Ok, I gotcha – I love small business; in fact, for me, some of our smaller clients are the most exhilarating to work with, because of their desire and energy to grow. But those businesses are rare and for many small businesses it can be their mentality that holds them back.

See if you recognise any of these traits.

1.    I have a small budget I spend on SEO – I can’t tell if works but I continue to do it because its important to be on “the google”
2.    We have a newsletter (we don’t write it we subscribe to a service and they provide us content we can brand)
3.    We do social media you know, we post on Facebook every so often.
4.    We have promo gear! We have branded pens (or coffee cups) and we give them to our clients!!!!
5.    I have a nice company car. It’s important to look good and I work really hard so it’s a nice treat and I can write it off!!!

If any of this sounds familiar you are in good company – I meet clients like this almost every day; to be honest, I have met with about 12 businesses in the last month that virtually fit this description to the letter.

It always fascinates me, when speaking with these business owners because they are very smart, have taken a huge risk and made a huge investment in starting and running their businesses and yet they seem to overlook a fundamental aspect of their business – MARKETING!.

I am an avid listener of Podcasts and one of my favorites is – The Mark Bouris Show, I highly recommend it to anyone reading this. 

Mark interviews a wide array of entrepreneurs and business owners and across all sorts of industry sectors and one of the key takeaways is just how much emphasis these businesses place on a clear marketing strategy that reaches and informs their prospective customers of their product and brand position.

These businesses have as part of their price point and business planning, factored in marketing as a cost of sale and you should too!

I have never done marketing before and it seems expensive?

Now, I know for many small to medium businesses who we speak to, who have already found some success but are looking for further growth, it can often be quite hard to understand how to, now, factor in marketing activities when their entire pricing model and profit margin have until this point been achieved without any real marketing costs factored in.

They want to grow, they want to do marketing – but they also want to upgrade the car, do the reno to the house and take the family away for that trip to Hawaii.

We get it…. We do too.

So how can it be done?

The first thing is to set some clear objectives for your marketing initiatives and ensure you measure the return on investment against them.

The truth is no marketing can be done without some sort of an investment, both of time and money. But our approach for businesses, who have never marketed themselves before, is to do it in conjunction with product development or product “re-packaging”.

That doesn’t mean a new brand or carton, but rather how can you package your product differently to charge differently for it.

To do so provides an opportunity to build in the cost of marketing without impacting on your existing products or the margins and for many business owners it makes the costs involved more palatable as opposed to simply investing in something as intangible as marketing!

Let’s look at an example.

Recently, we worked with a client who had a successful travel product. It sold really well and they did little to market that product.

They were looking to achieve some serious growth and asked us to provide a strategy to help them market themselves better.

Their aspirations were very high but their budgets were very low.

It was a bit of a conundrum. If they were unable to spend money on marketing how could we reach enough people to drive the sales they wanted?

The margins in travel are not particularly high these days. The internet has made the self-service travel market very large and the airlines, accommodations and tour operators have cut sales incentives to a bare minimum to agents as they place a far less pivotal role in aiding the transaction.

However, our client has a unique position in the market and their clients value the service they provide. But upping the cost of their service was not an option.

We advised them to work with us to develop a strategy. During our strategy process we looked at each type of product they sold, and a breakdown of the most valuable products and customers they have. It is always interesting to walk through this process with small to medium clients because often they don’t have a clear picture of exactly what products, and who, makes them the most money.

Following on from the strategy, we were able to work with them to develop a new product that from the very beginning had a marketing cost built into its retail value.

By promoting the new product as an extension of the services already provided the company could create and service the product with very little cost in overhead; and with the marketing costs built in, they felt comfortable that there was a very clear business case and plan that was measurable in its own right.

By promoting the new product, we were able to build a momentum around the brand that was engaging to existing customers as well as reaching out to an whole new audience.

Now it could be argued that the cost to the business of developing a new product and the marketing costs ultimately comes out of the same pool of money so the net effect is the same. And that is true to an extent, however, this approach had two distinct outcomes for the business that investing in marketing alone may not have had:

1.    It changed their focus from the cost of the marketing itself and instead they became invested in the idea that this new product, which cost very little, to deliver (over and above their core product offering) would actually fund their marketing initiatives – protecting their existing margins but leading to long term path to growth.

2.    The second, and perhaps a more important outcome, was that it changed how the business perceived itself. After years of steady success, this new product was innovative and gave this business a reason to re-engage their suppliers, staff (plus it put a spring in all their steps) and they felt like they were thought leaders and ahead of their competition which in, itself changed, their attitude.


Feedback thus far is – enquiries in the first 3 months have risen and the response to the new product has been very positive. They have re-engaged a large proportion of their suppliers who have actually offered to financially assist some of their marketing initiates and it has already added an entirely new demographic of customers too. With all the additional communication in the market place they have indicated to us – monthly sales could rise by almost 18% over the next quarter.

We’ll keep you posted.




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Written By: Rob