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Small Business Marketing

I laugh sometimes at the different definitions of “small business”.

The Australian Taxation Office tells you that you can get small business entity concessions when you are a small business – the definition? If your turnover is less than $10 million.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics defines a small business as one that employs 20 people or less.

Many of my clients and members of Teik Oh Dot Com training would love to turn over sales of $10 million and employ 20 staff! To many of us, that describes a medium-sized business because small business is you and me, making sales of several hundred thousand to a couple of million at the upper end and maybe working alone or employing up to 10 staff.

So, when people like us see advice for “small businesses” we tend to switch off.

But that would be a mistake because we all want to grow, don’t we? And one thing I can tell you after 40 years of working with small businesses all over the world in my career, the simple things you need to do is the same in every sized business – except for scale.

Every business, from local startup to a $10 million business needs to do the basic things and to succeed they need to do them well.

I call them the Six Business Success Factors.

One of them is marketing – but really small businesses like yours and mine often think that it doesn’t really apply to them because:

  • they have no time, they’re busy doing the day-to-day stuff
  • they don’t have a big advertising budget
  • those ads you see on TV don’t work for their business
  • it’s just not for them
  • they don’t know what they’re doing and they don’t want to hire an advertising agency
  • what have they got to shout about anyway – they just make good products and they’ll sell by word of mouth

Do you know what I call all of those reasons?

False, and fear of success.

I often rationalise my fears, and I guess that if you were really honest, you’d admit you do the same. We’re all human and unless you’re some crazy ultra-motivated-person like a Tony Robbins or a Zig Ziglar, you’ll also find that doing too much to stand out is a little scary.

But we don’t need to fear success – we just need to know how to handle it and get there the way you want to get there.

I will take you through a simple thing you can do to market your “small” business that won’t take time, won’t need a budget or an agency, is not an ad on TV, and will say exactly what you need to say.

First, you need to know what is the real benefit that someone buying your product will get.

Then, you need to know exactly who you should be marketing to.

Then you need to know where they congregate, physically, virtually or digitally, so that you can communicate with them.

Then you need to identify one way to reach them that would appeal to them.

Rinse, wash, repeat.

Let’s go through each of those steps.



Know what they get.

You need to get past the features of your product and get to understand the benefits of owning your product.

Your product has certain features, for example, what it is made of and what it can do, or how you do it (e.g. with speed and courtesy, attention to detail and so on):

  • A power tool is made of unbreakable steel and has a fast motor;
  • A beauty treatment uses a certain brand of beauty product known to be beneficial for the skin;
  • A tax preparation service employs a lot of expert tax accountants;
  • A plumber has 10 years’ experience and all the best tools.

But where you once thought these were your selling points, let me say that these are not what your customer wants.

They buy with their emotions, then justify it with their head:

  • They like the look of the shiny power tool and then their head says “great, I’ll never break it”;
  • They develop a relationship with you and feel pampered, and then they say “I really need my skin to feel as soft as that product makes it feel”;
  • They are surprised they understand the way you explain their tax situation and then say “good job you’re all experts”;
  • They’re relieved to see their tap in the laundry get fixed without any mess and they say “I guess it must be the experience”.

So, you need to know what they really get from buying from you and these are the benefits they get rather than the features you sell. What is it that makes them feel good about buying from you?

So, what they might get is:

  • “The envy of my neighbours when they see me use that flashy power tool in my garden”;
  • “A really friendly, enjoyable hour spent with the beautician that completely de-stresses me from the week”;
  • “Peace of mind from knowing I don’t have to worry about my tax”;
  • “A messy plumbing job done well with no mess left behind”.

Let’s think about this:-

  • Every power tool sold by your competitors can do the job – which one can make the user feel proud?
  • Every reputable skin product can keep your skin soft – who amongst your competitors can say they de-stress their customers?
  • Every tax accountant can prepare a tax return – who can say they will give their client peace of mind?
  • Every plumber can fix a tap – who can say the customer will never know they’ve been there?

This is an important first step – get to know what it is you are really selling.

Know who to target.

Every business has a customer that absolutely needs your product, even though they may not know it. The reason they need your product is that it gives them something they crave.

  • A DIY dabbler, not an expert but still wanting to look like they know what they’re doing needs good looking tools – for them it’s the doing and the look, not necessarily the result;
  • Someone stressed during the week and wants something done for them once in a while needs a pampering session;
  • A taxpayer who has been receiving threatening letters and phone calls from the Tax Office needs an Accountant who can tell him it’s all taken care of;
  • A busy working homeowner with a leaky tap needs it fixed without having to clean up afterwards.

The benefit your product gives someone will give you clues about the type of person – the low hanging fruit – you should target as your ideal customer.

But be careful.

Sometimes one product could seem to be attractive to several types of customers.

Take the example of the power tools. They’re not just used by vain DIY enthusiasts, they are also used by professional tradesmen.

If this applies to your product, look again at what it is they are looking for:-

  • A professional tradesman who likes the idea of investing long-term in tools needs your upmarket German precision-made tools;
  • Another professional tradesman who believes you should thrash cheap tools because you that’s cheaper in the long term will need your discount shelf;
  • A DIY enthusiast who wants to look professional wants a tool that makes him look good holding it, especially if you throw in a branded cap.

If all this makes you think that you’re worried about targeting one group of people when in fact you could be selling to everyone, let’s have a word about the fear of missing out.

Focusing on one target with laser precision means you know how to sell to them, what to say to sell to them, where to reach out to them, and specialise in their problems.

Which of these appeal to you as a small business owner?

  1. “I help all kinds of businesses grow – come and buy whatever you need from me”; or
  2. “I specialise in the very different and special needs and concerns of small businesses only – come and buy exactly what you need from me.”

Knowing what it is you are really selling (the benefit, not the feature) you should now identify who you should be selling it to.

Get your low-hanging fruit. The others will follow.

Where can you reach them?

Once you’ve identified the group of people who are your targets, you should be able to look at their common characteristics to see the best place to get in touch with them, individually or as a group.

Are they the type of people who like social media? Which channels?

Do they belong to social or sporting clubs or professional associations?

Do they like a certain type of food or drink and so often can be found in certain types of restaurants or bars?

What do they read or watch? Where do they regularly shop?

At their typical ages, what are their pursuits and interests?

Asking a number of questions like these can give you a picture of where they congregate. Perhaps:-

  • The amateur DIY practitioner searches YouTube for how-to videos;
  • The stressed executive goes for a quiet drink at a bar after work;
  • The troubled taxpayer is a member of the local business association;
  • The busy homeowner asks friends who they use for a plumber.

Once you know where you can reach your target you’re nearly there.

What is one way to reach them?

You only need one way of reaching out to them.

In marketing, there are many marketing “channels” and marketing initiatives such as advertising, websites, brochures, maildrops, seminars, free offers, sales, referrals and so on.

You only need one.

When you start, you may not know which is the best way so try one that you think will attract your target, can be rolled out where it’s best to reach them, has the best opportunity to tell them what benefits your product will give them, and that will get to them where they are. What would suit your target’s characteristics?

For example:-

  • Video a few “how-to” videos on using power tools and put them on YouTube, using them to invite viewers to a free live how-to session at your store where they can “play” with a few power tools and use them;
  • Ask local bars if you could set up a table where patrons could sit and talk to you about relaxing beauty treatments during Happy Hour, and where you can hand out discount vouchers;
  • Join the local business association and arrange to give a talk about how good accountants can take care of all their tax worries;
  • Give satisfied customers lots of your business cards and ask them to hand them out to friends who need a good plumber – and send back a gift every time they do.

If you know the benefits your product gives to customers and which customers are perfectly suitable, and if you know how to get to them, this one activity should not take more than a little thought.

Choose just one way to get your message out and stick to it.

If you would like to get our free PDF on all the different types of marketing activities you could try, you can get it here.

Rinse, wash, repeat.

Once you know what you sell, who to sell it to, where to get to them and how to get to them, the secret is simple – keep doing it!

Marketing is about consistency.

They say it takes seven contacts before the buyer will buy from you – that’s 7 points of contact so that they get to know you and like you and then trust you.

This means that you can’t try and give your talk at the business association once and then say “that’s it, I tried it, it doesn’t work”!

That’s like trying to ride a bicycle once and giving up because you fell off after a couple of times!

You wouldn’t do that, would you? So why would your marketing attempts be any different?

Even the smallest small business has to get involved in marketing. Doing the little exercise above means that you can start your marketing journey with just a little effort.

It’s well worth it!

If you want to get our free Guide to the Sales Funnel just click here.

One last thing – watch out for next week’s post where I’m going to give you a free training session on marketing.

I’ll see you soon!





Cover image by Merakist on Unsplash

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