As a new small business owner, there are so many activities that are involved in starting and running a business that can consume a person’s time.  Unfortunately, this often means that marketing is relegated to the list of things to do someday.  However, in order to successfully grow your business, you need to attract and retain a base of satisfied customers. The best way to do that is through marketing.

Start with a marketing plan

Just as you created a business plan when you first started your business, the first step to marketing is an effective small business marketing plan. It doesn’t have to be comprehensive, and similar to a business plan, it’s not a set it and forget it endeavor, but a living, breathing document that should be addressed numerous times throughout the year. The key to a good marketing plan is to create one.  Even a simple one-page outline of target audience, your unique value proposition, and your top three competitors is a good start.  Having an idea of where you are and where you want to go will make your marketing efforts that much easier.

From there, work the plan. Dedicate the time and resources to the plan. Every small business is different, and there are as many suggestions on how to market your business as there are businesses. The key is to do a few things well versus trying to do every marketing tactic out there. There’s print marketing, content marketing, social media marketing and so many more choices.  If you’re trying to figure out where to start, look at your marketing plan you just created.  Look at your target audience.  Where are they?  Are they mostly online?  Do they require a lot of information in order to buy?  Where are your competitors putting their marketing efforts?  Does it seem to be working?  Once you figure out one or two avenues to pursue, really understand how those marketing tactics work. Engage the help of a small business marketing advisor if you feel you need guidance.

Find cost-effective ways to market your business

Marketing your small business doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.  There are many cost-effective ways to market your business that only requires your time.  Here are a few ideas to start:

Engage in Public Speaking

People are always seeking subject matter experts to lend their expertise.  Find associations, clubs and other venues that will allow you to come in and do a presentation. A simple PowerPoint presentation can be leveraged while you speak, but more importantly, if participants want that presentation after your speech, ask them to provide their email address to get a copy, or put it on SlideShare.  Now you’re building a solid email list for future email marketing efforts.

Start Using Your Email List for Marketing

If you’ve built a decent list of emails over the years, now is the time to engage in email marketing.  This could be monthly newsletters or weekly updates, depending on your business.  The key is to stay in front of your clients on a regular basis while providing value.  Send special discount codes, or share a preview to an upcoming white paper you’ll be writing.

Start Blogging

Again, it’s about sharing your expertise.  Consistently blog about topics you’re an expert on, answer questions that clients and prospects are asking, or provide industry insights that provide value to your audience.  Be consistent with your writing.  There are many resources on how to start blogging for your small business. This marketing tactic can be a powerful one if used correctly.

Get Social with Your Prospects and Clients

Now that you’ve started blogging, how will you get people to know you’re providing this great resource on your website?  Through social media!  There are numerous social networks out there so again, refer to your marketing plan:  Where are your customers? Where are your prospects? Where are your competitors?  Start out with two, three networks at the most. The key is to be relevant and consistent with your social media efforts.  There are many beginner’s guide for using social media for small businesses to get you started.

Obviously, there are many other marketing tactics that can be leveraged for social media.  The information above is a great starting point for small businesses looking to start marketing efforts. Following these suggestions can help you attract and maintain clients to grow your business.

Patty Hughes
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