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Marketing - Who needs it?

The relationship business owners have with marketing seems to run the gamut. Some ignore it. Some see it as a waste of money. Some love it. Many don’t understand it. But the fact of the matter is if you are still in business you are marketing. You may not be doing it well or efficiently but you are doing it. Marketing is simply how people find out about your products and services. If they couldn’t find out, you wouldn’t exist. So if you are going to be doing it anyway, why not dig in a little and find out how to do it effectively?

The fact of the matter is, marketing doesn’t have to be mysterious. Marketing done well is effective, affordable, and should fit your unique business needs. We could spend weeks talking about the nuances of business marketing but let’s just talk about a few things you can do today to better understand marketing and make it work for your business.


In the military they say failing to plan is planning to fail. I’ve found that to be true outside of the military as well and it definitely applies to your marketing. In order to get the most out of your marketing you have to know what you are trying to accomplish.

Who are you talking to?

For starters, you need to know who your customer is. “A good marketing strategy revolves around your target customer”, says Tim Prusha, President of Little Foxes Marketing,“in fact, everything you do in marketing should revolve around your audience. Knowing exactly who your typical persona is will allow you to target them effectively in marketing efforts, speak directly to their pain points, help them form an emotional connection with your brand, and motivate them to act.”

Are you trying to sell your products or services to senior citizens or soccer moms? Renters or homeowners? Does their income level significantly correlate to their ability to purchase your product or service? You should have an idea of your “ideal customer” in mind so you know where to find them and what messaging they will most likely respond to.

How does your customer want to hear from you?

Notice that the focus is on how the customer wants to hear from you, NOT how you want to communicate to them. Choosing a marketing method is largely determined on what medium your ideal customer is most engaged in. If your ideal customer is best reached through direct mail but you are focusing all of your attention on television ads your message is likely getting lost. It may take some trial and error to determine the most effective method for your marketing but always view your efforts through the eyes of your target market. “On thing we recommend – and do ourselves – is ask new clients or customers how they heard about you’” says Prusha “It gives you an idea of what’s working, and typically starts a meaningful conversation with your customer.”

It is also imperative that you only select marketing methods you are comfortable with managing if you can’t afford to hire a professional to manage it for you. For instance, if you still call it “The Facebook”, leaning into social media marketing may not be your thing no matter how effective it is. Now, this is not an excuse to not learn new and better marketing methods but being realistic with what you will actually do is foundational because…

Consistency is Key

No matter what method you choose, consistency is key. Sending one direct mail piece will not be enough to purchase the mental real estate you are looking for. Neither will running that radio ad for 4 weeks during the holidays each year. You want to select marketing methods you can afford to consistently invest in with time, money, or, most likely, both.


You should be investing as much into marketing as you can reasonably afford. None of us can afford to invest as much as we would like into marketing but as you consider how much of your annual budget to allocate for marketing there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

Take Advantage of Low-Cost

We all understand that we get what we pay for in life and marketing is no different. However, if you can’t afford to free up significant resources to invest in marketing right now you can still get creative with low-cost marketing opportunities at your disposal. Be aware that, as a rule of thumb, the less that marketing costs financially the more it will cost of your time as you will have to do it instead of paying professionals. But if you currently are able to invest more time than money, you still have many options including:

- social media

  • Cost – FREE (time cost can be real since you must manage consistently)

  • Benefit – exposure through networking, show your business personality

- joining the local chamber of commerce

  • Cost - typically only a few hundred dollars a year

  • Benefit – exposure and encouragement from fellow business owners who may need your services or know someone who does

- joining a trade association

  • Cost - typically only a few hundred dollars a year

  • Benefit – exposure to others in your specific industry

- sponsoring a local youth sports team

  • Cost - typically only a few hundred dollars

  • Benefit – public exposure and goodwill in your local community

- entering a parade

  • Cost - typically a small registration fee (and the price of candy!)

  • Benefit – public exposure and goodwill in your local community

- providing expertise in local publications

  • Cost – FREE

  • Benefit – exposure as a subject matter expert dependent on the reach of the publication

There are many others but, as you can see, you don’t have to have a $50,000 marketing budget to get in the game and connect with people who need your services.

Anchor Marketing

If you do have some resources to invest, select one or two marketing anchors to focus your resources on and dominate the space. Many business owners make the mistake of either jumping from one method to the next (remember that thing we said about consistency?) or trying to invest their resources in so many strategies that they become an inch deep and a mile wide. If you only have resources to do one thing, find the one thing that makes the most sense for your market and go all in at whatever level you can afford. It may be radio, direct mail, television, billboards, or something else. Just don’t try to do them all.

One caveat is that, in this day and age, it is difficult to imagine your initial anchor not involving optimizing your website with search engine optimization at some level. (Not having a website at all is no longer an option.) “In our industry, the highest-quality and lowest-cost leads come through the website from organic search traffic,” says Prusha from Little Foxes, “Improving a site’s search rankings is where we always start, because the website is your best marketing tool.”

I’m not saying you need to invest $10,000 per month but you need to make sure your business comes up on the first page near the top when someone in your area Googles your type of services. If you can only afford one initial anchor, start your monthly marketing spend here.


As small business owners, we are all focused on how each dollar in our business is spent. We are relentless in our pursuit of making sure every dollar is working as hard as possible. This is an admirable quality and one that keeps us in business! However, when it comes to marketing it often leads to the dollar-for-dollar trap.

Don’t Get Trapped

Many times we hear business owners dismiss marketing after spending a few dollars for a much-too-short period of time because they didn’t see a return on their investment. They were trapped into thinking that if they invested $1 today $2 would come back to them tomorrow. Unfortunately, marketing rarely, if ever, works that way. Marketing is a long-term strategy. You market today so you have customers tomorrow. Marketing expense is the cost to purchase mental real estate in the minds of customers who may not even need you yet. However, when they do need your services in the future, you want them to think of you first. The only way that will happen is through effective marketing within a long-term strategy.

Don’t Waste Your Money

Thinking about marketing as long-term is not to say it shouldn’t be measureable or that it shouldn’t produce a return on your investment. If you start a radio commercial campaign next month and don’t see a northerly trend line after a few months of committing to the campaign it may be time to look at a different strategy. Good marketing is always trackable and effective and pays for itself several times over. If your marketing isn’t getting these results, and you’ve honestly invested in the strategy, your strategy needs to be adjusted or it just isn’t good marketing. Just remember, even good marketing is not an immediate-return strategy.


The important thing is to do something and do it intentionally! Marketing is NOT a luxury in your business, it is a necessity. Marketing is like networking – you don’t want to start doing it when you need it. As the old Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” So start creating your plan, determine what you can afford, and invest in the long-term success of your business!

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