How to grow a small business with marketing and promotions

How to grow a small business with marketing and promotions


Using working capital or obtaining a small business loan to finance a marketing campaign can be a wise route to leverage additional capital into a strong return on investment. As a part of this strategy, promotions are a great way to really move the needle and step up your marketing game.

While great services or goods are truly the foundation of a successful business, even the best possible product can get buried in the white noise of advertising generated by thousands of other companies cluttering the commercial landscape. Because of the crowded playing field, small and mid-sized business owners need to promote their companies and products at every turn if they really want to up their game.

Self-promotion efforts
Promotions remain a tried-and-true method to get the word out about your business and truly spread the word to boost brand awareness and ultimately capture a larger market share. Carol Roth, a CNBC on-air contributor and a judge on “America’s Greatest Makers,” a show about people pitching product ideas, told USA Today that every entrepreneur has to be a promoter.

“It’s no longer enough to have just a great product or service and expect that customers and clients will find you,” Roth explained. “If you are unwilling to ‘toot your own horn,’ how can you expect that anyone else will? That means that you should always be marketing and promoting.”

But what kind of promotions work the best and who should these promotions focus on without turning the campaign into just a waste of resources? As Roth noted, sometimes small business owners spend too much time promoting their products to potential customers, when in fact, they should focus more of their efforts retaining current customers by meeting and exceeding expectations, guarantee satisfaction and ensuring these individuals turn into repeats.

With existing customers, you can get them to spend more money at your business, either by selling to them more frequently or up-selling. Further, other than you, the business owner, these customers are your best advocates, as they can tell their friends, family and business peers about your offerings.

Do what I say, not what I do
Since small business owners need to be their own spokesperson, it falls on these individuals to make the crucial decisions on what game plan to implement. Unfortunately, there’s inconsistency between what techniques owners employ the most frequently, and which they say are the most effective.

According to a survey conducted by Sage Software, Inc., the most popular ways small and mid-sized business owners use to advertise, promote or publicize their company is via direct mail or email, with 31 percent of respondents citing this technique as their top choice. Following this method,

  • 28 percent said social media
  • 25 percent said advertising in the phone book
  • 24 percent said they used local newspapers, magazines or periodicals
  • 22 percent said they advertised on search engines
  • 21 percent said they used local sponsorships

Despite the respective usage of the previously cited five techniques, the top five most effective ways to promote, advertise or publicize the company were:

  • 75 percent said public relations
  • 71 percent said signs or billboards
  • 66 percent said advertising in local newspapers, magazines or periodicals
  • 62 percent said local sponsorships
  • 57 percent said direct mail or email

With just an initial glance, it’s clear there’s a discrepancy in what small to mid-sized business owners cite as their most popular methods for engaging in promotions, advertisements and other ways to publicize their company and what these entrepreneurs claim are the most effective strategies. For example, despite direct mail or email providing the fifth-most effective way to promote the company, owners listed this as the No. 1 technique. Further, public relations topped the chart for being the most effective way to advertise, but this approach did not even make it onto the list of most popular methods.

As the data indicates, it’s not enough to pick a single option and allocate all your resources on just that one particular technique. Instead, small business owners need to undertake some initial research on the company’s target market, and then discern which method best suits their long-term goals. Further, as the survey shows, sometimes the gut feeling isn’t necessarily the best route to go, and sometimes something like public relations – which apparently isn’t a top-of-mind promotion technique for small business – should get another thought.