Marketing is a tricky skill to master – part art, part science, the way in which a small business markets itself to its audience can sometimes be the difference between success and failure.
To help you and your business, we asked five small business owners about their marketing experience, and what advice they’d give to businessmen and women everywhere.
Take a look at the conversation below, featuring Rudy Bandiera, co-founder of NetPropaganda, Hendrik Gottschalk, CEO of GetBaff, Carl Reader, author and small business champion, Barbara Labate, CEO of ReStore and Juan Merodio, CEO of the TEKDI Institute.
What are the main marketing channels you use, and why?
Rudy Bandiera: Without a doubt my favourite channel is LinkedIn. In recent years, LinkedIn’s growth has been exponential. With more people using LinkedIn, there is a greater opportunity than ever before for business owners to reach a wider audience with their own ideas and activities.
The important thing to remember is that a business owner should use LinkedIn as a landing page and not as a resume. But, a landing page only works if there is content on which to "land" and LinkedIn must be fed like any other social. The real social gasoline is the content.
Hendrik Gottschalk: For me, the most important channels are LinkedIn and Instagram. LinkedIn is best at a B2B level. Through my posts, I now reach an average of 10,000 - 15,000 business contacts. What’s more, LinkedIn is great for reaching business decision makers directly. However, it is important that when using LinkedIn that your messages are personalised to the recipient. Messages like “I would be happy to exchange ideas with you” without a concrete topic won’t get the desired reaction. Write why he or she should take the time to respond to your message.
Instagram is relevant to both B2B and B2C audiences. Through Instagram, I have been able to give businesses and entrepreneurs a transparent look into my life and GetBaff since day one. This helps tremendously in building strong relationships with other business owners and helps me differentiate myself from other start-ups.
What is one thing you wish someone told you about marketing before you launched your business?
Carl Reader: The one thing that I really wish I'd been told about marketing in general is the fact that marketing doesn't necessarily directly create sales. There’s a misconception that if you make enough noise, create enough content, design a pretty website and have a nice business card printed, then consumers will just magically come to you and want to buy your products or services.
We think this because I (and many people, actually) struggle with what is called creative avoidance. As humans, we love to get stuck into doing things we feel are important and add value. However, it doesn't necessarily. So, whether it is designing a new logo or perfecting a website, it’s all great, but only to a certain extent.
Barbara Labate: In my view, I wish someone had told me how expensive marketing can be. The most important thing here is how much you spend on each user you acquire, and how much it costs to retain each user. You need to have the right means and the right budget, because otherwise, creating that network effect or the word of mouth is extremely difficult.
What is the biggest marketing challenge you’ve ever faced?
Juan Merodio: I think one of the biggest challenges in marketing is scaling it up without triggering extra costs. We can say that it is "easy" to create marketing campaigns that generate the first sales. But the big challenge is once you have found that winning formula, a business owner needs to strike a balance between increasing investment and sales without cutting into their profits.
Barbara: For my business, especially working in Italy, the biggest challenge has been that Italy is way behind the other European countries when it comes to eCommerce penetration.
Another problem I have found is that nobody is actually searching for eCommerce due to a lack of awareness, especially in some areas of Italy, for example, in Sardinia. As a result, the standard tools like Google Ads are not as effective in developing awareness around a brand in these regions.
What is the most important thing a start-up owner should think about when they develop their marketing strategy?
Carl: You mustn't put all of your eggs in one basket. I see businesses really double down on a single strategy. Not only one strategy but doubling down on one platform within one strategy. This is risky.
In my view, strong marketing is a result of multiple activities in multiple areas on multiple platforms. So, I think my advice is firmly to keep an open mind and focus on the marketing web as a whole.
Juan: For me, a start-up owner must be able to define their minimum viable audience, fully understand it and then segment it into different groups. When launching a start-up, some try to initially sell to a large audience. But in my view, the most important thing is to detect niches within your audience and then target them with very specific objectives.
Also, by gaining more consumer data, you will be able to better segment your future customers. This will be key when it comes to improving the profitability of your marketing campaigns.
Main bit of advice you would give to those who intend to promote a product or their business?
Rudy: This is tricky. In my eyes, there is no one piece of advice because there is no precise recipe for marketing success. However, if I were to say anything, the one thing I would recommend is that a business owner must fully understand not what their product or service does but what problems it solves and for whom. This, combined with knowing if there is a ‘ready’ market for your product, is crucial for marketing success.
Hendrik: Be special. Be unique. Be daring. Surprise people with your marketing. It is important that your product and especially your message is remembered. People should be excited to the point where they are talking about your product and your business. If you achieve this, you customers will want to come and buy your product.