There’s much more to marketing a small business than meets the eye. Setting yourself up for marketing success means focusing not only on lead nurturing and conversions, but also on behind-the-scenes details such as branding and building a strong team.

Here are nine small business marketing musts to implement into your business today:

1. Don’t Just Market a Product; Build a Brand

When marketing a business online, it’s surprisingly easy to forget about branding. In the midst of setting up funnels, creating landing pages and writing emails, many entrepreneurs unintentionally leave branding by the wayside. What many fail to realize, however, is that creating and maintaining a cohesive brand can massively increase the value of a company. According to branding expert Re Perez, “50% of your company’s value has nothing to do with you. 50% has everything to do with how you are perceived in the minds of your customers. This statistic naturally raises the questions, ‘Do you spend 50% of your time controlling the perception people have of you? Or are you like most people where you spend the majority of your time dedicated to the other 50%: strategy and execution?’”

The bottom line: If you want a more profitable business, build a stronger brand.

2. Know the Difference Between Branding and Marketing

We’ve established that branding is important, but how exactly is it different from marketing? Many entrepreneurs find themselves confused about the subtle difference between the two.

Here’s how Re Perez makes the distinction: “Marketing is the act of promoting and selling products and services. Branding creates a perception of your goods and services in the marketplace. Marketing, therefore, is an extension of your brand. It is one of many brand touchpoints.”

To help you prioritize branding while focusing your efforts on online marketing, just remember that your marketing is a reflection on your brand, and it’s part of the overall customer experience. Are your marketing campaigns creating an experience that’s consistent with the rest of your brand?

3. Know Your Customers Like the Back of Your Hand

To succeed in small business marketing, knowing and understanding your customers is a must. Some would argue that you should know your customers better than you know yourself. Understanding who they are, what they’re looking for and the challenges they’re dealing with creates the opportunity for you to engage them in real conversations about the solution you bring to the table. Without bridging that gap, you’ll never be able to sell to them effectively.

Basic Bananas, one of Australia’s biggest marketing education organizations, explains how you can do this: “Put yourself in your consumers’ shoes to see what their needs and wants are. The very best way to do this is to talk to your customers in person, and try to understand where they are coming from.”

Whatever you do, avoid making assumptions about who your customers are and what they need most. Get to know them with an open mind, learn to identify with their perspective, and you’ll face much less friction throughout your entire marketing strategy.

4. Figure Out How to Sell One Product Profitably

One avoidable mistake many entrepreneurs make while marketing their product online is focusing on too many things at once. It’s easy for the development of your marketing strategy to get cloudy when you’ve got too many conflicting messages floating around, so honing in on one product at a time can actually work to your benefit.

Brad Martineau, creator of the small business marketing automation firm SixthDivision, strongly cautions entrepreneurs against dividing their marketing efforts between two or more products, especially during the early growth phase of a company. In an interview with Eventual Millionaire, he said, “What people don’t realize is that every time you create another offering, you’re basically creating another business inside your business because you’ve got to define the marketing message; you’ve got to define a lead generation strategy; you’ve got to find the sales strategy, a fulfillment strategy … The fact is that there are more people who will buy your first offering so you’re better off just spending all of your energy driving people to the main offering.”

5. Want to Accomplish More? Slow Down to Go Faster

Another mistake that goes hand-in-hand with focusing on too many things at once is moving too fast to make meaningful accomplishments. In a podcast interview with Eventual Millionaire, Brad Martineau explained how building marketing systems too fast can actually hinder the success of a growing business because it becomes impossible to stay organized in the face of constant changes.

Here’s what he did with one of his clients who was facing this counterproductive problem: “The biggest thing that we did for them was that we slowed them down so that they could go faster — and that’s a critical, critical piece that a lot of people miss … they would just build and build and what happens is it causes this chaos and you just have this mounting chaos that builds in the background where, two or three years down the road, you’re like ‘Hey, let me go and find all of the people who are in this subscription but haven’t bought this,’ and I don’t know how to find that because it’s all over the place. So we helped them to slow down.”

6. Usher Your Audience From “I’m Interested” to “I Want It Now!”

Successful online marketing involves more than just getting a lot of eyeballs on your website. If the goal of your marketing efforts is to actually generate real leads and customers for your business, you’re going to have to take your audience by the hand and guide them through the customer lifecycle with carefully crafted marketing funnels. It’s important to remember that most people visiting your site or reading your content simply aren’t ready to make a buying decision yet, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can you do to guide them toward eventually becoming a customer.

Creating a funnel is the key to guiding leads through the customer lifecycle. It’s as simple as collecting leads by asking your audience to opt in for a piece of free content, then following up with an email sequence designed to nurture and educate them until they’re ready to take the next step.

Another crucial lead-nurturing tactic you can implement into your marketing plan is retargeting, an advertising strategy that involves targeting those who have already visited your site. According to Ontraport Marketing Director Sam Flegal, “Someone who’s already shown interest in your business is more likely to become a customer than someone who’s never heard of you, thus giving you a better return on your marketing efforts.”

When marketing a small business online, being persistent is of the essence, and so is making the most of your budget. Retargeting is one of the best ways to do this. Sam Flegal explains, “Since the people you’re targeting have already engaged with your company, the chances of them taking action on your offer increase by a significant amount.” One Wishpond report claims that retargeting can boost ad response by up to 400%!  A well executed retargeting strategy should provide higher quality leads at a lower cost.”

7. Trust Your Team and Let Them Shine

Entrepreneurs should not be solely responsible for their entire business’s marketing efforts. As your business grows, the demand for marketing will grow with it. Eventually, you’re going to need to build a strong team of marketers to whom you can delegate tasks with confidence, and part of successful online marketing is being an effective leader for your team.

Basic Bananas Co-Founder Franziska Iseli says, “Leadership is about hiring people who are better than you are. It’s about focusing on what you are really good at, stepping aside and letting other people step up. It takes courage, trust and checking your ego at the door to do that successfully.”

8. Use Existing Knowledge to Create Impressive Content

Successful marketing creates a relationship between a business and its prospects. To build that relationship upon a solid foundation,  gain your audience’s trust by providing them with high-quality, helpful information up front that they find immensely valuable.

Think of it as making a first impression on a dating profile. Your free content is what you use to impress potential customers and earn their contact information. After you have it, it’s time to impress them with even more expertise.

To do this well, it’s important that you spend time developing content that really demonstrates your thought leadership and expertise in your industry. Think about what you already know: Are you an expert on a niche topic within your field? Can you offer a unique or new perspective on something your potential clients are interested in? If you want to hit it out of the park with your online content marketing, capitalize on the knowledge you already have to create the most impressive content possible.

9. Never Stop Learning

There is one habit that sets every successful entrepreneur apart. If you want to avoid a stagnant growth rate, burnout and eventually lagging behind your competition, get in the habit of continually learning new things to apply to your business. Online marketing is constantly changing, so prioritizing new learning experiences not only gives you the fuel you need to innovate and bust out of marketing ruts, it also creates a sense of personal fulfillment and accomplishment that can help you banish burnout for good.

About Megan Monroe
Associate Editor Megan Monroe is a graduate of Santa Barbara’s Westmont College where she studied Philosophy and Communications. After working for several local small businesses (where she gained firsthand experience with the frustration of manual segmentation and follow-up), Megan joined the Ontraport Growth Team. When she isn’t writing marketing copy, social media posts or educational guides for entrepreneurs, she enjoys taking advantage of the Central Coast's amazing wineries and cooking without following a recipe.