How to Create a Small Business Marketing Strategy

What you need to know when implementing a successful marketing strategy.

Time to read: 8 minutes

As a small business owner, you already know that you need a strong marketing plan — but you may not know how to go about creating an effective strategy. Should you stick with your tried-and-true marketing strategies, or mix it up with a new approach? How do you go about selecting and building a marketing strategy that works for your small business when there are dozens of options?

Here is what you need to know to create and implement a successful marketing strategy for your small business.

Experiment, Evaluate, and Scale Your Small Business Marketing Budget

Building a marketing strategy for a small business can feel overwhelming, especially when it comes to your online marketing options. There are many different methods and hundreds of articles all claiming to know the “most effective” strategy.

The truth is that your small business” best marketing strategy depends on your specific audience and your business model.

Before discussing how to choose the right strategy for your business, let’s look at six of the best small business marketing tools.

Email Marketing

Email marketing allows small businesses to connect directly with customers and prospects who have expressed explicit interest in your business. It is one of the most effective strategies for creating a relationship that turns interested leads into actual customers. As a small business owner, your email list, made up of email addresses that your prospective customers (or leads) and customers have given to you, is one of your most valuable assets. That’s why building an email list should be a top priority.

Social Media

Social media marketing can help your small business reach thousands of customers and prospective customers. However, many small businesses marketers are overwhelmed by the number of different platforms. Should you be on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter?

Rather than trying to be active on every platform, find one or two platforms where your customers are most active and focus there. Share informative, helpful posts related to your industry — not just product content meant to drive sales.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is about creating and sharing useful, thoughtful content related to your brand or your audience’s interests. This content should establish your business as an expert in your field and show customers you can be trusted. For example, a restaurant could share content related to takeout food safety or cooking tips, while a dentist’s office could create guides on how to floss your teeth or when to take children for their first dental appointment.

PPC (Pay-Per-Click)

Pay-per-click marketing allows you to create targeted ads that showcase your business to internet users through search engines such as Google or Bing. These ads show up on sites across the web, often at the top of the webpage, embedded in content, or in the sidebar of a webpage. When you use PPC, you choose terms you think customers are likely to use when they search for the product or service your business offers. While PPC is a bit complicated, especially for beginners, it can be a highly effective strategy for driving both website traffic and foot traffic.

Referral Marketing

Referral marketing rewards current customers for recommending your product or service to their friends and family. For example, you might offer a 10 percent discount to a current customer and their friends if they use a specific link or code. Referral marketing is a low-cost strategy that encourages word-of-mouth marketing, one of the most trusted and effective marketing strategies for small businesses.

Event Marketing

Event marketing is an experience-based marketing strategy where brands promote their business through in-person or digital events such as classes, conferences, or happy hour events. Connecting with people in person or at events can create a stronger bond that can be leveraged to drive sales, increase brand trust, and build brand awareness.

Now that we’ve covered some core marketing strategies for small businesses, let’s talk about how to figure out which marketing strategy will be successful for your brand.

Create a marketing strategy for your small business.

Your marketing strategy should be a long-term plan to help your business reach more customers and create a sustainable business. Building a successful small business marketing strategy starts with understanding where you stand and where you want your business to go.

Step 1: Where Do You Stand?

Before you create or revamp your company’s marketing strategy, your first step is to understand your marketing strengths and weaknesses. Make a list of current and previous marketing strategies you've tried, including the outcomes and costs. Then, write down your current marketing assets — do you have a strong email list, a large following on Facebook, or a successful billboard campaign? These details will guide your next steps.

Step 2: Outline Your Ideal Target Audience

Who is your main audience? Whom do you want to target? Many small business owners assume their current audience is their ideal audience, which isn't always the case.

Start by asking what problem your product solves and then outline who is most likely to need that solution. Then compare that audience to your current customer base. You may find your current audience is not the best one for your product. Performing market research may provide additional insights into the identity of your ideal audience — and thus your target customers.

Step 3: What Budget and Resources are Available?

Small businesses do not have unlimited resources and must be careful about where they focus attention and resources. Spending $100,000 on PPC and a billboard campaign might bring in tons of customers, but it's unlikely to fit into a small business’s marketing budget.

Write down your monthly marketing budget and consider what resources you have available, such as a marketing platform. Include the amount of cash you can spend specifically on marketing initiatives and the internal resources you can rely on, such as an email list or an employee with social media marketing experience.

Step 4: Find the Lowest-Hanging Fruit

Now that you understand where you stand, whom you want to target, and your available resources, it is time to figure out which of the strategies from the first section are easiest to implement.

For example, if your company has a dedicated social media following, a target audience between the ages of 20 and 35, and a low monthly budget, then referral marketing may be the best choice. It requires little upfront investment and can magnify the power of a dedicated fan base. On the other hand, if you have a strong email list but haven’t been sending regular email campaigns, it may be time to invest in an email marketing course to make better use of your list.

Once you’ve settled on a strategy, outline your goals. Do you want to drive sales of a specific product, increase website traffic, or increase brand awareness? Goals should be specific, such as, “Increase sales of X product by 20% in the next three months.”

Step 5: Test Your Strategies

As a small business owner, you likely have a lot on your plate. It can be time-consuming to spend money and resources on a new marketing strategy, only to find out it isn’t as effective as you’d hoped.

Rather than getting frustrated, focus on testing different approaches. If your content marketing isn’t driving conversions, do some research to find out if the content is useful to your target audience and where they are in the buying process. If email marketing isn’t increasing sales-qualified leads (SQL), conduct A/B tests: try different subject lines, reword your call to action (CTA), or send emails at different times of the day.

Start small and grow.

The right small business marketing strategy can make a major difference in your small business's success. While there are many ways to go about marketing your products and services, the strategies above tend to be the most effective for small businesses. Start by choosing one or two strategies and then test to find out what works well for your company.

Explore the Benefits of Salesforce for Small Business.

Salesforce Resources


Set a course for your customer relationships.


The Basics of Marketing ROI


Get timely updates and fresh ideas delivered to your inbox.