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Anyone who’s started or worked at a small business knows that if you want to be successful, you need to learn how to market your product or service—no matter what it is. But marketing isn’t the easiest subject, and there are so many moving parts and factors to consider that it can be intimidating. You could hire someone else to do the marketing for you, but if you want to grow your business, here are four important things you need to know about marketing your small business.


Understand the basics

Every entrepreneur has a different definition of what constitutes success. If you understand these simple truths, you can begin to make decisions that will help grow your business in a timely manner. Ask yourself these three questions: How big do I want my business to be? Where do I want my business to be located? And how much money will it take me to get there?


Calculate your marketing budget

Start by determining your marketing budget. That includes setting aside funds for advertising, promotion, public relations, social media marketing, trade shows, events and so on. Calculate how much you’ll need each month based on where you’re at in your business cycle and where you want to be in a year or two. Then divide that number by 12 (or however often you plan to allocate your monthly budget) to get an idea of what percentage of your total revenue will go toward marketing each month.


Decide what you’re selling

Before you write a business plan, you need to figure out what your business is selling. There are many different types of businesses: some sell products, others sell services, and still others sell both. If you’re selling a service, make sure it’s one that people will always need (such as medical care or financial advice) rather than something that can be replaced by technology (like stock photography). If you have a small start-up budget or limited experience in your field, then it’s probably wise to start out with a product. Products generally cost less money than services because they don’t require any labor. And since they’re physical objects instead of intangible tasks, products are easier for most customers to understand at first glance.


Create a sales funnel for your audience

Let’s face it—most of us don’t want to think about marketing. However, if you want your business or company to grow, you have no choice but to invest in marketing. In a world full of competing messages, content curation, social sharing, and search engine optimization are essential for growing any brand or business. And luckily there are plenty of tools out there designed specifically for small businesses. One in particular is called a sales funnel; these funnels allow users to set up automated emails with special offers that get sent out when they receive new subscribers (i.e., opt-ins).


Don’t ignore social media!

In today’s world, social media has become a crucial part of marketing. Despite some businesses claiming they’re too old school for social media, it should be considered an important part of your overall marketing strategy. Some tips: give frequent updates, utilize images and videos (but remember: there is such a thing as too much), respond to comments quickly, look into Facebook advertising. To help you get started, check out our guide on how to grow your business with social media.


Don’t ignore email newsletters, either.

Email newsletters have a bad rap, but they can be an excellent way to keep your name top-of-mind with potential customers. According to The Muse, your subscribers are more likely to notice your promotions when they’re delivered directly into their inboxes (versus social media feeds). And don’t just treat your newsletter as a one-way channel for communicating news. Open rates depend heavily on how compelling you make it: Do you include photos, links, or other elements that invite users to interact? For inspiration, check out campaigns from brands like Crate & Barrel or Patagonia.


Don’t ignore advertising platforms. Use them wisely.

While businesses may be wary of advertising platforms, it’s important not to ignore them—especially at first. Platforms like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others are powerful marketing tools that allow you to rapidly scale your business with very little startup costs. They can connect you with thousands or even millions of people in a short period of time. Though they won’t necessarily increase customer retention or conversion rates on their own, they’re excellent low-risk ways to establish brand awareness. If your product is compelling enough, word-of-mouth will do a lot of work for you down the line; if not, there’s always paid advertising.


Understand sales funnels, but don’t build just one.

A sales funnel is a marketing strategy that helps your business generate revenue from its most profitable customers. By having a well-defined sales funnel, you’ll be able to plan out exactly how you want your business’s revenue stream to work. A good way of visualizing a sales funnel is by comparing it to a drinking straw. For example, when your business decides on which product it wants to sell—let’s say organic peanut butter—it would insert that product into one end of the straw (your website). Over time, customers will start purchasing your product once they discover it through advertising or word of mouth.


Track everything in one place.

If you’re a new business owner, it’s important to stay organized. To do so, we recommend using a tool like HubSpot, which allows you to track every single aspect of your business (e.g., leads) in one place. We use HubSpot as our marketing software, so it integrates seamlessly with our sales and CRM tools; they also have some awesome free templates that can save you tons of time when creating landing pages, social media graphics, etc. Start tracking everything in one place with HubSpot today—and get 25% off your first purchase! Use code grow25 for 25% off your entire purchase. Offer expires 5/20/17 at 11:59pm PT.

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