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How do you prioritize your marketing resources? Are you happy with the return on investment?

Zachary_SBMZachary_SBM Director of Digital Engagement and StrategyMember admin

There's a lot of different ways small businesses can go about marketing their service or product. Contributing factors include industry, rural vs. (sub)urban, product vs. service, online vs. brick and mortar, start-up vs. established business, etc.

What marketing methods have you used for your particular business and are you happy with the value you're getting? I think this discussion could be a great way for small business owners to learn what marketing strategies have been effective for other small businesses and how to incorporate them into your business model.


  • Krista_GGTKrista_GGT CEO/Founder Member

    Being a sole proprietor at the moment with occasional volunteers I find it difficult to keep on top of marketing especially with everything else I have to do to keep my business running. Having no money I started with fb since that seems to be the number one media tool people visit. For awhile I created posters to hang around town but realized that most people do not look at the information on community boards and am thinking of getting rid of this type of promotion since it is not worth the time or money put into it. I recently created a website and a twitter account at which I am at a loss on how to get people interested and visiting my site. I feel that any more media is too much for one person as I am currently at my limit, perhaps beyond. I often feel as though fb is the only marketing tool that is making any difference in my business. I have been a business for 2 years but feel as though I am not making any headway. There has to be a better way to market with a limited budget and still get results. I am open to all suggestions anyone can offer.

  • AgencyLiteAgencyLite Co-founder of Agency Lite Member


    Hi Krista,

    Since your budget is really limited, you need to take advantage of the organic opportunities that will help to create awareness about your business. Different social channels attract different type of audiences and are used for different purposes. I am not familiar with your business, but would recommend to look at the options below as a start:

    1) If you don't have an Instagram page, create one. You should link it to the Facebook page that you already have. Every time you post on Instagram, use the hashtags that are relevant to your business and the content of your posts. Hashtags will help with discovery of your posts among like-minded groups of people. Instagram allows to use up to 30 hashtags per post, so you have plenty of opportunities to diversify the hashtags.
    2) Are you on Yelp? If not, create a page for your business and ask your current customers to write some reviews to get things started.
    3) Network - find out meet-up groups, organizations in your areas where you can talk to people face-to-face. This will help with spreading the word about your business and also build collaborations.
    4) Make sure your website is optimized for search with SEO.
    5) In terms of paid media, search will probably be he lowest hanging fruit since it is very demand driven.
    6) If you are buying Facebook ads, make sure that they are targeted towards your audience (local, specific interests that are relevant to your audience, demographics, etc.)

    Hope that helps.

    Thank you,


  • Mary_SBMMary_SBM Missouri Outreach Manager - Springfield Moderator mod

    As my husband and I started our landscaping / lawn care business, the first things I did were create a Wix website and a Facebook page, both free of course. I then researched every free marketing and networking opportunity I could find, and I made sure our business was professionally listed on every single one of them. You also have to go back and redo them every year or two to make sure things are correct and update your SEO, but the more places your business name is listed, the better chance you have of being seen. I do recommend getting the assistance of a SEO expert at the beginning so you can make sure and get your business as high to the top as possible. I didn't do this and REALLY wish I would have.

    I utilized Fiverr to have our logo created, which was wonderful and I still get compliments...for $5! I created our business cards on Vistaprint for much cheaper and much more professional than I had imagined. I did try to do nice flyers and postcards over the years, but those normally sat on my shelf and were eventually recycled. Same with the Regular Customer coupon cards I created in year 2...I just recycled 98% of them in year 6.

    Networking has been my number one ROI with the quickest return. I attend low cost /no cost networking events, and meet as many people as I possibly can. I set up one-on-one meetings to learn more about what THEY do, and learn how to pass business their way. I've developed a ton of great friendships this way, and also grown our business ten-fold while supporting other small businesses in my area!

    Becoming accredited with my local BBB was a great way to build a solid reputation, but had little ROI. That could have had more to do with the leadership at the time however, and not the actual service.

    I attempted radio ads twice, and it was a phenomenal waste of money. I also only bought one Facebook ad over the years...also a waste of money.

    One thing I do that is takes a lot of time, but has paid off dividends over the years, is handwritten Christmas cards. I am very careful about the cards I choose, but I handwrite the complete message and include a $10 coupon for the next year. Not a lot of the coupons get used, but people remember that we sent cards, and especially that they were written by hand and not printed. FYI...start this as soon as the holidays are over if you have a lot of customers...otherwise you will need a hand splint by the time you are done!! :smile:

    Bottom line is every time I have used a paid marketing technique over the years I have instantly regretted it, where as as I have watching the business grow through organic marketing is extremely rewarding. All of this depends on your business of course, but that is what worked well for our service based business in my community of Springfield, MO!

  • Cassie_SBMCassie_SBM Vice President, Communications Administrator, Moderator admin

    @Mary_SBM I love your tips for one-on-one outreach, especially the handwritten holiday cards! As you mention, paid digital marketing can involve some trial and error when just starting out and may work better for some businesses than others depending on location and industry. There are some great resources out there though to help determine a ROI on marketing. Check out this tool: https://venturize.org/blog/email-marketing-roi-calculator

    And SBA has a great marketing 101 resource for folks who are just starting out! https://venturize.org/resources/marketing-101-sba-guide

    Setting up a website and social media channels and regularly checking and updating those are important first steps anyone should take to ensure customers can find you and to start getting your brand out there!

  • Mark_SBMMark_SBM California Director Moderator mod

    Google also has some great resources. They recently joined us for our 2019 Small Business Summit in LA and gave a great presentation with some helpful ideas. You can check out the power point from the workshop here. https://smallbusinessmajority.org/sites/default/files/uploads/Robert-Martinez-Reach-Customers-Online-with-Google.pdf

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