“You have to spend money to make money.” – Titus Maccius Plautus.  

That’s right. Even 2,000 years ago, business owners understood what marketing was and why it benefited them. They didn’t have marketing teams, SEO, or social media, but they leveraged the power of word-of-mouth to promote their businesses and grow them over time. 

It’s no surprise that marketing has evolved tremendously since the Roman Empire, but the core principles of this discipline remain intact today. In this post, we’ll explain what marketing is and how small business owners can use the four “P’s” (Product, Price, Place, Promotion) to attract more customers. We’ll also provide a list of marketing channels and best practices for launching a campaign at your small business. 

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The Guide to Winning More Business Online


What is marketing?

Marketing is any action your business takes to promote its products, services, or brand. It’s your efforts to spread the word about your company and build a positive reputation for your business. 

The term “marketing” is vague, and plenty of business operations fall under this umbrella. You can have full-fledged marketing campaigns that feature online ads, TV commercials, etc. Or, you could hand out business cards and post occasionally on social media. Both strategies, and everything in between, are marketing for your business. what is marketing

What is the purpose of marketing? 

The purpose of marketing is to spread the word about your company and attract even more customers interested in buying your products and services. Business owners use communication channels like email, social media, and paid advertisements to send messages to these customers that convince them to buy, research, or demo different products.  

When done right, marketing is very effective. Take a look at this chart from Smart Insights: 

email roi chart

This chart shows the average return on investment (ROI) for each dollar spent on different marketing channels. Email alone generated an average of $40 for each dollar spent on these campaigns. In other words, your business could experience a 40x return on investment by simply sending promotional emails to your customers. 

Sounds too good to be true, right?  

Good catch. Marketing is more complex than just sending an email.  

There’s a right and a wrong way to market your business, and knowing how to do things correctly will increase sales and protect you from making costly mistakes that hurt your brand.  

How does marketing work? 

Most small business owners don’t have a marketing team. They either manage their marketing independently or outsource the work to an agency.  

If you’re taking on the work yourself, brush up on the four “P’s” of marketing: product, price, place, and promotion. Let’s review each in the section below. 

the four p's of marketingThe 4 P’s of Marketing 

1. Product 

The product is what you’re selling, like a physical product or a service. If you work in the trades or run a service-based business, your “product” might be the tasks you complete for your customers. It might also be a new feature on your website or an app your company just launched. The point is – the product is whatever you want your customers to buy. 

Think about how this product is different from others in your industry. What makes it unique from its competitors? What features does it provide? What problem are you solving? 

The more you understand what you are selling, the easier it will be to promote it to your customers. Focus on what makes your product unique and how it will help customers achieve their goals. If you can position your product as a solution to their problem, you’re more likely to make a sale because you’re highlighting an actual need for it.  

2. Price

The price is what customers are willing to pay for your product or service. Price can also be dictated by the resources used to produce that product.  

For example, if there’s a lot of demand for a product, business owners might raise the prices for it because there’s a limited supply, and they know customers would be willing to pay more. On the other hand, if they have a surplus of one product, they might offer a sale or discount because there’s less demand for that product. 

Branding can also affect price. Take Nike or Lululemon, for example. These brands create the same products as their competitors but charge more because they’re considered higher-end brands. Their products may or may not be better quality, but the brand’s value is what people want to buy. If you have a strong brand, you can leverage it to find the best price point for your products and services.  

3. Place 

Place is where you plan to sell your product. It may be a physical location like a brick-and-mortar store, or online via your website and social media pages.  

When it comes to where you sell your product, you shouldn’t expect customers to seek out your business. Instead, you’ll have to meet them on the channels where they are most active. For example, if your audience is younger, you might open a TikTok shop to demonstrate and promote your products. If more of your customers are Gen X, you might create a bot to process sales on your Facebook page instead.  

Either way, aim to meet your customers on their preferred channels. They’ll be more likely to respond, creating a seamless conversion path from marketing to sales. 

4. Promotion 

Promotion refers to the communication used when selling your product. It’s the messages you send to customers that explain why they should buy from your brand and what makes your products better than your competitors.   

Promotion is also where you devise your content marketing strategy. Content marketing is the practice of creating assets that promote your brand. We’ll dive into a few different types later, but content marketing is the foundation of promotion. It catches a customer’s eye and compels them to do business with your company. 

Let’s review a few different types of marketing, including content marketing, in the section below. 

Types of Marketing 

Here are a few different types of marketing that you can use at your small business: 

  • Content Marketing: Content is the digital or physical assets that promote your business. Content marketing blends these assets into a comprehensive campaign that directs people to your product, service, or brand.  
  • Email Marketing: Email is one of the most effective marketing channels. Most people have it, and it’s easy to send messages to those who subscribe to your newsletter or mailing list. 
  • Blog Marketing: Blogging is a tried-and-true content marketing strategy. You can blog about your products, services, company news, or topics related to your industry. Blogging is not only an effective way to promote your business, but it can also help you build a library of diverse content. 
  • Social Media Marketing: This is another form of content marketing. Nearly 5 billion people use social media. Whether it’s Facebook, TikTok, Reddit, or any other channel, it’s important to know which platforms your customers use and engage with them as much as you can on these channels. 
  • Word-of-mouth Marketing: Word-of-mouth marketing is the buzz customers generate about your business. These reviews make other customers trust your brand and want to do business with you.  
  • Search Engine Marketing: Search engine marketing is the practice of researching keywords and identifying ways to make your content rank higher on search engines like Google. For example, if you run a roofing business and a customer searches for “Home Services in Texas,” you want to ensure your company’s website ranks at the top of the results for that search query.  
  • Paid Media Marketing: Paid media is an advertisement, like a YouTube ad or a product placement. It’s when your company pays to display a message in a particular place at a specific time. 
  • Video Marketing: Videos are an excellent marketing tool. You can use them for commercials or create a promotional video for your business. At Thryv, we make videos for customer reviews and testimonials that showcase different products.  
  • Print Marketing: Print marketing is a physical marketing message – think billboards, signage, and sales sheets. These mediums are excellent for building brand awareness.  
  • Guerrilla Marketing: Guerrilla marketing is untraditional marketing. It surprises your customers because they don’t expect to see your message in this form or place. 
  • Online Marketing: Online marketing is more of a catch-all category. It’s anything your business does to promote your company on the Internet, like your website, social media pages, YouTube videos, etc. 

Each type of marketing has its quirks. What works well on one may have a different effect on another. Double down on the channels that work best for your business and avoid spending too much time on ones that don’t yield positive results.  

For more tips, read on to the section below. 

Marketing Best Practices for Small Businesses 

Here are some strategies you should follow when implementing any type of marketing at your business.  

Identify your target audience. 

The best marketing campaigns utilize personalization, so knowing who you’re selling your products and services to is important. This information includes their demographics, interests, purchase history, and any other details you can gather about this audience. Once you have that, you can craft personalized messages that speak directly to your ideal customer. 

For example, a seasonal marketing campaign might target customers who are doing holiday shopping or are preparing for an annual event.

Set goals for your campaigns.

Marketing is like science. You come up with hypotheses and then test them with experiments. Except in marketing, your goals are your hypotheses, and your experiments are your campaigns. 

For example, if I wanted to increase traffic to my website, I might set a business goal of raising it by 5%. From there, my experiment and hypothesis could be “If we add industry-specific keywords to our home page, we will rank higher on Google and increase our traffic by 5%.” 

This approach helps you track what you are testing and makes it easier to identify campaigns that aren’t producing meaningful results.  

Solve, don’t sell. 

Nobody wants to be sold on something. It adds stress to the buying experience and makes the customer feel pressured into a decision. In most cases, the harder you try to sell something, the more dubious people will be about your intentions. 

Rather than selling something to your audience, try to solve a problem for them. Talk about how your product or service will help them achieve their goals and why your company is the best option for this use case. Not only will this messaging differentiate you from competitors, but it will also position your brand as a trusted resource of information that has its customers’ best interests at heart. 

Measure performance.

As marketers, we hate wasting time. It sucks to put a bunch of effort into a campaign and not see a return on your investment. It’s even worse when you think something is working, but you’ve actually been doing more harm than good. 

The best way to safeguard your time is to monitor the performance of your campaigns. Using marketing tools, you can see which assets are performing well and which may need improvement. By keeping a close eye on your marketing metrics, you’ll avoid costly mistakes and spend more time working on campaigns that lead to deals for your business. 

Focus on your strengths.  

Once you know what works and what doesn’t, double down on your strengths. When it comes to marketing, customers want to take the path of least resistance. They seek out convenience and comfort and prefer familiar and trustworthy experiences.  

Don’t waste your time pushing campaigns that don’t resonate with your target audience. Customers don’t change their habits often unless you give them a good reason. Instead, focus on making good experiences even better by improving the channels and messages that your customers seem to like most.  

Marketing Your Small Business 

It doesn’t matter if your company has one employee or one thousand – marketing is an essential function for growing a business. Since most small businesses don’t have a marketing team, it’s up to the business owner to leverage different platforms and identify channels that work best for their company.  

Fortunately, technology and automation have made it easier to manage these marketing efforts, giving business leaders a detailed breakdown of what is working and where they can stand to improve.  

Explore these tools if you haven’t tried them yet and combine them with the best practices above to get a good start on your first marketing campaign. 

The Guide to Winning More Business Online

The Guide to Winning
More Business Online

Want customers to find you online? A website is not enough.