How small business owners can create a smart marketing strategy

By Peter Daisyme, BusinessCollective, Tribune Content Agency

As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” When it comes to creating and implementing a marketing strategy for small business owners like myself, this couldn’t be more true. When I first launched my company, I had daily fires to put out, and I found it challenging to find time to develop a marketing strategy. However, with five basic steps, I generated one that was killer.

1. Define your end goal.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never started a road trip by just getting in a car and seeing where it would take me. Instead, I’ve picked a destination and determined what I needed to do to get there, using directions and landmarks along the way.

This same idea can apply to a marketing strategy. When I wanted to get publicity for my startup, I decided that I wanted to generate a certain increase in website traffic, add a specific number of followers on social media, and convert a defined number of leads into customers.

Ask yourself what goals you want to accomplish. When do you want these milestones completed? Once you have that end goal, you can start mapping out a course of action, including marketing tactics designed to reach that destination.

2. Determine your target audience.

No matter how great of a product, service or strategy you have in place, you still need customers to make your small business a success. But who are your customers? Obviously, you’re not catering to everyone. You have to define and target the customers that need what you’re offering, and structure your strategy towards them.

While this may seem pretty tough to determine, Tommy Walker offers the following suggestions on the Crazy Egg blog:

–Start by identifying the basic demographics of your audience, such as age, location and gender.

–Learn how to talk to your audience by knowing things like their personalities or shopping behavior.

–Establish your brand’s personality after conducting research.

When I used these recommendations for my own business, I was able to hone in on exactly who would be interested in my company’s service offering. I discovered that those most interested in website hosting were freelancers and other small business owners, including millennial male and female entrepreneurs in their late 20s and early 30s. These tips also helped me to better understand their needs for reliability and technical support, so I knew that they would respond favorably to my free website hosting and other low-cost services.

3. Assemble your all-star team.

Michael Jordan once said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” To launch and maintain an amazing marketing strategy, you need to have the right team, which means people who can add diverse strengths and skills. For me, this meant having a content writer, developer, social media manager, web designer and customer service professional.

When building your team, my colleague John Rampton recommends you consider the following:

–Identify the positions that you need to fill in order to achieve goals.

–Decide if you are going to hire contractors, freelancers or full-time employees.

–Identify each candidate.

–Be well-prepared before interviewing each candidate.

–Conduct a post-hire assessment.

As a small business owner, this may be more challenging since resources are limited, but you can try alternative working arrangements. For example, do you have an intern who’s a social media whiz? Is your partner experienced with coding? Is your spouse an excellent writer? Use those resources until you have the chance to expand your team.

4. Create value with content.

It’s one thing to be able to explain what your business does, but it’s another to explain your value to customers and how you’re filling a specific need or desire.

Launching a content marketing campaign involves increasing engagement, building a community, becoming a trusted authority figure in your industry, and driving traffic to your website or storefront. You can accomplish this by creating content via blog posts, tutorials or how-to guides, a white paper or e-book, video, podcasts, webinars, etc. These channels will allow you to reach more of your audience in less time.

5. Advertise your business on the cheap.

Marketing doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In fact, you may be able to spend as little as $15 per week. I’ve been able to achieve this low-cost marketing strategy throughout my startup’s marketing history, and you can too.

Jason Parks, CEO of the Media Captain, explains how this is feasible in Entrepreneur:

–Purchase retargeting advertisements for $0.70.

–Consider Bing Ads, which may not be as popular as Google AdWords, but they’re 33.5 percent cheaper.

–Advertise on Facebook for around $1 a day.

–Don’t forget to reach out to bloggers and influencers in your industry. In most cases, this actually doesn’t cost you anything more than your time. Use a tool like BuzzSumo to get started.

Creating that killer marketing strategy doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but does require your time, effort and focus. Once you make the investment, the return will start coming in quickly and in large measure. Time and again, these steps have proven to ramp up my marketing strategy. Now it’s your turn.

(Peter Daisyme is a special adviser to, an invoicing company helping small business owners transact money online. BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.)

(c)2016 Tribune Content Agency, LLC