Starting a small business can be both incredibly rewarding and challenging at the same time. Once the initial excitement starts to wear off, continuously finding new customers is no easy feat.
While having a great product and team is important, your marketing strategy will largely determine the success of your small business.
A business marketing strategy includes all the methods a company uses, including market research to understand its audience, advertising, sales, and building relationships with consumers or the media to encourage loyalty and broaden the reach of its message.
Ultimately, marketing is not just a comprehensive plan for promoting a product or service. It is also an important way to grow a company itself.
Of course, a business marketing strategy that works for a large company will not necessarily work for a small or medium-sized business (SMB). So it’s important to understand what stage of your business you’re in.
Smaller businesses often need to do more with less when it comes to their marketing team and budget. That makes it essential for small businesses to create a streamlined, scalable marketing program that they can implement themselves.
Ahead, discover how to create a business marketing strategy and dig into some helpful tips and resources to improve your overall marketing efforts.
The 4 types of marketing
Before creating your marketing strategy, it’s first helpful to understand the types of marketing you can potentially use for your business. While there are technically dozens of ways to market your products and services, usually your marketing will fall into one of four buckets: outbound, inbound, digital, and traditional.
It’s important to understand how each of these types of marketing strategies play into your own specific business. For example, if you’re using business-to-business marketing, traditional marketing might be the most effective marketing strategy. If your target audience is frequently on social media, digital marketing is probably the best play. Of course, your business might utilize all four types of marketing, and that’s perfectly OK.
- Outbound marketing: This refers to traditional marketing efforts that involve actively reaching out to customers, such as advertising, cold calling, and email marketing.
- Inbound marketing: This refers to marketing strategies that involve attracting and retaining customers through content marketing, ranking well on search engines like Google and Bing, and social media marketing. Inbound marketing aims to draw customers in with valuable and helpful content, rather than pushing marketing messages at them.
- Digital marketing: This refers to marketing efforts that use the internet and online platforms to reach customers. Digital marketing can include a wide range of tactics, such as email marketing, social media marketing, search engine marketing, and online advertising.
- Traditional marketing: This refers to marketing efforts that take place through traditional channels, such as print, radio and television commercials, and direct mail. Traditional marketing can be effective, but it often can be more costly and less targeted than digital marketing methods.
Again, each of these types of marketing have their own benefits and disadvantages, and you’ll likely use a mix of all four. Now let’s dive into how to be effective with your business marketing strategy.
3 steps to effective business marketing
Successful marketing strategies for any business have three non-negotiable components.
1. Get to know your audience
The best marketing strategies start with getting to know your audience. This is usually done through creating personas of your potential customers.
A buyer persona is a profile of the ideal customer for your product. A persona is defined by the following data points:
- Demographics, including age and location
- What pain points they have
- Their motivations and goals when making specific purchases
- How customers make purchase decisions—for instance, whether they like to purchase in person or online
- What and who influences them in making decisions
- How much research they do before buying
You can gather this data through:
During this process, it’s critical to understand whether you’re targeting businesses (B2B) or looking to directly target individual potential customers directly instead (B2C). While there is some overlap when marketing to B2B and B2C, it’s critical to speak directly to your target market, or you run the risk of being ineffective with your marketing campaigns.
2. Create a marketing plan
Once you have a good understanding of your target market and the pain points and challenges of your potential customers, the next step is to begin creating your small business marketing plan.
A marketing plan will outline your strategy for a certain period (a quarter, the coming year) and should include the following components:
- Your brand’s overall promise to customers
- Your customer needs and how your products fulfill them
- A content strategy that informs what pieces you show to your audience on various platforms and at various points in their customer journey
- Your company’s goals for marketing, advertising, and sales
- Tactics for accomplishing those goals and a timeline within which they can be executed
- The budget allocated for accomplishing those goals
- Key performance indicators (KPIs) the company will track
Writing a marketing plan will then help outline a strategy for executing that plan. It’s important to note that marketing strategies can differ significantly depending on your specific goals and where you are in the life cycle of your business. Your marketing strategy might be heavily focused on getting traffic from search engines (search engine optimization), or maybe you’re more focused on generating new customers through paid ads instead.
The best marketing strategies speak focus on their target market and are continually updated to reflect a change in consumer behavior, etc.
3. Execute your marketing plan with great content
As we’ve covered, your marketing strategy won’t be exactly the same as that of other businesses, even businesses in your industry. What is largely true however, is that most effective marketing strategies use content as a foundation.
Once you understand your target demographic and have mapped out your overall marketing plan, you can create a marketing strategy with content tailored to target your customers in the best way possible.
For example, if your research determined that your customer does a lot of reading before buying, prefers to minimize in-person contact, and ultimately makes purchases with a company they consider to be an expert in its field, this gives you several key indications about the kind of content you might publish on your company’s website. Maybe you discover your target audience uses Google heavily when looking for your type of product or service; in that case, search engine optimization might be your core focus.
You could create a blog with informational articles about your industry, plus how-to articles that solve potential customers’ problems as they relate to your product, all of which help establish your company as a leading voice in your field.
When developing and executing strategies, marketers refer to the marketing funnel. At the top of this funnel is general informational content that builds awareness, but isn’t necessarily targeted at a specific customer or market. Moving through the funnel, marketing messaging gets increasingly targeted to reach specific customers, with the aim of getting to the narrowest part of the funnel, which is conversion and purchase. To accomplish these goals, companies use a variety of marketing channels and types of content.
Here are a few types of content for each part of this funnel:
Awareness (top of the funnel)
- Blog posts
Consideration (middle of the funnel)
- Case studies
- How-to videos
- How-to articles
Conversion and purchase (bottom of the funnel)
- Buyers’ guides
- Product videos
- Research reports
Now that we’ve covered the foundation of a business marketing strategy, let’s take a look at some marketing channels you should consider in your marketing mix.
Essential marketing channels for small businesses
Research shows that building relationships with customers and potential customers via email marketing is profitable. In fact, one study showed that email marketing led to a 15.11% conversion rate. A successful email campaign includes:
- A quality subject line that attracts email recipients (testing these over time will show you what kinds of subject lines yield results)
- Emails that offer promotions, information, exclusive previews, or other value propositions
- Calls to action, which will invite your reader to take action, such as purchasing an item or reading something on your site
The great thing about email marketing is you largely own the asset. You can’t be “throttled” or forced to increase your ad spend like you can on other social media platforms.
No matter who your target customer is, chances are they’re on social media. One study shows that 4.48 billion people currently use social media worldwide, more than double its user base from way back in 2015. That amounts to about 93.33% of internet users. Small businesses may want to focus their efforts on a limited number of channels. Some tactics to make social media marketing work for you include:
- Post consistently and consider using a social media scheduler that allows you to post at strategic times to capture the most eyeballs.
- Monitor activity carefully and engage with other users on social media platforms.
- Use influencer marketing to promote your product to your target audience.
Content, video and podcast
Content marketing takes many forms, including written, audio, and video. Here are some channels and tactics successful marketers use:
- Video production: Of all the ways people consume media, video marketing has risen most dramatically in recent years. According to YouTube internal data, there has been an 800% increase in global watch time of ad-supported and purchased video. If you want to double down on video production, influencer marketing can also be powerful here as well.
- Podcasts: Data from a study in 2021 showed that 41% of the US population reported listening to a podcast in the past month. Companies can augment their online written content with video or podcasts or both to deliver information in ways that consumers want to receive it.
- Written content: This includes images, which generate up to 94% more traffic than articles with no images.
- Ebook: In addition to articles and blog posts, written content can go longer form and become an ebook or white paper.
You’ll know if the strategies you employ are working by using analytics tools to track clicks, leads, conversions, and sales for the content you publish.
How to be successful with business marketing: Final thoughts
Marketing for companies large and small is based on the basic tenet that a company can only engage its audience if it knows who that target audience is. Once you know who your people are and their pain points, how they consume content, and how they like to buy, you’ll be able to tailor a marketing strategy that engages them.
Create a plan that matches your customer with the best tactics to reach them. And finally, bring your marketing plan to life by leading your customer through awareness, to consideration, to the point of purchase.
Business marketing FAQ
What is the purpose of business marketing?
The purpose of business marketing is to attract, retain, and sell to customers by promoting products or services, building relationships with target audiences, and differentiating from competitors to drive profitable customer action.
What is business-to-business marketing?
Business-to-business (B2B) marketing refers to the marketing of products or services by one business to another.
What are the steps to business marketing?
- Get to know your audience
- Create a plan
- Execute your plan with great content