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Growing Your Small Business with Marketing: A Guide

How to Grow Your Small Business with Marketing
Susan Guillory
Susan GuilloryUpdated May 8, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
It’s one thing to start a small business but quite another to grow that business into a thriving and profitable enterprise. To do this, you generally need to invest time, effort, and money into marketing.Effective marketing helps small businesses build brand awareness, establish credibility, and ultimately drive sales. Marketing activities can include advertising, public relations, promotions, social media, and more. Read on to learn how to create a basic marketing program that can help propel your small business to the next level, plus tips on how to find marketing financing.

Understanding Your Target Market

Before you can decide the best way to market your business, it’s critical to understand your target market — these are the people who are most likely to buy your product or service. Knowing your target market helps you create marketing strategies that speak directly to their needs, wants, and pain points.Some questions to consider: Who am I trying to sell goods or services to? What is it they want most out of my products or services? What problem does my product or service solve for my customers? Typically, you can find answers to these questions by watching trends, directly interacting with customers, and analyzing demographic data (such as age, gender, income level, and location). You might also want to conduct surveys or gather data from social media to understand your customers' preferences and behaviors.Failure to understand your target audience is one reason why many small businesses fail.

How Marketing Can Help a Small Business

Marketing can help a small business achieve success in several ways. For one, it helps you build brand awareness. By creating a consistent brand message across all marketing channels, you can increase brand recognition and make it easier for customers to identify and remember your brand. For another, marketing your business can help you attract new customers. By creating targeted marketing campaigns, you can reach potential customers who are most likely to be interested in your products or services.Last but not least, marketing can help you retain existing customers. By creating a strong relationship with your customers through email marketing, social media, or loyalty programs, you can increase customer loyalty and encourage repeat business.Recommended: 11 Business Growth Strategies for 2023 

3 Best Marketing Strategies to Gain Customers

The best marketing strategies for your business will depend, in part, on what industry you’re in and the stage your business is at. But here’s a look at three key marketing strategies that are useful for most small businesses. 

1. Content Marketing

Marketing isn’t necessarily about advertising your product. By providing informative and entertaining content, you can connect with your audience. This is especially valuable for an online business that doesn’t get to interact with customers in person.You can create blog posts and videos on your website, contribute to other blogs/sites that get traffic from your target audience, and/or share your content on social media. This can help establish your brand as an authority in your industry and, in turn, attract new customers.

2. Social Media Marketing

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can be great tools for reaching a wider audience. By creating engaging content, responding to comments and messages, and running targeted ads, small businesses can attract new customers and build brand awareness.Which social media channels you’ll want to target will depend on who you’re trying to reach. Gen Z tends to flock to TikTok, while Gen X can often be found on Instagram and Facebook. Boomers, on the other hand, often favor Facebook. To connect with a business audience, you might want to have an active presence on LinkedIn.

3. Email Marketing

Email marketing can be a cost-effective way to reach customers and promote your products or services. You can build an email list by using call-to-action buttons on your content and throughout your website to encourage email signups, and by offering something in exchange for a person’s email (such as a special discount code).Once you’ve built your list, you can create targeted and engaging email campaigns that encourage customers to make a purchase or visit your website.

The Importance of a High-Quality Website

Whatever marketing strategy you choose, you’ll need to have a well-optimized, mobile-friendly website that can help you attract new customers and increase conversions. What does that look like?A high-quality website is easy to navigate, has a clear call-to-action, and provides valuable information about your products or services. It should also be optimized for search engines. This means your content contains keywords that your target audience is searching for. And since a significant amount of people are visiting websites on their mobile devices, you’ll want to be sure that site is also mobile-friendly. Some websites don’t render well on a smaller device like a cell phone, so be sure your web designer (or your website builder, if you’re going DIY) can create a mobile-friendly version of the site that is easy to navigate on a phone or tablet.

Implementing Cost-Effective Marketing Strategies

To make sure you get the most out of your small business marketing budget, you’ll want to make sure you choose strategies that provide a good return on investment (ROI). Here are some ways to get the most out of your marketing spend:
  • Using free marketing tools There are several free marketing tools available, such as social media, email marketing platforms, and Google My Business. Consider taking advantage of these tools to increase your online visibility and attract more customers.
  • Focusing on targeted advertising Instead of casting a wide net with your advertising, you may want to consider targeting specific demographics and audiences that are most likely to purchase from you. This can help you get the most out of your advertising budget and improve your ROI.
  • Quantifying your results  It can be a good idea to track your marketing efforts and measure your ROI regularly. This can help you identify what's working and what's not, so you can make informed decisions about where to invest your marketing budget.

Why You Should Always Review Your ROI

Part of learning how to grow your small business with marketing is understanding how your marketing spend is bringing you a return, or ROI. You may be using multiple marketing strategies at any given time, and each will have a different ROI. Pay attention to analytics for each marketing channel and campaign so you can zero in on what’s bringing the best return for the least amount of money. You can then cut what’s not working and focus on what is.

Funding Your Marketing Efforts

As a small business owner, you likely have a lot of expenses on your plate. If you don’t have the cash flow to cover your marketing budget, you may want to consider outside funding.

Financing Options for Small Businesses

Small business loans are available through banks, credit unions, and online lenders, and you can generally use the proceeds for any business expense, including marketing. Banks tend to offer the lowest rates and most attractive terms, but have strict qualification criteria (such as at least two years of business history and a minimum annual revenues). Online lenders can be more flexible, and will often work with businesses that have been operating for less than a year. They are also faster to fund. However, rates are usually higher. If you plan to spend a little on marketing now and more later, you might consider a business line of credit for startups. This is a flexible form of funding that allows you to borrow what you need (up to a set maximum) when you need it and only pay interest on what you actually borrow.

Grants for Small Businesses

Another potential source of marketing funding is a business grant. There are a variety of grants available for small businesses through government, nonprofit, and private entities. You may be able to qualify for a grant if your business supports a specific government initiative, your ownership meets certain qualifications (such as women, veterans, or minorities), or you will be doing business in an underserved community. Unlike loans, grants do not need to be paid back. However, competition for this type of funding can be fierce.Recommended: How to Start a Minority Woman-Owned Business

The Takeaway

Marketing can be a powerful tool for small businesses to gain exposure, attract new customers, and increase revenue. Some effective marketing activities include building a great website, social media marketing, content marketing, and email marketing. Some strategies are free or low-cost, while others will require more of a capital investment.If you’re looking for marketing financing, Lantern by SoFi can help. With our online debt financing marketplace, you can explore small business loan options (including e term loans, SBA loans, and lines of credit) without scouring the web or making any type of commitment. With one short application, you’ll be matched with a loan option that meets your company’s needs and qualifications.Let Lantern help you find the right financing solution for your small business.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of marketing for a small business?
How can I determine the target market for my business?
What are some common mistakes small businesses make with marketing efforts?
Can I get a loan for marketing services for my small business?
Photo credit: iStock/Pyrosky

About the Author

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

Su Guillory is a freelance business writer and expat coach. She’s written several business books and has been published on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and SoFi. She writes about business and personal credit, financial strategies, loans, and credit cards.
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