THE BLOG
06/17/2013 04:44 pm ET | Updated Aug 17, 2013

Strategies for Successful Small Business Marketing

Your small business train will sputter along without a solid marketing approach. When developing a marketing strategy, think about who is your target customer and how are you going to rise above the crowd of competitors clamoring for attention. Drill down your message to appeal to your niche customer to get more bang for your marketing buck. You want to stand out as number one in your field and focusing on a tighter market can get you there faster than trying to be all things to all people. Try these strategies for successful small business marketing:

Profile Your Best Customers. Identify your most valuable customers. How much do they spend with you annually? Do they fit a niche? It's important to understand what value your business brings to your customers so you can continue fulfilling their needs. Business issues can change quickly; stay on top of trends that affect your customers so that you are an effective resource.

Talk With Your Clients. Schedule quarterly face-to-face meetings to ask your clients for feedback or just to catch up. You must stay on top of their needs and understand any new factors that influence their decision-making processes. Have 10 questions to ask, and then make sure you engage them around some personal small talk such as kids, vacations, holiday plans, etc. The more personal the relationship, the more that relationship will allow you to obtain critical information and an advocate.

Watch Your Competition. Identify your top three competitors. Use Google alerts to track their activities online. Evaluate their websites to discover what benefits they provide to their customers. Compare your branding, value proposition and pricing. Based on your assessment, develop at least three strategies that you will use to position yourself effectively against them.

Update Your Marketing Plan. Even if you are a one-person army in your business handling the marketing and service delivery, you must have a marketing plan. To develop a killer marketing plan, you need to define your target customer, niche, conduct a competitive analysis, define your secret sauce and your core message and determine your key marketing tactics. Most importantly, you will need to define your marketing budget.

Focus on 30-Day Sales Goals. Annual sales goals are a waste of time so focus on how much money you need to make each month. Your sales and marketing efforts need to work together in your small business. Your marketing activities should be based on the amount of sales leads you need to generate in your business each month. If you know you need 500 leads per month in order to close 50 sales, then determine how many blog posts, tweets, phone calls, e-mails, Facebook ads and personal LinkedIn messages must be made, sent or posted per month to drive the desired lead traffic. You must establish a sales process and then proactively work your marketing efforts so that they generate the desired results.

Create Win-Win Relationships. Always try to build win-win relationships. Help your customer do business with you. For example, if your customer needs financing for your contract, try to provide a referral that will help them get the resources to do business with your company.

Build Strategic Alliances. A strong strategic alliance with another small business offers many benefits, including reducing risk, sharing costs and the opportunity for co-branded marketing efforts. It's best to find a partner who is not a direct competitor and always go into the relationship understanding your partner's "must have" list. Use a memo of understanding (MOU) to clarify roles in your partnership.

Refine Your Elevator Pitch. You should be able to describe your business in 3 sentences or less. When you can succinctly explain your business, it builds credibility. You shouldn't use the same pitch forever. From time to time, switch it up a little. Elevator pitches are designed to draw in your target and get them interested in chatting with you.

Use a Vision Board. Running a small business is challenging. How you get through the tough days in your business makes a big difference in your productivity. One of the best ways to stay motivated is to develop a vision board of your big picture goals. What are the top 5 things you want out of life and your business? Create a visual collage of your list. Use graphics, magazines or pictures to visualize your goals. Post this collage in your work space to remind yourself why you work so hard. These reasons will keep you motivated on tough days!

Try these marketing strategies and leave a comment to share which ones worked best for your small business.

This was originally published under the title: 9 Ways to Boost Your Marketing Efforts in Your Small Business at www.succeedasyourownboss.com.