April 14, 2021

How to Develop a Marketing Strategy for Small Business

Marketing a small business isn’t easy. But, this process can help you market your product or service effectively with a budget a local business can afford.

Developing a Marketing Strategy Starts with Your Target

The most important step in creating marketing strategies is to define and identify your target market, clearly and succinctly. For a target market to be viable, it needs to be:

Homogenous means that the target market all share one or more identifiable characteristics. This could be age, gender, or even a mindset. It does not matter as long as it is identifiable.

Developing Marketing Strategy for Small Business Target Market

Distinct means that sharing this characteristic makes our target audience different from other audiences. Finally, we need to understand if the same things motivate them. It is important to know if they will react similarly to a message or offer.

Effectively Reaching Your Target as a Small Business

Developing Marketing Strategy for Small Business Effectively Reaching Your Target

In this post, we focus on marketing strategies that are relatively inexpensive and work. That doesn’t mean they are all free or don’t require work from small businesses owners. 

When it comes to your marketing efforts, you will need to decide how much work you will do versus how much money you want to spend for someone else to do it. We will discuss the typical costs vs. time required as we continue.

Using Digital Marketing as Part of Your Small Business Marketing Strategy

Not all digital marketing is created equal. It used to be true that digital marketing was a great deal for advertisers and small businesses. It was a way to reach millions of people relatively cheaply and effectively.

While that is not the case across all aspects of digital marketing, it is still true for some areas. The first area that we have discussed in great detail is Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO). 

Local SEO

Developing Marketing Strategy for Small Business Local SEO

If you have a local business service with a well-defined local neighborhood, district, or town, then local SEO is a must have to be competitive. Mobile drives most local search. Therefore, proximity is very important, as such, it is very important in ranking. 

If you want to attract a potential customer who is right around the corner from your business, you will want to rank well on local SEO. To ensure you do, there are some key local SEO services that can make that job easier.

If you would like to try the do-it-yourself approach, you may find our Practical Guide to Local SEO helpful. While this marketing tactic is very inexpensive, however, it is time-consuming. 

Paying a marketing agency to run your local SEO will cost a few thousand dollars a month. If you do it yourself, you should plan for at least 1-2 hrs a day. You will need fresh content via blog posts or new pages.

Developing Marketing Strategy for Small Business email

Email marketing

While over almost 30 years old, email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to market your business. We cover email marketing in greater detail, but we share the key highlights here.

Your Headline Makes or Breaks Your Campaign: It should always be concise, specific, and use strong adjectives. It should convey utility and urgency. 

Lastly, it should be relatable to the reader. That is a lot for 55-60 characters. There are always trade-offs that need to be made.

As a rule of thumb, if you can 5 out 7, it is a good headline.

You have to get to the point: Your reader is busy so he or she has little time to spend on an email. Therefore, they need a single-minded communications goal.

Never buy a list or do other SPAMmy tactics: Take the time to build a legitimate e-mail list. It’s slow and tedious, but it is the best approach in the long-run.

Developing Marketing Strategy for Small Business Digital Marketing

The Rest of the Digital Marketing Mix

For things like Facebook ads, it can be difficult to achieve an ROI for a small business. With the new algorithm changes and losing the use of the cookie, we share our thoughts on why digital marketing is likely to become less efficient.

Social media works best when you have an inexpensive product or service that can be used in fun and interactive ways, especially on video. Social media might not be the best fit for you if your product or service is complex or expensive.

Offline Marketing Strategies

Local Community

Engaging with the local community is a great way to get your business known, especially if you service a very targeted geographic area. Events are one way to do it. Now that COVID is hopefully coming to a close, people are hungry for interaction.


Pulling together your neighboring businesses to have a small block party or similar minor event gives you a reason to be active on social media, helps build relevance on local search, and generates word of mouth.

Public Relations

All these three tactics go hand in hand, making them more effective than any on their own. Local press loves to cover local events. They might even be willing to be a sponsor to spread awareness of their brand. Local PR helps because it builds links (SEO), raises awareness and word of mouth, and puts you on their radar screen if you ever wish to submit a press release.

Developing Marketing Strategy for Small Business Marketing Plan Success

Pulling it Altogether - Create a Marketing Plan

Hopefully, you have found some useful information and ideas that you might want to use for your business. The best way to ensure that all your marketing efforts and strategies are coordinated, it is best practice to pull all the pieces together in a marketing plan. 

Steps to Create Marketing Plan When Developing Marketing Strategies for Small Business

The first step in building a marketing plan is to ensure that you align your marketing objectives with your business goals and your company’s mission statement. You do not want to be wasting efforts on tactics that do not advance your business goals and mission.

There are several business plan and marketing plan templates you can use. They all will follow a similar structure if not in a similar layout or order.

Marketing Objectives are set in the Business Plan

In the business plan, you should state your marketing objectives. For example, if my business goal was to increase sales by 20%, then I would want a marketing aim that increases the number of customers or increase the number of times an existing customer repurchases.

Developing Marketing Strategy for Small Business Marketing Objectives

Marketing Strategies are the Actions You Will Take to Deliver Your Objectives

Doing the math, the marketing objectives should tie to the business plan goals. Once you have your objectives, you can develop marketing strategies for your small business. 

Awareness Strategies

Using the example above, if the goal was to increase the number of customers, my marketing strategies should focus on generating more awareness and trial. This would mean I would focus more on events, PR, and other awareness generating strategies.

Retention strategies

On the other hand, if my aim was to increase the number of customers who came back to buy more, I would focus more on retention strategies, such as e-mail marketing.

Creating the Budget

Once you have outlined the strategies and tactics, it is time to put them into action. In order to actualize your plans, you will need money. You can figure out just how much by calendarizing your plan and adding in the costs. Most templates will help.

Developing Marketing Strategy for Small Business Summary Strategy


In developing marketing strategies for small business, we hope you take away these key points.

  • Developing a marketing strategy starts with your target. Without a target, it is not possible to build effective marketing strategies. You stumble upon a viable target, but you will not know why.
  • Effectively reaching your target is the key challenge for small businesses. As a small business, it is unlikely that you have a large budget. Therefore, you need to focus on strategies that are cost effective and proven.
  • It is better to start with the business plan and then create the marketing plan. This is the easiest way to ensure that you link your business goals to your marketing objectives. This means you are developing the right marketing strategies for your small business.

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About the Author

Brian Cairns, CEO of Prostrategix Consulting. Over 25 years of business experience as a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and small business owner. For more information, please visit my LinkenIn profile

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