Of the many hats small business owners wear on a daily basis, “marketer” probably isn’t the one you look forward to wearing the most.
In fact, marketer may be the hat you keep tucked away in the back of your closet — only breaking it out when you absolutely need to wear it.
But even if marketing isn’t your favorite part of the job, you know that it’s something you need to feed your business.
Repeat business, new customers, and referrals don’t happen on their own.
It starts with a great experience — the type of experience that makes people say WOW and want to tell their friends about you.
But then you need to build on that experience so that you’re not only staying in touch with your existing customers, but also reaching new people in the process.
That’s where marketing comes in.
Whether you’re sending emails to let people know about your latest specials, posting on social media about upcoming events, or just interacting with a client face-to-face at your store or office — you are marketing your business.
And while it might be a surprise, you already know what it takes to be a successful marketer; you just need to put your skills to work.
Here are five important marketing lessons small business owners know better than anyone.
1. First impressions matter
Marketing isn’t just about selling products or promoting your services. It’s about building and maintaining the relationships you need to be successful.
These relationships start from the second someone finds your business — whether that’s in-person or online.
Before you can think about marketing, you need to make sure you’re offering an experience that’s worth promoting.
For a business owner like Peter Lovis, owner of the The Cheese Shop in Concord, Massachusetts, that means having a commitment to wow customers, even on their busiest days.
“You come to my counter. You’re gonna have a great customer experience. You’re gonna get some great product, whether it’s cheese or you talk to the wine guy. He’s gonna tell you about the size stones that are in the field, if you want to know about it. So they’re gonna tell their friends, ‘I got this at the cheese shop. This was great. I talked to Bri, or Peter helped me. It’s a great store. I got to go back there whenever I can. Whenever I need cheese, I can’t buy it at supermarket.’”
2. Communication is key
Strong and effective communication has always played a role in building your business, but with today’s online marketing tools, communication comes in many different forms.
Email is a great example of this. A recent survey of consumers found that 91 percent of people like to receive emails from the companies they do business with.
This means that businesses that take the extra step of growing an email database and following up with new and returning customers on an ongoing basis have a real advantage.
Chris Iousa, owner of Destaré martini bar and Chaibo coffee and tea house, explains:
“I tell my staff all the time, “A good impression doesn’t cut it. A super impression is the only way that we have a chance to get people back through the door.” A super impression, followed up with a nice email or a newsletter that may be received at the right time, on a continual basis, just reenforces that great experience they had. We hope that that works, and we’re pretty confident it has.”
3. You need to give value to get value
You don’t just expect people to come in because your doors are open. You work hard, listen to customers, and are constantly making improvements to keep them happy.
Marketing works the same way. When you’re committed to providing value to your audience and stay focused on their success, you’ll have more people who want to hear from you and a better return from your marketing investment.
Take this example from Lindsay Minihan, Executive Director, MetalWerx.
“We’re a jewelry making school that offers workshops and classes regularly. Each month, we have an instructor write a metalworking tip that we share with students, related to their class. Our community loves learning new tricks, especially when they are free & useful! At the end of the year we send a compilation to everyone as a thank you for their support and being part of our community. So many students write in to say how much they appreciate it. It doesn’t cost us anything; our teachers provide the content, and often get registrations for their classes. Everybody wins!”
4. Consistency matters
You know customers have expectations for your business, and work hard to fulfill those expectations on a daily basis.
And just like consistency allows you to stand out from your competitors, it will also be critical when it comes to planning your marketing efforts.
Take this example from Bahar Saadat, account manager for Davidson & Company, LLP. Bahar and her staff use Constant Contact’s customizable email templates to create professional-looking emails that highlight their staff and their industry expertise. Sticking to a monthly email schedule allows them to build brand awareness with new potential clients and improve loyalty with long-time customers.
“We put a lot of thought into how we put our marketing together because we want people to get to know our business…In an industry like ours, it can sometimes take a few years before you actually convert a new client. So, we really focus on being consistent and building the relationship anyway we can.”
5. Numbers don’t lie
You already have success metrics you use to keep your business up and running. You use these metrics to track your performance and make smarter decisions about the products you sell and the services you offer.
Marketing works the same way. Your marketing metrics will tell you how your different activities are performing, and will also provide insight into the types of messages that are resonating with your audience.
This is why it’s so important to have the tools to track your marketing results. If you’re sending emails to your customers for example, you’ll want to choose an email service that gives you insights like opens and clicks, so you can find out what messages are catching your audience’s attention and who is actually acting on the content and offers you send out.
Ally Whittaker, public relations manager for The Local Good, explains:
“Email has definitely helped us with web traffic and attendance at our events. I like that after I send an email out, I can go back and see how many people clicked through on which links. That way I can tell people are interacting with our content and click through to our website.”
Be a marketer
You have the skills and knowledge to be a marketer. Now you need to make sure you have the tools to help you do it.
For the businesses featured here, email marketing has been a proven tool for building customer relationships and promoting their products and services.
And they’re not alone.