One of the biggest challenges small business owners face is finding a marketing agency that’s capable of handling their unique needs. While many marketing agencies are adept at handling accounts for major corporations, these same agencies often fail to implement strategies that are specifically tailored to an SMB’s business objectives.

Marketing for small businesses is very different from marketing for enterprises. From budget and strategy to KPIs and execution, marketers need to customize their efforts based on the specific needs of their clients’ current business model. Not only should marketers strategize differently depending on the current size of the business, but they also need to understand when and how to adapt their plan as the business scales.

The Inverse Correlation Between Search & Social Marketing

Many marketing students just graduating college aren’t armed with the knowledge needed to effectively run campaigns for small businesses. This is because university curricula are largely focused on analyzing case studies and addressing marketing principles best suited for big corporations. For this reason, marketers just entering the industry often make far less money than they’ve been taught to expect. While marketing executives are second in pay only to CEOs, the average marketer out of school makes peanuts in comparison because they don’t yet possess the skills necessary for adapting campaign strategies according to the client’s business model.

By and large, universities fail to address how marketing strategies differ for businesses making under $10M in annual revenue. The principles taught to students for major corporations simply do not translate well to businesses of this size. Not only is their budget unable to support such marketing efforts, but many of the long-term marketing strategies taught to students don’t align with the SMB business model. As students become integrated into the industry following graduation, they will learn through experience how to adapt marketing strategies according to budget, business objectives, and scalability.

Marketing Budgets for SMBs vs. Corporations

Budget is one of the leading factors that contribute to marketing success or failure. At the end of the day, those with the most money to spend are more likely to get results from their marketing efforts. But not all companies have an expansive budget to support broad stroke marketing applications, such as TV advertising. This isn’t to say that marketing with a tight budget is impossible; it just means that the channels used for delivery and metrics to gauge performance will be different.

For instance, businesses making less than $10M in revenue can’t afford to invest in something that won’t have an immediate return on their investment. As such, a 12-month campaign strategy wouldn’t work the same way for a local coffee shop as it would for Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts. Instead, marketing agencies need to adjust their strategy to accommodate for smaller budgets. Rather than creating a long-term campaign that doesn’t provide immediate results, marketers need to pursue channels that offer short-term gains. This is why SMBs are often excellent candidates for social media campaigns rather than TV, radio, and print advertising. By developing compelling creative that resonates with their target audience, marketers can create an effective campaign that increases brand exposure, conversions, and revenue with negligible cost to their clients.

Aligning Business Objectives with Marketing Efforts

It goes without saying that all businesses share one goal in common: profitability. While increasing sales is the ultimate goal for most marketing teams, achieving this end looks different depending on the business’ size. Moreover, there are many additional objectives marketers must consider when developing an effective plan for their clients. If the client is a small business owner looking to increase profits and expand reach, a marketer might mistakenly suggest a search engine marketing campaign. However, this might not be the best solution for SMBs as the cost to run such a campaign is much higher than it would be to run an awareness campaign on social media.

In order to develop the most effective marketing plan, professionals need to ask themselves the following key questions:

  • What is the business’s secondary goal to profitability?
  • What is the average customer lifetime value?
  • What is the client’s maximum cost they’re willing to pay per acquisition?
  • What is the average timeline to see ROI through the chosen marketing channel?

Additionally, marketers should evaluate the business’ past campaign efforts to identify missed opportunities and better understand marketplace competition. Only by aligning the marketing strategy with the client’s specific business objectives and current capabilities can agencies hope to be successful in their efforts.

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Adapting Marketing Strategies for Scalability

Another challenge marketers face is when their SMB client scales to become a corporation. Some marketing agencies might stick to what they’ve done in the past to achieve this growth, mistakenly ascribing to the old adage, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” However, the techniques used to drive significant growth won’t be as effective when the business scales. Marketers need to be flexible and reassess their client’s profitability and overarching goals so they can adapt the strategy for scalability. Depending on how quickly growth occurs, marketers may benefit from having a bi-annual or even quarterly discussion with their clients regarding their business performance. This is also a good opportunity for marketers to illustrate how their efforts have directly impacted business performance success for their clients.

By continuing to check in on the client’s performance, marketers can identify new opportunities and offer businesses more robust services. For instance, the local coffee shop mentioned earlier might not have been able to pay for a TV spot to promote their business. But that same company may feel differently after seeing tremendous growth thanks to their marketing agency’s efforts. As the company evolves and their budget grows, strategic marketers can not only offer solutions better suited to their clients’ business needs, but will be able to capitalize on their own marketing success.

Putting Marketing for Small Businesses vs. Corporations into Practice

Marketing solutions are not one-size-fits-all, and the strategies developed largely depend on the business size and model. What works for corporations isn’t the same as what works for small businesses, and as marketers advance through the ranks in their careers, they’ll become better equipped to tailor their marketing strategies to the client’s specific goals and business needs. By keeping abreast of their client’s business model and overarching objectives, marketers can develop effective strategies for earning the results their clients seek.