3 Must-Have Marketing Best Practices for Small-to-Midsize Businesses

Marketing is an essential component of any business and it requires a significant, ongoing investment of both time and money. Most B2B service-based companies spend anywhere from 3.4-10.1% of their gross annual revenues (GAR) on marketing activities. For small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) with limited financial resources, that’s often a significant portion of your annual budget on the line. Yet there’s no avoiding the fact that marketing is critical for SMB sales success and business growth alike.

That’s where these three marketing best practices come in for SMBs to help spread your budget farther and streamline your efforts. With some dedicated time and effort, you can make an impactful change in your marketing results.

Best Practice #1: Develop a High-Level Marketing Strategy to Guide Implementation

We’ve seen it countless times: quickly growing SMBs that have gotten by without a formal marketing plan and no high-level strategy to guide their efforts. This approach can work for a short time, but for businesses that are truly serious about scaling sales and marketing to support growth, it’s not sustainable or effective in the long run.

In order to take your organization to the next level, drop the “spray and pray” method (trying lots of marketing tactics but never being sure what’s really working) for a research-based, goal-driven marketing strategy.

One of Upstart Group’s clients, Heather Dody, the CEO of Ingenium, attests that a high-level marketing strategy is instrumental for business growth, and requires “taking a closer look at target markets and customer base and bringing a marketing perspective to senior-level planning and discussions.”

Effective marketing strategies are ideally based on information gleaned from in-depth market, customer, and competitive research. A strategic marketing plan supports your larger organizational goals and is accompanied by a yearly tactical plan that focuses on what marketing will do to accomplish business objectives.

When developing your marketing strategy, work from big-picture objectives that you’ve set for the upcoming 1-3 year period—like launching your product in a new market, expanding sales into another region, or researching new product offerings to meet shifting customer demands. Once you’re clear on the overarching goals, you can break the work down into tactical steps, schedule them out by quarter, and assign them to team members.

Best Practice #2: Streamline Processes with the Right Marketing Tools

Marketing technology is a sticking point for many SMBs—they could certainly use tools to streamline their marketing and sales activities, but the budget is limited, and the endless options are overwhelming.

The good news is marketing technology doesn’t have to break your budget—there are many robust and affordable tools offering powerful features to meet the needs of SMBs that will also make sense for your budget.

Marketing tech doesn’t have to be overwhelming either. Instead of getting stuck before you even start, we advise working backwards from your current marketing efforts and processes for lead generation and sales funnels. There are multiple steps in each phase that are greatly enhanced with the use of marketing automation tools. The main stages include:

  • Traffic generation (attracting visitors)
  • Lead generation (converting visitors to leads)
  • Lead nurturing & customer acquisition (converting leads to customers)
  • Customer service & long-term customer care
  • Analytics and measurement (performance monitoring of all marketing and sales activities)

With planning and effective integration of marketing and sales needs, marketing automation tools can be used effectively throughout the entire customer life cycle. Whether it’s email marketing, SEO and keyword research support, digital analytics, or social media planning, there are convenient tech solutions available for most common marketing and sales activities today.

Some affordable marketing tools that we implement for our SMB clients include:

  • SharpSpring – Marketing automation platform combining multiple tools under one umbrella, including lead generation, email, landing pages, and customer relationship management tools (contact us to learn more about SharpSpring)
  • Google Analytics – Free web analytics software to track website traffic and activity
  • MailChimp - Email automation tool to design, set-up, and track email campaigns (for clients who don’t yet need a full automation system like SharpSpring)
  • Hootsuite – Social media management tool to schedule and publish social posts across platforms
  • Unbounce - Landing page building tool with many customizable templates to choose from

Best Practice #3: Hire Marketing Specialists to Complement In-House Expertise

SMB leaders inevitably end up wearing dozens of hats—from business manager to marketing guru to salesperson—all in the course of a single day. But for growth-oriented SMBs, owners simply can’t afford to get bogged down by the numerous tasks necessary to effectively market their organization.

In our work with SMBs, we’ve witnessed that it’s a constant challenge for business owners and CEOs to get out of the weeds and shake themselves free from the mentality that “it’s still faster and better to do it myself.” As a business owner, you determine how much your business can grow partly by your ability (and willingness) to get out of the way and get the right resources in place to fill the functional gaps in your organization.

The simple reality is that SMB owners must be willing to gather the right support around them and then delegate responsibilities to adequately support organizational growth. The fractional expertise model is highly effective for SMBs, as they need the C-level expertise but aren’t ready to make those roles full-time positions. This model is particularly appropriate for marketing expertise, finance, sales management, HR, and Operations.

Marketing specialization is also required in tactical execution such as on- or off-page SEO, sales copy writing, digital advertising, and content development. Our recent article on choosing the right type of writer for your marketing content needs highlights the incredibly specialized skills that such experts offer. Thankfully, there are many highly skilled freelance copywriters available to support smaller business’s needs for one-time projects or ongoing efforts, and the improved results are worth the effort.

Business owners can benefit greatly from hiring an external specialist who brings years of experience and knowledge to the table and is ready to hit the ground running. By investing in the support of these marketing experts, you get the best of both worlds: a seasoned marketer on call to provide guidance and direction without the expense of a full-time employee. Upstart Group uses a fractional CMO and marketing manager model to provide these types of services to our customers, and it has yielded excellent results.

The Right Marketing Best Practices for Your Business

Implement these three marketing best practices: define your marketing strategy, streamline your processes with the right tech, and secure expert assistance from marketing specialists. You’ll see the difference in your marketing and sales effectiveness and your bottom line.

Need more marketing direction for your business? Get in touch for help evaluating your existing marketing efforts and developing an effective marketing plan to meet your needs.