many ways to establish yourself as an expert in your field, here are some examples:

    • Write Blogs/Articles
    • Volunteer to speak at relevant forums/conferences
    • Answer questions in forums in your industry
    • Have some printed educational marketing pieces (postcards, brochures, etc.) to hand out to customers/prospective customers
    • Call your current customers with ideas you had for their lives/business
    • Cold call prospective customers and let them know of a problem you can noticed they have that you can help with (but tread carefully as you DON’T want to offend them when telling them how you could improve So and So)
  3. Know your Green, Yellow and Red Clients.
    What are Green, Yellow and Red clients, you may ask, and what does this have to do with marketing? Good question! This is one of the best things I have learned and implemented into my business from a marketing standpoint. A Green client is someone who spends lots of money with you, is loyal, trusts your advice and expertise, tells their friends/colleagues about you and is committed to a long-term relationship with you and your business. A Yellow clients is someone who hasn’t quite reached Green status yet. They may be just starting out and don’t have as large of a budget, but they are still loyal, trust you and give you referrals. With time and the right kind of advice and encouragement, they may be able to become Green clients. Red clients, on the other hand, are those who take up all of your time, care only about the bottom line (don’t want to pay you for your time or what you’re worth), they don’t have any loyalty to you and they don’t trust you.The best advice I ever received when I was a couple years into my business is that it is okay to “fire” clients. If you have a red client, they are not worth the time and effort it takes to make them happy, AND they are probably the type that will not ever be fully happy with anything you give them. I would much rather spend my time developing my relationships with Green and Yellow clients.So, what does this have to do with marketing? Think about this quick example, which should hopefully make it pretty clear. Let’s say I have figured out who is my Green client/target market and they are people who spend “this much” with my business and they order “this often” from us. So I decide I would like to get a few more of those clients decide to do a marketing campaign, such as a mailer, which says that we will “match anyone’s price”. Think about that real quick, is that going be the best strategy? Will it bring me the Green/Yellow clients that I want? Remember my Elevator Speech about my company is not necessarily the cheapest and that we don’t price match? Is this marketing campaign going to be effective for me? Probably not. I may get lucky and get a few loyal, long-term clients but for the most part I will be getting all of the clients who I usually try to avoid. I may get some short-term/one-time sales but I think you see where I’m going with this.Any marketing campaign that you decide to embark on, will be much more effective in the long run when you know the type of clients you want and then market to them. That’s why the basis for any marketing should be knowing your target market so that the people who respond are the ones that will build your business in the long run.Okay, we’re going to take a little time-out and switch gears. The first 3 are more “abstract” strategies of how to market your business by knowing where you want to go and how to present your business to prospective customers. Now we’re going to get into the nitty gritty of specific marketing strategies that I think every business should implement.
  4. List your company on website directories.
    The use of Yellow Pages has declined by over 50 percent in the last five years. More than 50% of google searches are now done on mobile devices. You may have noticed that your company comes up in a lot of these directories without you having done anything but you can take advantage of many more features, and most/all of them for free. The most important part of this listing is to add a link to your website. This is beneficial because having backlinks from respected websites increases your website rankings. Even if you don’t have a website, these directories give you the ability to have an online presence, which is extremely crucial to be relevant with your business. Here is a list of the top 10 places your company should be listed:

  5. Website/Blogs
    Everyone knows the basic reasons why it is useful to have a website: found on the internet, people can look you up anytime of day or night, get to know your business before calling you, informative, sell your services/products, etc. But often people look at websites as just a place-holder so that people can find you. I would like to encourage you that websites can go far beyond just information. Here are a few things that websites can do for your business that you may have never thought of:

    • Give your business a “voice”. People can infer a lot about your business by how you approach your clients on your website. I like to encourage my clients to be true to the voice of you as a business owner or the voice of your business.
    • Branding. When we think of branding, we usually think of logos. The cool thing about branding is that it consists of a lot more than just what your logo looks like. Did you know that different colors can make people feel different ways. Red is a power and passion color. Browns/Burgundies/Dark Greens give an impression of stability and experience. A website is a place where your branding can really be effective. You can make people feel a certain way about your business based on the website design, website colors, website content, etc. This is often the “first impression” that a customer has of you, make sure it fits your business.
    • Credibility. If you answer a question on your website that someone has been searching for, you are automatically considered an expert in their mind. That expertise may gain their business when they need your services because you have already gained their trust, which is an important first step in getting new clients.
  6. Search Engine Optimization
    SEO as it is most commonly referred to is very basically, communicating with search engines in the most effective way in order for them to recommend your website in relevant searches. Although, the way this is done is a lot more complicated. To make SEO the most effective, you need to know what Search Engines are looking for.

    • Content – Titles and Page content all being relevant to the keyword/keyphrases
    • Performance – Efficient website that works properly and is fast. Also, now we can include that is has to be mobile-friendly or else your ranking moves down.
    • Authority – Does your website have valuable content that other websites find useful to link to?
    • User Experience – What is your bounce rate – how long do people stay on your site? How does it look and is it easy to navigate?
  7. Video Marketing
    Is video marketing really worth it? Video posts perform better on social media channels than more traditional blog posts or updates, most notably on Facebook. Video will increase your brand awareness, improve consumer engagement and boost your search engine optimization efforts. Maintaining a presence on the major video search platforms accentuates your visibility just as a Facebook page or Twitter profile. Video has been shown to move an existing site to the first page of a Google search within 30 minutes of adding it, and move it into one of the top two positions within a day, says Alfred Poor. He adds that video also helps your business even after prospective customers find it online. “A study found that customers who see a video on your site are 172 percent more likely to buy your product or service.Video marketing is an overwhelming part of marketing to most small businesses. Larger business invest big bucks creating and advertising great videos to captivate their audience and share their “voice” with their clients/prospective clients. But now with the technology (iPhones, apps, fiverr, etc.) we have, making short videos is so much easier than it used to be. Small businesses can now do a lot of this on their own instead of spending the money with a large marketing firm.Here are some fun facts about video marketing:

    1. Using videos on landing pages can increase conversions by 86%
    2. Videos get 267% more links than normal posts.
    3. Viewers retain 58% of what they see but only 10% of what they read.
  8. Business Cards
    Even if you think business cards are an antiquated form or marketing, there is a good chance that most of your prospective customers do not. People always say that business cards are on their way out but I don’t think that will ever happen. They have been part of business culture for too long. So, since you need a business card, why not make the most of it?! Here are some ideas for making your cards stand out while also taking them beyond just an informational card.

    1. Educate/Challenge: Add quotes or stats that not only educate your client but also help them emotionally or mentally connect with you and your business.
    2. Tracking: Add a QR code that sends them to something useful and informative. This proves to them your are an expert in your field, gets them on your site, and then you can track the effectiveness through the QR code.
    3. Testimonials: Everyone loves to read testimonials of their prospective service providers. Why not add that to your cards to give you credibility right away.
  9. Word of Mouth Referrals 
    This is by far the best type of marketing you can do. If you find that you aren’t getting a lot of word of mouth referrals, then there are things you can do to encourage them. You can have a small referral section on your business cards. You can create referral incentives for your customers. You can also give incentives for having people review your businesses on major outlets like google, Yelp, etc.Here are some stats that prove Word of Mouth Referrals are the best type of marketing:

    1. According to research by Nielsen, 92 percent of people trust recommendations from friends and family more than all other forms of marketing. The same study found that less than half of all customers consider traditional paid advertising to be credible—that’s a decrease of more than 20 percent since 2009!
    2. 77% of consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it from friends or family. (Nielsen)
    3. 79% of U.S. consumers who’ve “Liked” a brand on Facebook did so in order to receive discounts or other incentives. (Market Force)
    4. 43% of consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it on social media. (Nielsen)
  10. Great Customer Service
    I know, this may seem like a strange way to sum up the Top 10 Marketing Strategies article but all of these marketing strategies are based on getting customers and keeping them. You can get a million new customers but if you don’t retain a large percentage, then you will soon run out of customers. Here is a customer service checklist to see how you’re doing:

    • Are your customers greeted in a friendly, personal way, making them feel like the most important client you have?
    • Do you answer the phones when they ring and do you answer your emails in a timely fashion?
    • Do you and your employees know your products extremely well so that you can educate your clients and sound knowledgeable?
    • Can you help customers solve their problems instead of just giving them the same answer you give to everyone else? Can you think outside the box for your customers? Will you go the extra mile to find a solution for them?
    • Are you cool and calm when a conflict arises?
    • Do you resolve problems/issues in a timely and fair manner?
    • Do you have processes in place to keep quality controls consistent?

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article. My goal for these Simple Concept Marketing articles is for you to get the nuts and bolts of marketing without you having to spend hours becoming a marketing expert yourself. I hope they will help you look at your business with fresh eyes and also help you get to the next level with your marketing endeavors. Let us know if we can do anything to help you with your marketing!

This article was written by Comfort C. Price, owner of Concept Design Studios. Concept Design Studios is a full-service marketing studio that can provide any product or service for your small business, including: marketing consultations, design, printing, signs, promotional products, website design & development and apparel.