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Small Business Marketing: What defines it and what makes it different?

Good morning class!

Let's take a moment to talk about small business marketing. Sit in a 'lotus' meditation pose - or don't - and think about a small business. I imagine an elderly couple wearing aprons covered in flour, standing in front of a vintage bakery on a busy New York City street.

I've seen a lot of movies.

In reality, small businesses fall into a variety of categories; landscapers, home builders, restaurants, insurance agents, etc. The industries are all very different. However, they all have one thing in common; they're local. And that brings us to our definition of small business marketing.

Small business marketing is the use of marketing strategies specifically designed to promote local businesses in an attempt to reach and capture potential clients. This is opposed to corporate marketing which tends to be less targeted and more grandiose in nature.

So, with that out of the way... let's dissect the big differences between marketing your small business and the way big businesses market themselves.

Target Market

The most obvious difference between the way a small business markets itself and a corporate company marketing itself is the target market. Big businesses market to the masses, small businesses market to their figurative neighbors. You'll never see Coca-Cola implement a marketing campaign geared toward acquiring customers from Independence, MO. Their marketing strategies focus on reaching customers from all over the world, and their campaigns are designed so that they can be shoveled out to any location to make an impact.

As a small business owner, your target market is local consumers. Your service area, and reach, is going to be a lot smaller than a corporate company. Most local businesses only service a few counties. And that's ok! That means you get to focus your marketing efforts on a more condensed audience. For example, if you own a small electrical company, you would only want to reach potential customers in your 50-mile service area.

The Buyer's Journey

The 'Buyer's Journey' is a term coined to describe the process that a consumer goes through when deciding to make a purchase.
  • Awareness: The customer recognizes that they have a problem.
  • Consideration: The customer begins researching solutions
  • Decision: The customer makes a decision about which solution to choose.

Corporate companies focus on brand awareness, which means they want customers to always recognize their product as a solution before they even know there is a problem. Going back to our Coca-Cola example; the customer would recognize they are thirsty and instantly think of a Coke to quench that thirst. Most small businesses don't have the liberty to depend on brand awareness to acquire customers.

The goal of a small business marketing campaign is to reach the customer in the consideration phase of the buyer's journey. During this stage, the customer is actively searching and comparing solutions to their problem, and they are ready to make a purchase.

The small business that is able to reach the consumer at the point when they are ready to make a purchase and simply looking for a company to fulfill that need, is the business that will win the customer.

For this reason, visibility is extremely important for small businesses. If someone is looking for a product or service online, which 81% of consumer do, your business needs to be one of the ones that they see. Otherwise, the chance of you winning their business, over the top ranking competitors online, is slim to none.

Distribution Avenues

As you can imagine, big businesses usually have a pretty intense marketing budget. They have the ability to promote their brand on TV and radio, not to mention sponsor music concerts and sports events. They can create apps and silly advertising campaigns such as the Share a Coke campaign.

A small business doesn't need all of those bells and whistles to succeed. Since your main goal as a small business owner isn't brand awareness, it's customer capture, your marketing focus is being visible when and where your potential customers need you.

You need to:

  • Be listed on Google correctly, that way your business appears in the search results of customer queries.
  • Have a mobile-friendly website that is available when your customers need more information.
  • Take advantage of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising that can help target specific markets.
  • Rank above your competitors so that you have a greater probability of winning leads.
  • Be social! You should be using social media to market your small business

If you are able to take advantage of these small business marketing avenues, your business has a greater chance at success.

Quality Matters More

Offering a quality product, service, or customer relationship matters a lot more for small business owners than it does for corporate companies.

Reviews are extremely important for small businesses. Not only do reviews greatly impact your ranking placement and online visibility, but they make a difference to your potential customers.

According to the Bright Local Consumer Review Survey, as of 2016, 74% of people say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more and 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

So, while large companies have the ability to upset a few customers without it affecting their profits, local businesses are not afforded the same freedom. As little as 2-3 negative reviews can be detrimental to your brand and lose a lot of future customers.

In conclusion:

You can see that the majority of small business marketing strategies focus on online visibility. With the majority of consumers researching their purchases online, it is extremely important for small business owners to foster a healthy online presence.

You need to be listed correctly online, cultivate a positive review environment, and invest in proper SEO services to make sure that your business is found instead of your competitors. 

Sarah Nelson

After years of studying literature, Sarah discovered her true love; marketing. She is a firm believer that educating small business owners about marketing empowers them to make smart business decisions. When she's not busy saving people from marketing faux pas, you can find her reading or slaying pixel demons in far off lands.

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