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How to Market a Small Business Online – The 4 Golden Rules

The internet is flooded with marketing techniques you could use to grow your SME, yet the majority aren’t relevant to you. Why? Because some are suited for large companies; others work well for certain industries, some are cheap and some expensive. The trick is in knowing which to use based on your goals and budget. Today, we’re going to explore how to market a small business online effectively.

Deciphering which are right for you takes marketing know-how and an understanding of how the different aspects of marketing work together.

Having provided SME marketing support for a number of years now, in this blog, we have refined our experience down to the top 4 golden rules all SMEs should use when marketing themselves online.

Our business mission is to make SME business owners more motivated, confident and knowledgeable about their marketing, so let us impart a little bit of our knowledge to you to get you started.

How to market a small business online - team sat around table planning

1 – Facilitate word-of-mouth marketing – don’t just wait for it to happen!

Lots of SMEs rely on word of mouth, and 64% of marketers agree that it is the most effective form of marketing. However, many businesses rely on this happening organically so they aren’t in direct control of it.

That means you are at the mercy of people being sufficiently motivated to recommend and refer to you. Rather than waiting for the phone to ring, would it not be better to know your clients and brand advocates are working for you?

In a nutshell, proactively ask clients for recommendations, reviews and referrals to fuel the ‘word of mouth’ marketing. 

Provide your clients with the tools to enable them to make these recommendations, whether that is a physical voucher, an offer or something digital they can pass on to someone relevant on your behalf.

2 – How to market a small business online – define a strong brand message

When word of mouth is not involved, the website, business owner or salesperson is responsible for building trust with the prospect. 

To do this effectively, you need to:

  1. Define your target audience. Know who you are talking to, why your product or service is right for them, provide content that resonates with them and use appropriate imagery.
  2. Provide case studies, testimonials and evidence from past clients. Document previous customer experiences and proactively share them with new prospects.
How to market a small business online - Brand in cubes

3 – Create a clear strategy to attract your ideal customer profile

In our unique SME marketing model called the ‘Common 10’, it sets out 10 marketing objectives that will improve the results of any business if consistently worked upon.

Objective number two in the Common 10 is: “maximise your findability, visibility, and reach”. This is about creating more enquiries, both inbound and outbound, as a result of building awareness with your ideal customers.

There are many tactics available to do this, and which you use will depend on your customer profile – what will work for them, where they look for information on products or services, and what they need to see and hear. Defining your ideal customer profile really does matter to the success of your marketing and, therefore, your business!

Here are a few examples of tactics to give you the idea:

  1. Search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy
    Invest into developing your findability on Google organic search. Thus allowing you to get to the top of the search engine results page.
  2. Google Ads, paid search advertising.
    Paid ads can help push you to the top of any search result. 
  3. Optimise your current social media posts with relevant hashtags.
    Repeat key messages and posts, just because you’ve seen it multiple times does not mean your audience will have, so repeat relevant posts.
  4. Direct marketing. Targeting those who may be purchasing your product or service from someone else, or those who don’t know they need you, you have to go out to them directly whether that is email, networking, leaflets and much more.

4 – Score all sales opportunities and focus your efforts

Alex Genadinik once said: “Persistence is probably the single most important skill that you will need to make your business a success. Almost nothing you will try will work on the very first attempt.”

This quote is not just relevant for your business mindset, but your marketing strategy as well. It’s also very relevant when wondering how to market a small business online.

It is estimated that only 2% of sales happen on the first contact. Knowing this highlights the importance of nurturing all opportunities, regardless of whether they are ready to buy now or in the future.

There may not be enough hours in the day for you to give every prospect or lead the same level of attention. Therefore, if you score and judge how closely aligned the lead is to your ideal client profile and likelihood of converting, you can prioritise some leads over others. 

But all leads should be nurtured one way or another as you never know who will recommend you, or who may need you in the future!

How to market a small business online – what to do next

This blog should help with getting you started on how to market a small business online, and give you some key pointers. 


Marketing is a science and an art. Our Common 10 marketing model provides a structure and framework and we have over 250 tactics which sit alongside these objectives.

We want to see more SME’s thrive and achieve great results, so if you’d like to know about our digital marketing services so you can spend more time on the areas of your business that you are passionate about, you can check them out here.

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