Every single day countless local stores and shops provide their products and services to customers around the world. To attract, acquire and keep those customers they use small business marketing.
It doesn’t matter if the business is a Fortune 500 company or a local dry cleaner, marketing is the official business name for everything that helps it to acquire customers.
Businesses big and small use marketing strategies such as advertising, free giveaways, and sales promotions to attract and get customers.
What is Marketing?
At clientflare we believe marketing is a business’s customer acquisition drivers.
It’s all the different things that play a part in a person becoming a customer of a business. These things range from the billboard signs on the side of the road and the ads playing on the radio as you drive by those signs to the emails we receive in our inboxes from companies trying to sell us things.
If business is the exchange of goods and services, think of marketing as the facilitator of that exchange.
One important thing to point out is that sometimes the marketing that helps businesses get customers isn’t something they do.
An example of this is the long line you might see in front of a popular restaurant which leads to more people wanting to check out the restaurant and see what all the hype is about.
Similarly people lining up for new releases of certain popular sneakers also adds to the hype and demand for the shoes and helps to market them.
What is Small Business Marketing?
Small business marketing is the marketing that is done by smaller businesses. We classify it on its own to indicate that we are dealing with a specific type of marketing.
Think of marketing as an umbrella and the different types of marketing such as digital marketing, social media, and advertising as specific things that you are focusing on within that umbrella.
What makes small business marketing specific is that usually smaller enterprises don’t have the same budgets and teams dedicated to marketing that their larger counterparts might have.
Also, the target market of many local shops is usually people that live in a specific city or region.
They need marketing strategies that fit their budgets, size, and needs. They usually can’t just spend as much money as they would like to advertise to as many people as possible. Small businesses have to be more focused and targeted in their marketing approach.
Why is Small Business Marketing Important?
To understand why marketing is important it helps to think of a triangle. Most of us know and can recognize the shape of a triangle fairly easily. And we know that different types of them exist and that they have different angles. We also know that in order for a shape to be considered a triangle it must have three sides with three points.
There is a similar behavior that exists between business and marketing as well because they too also can’t exist without key points. If a triangle can’t exist without one of its three edges and points, then likewise a business can’t exist without a product, customer, and marketing.
You couldn’t say I want to be in business, but I don’t want to offer and sell my product to people. Similarly, you couldn’t say you want to sell your product or service but you don’t want to get customers that will purchase them. It’s not just about getting people to where you do business either. It’s also about making it easier for people to purchase from you even if they are walking by and happen to come in to your shop on their own.
Just imagine someone coming in to your restaurant or coffee shop and there being nothing there for them to know the types of food or coffee you sell, and for how much. To make matters even worse no one engages with them or gives them any attention. You can easily see how you wouldn’t expect those people to buy anything because of the establishment’s poor marketing. You can also see how this bad experience can lead those people to not back come again.
How Does Marketing Work for Small Businesses?
If you own an auto body shop, dry cleaner, or small dental practice marketing for you might mean how do you get potential customers to know about your business? How do you get them to come in? How do you offer them a good product or service and make sure that they are happy?
Generally speaking, most of the energy and time that is put into a small business goes towards operating the business, with a little bit of time and money going towards marketing.
Using the examples above, customers bring in their cars, drop off their clothes, or come in for a cleaning. Services are rendered, payment is received, and customers go on their way.
Most of the marketing done by small businesses is very targeted, fits their needs, and built into their business activities. For example, they might have someone in front of the store waving a sign, or pass flyers to people walking by, or put them on cars or doors in the neighborhood. Or they might have a great product or great customer service.
Of course they can use the same strategies that are used by big companies such as advertising, and sponsoring things, but whatever method they use it should fit their needs.
What are Examples of Small Businesses Marketing Their Products and Services?
If you wanted to market an auto body shop you can look up any local auctions or car events or meet ups and sponsor the entire event or something at the event, such a winning car.
To market a dry cleaner, you can sponsor a local kids pee wee soccer team at the elementary school level and maybe provide their uniforms, socks, or bags to carry their gear. You might even be able to sponsor part of the league and get exposure that way.
With a dentist you can go to local boxing gyms, and offer to sponsor free training sessions for kids who might not otherwise qualify. The gym might offer an hour a day for five days a week as part of what you would get with their regular membership.
Your dental practice can offer to sponsor eight free hours (an hour a week) where families can bring their kids in for some training. You can even offer to provide certain equipment for free such as mouth guards, because you want them to learn to protect and take care of their pearly whites.
As you can see, these strategies we just discussed are examples of small businesses marketing their products and services in ways that suit how and where their businesses operate.
What are Some Marketing Strategies for Small Business with Limited Resources?
But what if you own or run one of these example businesses and you don’t even have money or time for any of the strategies we talked about?
If money and time are weaknesses, then turn to your strengths. Get and keep customers without doing things that require you to deviate too much from your normal business activities or that require you to spend too much money.
Places where small businesses have strengths include being part of a community, providing for the needs of local residents, and knowing their customers.
Sticking with our previous examples, with a dry cleaner what you can do is create a job board on a wall in your shop. As your customers drop off and pick up their clothes communicate with them about businesses hiring in the area.
You never know which one of your customers might be looking for work, or is thinking of leaving their current job for something better. With this strategy you develop a relationship with them, and also create something besides the dry cleaning that develops customer engagement.
In addition to the job board, you can create a loaner program in which customers that end up getting an interview can loan things like a jacket and tie for the interview. This might be especially helpful to teens who might be going to their first ever interview.
A current customer of yours who is a parent of a teen might like the fact that your place was not only able to connect their child with a local job in the area, but also helped them dress up for their interview.
This strategy has the added benefit of creating word of mouth buzz as customers who use it might also share it with their coworkers.
Similarly, you can also market a dental practice without spending a ton of money or time. As we mentioned think of things that are strengths and benefits for your business.
With a dentist, something that is a big benefit is that when people come in for a visit, they spend a good amount of time at the office.
They check in, wait, and then have work done for them. There is tremendous value in the amount of time that you actually have access to the customer and are able to engage with them.
For a marketing strategy set up a little library that has about ten books or so. Choose non fiction books that are beneficial and help the client educate and improve themselves. Examples of the types of books include ones that deal with self-help, entrepreneurship, and learning new languages.
You create a program where clients can choose to read one of the books you provide while they wait to be called in. When they get called up to get their work done you have them tell you about what they read.
You offer some kind of discount (maybe percentage or dollar amount) on the bill to any of the people who participate in the program. Rather than people just waiting doing nothing or being on their phones, you create a way for them to engage and develop a relationship with the practice.
If your practice provides services for children, this strategy can also be something that parents love. Their kids get to read, and they also get to save on the bill.
With an auto body shop a strategy you can use is to be an advocate and spokesperson for your community. You might work on things like shock absorbers, alignments, and tires which are things that might be damaged by bad roads.
Have your customers share with you any potholes or damaged streets that they deal with on their daily commutes. Tell them that you want to help fix the community, and that you will call the proper authorities and try to get them to come out and do the necessary repairs.
This helps establish your shop as being a part of the community and also develops a relationship with the people you do work for that extends beyond when they are at your shop.
As you can see marketing for a small business means doing the things that help get customers for a small shop or enterprise. Hopefully these examples and strategies inspire you to think off additional ways to drive more people to your place of business.