Small Business Marketing 101

Small Business Marketing 101
By Sharon Macaluso
One of the biggest marketing challenges entrepreneurs face is the
ability to step outside of their own
mindset and slip into the mind of the
buyer. The most successful marketers and business owners are able to
set aside their own bias and perceptions and ask two questions: “Why
should someone exchange their
hard-earned dollars for what I have
to sell?” and “Why should they
choose my product over that of my
The harsh reality, however, is that
most small business owners are
simply unable to clearly and succinctly answer these questions.
Therefore, they throw money at
costly advertisements, direct mail,
and other typical promotional efforts
and hope for a response. The fact is,
most small businesses can be successful spending limited marketing
dollars if they know why a customer
buys and how.
Years ago the vice president of
marketing for a luxury cruise ship line
told of his company’s marketing
mistakes and the steps they took to
turn the business around. The
company produced fun-filled, tri-fold
brochures depicting young men and
women on the bowels of their luxury
cruise ships, even though the majority of their customers were over 50,
retired or semi-retired with expendable income. They changed their
marketing message after research
into why and how this market
bought. They learned this market
liked to read, spent a lot of time
researching vacation getaways, and
they relied heavily on the recommendations of friends and colleagues.
The new company brochure became
a magazine filled with information
and photos of their target market –
the over 50 crowd. The company
had each customer who took a
cruise complete a survey on what
they liked about their cruise and
asked who they knew that may also
enjoy the cruise. The company then
sent a personal letter to those
named, along with a comment on
what their friend liked about the
cruise, and hand-wrote on every
envelope – “Your friend, John Doe,
asked us to send you this.” This
marketing effort garnered a 1 in 10
response rate and grew their business exponentially.
now craft a message to a highly
targeted group of like-minded
customers. They can speak more
‘personally’ to that market’s needs
and clearly communicate, not the
In planning marketing budgets and
activities, small business owners
should start with what they already
have at their disposal – their current
client database. Identify common
threads among their best customers.
Find out why these customers are
loyal to them – then ‘copy, paste,
repeat’ – find more like them.
What are some common threads a
business may look for? For business
to business it may be company size
in terms of number of employees or
revenues, industry, location, and
unique needs. Business to consumer
commonalities may be demographic
factors and lifestyle. Follow this with
asking why? What prompted their
purchase decision? What set us
apart from the competition? Why do
you continue to do business with us?
Armed with answers to these
questions, the small business can
features of their product or service,
but the benefit the client derives
from use of their offering.
Sharon Macaluso is area director of
the DeKalb office of the Georgia
SBDC Network. To find your local
SBDC, call the state office at 706542-2762 or locate it on the web at