Business Owner Resource Center

Improve your operations and grow your business with resources and best practices from BBSI's business consultants.

 Three women work on a marketing strategy for their small business in a coffee shop

4 Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

The road to small business growth and success is not easily traveled. Approximately a quarter of small businesses will fail within their fledgling year, while about half will survive by year five. 

To defy the odds, even amidst massive hurdles like the COVID-19 pandemic and financial uncertainty, small businesses cannot remain content being mere minnows in a mighty big pond. Especially in our digital age, for brands to be heard and seen, they need to make a splash. 

Digital marketing is the great equalizer, a tool savvy small business owners can wield to differentiate themselves and stand out from their competitors. Its benefits extend beyond basic SEO and page ranking, as a properly planned and implemented marketing strategy can boost awareness, foster engagement, educate audiences, and ultimately, sway purchasing decisions. 

So, what’s the recipe for small business marketing success?

Below, we delve into four proven digital marketing tactics that, with persistence and proper execution, can yield tangible results and contribute to your business's growth.

Digital Marketing Strategy #1: Know Your Audience  

“Know your audience” is the golden rule of digital marketing. To grow your customer base, you first need to understand them. 

Who are they? What makes them tick? What drives their purchasing decisions? Where do they exist online? What type of messaging do they respond to?

Having answers to questions like these can help you:

  • Design products or services that people actually want to purchase
  • Stay ahead of your competition
  • Craft targeted marketing messages
  • Optimize your marketing channels
  • Foster brand loyalty 

To build a successful business that continues to grow, you must forge unique and meaningful connections with every potential customer. You need to understand what is important to them, craft messaging that resonates, and convey it in the most impactful and timely way possible.  

That’s easier said than done. But if you follow these steps, it becomes much more attainable: 

  • Analyze your current customer base – Dive into your existing customer data to understand who's already buying from you. What do their demographics reveal about their age, gender, location, and interests? Information like this can help you identify patterns and preferences that can be utilized to target similar consumers. 
  • Conduct market research – Go beyond your customer base and explore the broader market, including your audience and competitors. With the help of surveys, data analytics, and focus groups, you can uncover your target audience’s preferences, consumer behaviors, and purchasing pain points. Equipped with this data, small business owners can fine-tune their marketing strategy and messaging for maximum impact.
  • Create customer personas – The data gathered in points 1 and 2 can help you build customer personas that represent a particular type of target customer. As Gartner notes, these are “archetypal representations of existing subsets of your customer base who share similar goals, needs, expectations, behaviors, and motivation factors.” Fleshing out these fictional profiles will help you develop marketing messages, customer journeys, service experiences, and product features that speak directly to their needs and wants. 
  • Analyze your competitors – Your competitors, especially the more successful ones, have clearly done something right to reach their current status. Who do they target? Where do they target that consumer? What makes them a leader in the marketplace? Your job is to see where they succeed and where they fall short. By carefully studying your competition, you can identify key factors that contribute to their success as well as existing gaps in the marketplace. Those gaps represent opportunities your brand can capitalize on to stand out. 
  • Refine your target audience – Consumer behavior, especially online, is dynamic and evolves over time. Keep an ear to the ground; stay on top of new information, feedback, or consumer trends, then refine your strategy and audience accordingly. A responsive posture ensures your marketing efforts will remain relevant and effective, even as your audiences’ habits grow and change.

Owner of a small floral shop hands a man a brightly colored bouquet of flowers

Digital Marketing Strategy #2: Build Your Brand

Branding has always been an essential part of growing a successful business. But in a digitally-centric social media age, it’s more important now than ever.

Your brand is far more than logos, colors, and typography. It’s your identity as a business. With so much market competition and saturation, small business owners must build a strong brand, not just to be more recognizable but to also:

  • Differentiate their business from others
  • Foster trust and credibility among consumers
  • Inspire customer loyalty
  • Establish an emotional connection
  • Influence consumer perceptions
  • Attract talented employees
  • Guide your marketing strategies 

But how can you establish and grow your brand? Here’s where you can start: 

  • Create a mission statement – Your mission statement defines your business's fundamental reason for being and its stated values. Ideally, this will serve as a north star, guiding you down a course of action that aligns with your core principles. 
  • Develop a brand style guide – Consistency is an essential component of brand recognition. Develop a brand style guide that outlines your desired logo, color palette, typography, and brand tone. This document will serve as a reference for anyone creating marketing materials for your business, thus ensuring a cohesive brand identity.
  • Train your team – Your team serves as an extension of your brand. Therefore, they must understand and adhere to the brand guidelines so that everyone is on the same page and the brand messaging remains clear and consistent across all channels and content types.  
  • Consistency is key – Branding must be consistent across all marketing channels, including your website, social media, and promotional materials. A lack of consistency can cause confusion and damage your brand recognition. 
  • Use templates – Want to maintain brand consistency? Leverage templates for marketing materials such as social media posts, email newsletters, and promotional materials. This ensures that all marketing materials align with your stated brand guidelines.
Done properly, a business’ brand can become a valuable asset, so much so that it’s listed on the company’s balance sheet. 

A man is holding a professional camera toward a product during a photo shoot for social media. A woman is next to him, directing the shoot.

Digital Marketing Strategy #3: Leverage Social Media 

Whether it’s LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, or Facebook, social media platforms have become the most impactful channels small businesses can use to interact and engage with audiences. In fact, 71% of small-to-midsize businesses use them to market their brand. 

Why? Because it provides tangible ROI. According to a Hubspot State of Marketing Trends Report from 2022, businesses can expect the following ROI from these channels: 

  • Facebook (21%)
  • Instagram (18%)
  • Linkedin (14%)
  • TikTok (12%)
  • YouTube (11%)
Want to make the most of your social media presence? Follow these steps: 
  • Know your audience – While this sentiment is applicable to all your marketing efforts, it’s especially pertinent to social media. Even if you craft the most incredible social media campaign, it will have little to no impact if it’s on the wrong platform or directed to an apathetic audience. Knowing your audience allows you to build content that caters to their interests and ensures they’ll actually see it. 
  • Use visuals – A picture is worth a thousand words. And today, a video is worth even more. Audiences overwhelmingly prefer interesting visual content — such as images, videos, and infographics — over text-based content. Use high-quality visuals that align with your brand identity to capture your audience's attention and encourage them to interact with your content.
  • Tell stories – Users love stories that resonate and pull on their heartstrings. Small business brands can use storytelling techniques to share the brand's journey, showcase its products, educate the audience, or highlight customer success stories — all of which help forge emotional connections between the audience and the brand. 
  • Use Calls-to-Action (CTAs) – Every piece of content should end with a “now what” or “so what.” This is your opportunity to make a pitch that drives a specific action, such as signing up for a newsletter, liking or engaging with a social media post, or making a purchase. Whatever your desired action may be, you should always include a clear and compelling CTA that aligns with your marketing goals.
  • Host contests and giveaways – Who doesn’t love a freebie? Contests and giveaways are one of the simplest ways a small business can drive engagement, generate buzz, and attract new followers. 
As Tony Fountain, Founder and EIC of Now Entertainment, wrote in Forbes, “Social media has become the new playground that unites all demographics. It's every marketer’s dream come true: It offers free access to such a vast audience of potential customers for any product.”

Digital Marketing Strategy #4: Develop a Content Marketing Strategy 

Content marketing is the use of entertaining or informative content — such as blogs, videos, infographics, or eBooks — for marketing purposes instead of traditional advertising. It represents a shift away from the conventional strategies brands once deployed to a more targeted and organic approach. 

How it works is simple. You interact with customers by providing value to them via engaging content, which, in turn, establishes trust and loyalty. Naturally, this covers an array of possible content types, including visual, audio, written, social media, and user-generated content. 

Over time, producing high-quality content can help you:

  • Boost brand awareness
  • Drive SEO
  • Establish your authority
  • Generate leads
  • Foster audience engagement
  • Increase conversions

If you need help developing an impactful content marketing strategy, consider the following tips:

  • Define your goals – Your first task is to state the desired outcomes of your content marketing efforts. Do you want to increase traffic? Generate leads? Build brand awareness? Your specific goals will guide your content strategy.
  • Develop a content plan – With so much content produced daily, small businesses can’t afford to operate on a whim. Those that do might as well be shouting into the wind. Instead, you must build a comprehensive content plan that outlines the types of content you'll produce, the topics you'll cover, the channels you'll use for distribution, and a schedule for publishing content. Be sure that your plan aligns with your marketing goals and target audience.
  • Create content – Once planning is concluded, your team will need to begin producing high-quality content as frequently as possible that reflects your brand identity and provides your audience with tangible value. What this looks like depends on your business and content strategy. Regardless, it should be engaging, informative, and relevant to your audience's needs.
  • Distribute your content – Don’t focus on a singular channel; instead, use a mix of channels, including social media, email marketing, and your website, to distribute your content. Taking a broader approach will help you reach a wider target audience.
  • Analyze your performance – In the right hands, consumer data can be a powerful tool. Use the data from your content to your advantage. By analyzing the relevant KPIs, you can optimize your strategy over time. 

Content marketing is the marketing strategy du jour. If you want your small business to grow, lean in by providing your audience with valuable assets that keep them hungry for more.  

What Is BBSI Doing To Assist Clients With Their Business Strategy?

Digital marketing is the vehicle that can drive small businesses to success. It’s the ultimate tool small business owners can use to attract more customers and foster continuous growth. 

Once your marketing strategy is crystallized and put into action, you’ll likely need a partner who can help you manage that growth and develop a business strategy that will help you defy the odds. 

For business strategy, growth planning, and risk management that go beyond traditional services, there's BBSI. We help young businesses grow big and healthy by providing the critical tools they need to establish a solid operational foundation, streamline their structure, and provide insights through dynamic business cycles. 

Whether you have questions about payroll, HR, support with workers’ comp claims, or any other daily imperative that might arise, our team of professionals seeks to provide tailored solutions and unwavering guidance to ensure that your business thrives, no matter the obstacle. 

At BBSI, we’ll do everything in our power to help you achieve success.

BBSI Client: O'Connor Painting Case Study

Disclaimer: The contents of this white-paper/blog have been prepared for educational and information purposes only. Reference to any specific product, service, or company does not constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by BBSI. This white-paper/blog may include links to external websites which are owned and operated by third parties with no affiliation to BBSI. BBSI does not endorse the content or operators of any linked websites, and does not guarantee the accuracy of information on external websites, nor is it responsible for reliance on such information. The content of this white-paper/blog does not provide legal advice or legal opinions on any specific matters. Transmission of this information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship between BBSI, the author(s), or the publishers and you. You should not act or refrain from acting on any legal matter based on the content without seeking professional counsel.

Subscribe to our Monthly Business Owner Resource Center Newsletter