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Blending the new with the tried and true: Finding the right marketing mix for your small business

In today's highly crowded market, small business owners are struggling to stand out. While on average, business owners report three quarters of their customers are repeat visitors, they are still threatened by the appeal of competitor offerings both regarding service and price.

According to the quarterly American Express Small Business Monitor released in September 2012, 96% of small business owners report client retention is a top priority for their company and every customer is important to them. It’s not surprising then that business owners on average invest a healthy 13% of their total revenue into marketing campaigns. Business owners understand the value of marketing but are also recognizing it’s evolving from older methods such as direct mail. They need to consider effective marketing tools that will keep their business top of mind for existing customers while remaining relevant enough to attract new ones.

So how do you showcase your value and differentiate your offerings? While small business owners have slowly started to venture into the digital and social media world, many still struggle to understand the tangible return on investment (ROI). For that reason, they continue to rely on traditional marketing campaigns that are tried and true, but often times costly. One in four (23%) of small business owners still do not have an online presence. In fact, an astonishing forty per cent of small business owners do not have a company website. A lack of presence online inhibits social engagement with existing clientele not to mention creates a significant barrier for reaching new customers.

Furthermore, while the majority of business owners believe customer retention is a crucial to their business growth, few have taken the necessary steps to nurture those relationships like rewarding loyalty or conducting regular satisfaction surveys. They also said customer service/satisfaction (18%) is their second largest challenge they are facing. This is especially worrisome because they rely on customer loyalty and referrals from their existing client base to help grow and expand their business.

Business owners should consider leveraging ongoing promotions online or offering discounts in exchange for survey participation to strengthen their online presence and gauge satisfaction levels with their target audience. These small tactics can go a long way in showing customers they are valued and appreciated. More importantly it will highlight areas for improvement which will in turn help generate positive word of mouth for their business which is an overwhelming priority for business owners.

It appears there is huge gap regarding willingness to engage online while many small business owners still favour more traditional and costly marketing methods. It also appears business owners are missing the basics when it comes to customer engagement whether through gauging loyalty, measuring satisfaction or socializing online. It’s not as overwhelming as it sounds. Plan ahead and outline your goals. Once you’ve done this, evaluate if your objectives can be achieved online to reach a more targeted audience and what channel would be most effective. More and more tools and resources are available today, so business owners should evaluate which are best designed to profile their particular product or service and ultimately set their business apart.