Why is Marketing Important for Small Businesses?
When you’re running a small business, there are a lot of things that need to get done in order for your business to run smoothly. Whether you’re working by yourself or you have a small team, there never seems to be enough time in the day to do everything. Some things are prioritized over others and some never get done at all.
We get it. Some tasks are unpleasant, difficult, or take too much time. Sometimes they seem like a huge undertaking and you can feel so overwhelmed you don’t even know where to start. One day, we’ll write a blog on ways to combat tedious task lists but today, we’re going to focus on one of the most common things put by the wayside by small business owners: marketing.
Most people see large companies like Walmart or Coca-Cola and see marketing as something only big, well known brands do. These companies have more than enough money and resources to communicate and expand their brand and it doesn’t hurt that they’re already established in their industries as well. How can your company benefit when you don’t have the personpower or the dollars to put towards a marketing initiative?
Well, we’re here to let you know that marketing doesn’t have to be this big scary thing. You don’t have to put a ton of money into it and you don’t have to have a dedicated marketing person to start out. Would it also surprise you to know that you’ve done a considerable amount of marketing for your small business already?
Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at what exactly marketing is!
What is Marketing?
According to the American Marketing Association (AMA):
“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
Let’s break that down…
Creating: Figuring out what products or services your company will offer.
Communicating: How you’re letting prospective customers know about your small business and the products/services you are offering.
Delivering: How you’re getting your products/services to the customer.
Exchanging: Deciding the best price for your products/services.
With these four actions, you’re able to convey the value of your offerings to consumers, a.k.a. Marketing.
As an established business, you already know what products/services you’re offering as well as their pricing and method of delivery. You’ve done most of marketing. The only missing link is communicating your business and offerings to your intended audience.
Most of the time, when someone talks about marketing, they are actually thinking about advertising. The difference is that advertising is just the communication piece, while marketing encompasses the research behind the who, what, when, where, and how of advertising. People use these terms interchangeably, but it’s important to understand the difference between them: marketing is the whole puzzle while advertising is just a piece.
Types of Marketing
There are two types of marketing: traditional and digital. The main difference between the two is that traditional marketing happens offline while digital marketing happens online.
Traditional marketing is the oldest form of marketing, dating far back as when humans first started speaking to each other. Like anything, it’s evolved through the ages as new technologies were introduced. Generally, traditional marketing strategies fall under one of the following categories:
- Print (newspapers, magazines, etc.)
- Broadcast (radio, TV, etc.)
- Direct Mail (postcards, catalogs, etc.)
- Telephone (telemarketing, SMS marketing, etc.)
- Outdoor (billboards, flyers, etc.)
Just because traditional marketing has been around forever, doesn’t mean that it’s not still a useful technique. Any well-rounded marketing strategy will include traditional components. Even so, the success of traditional marketing strategies are declining as consumers are interacting with brands digitally more than ever before.
Not to mention, there are a ton of limitations traditional marketing has all on it’s own. The biggest being that the messaging is static and takes time to change. If you’re placing an ad in a newspaper, you can’t change the contents until you place another ad. On the other hand, with digital marketing, you can change your website or send a tweet in a matter of seconds.
You’re also limited by how long your message can be or what it can include. Paper is only so big, radio commercials are only so long. With digital, while a tweet might have a character limit, you can always include a link to a web page that explains further.
Lastly, traditional marketing makes it harder to target and gather data about your audience. Online, you’re able to get a lot of valuable data and target potential customers based on their other online behaviors. After the fact, you can see who viewed, clicked, and interacted with your marketing materials. Offline, you can use media kits with audience demographics or census data to educate your decision on how to disperse your material, but you’ll never actually know who actually interacted with it.
All in all, there’s still a place for traditional marketing techniques, but in a growing digital age, it needs to be paired with digital marketing tactics if it’s going to be used.
What we know as digital marketing started in 1990. That is when the first search engine, Archie, was founded. It wasn’t like search engines today, as the internet didn’t exist in a way that you or I would recognize today, it was just an index for FTP sites. The first web ad banner was created and purchased in 1993. In 1994, Yahoo! was the first search engine that searched the web. A few years later, in 1998, Google introduced theirs. The first social media network, SixDegrees.com, was launched in 1997.
All of these firsts launched the new digital era of marketing. It’s crazy to think that 1990 was only 29 years ago and so much has happened since then. From 2005 to 2019, the amount of internet users has grown from 16 million to 4.536 billion people or 58.8% of the world’s population. People use the internet for almost everything, from getting information to catching up with old friends. And of course, interacting with companies to inform their purchasing decisions.
This is why you need to be in the digital marketing game. Depending on who you ask, the categories under digital marketing differ, but here are the categories most experts can agree with:
- Content marketing (website, blogs, videos, etc.)
- Search Engine Optimization (website speed, meta tags, etc.)
- Search Engine Marketing (Google Ads, Bing Ads, etc.)
- Social Media Marketing (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
- Email Marketing (building relationships with your customers through email)
- Affiliate Marketing (partnering up with other businesses)
- Influencer Marketing (partnering with influential users in your industry)
The limitations you have with traditional marketing do not ring true with digital marketing. This is because there is a lot of data at your disposal. There is so much information out there about internet users that you’re able to really target your desired audience. Because of that, there’s minimal guessing of how successful a specific strategy or campaign was. You’re able to see exactly who received and interacted with your message. The only caveat to note here is to make sure you’re measuring the right thing. While there is no shortage of metrics, you still have to make sure you are choosing the right ones.
With that, you can customize your message for a variety of “sub” audiences, instead of one big blanket audience, with several messages going out at once. You can create conversations with potential customers instead of just promoting your company. The best thing is, if you see something that isn’t quite working out, it’s easy to change and update to better match your audience and objectives. There’s nothing to print out or ad space to purchase. You can easily stop and start any digital marketing campaign.
This is not to say you should stop using traditional marketing strategies just because digital marketing is more prominent. There are plenty of strategies where the two can work together. You can have a radio ad that mentions a link to your website or have a postcard with a QR code linking to a video explaining your offerings. You can also have it the other way around and have a phone number on your website for people to call you for more information. What’s important is to do research on your target audience and what they’ll be most receptive to. You must also keep your message and branding consistent.
You Need Marketing
No matter what strategies or combinations of strategies you use for your company, doing any amount of marketing will help your business grow. That’s why it’s important that you find the time and put in the effort of marketing your company, even if it’s just an hour a day. If after reading everything above, you still don’t think marketing is worth your time, consider the following:
66% of small business owners are personally responsible for three or more of the following areas of their business: operations, finance, sales, marketing, human resources, customer service, product development, or IT
14% of small businesses fail because they ignore their customers
66% of small business owners say that finding new customers is a top concern for them
70–80% of people research a company online BEFORE contacting a business
Almost 90% of marketers say their social marketing efforts have increased exposure for their business, and 75% say they’ve increased traffic
47 % of small businesses spend less than $10,000 on digital marketing
62% of small businesses are investing 4% or more of their revenue on marketing
Time to Take Action
Marketing is the expansive act of creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging what you offer. There are a variety of different ways to do this but what is most important is to simply start! After reading this blog, sit down and create a comprehensive marketing plan! What can you do as a small business owner? What’s possible with a dedicated marketing person or team? Which channels and strategies will be the most effective way to get your message to your target audience?