Small Business Marketing Insights &
Lessons Learned

On the occasion of its fifteen anniversary MyMarketingDept Inc., founder, Bob Hennessey reflects upon insights and lessons learned to help other small businesses become successful. Hennessey knows and has seen the changes in business-to-business marketing and business-to-consumer marketing over a career now spanning over 35 years where he has held every marketing position from product manager to VP, Sales and Marketing.

Q. What has changed small business marketing the most?

Answer: The answer is one word: Internet. Without a doubt, the Internet has turned marketing for all size businesses upside down. It is a real game changer in a new world of marketing. Three major pillars of marketing have been changed forever.

1.  The Internet has altered forever the balance of power in the buyer/seller relationship forever.

Before the Internet, information about products and services came from the seller. Now buyers dictate to sellers because the Internet is so vast it has created new sources of information about products and services. All kinds of people are helping us find information to solve business problems people want to solve. It is just not the voice of sellers providing information anymore. Now to find or gather information about products and services 75% of people go to the Internet first.

2.  The Internet has made global communication easy.

Instant access and global reach via; your website, company blog, Twitter or using social media, now one person can communicate with hundreds, thousands and even millions of people instantaneously.

3.  The Internet has substantially lowered the cost of marketing communications.

The Internet has lowered the cost of producing and distributing your marketing message from being very expensive thousands and millions of dollars to literally free and only a few pennies. Free website and blog software options allow every business, even one-person businesses, to have a professional image and podium to talk to their target audience. Websites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook allow anyone to find and communicate to mass audiences or to the smallest niche markets for free.

Based on the magnitude of change brought about by the Internet in theses crucial areas of marketing, every business large or small should be using the Internet as the foundation of all marketing today.

Q. Is Inbound marketing something small businesses should be embracing? 

Answer: Absolutely yes! Inbound marketing capitalizes on the changes that Internet has brought to marketing. Inbound marketing is instrumental in altering the balance of power in the buyer/seller relationship. Inbound marketing uses high quality, relevant content to inform and attract buyers to your business. What a concept, attracting buyers to your business, not by telling them how great you are but by telling them you understand their problems and demonstrating how you have solved these problems. 

Inbound marketing piggy-backs on the new forms of global communication open up by the Internet. Your website, company blog, Twitter and social media are all integral tools of inbound marketing. This allows a small business to reach their target audience around the block or around the world. 

Finally, inbound marketing is substantially less expensive than traditional outbound marketing making it ideal for small businesses with limited marketing budgets. 

Q. What are the biggest mistakes that small businesses make in their marketing?

Answer: We have found that many small businesses lack consistency in their marketing their business every day. Also, simple things like lack of a marketing plan, a realistic marketing budget, or no marketing budget at all.

Q. If you had to pick one, is there a single biggest mistake that small businesses make?

Answer: Without a doubt, the single biggest mistake of small business marketing is the lack of constancy in marketing their business every day. Marketing your small business every day is so critical that even if your marketing is bad marketing it is better than no marketing at all. After all 50% of successful marketing is just marketing.

Q. What are the various B2B marketing approaches?
Answer: Three popular marketing approaches in small business B2B marketing are capabilities/capacities, consultative/informative message or customer-centric.

The interesting thing about this question is what many small business people think is a marketing approach is not. People often confuse the method used to deliver a marketing message with a type of marketing approach. Many people equate telemarketing, direct mail, print advertising, radio, TV, public relations, seminars, newsletters, audio and video presentations, email, and Web sites as marketing approaches.

These are not marketing approaches they are delivery methods used to distribute your marketing message. People can and do use all of these delivery methods to send various types of marketing messages.

Q. Is there one approach you think is best for small business and why?

Answer: Most marketing approaches come from large corporations selling their products or services to consumers. This is B2C, or business to consumer marketing.

The marketing approach that big corporations employ in selling to consumers is capabilities and capacities. They say, we have this capability or this capacity to _________, fill in the blank. What does this mean? It means that most people cannot wait to tell you what they can do for you. Even though they do not care what it is you need, they just want you to buy what they are selling.

Most business-to-business marketing and selling approaches are also, either capability/capacity, or a derivation thereof called consultative/informative. This approach is let me educate on why you should buy from me. I am smart and I know what you need, that is why I know best and you should, therefore, buy from me. Unfortunately, neither of these approaches comes close to addressing why someone actually buys from one-person versus another, relationship.

I prefer customer centric B2B marketing. As its name says; it centers on the needs and wants of the customer, and not about what the person doing the selling wants you to buy.

It recognizes the sale is the natural result of creating a solid relationship built on listening and problem solving, not forcing someone to buy. It begins with building customer rapport and ends with a lasting business relationship that generates continuing sales.

Q. Is there really a difference in big business consumer and small business B2B marketing?

Answer: Absolutely, B2B marketing is very different from B2C.

  • B2B sales prospects are found in small vertical markets 

  • take longer to sell in terms of the sales cycle

  • B2B sales are generally "higher ticket" sales

  • they are driven by a rational sales approach

  • requires consultative selling developing personal relationships

The payoff for B2B sales prospects is a high lifetime customer value. Knowing the B2B versus B2C marketing differences is just the start of developing successful B2B sales lead prospecting effort to obtain new clients.

Q. Why is outsourcing their marketing good for small business?

Answer: Outsourcing marketing for small business is critical to marketing success. Because it forces small business to make a marketing plan, commit to a budget and market on a constant basis. These are the keys to marketing success and business growth. Outsourcing allows you to:

  • Focus on What You Do Best
    While we obsess over your marketing, you are free to focus on your core business.

  • Reduce Business Risk
    Most business owners are not marketing experts. Outsourcing your marketing will prevent you from making costly mistakes in time and money in trying to carry out your own marketing.

  • Do More with Less
    Accomplish multiple business priorities simultaneously knowing that your marketing effort is professionally managed and multiple marketing projects are being implemented to grow your business, while you resolve other critical business issues.

  • Compete with the Bigger Boys
    Outsourcing your marketing provides access to economies of scale and expertise of larger businesses to compete with the big boys.

  • Save Money
    Hiring and training marketing staff adds costly payroll and overhead to your business. Marketing outsourcing can provide more expertise, capabilities and flexibility at less short-term and long-term cost.

Experience is a great teacher and in this case, a wealth of practical information that many small businesses selling B2B products and services can surely benefit from. Thanks Mr. Hennessey. You're welcome, my pleasure.