What’s working (and not) in small business marketing?

Marketing strategies for small businesses in uncertain times

If you’re a small business owner, marketing your business can be one of the most challenging parts of running a successful company. It’s easy to make mistakes and get overwhelmed by all the options available. You may not have the resources or personnel to invest in marketing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve successful results with the right strategies and a few technology tools. Here we’ll take a look at what is working in small business marketing today as well as what isn’t – and what you prioritize to help you succeed.

What’s working in small business marketing today

Content creation is so important

Creating content has become an integral part of any successful digital marketing strategy. Content should be tailored towards your target audience and offer value; this could include blog posts, free webinars, podcasts, customer success stories, ebooks, testimonial videos, etc., depending on what is most interesting for your market. If creating content isn’t one of your strengths – hire someone who can do it for you or use a free AI tool to generate ideas. Quality content will increase engagement and brand visibility while building trust with potential customers, thus making it worth the investment.

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Tip: Audit your past content and refresh copy to make it more valuable to customers and prospects.

Important: There is a lot of industry buzz and debate about AI-generated content such as ChatGBT and . Google doesn’t care whether a bot or human writes it. Google just cares about creating really good content that is relevant and important to your users.

Collaborate with sales to improve customer retention

People associate marketing with generating brand awareness and leads. Yet, customer retention is even more important for marketing to monitor as a key performance indicator. Many companies are so happy with a sale that they often forget to ask new customers how it is going, check in regularly or have formal survey processes. If your customers aren’t satisfied the first time, and you don’t know (or never asked) why not, the chances of retaining them drops dramatically. It is a shared responsibility between sales and marketing to monitor and improve customer satisfaction!

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Tip: Send new customers a 3-question survey immediately and at least once a year. Ask them:

1. How likely are you to recommend us? 2. What can we do better? 3. And what do we do well?

Yes, email marketing still matters

Many small businesses may think that email is ineffective and don’t do it, or only do so sporadically – but it’s actually a powerful tool to reach customers and prospects. Email marketing remains one of the best ways for small businesses to reach their target audiences directly in their inboxes on a regular basis—and it’s relatively inexpensive. Invest in email automation software like MailChimp or Constant Contact so you can create custom email campaigns tailored specifically for different audience segments. As long as you’re providing valuable information rather than just pitching products or services, your email campaigns should be well-received by subscribers who will appreciate being kept up-to-date on relevant news to your industry or niche.

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Tip: Send new emails to promote your high-value content such as blogs and case studies. Leverage your content equity to communicate with customers and prospects!

What’s NOT working in small business marketing today


Stop chasing the “Shiny objects” and focus on what matters to customers

Often, businesses struggle with unclear goals, shifting priorities, or poor revenue results. Change can be beneficial, but pursuing change can lead to wasted resources and little value to the business or its customers. If your customers are driving the change, then by all means, address it. Too often, companies get caught up in their own internal initiatives and make changes that don’t benefit their customers. It also can be easy to fall prey to the allure of new and exciting marketing ideas or technologies, but small businesses should avoid investing in untested tactics that don’t directly help their customers. Instead, stick to your core marketing goals, and focus on serving your customers better. This will not only increase customer satisfaction and drive sales, but it will also preserve resources and prevent you from chasing after fleeting trends that ultimately won’t deliver any real results.

Read blog >> Avoid these 7 deadly marketing sins

What not to do: Neglecting customer needs while focusing only on data analysis

The common phrase, “We are working on the business instead of in the business,” is often repeated, but small businesses must be cautious not to get caught up in over-analyzing their online data at the expense of neglecting customer needs. Merely having access to a plethora of software tools and data analytics does not ensure making customer-centric decisions. Customers want to buy goods and services from trusted brands that take care of their customers. Vanity metrics such as obsessing over website visitors, followers, form fills and video plays don’t matter to customers! By prioritizing essential acquisition and retention marketing metrics, businesses can make informed, data-driven decisions while devoting more time to finding and satisfying their customers.

Read blog >> 5 metrics to marketing success

Focus on fewer social media platforms instead of being on all and expecting conversions. 

Businesses should resist the temptation to be active on multiple social media platforms. Posting on numerous accounts in hopes of driving more engagement is often misguided and a waste of time and effort. You’ll spread yourselves too thin – creating, scheduling and responding to social media posts – leaving you with fewer resources to focus on targeted marketing that will actually bring in results. A better approach would be to focus on one or two platforms – where your targeted audiences actually are. Just because Tik Tok is popular, doesn’t mean your customers and prospects are on Tik Tok! Spend time building and nurturing a strong presence with your targeted audiences that will yield better results.

In uncertain times, small businesses can still be successful in marketing

Small businesses need effective marketing strategies just like larger corporations do – but they also need efficient ones since they often lack both people power and financial resources necessary for success in today’s competitive market environment. Fortunately, though there are still plenty of ways for SMBs (small medium sized businesses) to get ahead using cost-effective solutions

Want to explore more actionable marketing strategies?

Check out our blog resource on the top three cost-effective marketing resources you can implement today.

Read blog >> Essential marketing practices for small businesses

Do good marketing that works.



Jessica Kelley

Founder and CEO

Jessica Kelley CEO | HPZ Marketing - Fractional CMO company

Jessica Kelley has more than two decades of experience in marketing and finance, with a focus on B2B and B2C channels. She has worked extensively within the healthcare, consumer, commercial, and software industries in diverse environments ranging in size from a $200 billion corporation to a startup firm.

Jessica is the founder of HPZ Marketing, an interim CMO and fractional CMO company and is certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) as a Women’s Business Enterprise and Women Owned Small Business (WOSB). They provide interim and fractional executive marketing services to help businesses achieve marketing ROI with executable strategy and a relentless focus on customer acquisition and retention. Learn more about hiring a fractional CMO for your business.