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  • Writer's pictureAndy Whiting


Updated: May 8, 2021

Here is is ... My 2021 Top Ten of marketing tips and ideas for small businesses. I hope you find them useful ...

#10: Listen to your customers/clients.

It sounds like a simple bit of advice and it should be, but is often overlooked.

An example ... you’re a baker and you pride yourself on the loaves of bread you’ve sold for the past five years. Sales are steady and have plateaued at an OK level. If you haven’t updated your customer research and asked for their feedback you might not know they actually want sourdough bread or gluten-free too. And maybe even some cakes in addition which they will be willing to spend more on.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees when you’re running a small biz, so ask around, do trial sampling’s of new products/services and ask for comments on what they’d like to see and buy.

I’ve conducted quite a few customer research projects over the years and more often than not, it confirms and solidifies what you think and feel already and you can strengthen your plans accordingly. But sometimes there are real nuggets of feedback that spark a great new product or service you didn’t ever think of.

When asked most people like to give their opinion, don’t be afraid to ask ... and most importantly listen!

#9: Make a plan

‘Failure to plan is to plan to fail’ so the saying goes and it’s pretty true for small businesses! Having a plan or business strategy is essential if you want your business to grow and prosper. In big business, these strategies and plans are huge and set out way into the future. They are tweaked all the time to adapt to the changing landscape in which a business exists.

On a small business level a good place to start is with the question 'Where do you want to be in five/ten years from now?'. The answer could be “Double in size and profit” or “Maintain as we are” or even “Sell up and retire to a villa in Spain on the profits”. They’re all appropriate answers, but once you’ve asked the question you can start to plan the route and answer the ‘How will we get there?’ question.

As the past twelve months has taught us, plans need to be able to flex when required, but it’s good to have one in the first place.

#8: Brand Identity

Investing in your brand identity from the start is important and as I’ve said in previous SMALL BIZ BLOG posts on branding, it isn’t just about a jazzy logo. Though it includes that.

Your brand identity permeates through everything; your vehicles, your website and social media, your staff clothing, the manner in which they (and you) serve or assist your customers. Ultimately your overall identity forms opinions with how your customers perceive your business and that can make or break you.

Doing all of the thinking around this at the start/now will save you so many hassles and headaches at a later date. You’ll be surprised how many times I’ve been told that someone’s logo, brand name and branding was rushed cos the sign-writer needed something or hashed together by their nephew/niece cos they did OK in GCSE art.

It’s a big decision so get professional help and do it right.

#7 Demonstrate your expertise

Customers (on the whole) are looking to you to solve a problem or a need; their garden is a mess and it needs tidying up, the tree in the front is too large and looks unsafe, they’ve got no idea what to cook for dinner tonight, or they want a new bathroom fitted.

In each of these examples (provided they’ve found you, see #5!) you will have the opportunity to show them the answer and how adept you are at solving their problem or need.

Case studies and testimonials on your website, before and after photo galleries and short films that showcase your skills are all really useful tools to do this.

#6: Get your website sorted!

Disclaimer ... most of my client work comes from web design work, so of course I’m going to say this. But it’s surprising to me how many businesses have no website, or a very dated one that is not reflective of the current business branding and offer.

Your website is STILL the main shop window to your business. I say STILL, as many clients feel that social media does the job of a website. It absolutely does not and you’re missing out on building your wider digital footprint on search engines etc by not having one and updating it.

Get me to build it, or someone else, or even buy the domain and build a contact/holding page yourself ... but do get your website sorted, please!

#5: Get found

Once you’ve decided on your brand identity, created a logo and shiny new website you’ll need to help customers find you.

Word of mouth and recommendation is still one of the most powerful ways in which small businesses operate. Most of my client work comes from recommendation by friends, relatives and previous clients. So doing a good job and asking people to recommend you is important to keep business ticking over and growing. And Reviews really help, which I'll come to in Part 2 of my countdown next week.

Social media is also an incredibly powerful way to connect people back to your products or services. Through regular posts, photos, stories and content you can form an on-going relationship and communication with your customers.

Advertising on social media is also a cost efficient way of getting your message and website in front of large, targeted groups of people in a particular location.

#4 “Review” “Review” “Review”

As I mentioned in ‘#5 Get Found’ word of mouth and positive reviews about your business are like gold dust. This has become particularly relevant on the back of sites like Trip Advisor, Facebook Reviews, Trust Pilot, Checkatrade and more recently Google Reviews.

Google Reviews are particularly important as these make a significant impact on your search-ability and Google rankings. So seek them out and encourage them with clients/customers as much as you can.

And whilst we’re talking about reviews, let's address the elephant in the room, the BAD review. My advice if this ever happens (and if you have a high customer turnover it probably will at some point) ... Read it, walk away from the keyboard and mull it over for a few hours, don’t rush off an emotional, angry or knee-jerk reply! Take time to investigate any points raised within your team and whilst you may disagree, think about if they make any salient points you could take on-board and improve from.

Then, craft a reply that is polite, professionally addresses any points raised and thanks them for taking the time to share their feedback. Even if you actually think they’re a total £&%#!!!, try not to get emotional and NEVER start a defensive war of words as it will not look good in the long run and be visible online FOREVER!

#3 Password Fail!

Seems ridiculous that passwords could feature so high in my Small Biz countdown but one of the major issues I find with so many clients is lost account log ins, missing passwords and accounts set up to lost email addresses. Is this you too?

I’ve seen countless social media accounts duplicated, triplicated etc etc, as no one can remember or refresh the log in info. It’s frustrating for you and can be very confusing to customers when there are 32 different Instagram pages for ‘Flossies Flowers’ and potentially could lose you customers as messages to dormant accounts never reach you.

Note down each account, the user name you create, the password and the email account you set it up with.

Which leads me nicely on to #2 ...

#2 Use it or Lose it

In the rush and excitement to start a new business venture, many clients buy their domain name and set up social media pages on every platform possible; Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, LinkedIn ... the list goes on and on.

But then the reality of posting content to each platform, correctly tagging it etc starts to sink in and you get super-busy with your business, so marketing and social media become a bit of a chore. And eventually the content splutters, slows and stops. Social media is a time consuming marathon, but get it right and it can pay huge rewards to your marketing strategy and bottom line.

My best advice is to focus on doing one or two (appropriate*) social media platforms really well and ditch the rest if you won’t be updating them. Unloved and untended social pages can make your business look tired, lacklustre and out of date.

*What are the appropriate social media channel/s for your business? I’ll look at this in a future blog I think. But do some research on which platforms are most used by your target customers by age, location and the type of content you will want to showcase.

#1 Put yourself in the picture

My number one point for small businesses and one everyone (including me!) feels a little uncomfortable about is ... 🥁

You. You are the owner, founder and face of your business. Your skills, expertise and experience have made your business start up and grow. Your customers need to see and experience your business through your eyes. Put yourself (and your team) on your website, into your social media posts and narrate your communications from your own point of view ... this is one of the brilliant things that small businesses can do much more effectively over big faceless businesses. But how?

Showcase team pics, film/narrate short product reviews, recommendations, tastings & recipes, 'how to' tips, a day in the life pics, fun moments, work in action shots ... these all help build the personal and human side of your business. Keep it fun but remain relatively professional, if your Gran wouldn’t be happy to see or read it, don’t post it!


That’s my round up of Top Ten Tips for 2021. I’ve really enjoyed pulling these together and clarifying my own thoughts and ideas in the process, so I hope you’ve found some useful nuggets amongst it all.

Do drop me a line if you need some help with your branding, marketing and website, I'd love to hear from you.

Until next time and as always thanks for reading!



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