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The Pragmatist’s Guide to Small Business Marketing

Tapping Into the Right Marketing Channels

When it comes to marketing, there are ever-evolving channels to look at. That being said, the traditional channels that marketers have always used are also tried and true. So, what channels should you be utilizing and to what extent?

Traditional Media

First let’s look at print and broadcast… this is direct mail, print advertising and broadcast advertising. Many smaller clients believe these channels are priced out of their reach. That’s not necessarily the case. With the advent of newer channels, there are cost effective ways to get into print and broadcast advertising.

For direct mail, take a look at the US Postal Service’s Every Door Direct Mail product. This is a nice, low-cost way to get into direct mail. Far cheaper than a main stream direct mail campaign. However, pieces are address to “Resident” so if you aren’t down with that, you’ll need to pony up for a list-based campaign.

If you’re looking at newspaper advertising, be sure your package includes a healthy on-line tie in. Most of them do, and I would advise that if they don’t offer it as part of their standard package, don’t go there. Then, when it’s live, use Google Analytics to make sure you’re actually getting traffic from the publication’s site.

For small business, broadcast advertising is a viable option. My take is that TV advertising probably isn’t a good spend unless you can afford prime time, big network spots with enough frequency to make an impact. That said, I think radio is an outstanding alternative and a little more affordable, though you’ll still need to look at a minimum of several hundred dollars and up for a nice schedule. As with print, if you’re doing any broadcast, make sure you’re getting in on the broadcaster’s web site with some ads.

Digital Advertising

Next up, digital advertising – that is, your web site and adwords / pay per click campaigns. First and foremost, make sure your site is search optimized and mobile friendly / device responsive.

Don’t guess at the SEO thing. If you’re not experienced in developing optimized content and making sure your meta data is spot on, work with someone who is. On the pay per click side, stick to proven platforms. Or platform, I should say. Google is pretty much the only  one that I’ve seen yield any type of results.

Most PPC campaigns will let you adjust budgets and dial things in geographically, so that’s nice. Just be sure that if you’re contracting out the management of a PPC campaign that you’re not signing any locked in terms as far as length of contract goes.

Many businesses are also jumping into text message campaigns. These tend to be more invasive, so be careful in using them as part of your strategy. Worst thing you can do is tick off your audience with too frequent pings to their phones.

Social Networks

When it comes to social network advertising, I’ve not seen any real results from that strategy at this point in time. Why? People go there to socialize and most ‘tivo’ out the ads that pop up. Best tactic here is to have your customers advertise for you – ask them to let their friends know about your product or service by posting to their social network pages. Like this:


Social networks are a little more straightforward, though they are constantly changing and new ones pop up all the time. Here are the fab 5:

  • LinkedIn – a business professional network.
  • Facebook – casual network, big with moms.
  • Twitter – this should be thought of as your news ticker.
  • Google+ – This is where your google place page lives, so it’s important to be there, though it isn’t anywhere near as popular a social network as the networks mentioned above.
  • Pinterest – ideal for more visual businesses or businesses that teach, share or coach.

Some of the other networks include Instagram, SnapChat and YouTube. Go there if you have photo/image content or video content.

Hootsuite is a great tool for managing some of these networks, though they don’t yet connect to all of them. There are free and paid versions of Hootsuite available.

Personal Networks

Personal networks are awesome. These give you a chance to get out there, make eye contact and ‘press the flesh,’ so to speak. These are still the most powerful networks for smaller, local businesses. We’re talking about your Chamber of Commerce, local associations, leads groups, etc. I often encounter people who start businesses, but they aren’t comfortable in large group environments. Get over that if your want to get your business over to your market area. Once you start going out there and meeting people, it gets easier and easier.