Marketing from the perspective of a small business can often seem like an uphill struggle: marketing expertise and advice is expensive, you don’t have the budget to subscribe to fancy online marketing tools and you have no brand cache to exploit.

On top of all that there’s only a handful of you at best (and just you at worst) who have to carry out all the marketing activity on top of performing the core business tasks.

What’s a small business to do?

Actually, there’s no need for despair: it’s the contention of this blogger that being a small business can in fact afford you many marketing advantages over the big boys – here are a few…

1. Free/Low-Cost Tools

Many tools that help tremendously with online marketing efforts offer free or low-cost versions for small businesses.

Take for example Akismet – the website anti-spam plugin – while it costs larger companies $50 per month, the cost to small businesses is just $5 per month.

Many software service providers have worked out that by graduating their prices for different usage levels they can attract more small business users. If you see a one-size-fits-all pricing model on a useful tool make sure you shop around for a competitor with a fairer price structure.

For a great selection of completely free online marketing tools for small businesses, check out or earlier post.

2. Specialisation

Big brands have big, diverse audiences. This means that the brand’s marketing material is always compromised by trying to cover all these different types of people at the same time.  It also often results in pack-like behaviour, with big brands being frightened to stand out from the crowd (ever noticed how all car adverts are pretty much the same? And how, since the arrival of the meerkats, all adverts for UK comparison sites have to be ‘funny’?)

SMEs have no such constraints – you can tailor your marketing material to a very specific, niche audience if you like, enabling you to quickly become a leading authority on that particular specialism. Sometimes it’s better to be the best at one very small thing than just another player in a crowded market – as a small business you’re free to make that choice.

3. The Personal Touch

While larger companies are often faceless entities represented only by a logo and a slogan, your small business is very much associated with you.

That’s invaluable when it comes to outreaching via social media (who wants to interact with a logo?) and for PR activities. Giving an interview on being an entrepreneur or writing guest blogs for industry press which share some of your personal expertise can work wonders in gaining you publicity, building your brand and bringing in new customers.

By making sure that all of your personal social media profiles are associated with your brand’s profiles and website you can ensure that any searches for you by name lead to branded results.

4. The Local Factor

Even if you’re looking to market your products and services to a nationwide (or even global) audience you can still leverage your local-ness for great results.

For example, Google’s personalisation of search results mean that local providers are more likely to show up in a search for general service terms like ‘plumber’. By making sure that Google knows where you are (by marking up your address, creating a Google places page) you can gain a greater share of this locally arising traffic.

Also, local press, bloggers, directories etc can provide extra publicity and links to your website to help bridge some of the gap between you and the big players.

5. Partnerships and Promos

Being a business of small stature is great for reaching out to related businesses and forming promotional partnerships. Large companies have to jump through lots of hoops and run up massive legal bills to create a deal whereby, for example, a customer gets a free one-day gym pass with a purchase of a particular pair of trainers.

Small companies have a much easier time arranging such deals and you should explore opportunities with businesses of a similar size in your area where there might be mutual benefit.

Because you’re unlikely to be seen as a threat (unlike a major brand), a handshake will often be enough for both parties.

6. Nobody Hates You Yet

On a related note, you have no baggage as a company. None of the complaints, social media gaffes, awkward search results or customer service snafus that haunt larger brands are holding you back.

You have a fresh canvas on which to build your brand which means you have more scope for reacting to current market trends and being accepted as an innovator.

As a small business you are a light, speedy, manoeuvrable pirate ship dancing rings around the heavy, unmanageable, big-brand destroyers. Remember to make your shots count though…

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