This post by guest blogger Cara Posey appears as part of our series Small Business 500.

tips for small businessSmall business owners have to be savvy. In today's environment, you must stay on top of your game or risk losing market share to the competition. Or worse yet–you may not be noticed at all. Don't get left behind! Here are five marketing tips you simply can't ignore:

1. Identify and monitor your competition

How are you going to establish your messaging, name your products, or choose your keywords for online advertising if you don't know what the next-best thing is doing? Don’t spend time and money running ideas into the wall until you’ve found out what’s already being done by the competition. The search could turn up opportunities to obtain a competitive advantage

2. Represent your business on the web

You need a website that reflects who you are, what you do, and what your customers will get from doing business with you. It needs to be authentic, meaning the brand should match what your customers experience face-to-face (or voice-to-voice.) Make sure the language you use online reflects the language in any materials you put out about your business. Even the way you talk to others about your business should be reflected by your language on the web.

3. Use social media strategically

Be aware of what social avenues exist but don't feel obliged to participate on every platform. Make concrete decisions as to where you will listen, where you will participate, and where you will respond to reviews. By focusing your attention where it matters you can make the most of social media without getting lost in the many possibilities. Remember to be authentically you everywhere you decide to be. 

4. Target your advertising dollars 

Advertising can dent any budget be it online or off. But take a lesson from my local pizza shop. Anthony's Pizza spent under $500 on plastic sandwich signs with clever sayings that sit on the street corner by their restaurant. This inexpensive form of advertising has proven lucrative thanks to catchy messaging: "One Million Customers Served...eventually" and "Best Pizza in Bexley. Just Ask My Mom". Word-of-mouth has spread the word on Anthony's throughout the Columbus area and led to a feature in one of Ohio's largest newspapers, as well as high rankings on Yelp.  

5. Listen to your existing clients

Let's be honest here, you can spend thousands on a marketing campaign, but none of it will matter if you don't maintain quality products or services. While you’re busy planning the future of your business, remember to get regular feedback from current customers about what they like and what they don't like. These reviews will allow you to modify your business accordingly sooner rather than later. Current customers keep you grounded...and help seed your future endeavors.

Let me know in the comments below what marketing tips or tools you have found to be most effective and fire away any marketing question you'd like answered and I'll do my best to respond.

small-business-marketingCara Posey is an accomplished marketing and communications professional who has worked with many different types of organizations, including international startups, government agencies and bipartisan think tanks. Cara is widely acclaimed for her work in helping over 50 government agencies and programs build a social media presence. She holds a master's degree in arts management from the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University. Cara is currently Director of Marketing at Signature Worldwide and also serves as an adjunct marketing and communications professor at Franklin University.
small-business-marketing

LinkedIn.com/CaraPosey
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