Marketing is one of the easiest parts of running a business to ignore, and one of the most damaging to the success of a business if it is ignored. While marketing seems like a time suck, something that should be handled after all the other necessary tasks are done, the reality is that businesses that don’t market are less likely to make sales, be known to their customer base, and be successful. Yes, there is the rare business that gets by only on word of mouth or referrals, but for most businesses marketing is essential to success.

Marketing Methods

For those business owners who are skeptical about what marketing can do for their businesses, a quick examination of the benefits can be a game changer.

At its basic level, marketing helps make a business known, alerting your target market to the fact that your business even exists, and it can grow your customer base, as people who find out your business exists might become customers. Marketing is also the method by which your customers get educated about what skills and products you offer, and the way they get learn to trust your business. Businesses who market also have a built-in source of industry intelligence, a way to learn what their customers think and want, and a way to keep tabs on what any competitors are doing.

Finally, marketing is a way to boost sales. If you’ve done your homework, and know who is in your target market and where they are located online, you can sell directly to them, which will lead to increased sales and profit.

A common reason that many small business owners give for not devoting more time and effort to marketing is that they simply don’t have those two things available. In small shops, with limited employees where everyone wears a lot of hats, marketing may be perceived as a luxury, something that the business will get to when it grows. The paradox of this equation is that the business most likely won’t grow if it isn’t marketed, so business owners who neglect to market until someday when they have time may end up with a business that withers instead of prospers.

Luckily, there are some ways to market that don’t require a ton of people or time, and that can have big results for any small business:

  1. Ask for referrals – Existing customers can be your best source of new customers. Ask for recommendations or introductions to businesses who might be able to use your services. Testimonials on your website can also be helpful.
  2. Know your target market – A lot of businesses waste time on scattershot marketing on the theory that being everywhere means you’ll hit the audience who wants what you have to sell. In this case, an hour or two spent determining who your target market is and where they are on social media can save you a ton of wasted time. If you know the who and where of your target market, you can make sure you reach people who want what you have to offer.
  3. Have a content calendar – One of the common complaints about marketing is that business owners don’t know what to post or when to post it. Creating a content calendar may require a few hours of work on the front end, but it makes it far easier to set up posts and run specials and sales in the long run. You can find free content calendar templates at Hubspot and Coschedule.
  4. Automate – Social media tools like Hootsuite or Buffer can automate your social media posts for any length of time you like. Spend an hour once a week and set up your entire social media schedule. Just remember: Automation can be useful but don’t use the “set it and forget it” approach. Keep an eye on any automated posts to make sure they are appropriate and appear as desired.
  5. Repurpose Content – The answer you gave to that comment on Facebook could be the basis of a good blog post. The video you posted on YouTube could be edited and shared on Facebook or LinkedIn. Try to make all your content do double or triple duty by figuring out how to use it in multiple venues.