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Just like anything else about running a small business, you can work hard at marketing it, or you can work smart.

The first means a lot of time and work, sometimes chasing your tail, and who knows what kind of return on investment you’ll realize?

The second makes marketing work for you. Again, just like anything else about running a small business, it will take an upfront investment of time and energy. But the returns are worth it. You’ll know exactly if your marketing is driving revenue, how much, and how to tweak it to make it perform better.

The biggest payoff, though, is that smart marketing is a trail of breadcrumbs leading to your front door.

Here are 8 smart-marketing tips for your small business.

1. Know your customers and prospects.

If you don’t know who you’re talking to, you can’t know how to talk to them in language that connects with their aspirations and meets their needs.

Buyer personas are the most effective way to understand your customers and potential buyers. They describe who your ideal customers are, and you can have one or more. For instance, who is your ideal student customer? Who has influence on students (parents, for example, or teachers)? Who buys your product or service for students (grandparents, aunts, and uncles?)

A persona includes information about the people in your target audience, including their:

  • Education
  • Income level
  • Employment
  • Location
  • What’s important to them
  • What keeps them up at night
  • Their media habits
  • How your business can make their lives better

Creating a buyer persona takes time and effort. Brainstorm with employees, stakeholders, and even your best customers. But once it’s complete, it’s done and ready to use for all your smart marketing efforts going forward. Instead of blasting out messages that fall on deaf ears, you’ll have a well-defined target audience with whom you can connect on a personal level.

2. Choose your smart-marketing channels.

If you don’t know where your customers are, you can’t get your message in front of them.

Based on your personas, where are you most likely to find your best customers? If you have limited time, use your time wisely to post your target audiences’ preferred channels.

  • If you’re trying to reach professionals like lawyers or accountants, LinkedIn could be an excellent option for you.
  • If you want to target creative people, Instagram might be a good choice.
  • If you’re selling to older people and families, you may want to consider Facebook.

3. Set metrics for success.

If you can’t measure your marketing results, how can you know if they are working?

Decide what you want every channel in your smart-marketing strategy to achieve. A typical metric for email marketing, for instance, is open rates. If people don’t open your emails, they’ll never see what’s inside. If it’s the most brilliant email ever written, it’s a fail.

Email is an effective marketing channel for small businesses, but it might take an investment in a user-friendly, reasonably priced platform that tracks metrics such as Constant Contact of MailChimp.

Metrics for social platforms include likes, clicks, and shares. If you want an Instagram post to get X shares, and it gets X+, it’s a marketing win. If it gets X shares, test (more on that later) to see if the metrics will improve. If it’s short of X, it’s time to looking into alternatives or double-checking that your posts and content suit the people you’re targeting.

This analysis may seem like a lot, but it’s less work than being on too many social platforms that aren’t producing results.

At the bottom line, literally, conversion is the most important metric. For instance, if your goal is to convert the marketing campaign into more customers, estimate how many you expect and at what cost. Make sure you have systems in place to track results. Regularly monitoring progress toward your goals will help ensure your campaigns are performing as intended. It will allow you to cut or fix efforts that aren’t working and optimize those that are.

 4. Schedule your social media posts and ads.

If you don’t carve out time in the business schedule for smart marketing, will you ever get around to it?

As a small business owner, you know the value of efficiency. You prioritize things by their importance, and if smart marketing is not important enough to rate a time on the schedule, you can stop reading.

On the other hand, setting aside time on regular basis to write and post social media content (tools like HubSpot enable you to publish across all platforms at once.) Set an email schedule that sets start and stop times for writing, production, delivery, and metrics review. If you intend something a little more ambitious, say a video, build a production schedule over however long you think it will take to organize, shoot, and prepare for publication.

5. Now, it’s time to write.

If you have to start from scratch every time, how long will it take you to get behind?

Sure, timely information is exciting and can generate buzz, but smart-marketers re-purpose content across the campaign. It’s called evergreen material.

Evergreen content stays valid and current over time. It addresses a need your business can solve and encourages prospective customers to learn more about your company. Evergreen content shouldn’t sell, but it must point toward a sale.

A trick to generating evergreen: Use keywords and phrases that you associate with your brand, products, and audience personas. Search engines will drive free traffic to it, helping drive leads and sales for a long time. Go with what you know to create content that connects with your customers and is not time sensitive.

It’s not quite set-it-and-forget it—you’ll want to schedule time on your marketing calendar to spruce it up now and then—but it will pay for itself over and over again.

6. Highlight calls to action.

If you don’t tell them what to do, can you count on them doing it?

The simplest way to tell them what you want them to do—and one many small business owners overlook—is to highlight the calls to action on websites, email, point-of-sale takeaways—essentially every piece of marketing material that you want to generate a response.


If you do one thing to improve your marketing, audit your materials and optimize your calls to action. Check that:

  • Every page or article has at least one call to action or way to get in touch with you.
  • Make sure consumers can take the action you want them to take in every step of your marketing and sales process.
  • Calls to action are compelling and explain what you want visitors to do and the benefit of doing it (see how you can earn $100,000 a year and more) and not just say something bland.
  • Action links and buttons are bold, brightly colored, easy to find, and simple to act on.

The next time you’re on another businesses webpage or open a business-to-consumer email, be mindful of the call to action. That will spark a lot of ideas you can use in your direct-response marketing.

Don’t forget: You’ve set metrics for success, so track the call-to-action results in Google Analytics or HubSpot. The email platforms mentioned earlier automate the metrics for that channel. It will help you identify which are working and which are not so you can continue to optimize them over time.

7. Set up a few automated workflows.

If you’re doing everything by hand, will you ever get everything done?

Tools like HubSpot or other marketing automation software enable you to set up conditional (if/then) situations to move customers through your sales and marketing process. For instance, if someone hits a call to action on your website, it will channel them into your automated email platform to deepen the engagement.

If you’re unsure how to set up an automated workflow, the experts at Sales Maven are available to help.

8. Test, test, test.

If you don’t know it’s broken, how can you fix it?

Here’s where the time and energy you spent in setting your metrics for success and evaluating turns into money. If something is not meeting the performance goals you set for it, set up a simple A/B test. For instance, if you’re not getting the open rates you want from your email marketing, test the subject lines. An automated email platform will split a portion of your email list into A and B segment. One segment will get the subject line you’ve been using (the champ); the other will get a new one (the challenger).  The platform takes the winning subject line and rolls it out on the rest of the rest of the list.

Whether you testing subject lines, calls to action, images on social posts or anything else, remember: Test one thing at a time, otherwise you will not be able to tell what changed the result.


As a small business owner, it can be challenging to handle marketing on your own. Sales Maven provides affordable marketing services to small businesses that need support. Contact us today to get the help you need.