The 13 marketing secrets of successful small businesses

It is tempting to think that successful small businesses have found something extraordinary in the marketing department; that they have discovered the one marketing miracle at the end of the rainbow that only has their name on it.

The good news is there isn’t a marketing miracle you haven’t yet found. Or at least that’s my experience having worked with hundreds of small businesses in the last 33 years. But what I have noticed is that the businesses that succeed with their marketing and as a result that reap the rewards with many sales are doing the following:

1. They recognise that an amazing product or service is not in itself enough to build a successful and sustainable business. And so they put marketing at the heart of their business, blocking out time for marketing in their diary. They market in good times despite being very busy. They market in lean times when they know they have to intensify their efforts to keep the sales rolling in.

2. Whilst they are consummate jugglers happily wearing many hats, they know when it’s time to drop the DIY approach and enlist the help of experts. I’m talking about the graphic designers that give their logo and communications real sparkle and flair; the web designers that do likewise for their website; the copywriters for when they’re full of ideas but find it challenging to put pen to paper.

3. They radiate enthusiasm and positivity wherever they go and, they’re always ready to do business. They are also natural connectors always looking for ways in which they can collaborate with talented folk that complement their skills. They are generous, referring good leads and business to others knowing their generosity will come back to them.

4. They are crystal clear about their offering. Ask them what they do and within a few sentences you’ve grasped it, so much so that if you’re in the market for what they offer you’re keen to learn more. They’re big on benefits and they know what their customers need and want.

5. Whilst they keep a steady eye on their competitors so they can learn and improve (and avoid falling into the complacency trap) they’re not obsessed with them, preferring to blaze their own trail instead.

6. They make their marketing accountable. They won’t shrink from abandoning a marketing activity that’s failing to deliver despite their best efforts. And they won’t hesitate when it comes to spending money on marketing. They keep close tabs on the responses and don’t let their marketing drift.

7. They’re always looking for ways in which they can improve their products and services. This ranges from the small tweaks that can be accomplished easily to the intensive ones that have to be scheduled in and budgeted for. Running parallel to this is their overwhelming desire to continually delight their customers. They build their business around happy customers and never lose the personal touch.

8. They’re not content to remain in their comfort zone. They take calculated risks, establish bold goals and invest in their personal development. It might feel daunting but they do it.

9. They invest time in their marketing plan before diving into marketing tactics. As a consequence they know who they want to reach and why. They know where they can locate their target audiences so they can successfully reach them. They build campaigns over a period of time in order to build trust and break down any barriers to a sale. They focus on creating captivating, relevant and attention grabbing messages, wrapped up in appealing communications.

10. They recognise the value in traditional marketing as well as social media. Unlike many of their competitors, their choice of marketing tools and communications is determined by the preferences of their target audiences and not their own prejudices.

11. They seek to build on their expert status, investing in their skills and broadening their knowledge. They share their expertise across many marketing platforms from social media to blogging and speaking.

12. They have a heartbeat and a conscience. They actively seek ways in which they can support charities or special causes and are keen to minimise their impact on the environment.

13. Their business keeps them awake at night with excitement, sometimes fear.  But they’re resilient. When times are tough instead of heading under the duvet and hoping for the good times to roll again, they double their efforts, bouncing back stronger and fitter.


And of course it goes without saying they absolutely love what they do. Half measures avail them nothing!


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