person making mistake

Looking to grow a business over the last couple of years has been a little difficult, especially for the smaller business with limited resources.

If you’re a start-up or an established smaller business, you probably have realised that as the business owner you have an ever-growing list of things to do every day and very probably marketing strategy and planning is one of them.

Now you would expect me to say this, but the marketing strategy and planning is one of the primary steps you need to make to successfully position your brand and start delivering much-needed sales.

Sadly, all too often, I have seen smaller businesses struggle with this or fail to do it at all because of one or a combination of the following (in no particular order):

1. No marketing budget in place

For many small businesses (in my experience) marketing is an afterthought and is usually done on an ad-hoc basis. Digital marketing is a good option to invest your marketing budget but chucking a hundred quid or so at Facebook advertising or Google Adwords is no strategy and won’t generate lasting results, if it achieves anything at all.

Set a specific annual budget for marketing, maybe split quarterly to suit business trends, and STICK OT IT. This gives you a chance to develop and enhance successful marketing strategies. But NOTE, digital campaigns do not exist in isolation, which means they have to be part of a larger picture, so with a detailed budget you can plan exactly how much you need to allocate to digital as well as other marketing channels.

2. No clear business goals

Every small business wants to sell more products or services but be more specific. You must know what your business is trying to achieve. Successful marketing, in my view, takes a specific business goal, and then influences customer opinions to deliver it.

For example, you are a pub owner with a great food menu, and your vague business goal is ‘sell more meals’. Naturally, that makes sense, sell more meals … more money coming in. However, think about it this way. A well-defined and much clearer goal would be ‘increase lunchtime covers by 15% and evening dinner covers by 20%’. Keep the numbers sensible and achievable.

Even with that clear business goal, it doesn’t mean that a marketing campaign will automatically increase the number of meals sold, but if it’s done right, it will gradually build the numbers.

You can segment your audience by lunchtime and evening dinner patrons and talk to them about the quality of the ingredients, the dining experience, and the amazing service.

ruler to measure marketing

3. You don’t measure the success of your campaigns properly

Marketing should result in sales, but it won’t be instant. If you measure the success of a standalone campaign in sales alone, you’ll be very disappointed.

You need to look at other metrics that show how your integrated marketing strategy is changing your customers perceptions. For example, are you seeing an increase in email newsletter sign-ups? More engagement on social media (not just ‘likes’)? Increased footfall in store or traffic online? These are indicators that will show you which of your efforts are working, what you need to do more of and where you need to tweak a little.

4. You don’t understand your clients

Here’s a little test for you – try to imagine what your ideal customer looks like? Consider their interests, preferences, and importantly pain points? What do they like most about your product/service? Now if your ideal customer looks, sounds, and acts just like you, you fail. If it doesn’t, you’re on the right track.

No offence meant as you are also a customer to others as well as an owner of a small business, however quite often audiences behave differently than you’re expecting, and you need cold hard facts to work with, or your marketing efforts will fail.

Therefore, a successful marketing strategy for small business should include an element of market research first. We’re not talking a full-fledged expensive market research study here, but simple conversations with your customers to get the information you need to better understand them.

5. You believe your products/services are the best

Of course, you do … and they very well may be. But just as you may say that your products/services are the best, all your competitors will claim the same. More importantly there’s a lot more to the customer decision-making process than thinking about which product/service is the best in the market.

Believe it or not but convenience and buying experience frequently beats a low price. So, you must make sure that your marketing efforts emphasise the benefits of your product/service.

If your business has avoided the above, you’re doing well, but there are some ways to improve your marketing strategy moving forwards:

Don’t think you can do it all

It is physically impossible to do everything yourself, so decide what you perhaps aren’t knowledgeable or experienced at and outsource tasks like marketing. Linking up with a marketing expert frees up time that can be better spent serving your customers (and could save you money) – so you create the experience that will keep them coming back. 

Build that relationship

Deciding who to use as your marketing expert is the first step, however to make this work you need invest a bit of time and effort into the relationship. The better they know you and your customers, the more effectively they can target them.

Always remember they are invested in your success too. Give them the time and effort they need, and that investment will be repaid over time.

Properly understand your audience

Stop guessing what your customers like … remember that they are not all like you. With a little time and effort, you’ll understand your customers and may be surprised by what you learn. 

Take advice

Business owners make all the important decisions required to get their business up and running, however you can’t be an expert at everything. You need to be open to advice and input from others; often you will get some harsh truths. Don’t get upset or ignore their advice, discuss with them how it will help make your marketing efforts a real success.

Andy Sarson

By Andy Sarson FCIM – Founder and Marketing Consultant

Andy has over 30 years’ marketing industry experience having worked at marketing agencies and large corporates for a number of well-known brands. He is regarded by others as an expert in smaller business marketing with knowledge of cost-effective regional and local marketing opportunities.

Call him on 07773 366 393 or email: