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Every week Whole Team Habits offers one actionable piece of marketing advice. Thanks for reading!

What Marketing is Best for Small Business?

Marketing needs to bring in more money than you spend on it. Many owners ask “what marketing is best for small business?” and thirsty marketing consultants give them a list of expensive options and tell them they have to spend money to make money.

You do need to spend money to make money, but you shouldn’t spend more than you’re able to make.

My recommendation is to build your audience and start generating leads with the 3 foundational steps of marketing. Once those three are working for you, they will tell you a lot about your business as a whole. They will set you up with the income stream you need to be able to hire a marketing expert when the time is right.

Save the Fancy Stuff

Periodically I’ve collaborated with big marketing agencies. They do things very differently than I do. The teams that actually do the work are usually people who have never owned a business. Or participated in running one.

Now no shade, these are creative, brilliant (and very well paid) people. But my rule is, if they can’t define “gross margin,” don’t hire them to do your marketing.

Every small business owner knows what gross margin is, even if they don’t use the term. It’s your net revenue minus the cost of goods sold. Basically, what it costs you to make the sale. Marketing is part of that cost.

If your efforts bring in more revenue than you expend to make the sale, you’re happy. If it does not, you’re eventually bankrupt.

So in one instance working with an agency, the account team wanted to put up an artisan craft market to draw people to the client’s location. This is a kickass idea.

But the client was a startup. They didn’t even have a mailing list yet. The market idea seemed great, but the staffing it would require made it phenomenally expensive.

It was the perfect, creative marketing idea…for 2 years from now.

Start with Scales

I played classical guitar from the age of 4 until I was done high school. I hated every second of it, but that’s a column for another day.  When I was 14, I decided to try piano as well. I hoped to play some music I actually liked.

So imagine my disdain (14-year-olds really corner the market on disdain) when my new piano teacher started me on the same scales and etudes I had used to learn guitar, when I was in kindergarten.

I was incensed. This wasn’t the result I wanted. I already knew how to read music, just show me which keys are which and let me get playing, dammit!

But my teacher explained that if I didn’t take the time to develop my technique by learning the fundamentals, I wouldn’t have the skills I needed when the music got harder.

Most Important Marketing Activities

Marketing is no different than music. You need to have your three foundational marketing activities solid, or any advanced activities you embark on will not bring in the revenue they need to in order to pay for themselves.

The three foundational marketing activities are:

I’ll be talking about these individually in detail over the next few weeks, but here’s an overview. If you don’t have formal, solidified messaging you have to start from scratch every time you write or say something about your business.

For more on reviews, check out this week’s video

If your ideal customer searches for you or your speciality on Google and you don’t come up, marketing activities that promote your business name are useless.

If you don’t consistently collect good reviews, you are vulnerable to bad reviews. Social proof is increasingly becoming the most valuable type of marketing you can do.

By focusing on these three marketing activities, you ensure that every new marketing measure you try will be built on a foundation of success, and will be more effective.

If you know you could bring in more reviews but you haven’t yet developed a system to do so, please download the free tool “How to Set up a Review System for your Small Business.”

If you’ve already downloaded the manual, you will want to get the updated version, where I added the tips about what should be IN the manual, given to me by my amazing business coach Eleanor Beaton.

This week’s suggestion: make sure the 3 Foundational Steps of Marketing are solid before moving on to other tactics.


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