The one thing you MUST DO in small business marketing

A client told me last week that he wants to start a Facebook page for his business. He described it as a “must do”.  I immediately bristled. Who says it’s a must do? Why do you believe it’s a must do?  “Well, I’ve been told it needs to be a long-term thing, and results may not be visible, but, you know, everyone’s doing it… so it’s a must do.”


Whenever I hear that “must do” phrase, I like to counter it with my own favourite phrase:

“It depends…”

My advice is to digest all marketing ideas with a side of “it depends”.

  • It depends on the type of business.
  • It depends on your target market.
  • It depends on where your target market lives or shops, etc, etc.


Consider the differences between these types of business:

  • A handyman vs a solicitor
  • A café vs an online coffee bean seller
  • A bricks’n’mortar fashion store vs an online gift retailer
  • An at-home crafter vs a large homewares retailer


You might see similarities between these, in the way I’ve grouped them. Try mixing them up and the one size fits all approach seems even more nonsensical – a solicitor vs a large homewares retailer?


Just as you might consider that only certain businesses, and of certain size, might need an office space in the CBD, might advertise in premium magazines, and might sell online and via social media, you’d just as likely consider these factors unnecessary or inappropriate for other businesses.

word cloud of marketing choices
With so many marketing choices, there is no one-size-fits-all approach

The world of online marketing has so many choices, and they’re not all necessary or appropriate for every type of business. Consider this vast array of options:

Business cards Blogging Press releases
Website Guest blogging SEO
Facebook Videos AdWords
Twitter Ebooks Networking
LinkedIn Mobile apps Tradeshows
Pinterest SMS marketing Referrals
Instagram Whitepapers Print Advertising
Local directory listings Events Car signage
Email marketing Competitions Sponsoring

What have I left out?


Apart from business cards and a website, I think most of them fall into the “it depends” category. Since you can’t afford to take the scatter-gun approach and try them all (from either a monetary or a time point of view), you need to weigh up which ones make the most sense for your business.


So what’s that ONE thing you absolutely MUST DO when marketing your business…?


STOP and think “It depends”. Ask yourself: Does this piece of MUST DO advice apply to my business? Only then can you choose from all those “must-do” marketing ideas.


Firstly, decide if the method is appropriate to your business and target market:


  • Are you a bricks’n’mortar business (cafe or retail) who’s market is mostly local? You’ll probably want to focus on a mobile-friendly website and local directory listings, Facebook and Twitter, email marketing, events and possibly SMS marketing and an App. Advertising needs to be localised or it’s wasted dollars.
  • Are you running a tourist attraction or accommodation? Besides an attractive, easy to use website, you’ll be focusing on word-of-mouth and referrals, local directory listings, press releases, targeted AdWords, Facebook, perhaps videos and blogging – including referral blogs from others. Car signage might also be appropriate.
  • Are you a small hairdressing business, who can only service x clients a week? You’ll want to keep loyal customers and gradually collect new ones, with the focus on local fans. Website, local listings with reviews, SMS marketing for reminders and new offers, and possibly a Facebook page.
  • Or do you sell haircare products online and want to attract as many new customers as possible to expand Australia-wide, perhaps even globally? Besides your website you’ll be wanting to build your database for targeted email marketing, plus AdWords and SEO, Facebook and other social media channels depending on how visual your product is (YouTube for demos, Pinterest and Instagram for enticing images).
  • A solicitor, on the other hand: might be a little less ‘social’ and concentrate more on their website and SEO, local advertising and listings, and perhaps blogging to answer frequently asked questions. A newsletter may also be appropriate for your existing client database, depending on which areas of law you cover (eg. To communicate changes to strata laws, or other ongoing needs.)


Secondly, prioritise and plan:


  • Weigh up the costs (including your time)
  • See what your competition are doing, and if it’s successful.
  • Work out which methods have the highest ROI
  • Consider whether you LIKE the activity (eg. if you hate to write, perhaps blogging will get lower priority)


Of course there will always be exceptions. If you know someone who’s rocking it in events or social media with an unlikely profession, please share it in the comments.

Author: RobynRHD

I'm a small business web design specialist with interests in social media and other online marketing methods. As my blog intro states: "Steering small businesses in the right direction with what I hope is practical, realistic advice and useful tips, amidst the constantly changing noise and hype. I'd like to help you sort out what you really need and how to go about it." I'm a proud Aussie, living in Sydney, and an avid fan of Column 8 in the Sydney Morning Herald.

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