Market your small business like a big business

Posted on Sept. 01, 2015 by Canada Post in Marketing solutions

You'd like nothing more than to grow your customer base. But with so many demands on your time and few dollars to spare, promoting your business can be a real challenge. However, with a little know-how and the right tools, you can market like a pro, even with a small staff and budget. The key is to put your effort in the right places—such as zeroing in on your ideal target market.

Big businesses know to mine their customer data to help inform their marketing efforts and target their messaging. In fact, 81% of chief marketing officers surveyed by CMOSurvey said their use of customer data for marketing is increasing. Large companies also follow tried-and-true marketing strategies, such as the 40/40/20 rule.

The 40/40/20 rule

Creating effective marketing is more art than science, but there is a well-established advertising formula you can follow to guide your efforts. Get this mix right and you improve your chances of success.

  • 40% Targeting: Find the customers who are most likely to buy your product. Know who they are, what they like and how they behave. Shape the tone and content of your messaging to appeal to their tastes.
  • 40% Offer: No one likes to miss out on a good deal. Give people a reason to buy – a discount, a trial, an exclusive. The offer is the key to nudging someone from considering a purchase to making one.
  • 20% Design and messaging: Make an emotional connection and a lasting impression. If you don't get noticed, you won't be heard. Look professional and sound credible. People buy more from brands they like and trust.

Target your marketing for the best ROI

Targeting your advertising or direct marketing efforts toward your ideal customers will help boost your return on investment. For example, a MarketingSherpa case study showed that achieved a 208% higher conversion rate for their targeted email marketing, compared to an untargeted “blast” email.

There are 3 areas to consider when defining your target market:

  1. Study your current customers: Look for characteristics they share and try to identify your top customers. These are the ones you want more of. Consider:
    • Behaviour: Take note of buying patterns and preferences, such as frequency of purchases, online versus in-store or phone orders, and so on.
    • Geographic region: Locate their province, city, neighbourhood or postal code.
    • Psychographics: Do you have information on your customers’ social class, lifestyle traits or life stage?
    • Demographics: Note their age range, gender, income and education levels, etc. Databases from your library such as Dun & Bradstreet and online databases or tools can help you find this information. Statistics Canada has a wealth of data publicly available online and you can visit the federal government’s Canada Business Network for some great tips on conducting market research.
  2. Examine your competition: Who are they targeting? Consider zooming in on a different target to differentiate yourself.
  3. Analyze your product/service: Looking at the benefits of your product/service and the problem it helps solve will help you pinpoint the ideal customer who can benefit most from it.

A compelling offer will help drive results

A great offer can translate into a successful campaign. To come up with the right one, go back to marketing basics and focus on the 4 Ps: Product, price, place and promotion. Determine which of these “Ps” differentiates your company or product and create an offer around it. Make sure your offer is relevant and has a high perceived value to your target audience. Ensure any claims you make are believable.

To help you decide on the right offer, consider the following elements:

  • Price: Neither too low nor too high, the price should be competitive and be perceived to be good value for the product or service.
  • Unit of sale: Should you offer 1 item or 2? A 2-for-1 deal?
  • Incentives: Discounts, gift-with-purchase and free items included are all common elements of a promotional offer.
  • Time limits: To create a sense of urgency to purchase your product or service.
  • Guarantees: Guarantees add validity to your product or service—but be sure you are ready to honour them.

And above all else, make sure that what you offer is exactly what you deliver.

Choose your advertising medium or use a multi-channel approach

The Business Development Bank of Canada suggests looking for low cost marketing tools, including online marketing, local marketing and direct marketing. They also highlight some free marketing opportunities, such as public speaking engagements, networking and asking good customers for referrals.

Multi-channel campaigns—combining email and direct mail for example—are often very successful. In a MarketingSherpa case study, one small business—a provider of B2B IT services—achieved a 700% return on investment by combining email, direct mail and follow-up sales calls.

Another multi-channel option is to integrate social media into your marketing mix. says social media use is on the rise, and is expected to represent an average 21% of marketing budgets in the next 5 years – slightly higher at 23% for B2C products.

Engage customers with a well-crafted message

Whether it’s an email or a direct mail piece or a newspaper ad, the way you convey your message will contribute to your success. For example, Craig Simpson, author of the Direct Mail Solution and contributor, suggests the following when creating a direct mail piece:

  1. Make it easy to read: Use short paragraphs or bullet points and simple language. Repeat your main point in different ways throughout the piece.
  2. Include images and “magic” words: Pictures help the customer envision how they’ll feel after acquiring your product or service. Words like “free” and “new” are sure to help you sell.
  3. Write a catchy headline: Grab your future customer’s attention with an engaging headline. You want to capture interest right away and inspire the customer to read more.
  4. Focus on benefits, not features: Expressing the benefits of your product or service helps the customer see “what’s in it for me.” Take a lawn care service for example:
    • Feature-oriented copy: Twice-weekly grass cutting during peak growing season
    • Benefit-oriented copy: Never worry about cutting your grass. We’ll cut more often when grass grows most.
  5. Include a clear and compelling call to action: Tell your customer what you want them to do, when, and make it easy for them. Give your offer a deadline; include a toll-free phone number, website address, order form or business reply envelope. You want to incite action immediately, while the customer is interested and before they forget.

P.S. – Don’t forget the postscript

Are you crafting an email or direct mail piece? The National Mail Order association in the U.S. says that 79% of people who open your direct mail piece will read the postscript first. Be sure you include one—and make it as compelling as your headline. This is the place to reiterate a key point, remind customers of your offer or emphasize an important benefit. It can include a mini-call to action (e.g., Call toll free right now; Use the handy envelope to send us your order today) or web link, if it’s an email.

Bonus tip: Most experts, including the Canada Business Network, recommend measuring your campaign results. This helps you determine what works and what doesn’t, so you can invest your valuable marketing budget wisely next time and drive even better results.

Has your small business developed a successful marketing campaign? Share your success story in the comments below.


Inspired? Put your ideas into action!

Learn how Canada Post can help you deliver real results by adding direct mail solutions to your marketing mix.

Contact Us Today

Or call:

1 (866) 511-3136

Mon – Fri (9 a.m. – 5 p.m. EST)

Follow us on Twitter @canadapostcorp