How to Create an Effective Marketing Strategy for Your Small Business

As the owner of a boutique marketing business, I often consult with small business owners and startup founders regarding their marketing strategies. Usually these conversations start with the question, “Do I really need to invest in marketing?” It’s a valid question, as startups are often short-staffed and have a long list of important tasks that often don’t get done. It is because of this very fact that the short answer  is a very big:

Yes! You do!

It may seem like an extra step that takes time, money, and takes focus away from your sales funnel.  In practice however, a marketing strategy will help amplify your message and increase sales. An important point to mention, is that it doesn’t mean that a startup should market itself the same way a large corporation would. You don’t need millions of dollars or a large team to build an effective strategy.

In this blog, I share how you can create a great marketing strategy by using these four tips.  It is exactly how I help my small business clients develop and implement a strategy that creates momentum, with or without using us.

1. What is your objective?

Before I start any project, I confirm my objectives. I call them my conditions of satisfaction, i.e. a documented list of every expectation that must be met in order for me to deem the project a success. Mine have been the same for decades: make money, learn something new and have fun doing it.
For instance, I have a client that manages a business that has multiple brands under one brand. Every month I hold an operations meeting with each brand so the team and I can review whether we’re meeting the above conditions. If we’re spending $1,000 on social media advertising this month, I want to know the reasons behind the decision. If the answer is because “that’s what we did last month,” I’m not going to deem that enough to continue the activity based on that uninspired answer and I’m going to cut it. However, if the answer is “because spending $1,000 on an ad that targets entrepreneurs in the Sydney area, and will help put our message in front of 12,000 new potential clients, and based on last months results will give us an increase in sales by at least 15%” then I’m on board.

Whether you are working on creating a marketing plan, on-boarding a new client or starting a new project, start by defining the conditions of satisfaction and have all parties approve them. This helps keep projects on track, ensures that you’re meeting expectations, and mitigates politics.
Here are a few general questions you should ask before building a new strategy:
– Who is your target audience?
– What are the specific outcomes you want to achieve? For instance, increasing the company’s Facebook followers by 1,000 or increasing sales revenue by 20%.
– What is your strategy for achieving these outcomes?
If you want to increase social media followers, there are a variety of tools such as audience development platforms, that can be used to find your target audience. Start by deciding whether you’ll pay for social media and advertising, or whether you’ll focus on creating engaging content in-house. A clear strategy will help you stay focused, within budget, and achieve your goal.

2. Create  your strategy and document it!

Once you have clearly outlined your conditions of satisfaction, it’s time to spell out the steps you need to take to achieve them. Having a clearly outlined plan in place will help erase miscommunication and keep the team on the same page. By sharing one document, employees know their role and what they’re expected to bring to the table. It may seem simple, but in the end, it will help save you time and money. I share a Marketing Calendar in my business that is divided by months and categories that are relevant for us.  Our list of categories include work in progress, client projects, marketing, public relations, social media, advertising, and brand assets.

3. Get personal

Now that you have a goal and a plan, it’s time to think about tactics. If you want to acquire and retain loyal customers, and keep your followers engaged, then personalised one-to-one marketing is no longer optional, but a requirement.

There are easy ways to make your business a little more personal. For example, I’m a loyal customer at my local cafe for breakfast every Saturday morning with my family. Every time we go, the owner addresses us by name and lets us know that our coffees and juices are already being made. If you’re not a cafe owner, there are still ways you can personally address your consumers. A retail owner can send exclusive discounts to their most loyal shoppers or an airline can respond via social media to stranded travelers with tips for entertaining themselves in the airport. Getting personal with consumers equates to more emotionally connected customers who will help drive word-of-mouth referrals and online reviews.

4. Content is still the most important factor

I say this to all my clients and I am yet to be proven wrong: Developing quality content should be the rule, not the exception, regardless of industry. Content marketing sometimes scares startups, and for good reason: It can be time consuming when done in-house; meanwhile, if you outsource it, it can cost between $2,000-$20,000 per month. It’s important to determine what your team can manage and when you need to hire a specialist. Have a team member with graphic design experience? Keep that in-house. Need someone to write copy? Hire a copywriter.
Whenever possible, use strategies that will save you time. If you don’t have the resources, don’t try and build everything from scratch. When done right, it contains original research, is well written and provides value to your audience. In other words, good content marketing is time consuming to produce. However, there are a few strategies that help speed up the process. Delegating the writing or research to competent team members, running regular columns that share the same basic format, and creating new content that supports or enhances existing content can save you time. For example, do weekly video segments for your social media business pages based of articles you’ve shared on your blog. Since you have already written the blog, the video segment doesn’t need a long script or any additional research.  It’s a perfect example of work smarter, not harder, a philosophy that should apply to all your marketing efforts.

If you follow these 4 simple tips, you are doing more than what most are doing, that I can guarantee you.  But once you are in the habit, it becomes a marketing machine that has benefits that can spread far and wide accross your business.

Sue Mills is a marketing, sales and digital specialist to the financial and professional service sector, and the owner of Sassy Marketing & Communications.  With over 20 years of experience working for and with financial planners, accountants, brokers and advisors she shows her clients how to step up and out to be sustainable and thrive in their practices through adopting smart and valuable marketing strategies. Call Sue on 0477 468 888 for a confidential discussion or visit

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