Small Business Marketing Real-Life Applications

You don’t have to own or operate a big business to have a good small business marketing strategy


Large businesses certainly have the funds to launch massive marketing campaigns, but smaller business marketing strategies can—with fewer resources—copy much of what they do. All that’s requires is a change in mindset and the desire to put in a little extra effort into making sure new marketing channels are reaching their intended audiences.

I’ve written about the “fear of being right,” that moment when all of your analysis points to a solution that’s either counterintuitive or that you viscerally can’t accept.

As an example, a well-known university in Miami approached us a couple of years ago because its executive MBA program was failing. It needed to enroll about 50 students a year, but it was pulling in only around 30 to 35. It was advertising in the Miami Herald, on the public radio station WLRN and on some billboards. A quick analysis showed that while the Miami Herald got 50 percent of the university’s marketing budget, less than 20 of their students actually read it. Instead, they were turning to online papers. Even WLRN, which appealed to its target group, wasn’t a great fit: All of the “commercials” were on-air mentions read by the same voices that were reading the news and all the other commercials. As a result, most of the school’s marketing budget was being wasted. We proposed a campaign that would switch the budget to online and mobile, the two media outlets where most of the students spent their time.

The head of marketing found our proposal “too radical” and “too scary” and said he would rather go back to the old campaign. I don’t know whether the university improved its reach, but the marketing head is no longer there. So, one lesson learned.

small business marketing applicationsAnother interesting phenomena is what I would call “Size Block,” which happens a lot in businesses where owners typically think that just because the business is small, he or she can’t apply the same thinking processes and tools that large businesses do to improve their sales.

Rather than go into a long academic discussion about this, let’s take a look at a real-life small business marketing example of a boutique right next door to where I have my hair cut: Emporium. (A disclaimer: I have nothing to do with Emporium and I have never even been inside the store.) What caught my eye was the blackboard ad outside its door: “Where all your fall fashion needs are met.” I was trying to figure out the purpose of this, which got me to thinking about how it added to Emporium’s sales.

How to Improve Upon It

small business aplications1. Mobile

Based on its look and location—evidently upper class—Emporium appeals to affluent, sophisticated women, many of whom carry iPhone 5s or Samsung Galaxys. The obvious thing for Emporium to do is develop an SMS campaign that complements its email efforts and expands its consumer touch points.

In this case, Emporium can rent its keyword from a mobile platform and develop an effective campaign where it could send its customers:


  • Discounts and special offers
  • Exclusive shopping hours and events
  • Videos (more on that later)
  • A retention program, with additional discounts and/or benefits to clients after they register for their Xth visit
  •  A referral program, wherein customers could send the names and emails of five friends who would receive special offers from the store (the initial customer would, as well)

2. QR codes

Some of my early misgivings about QR codes are now a thing of the past. Advances in phone technology and the codes themselves have decreased the number of “misses” considerably and have since become easy-to-use tools.



  • There are a large number of QR-code generators available online (Google it)
  • It’s simple to link QR codes to specific parts of websites showing more fashion, design, etc.

Because Emporium’s in medium-traffic locations (not a lot of foot traffic, but not deserted either), both SMS and QR codes are cheap and effective ways for the store to both maintain and expand its current-client and potential-client bases.



Marcelo Salup
Marcelo Salup
Marcelo Salup's 30+ years career in advertising covers a wide range of everything. A wide range of roles -he began his career on the creative side, won 2 Addies, changed to media, included strategic planning and consumer insight and has been an agency owner several times. A wide range of venues: Spain, Latin America, International and the U.S.  A wide range of clients that go from automotive through banking, electronics, fast food, soft drinks and much more. His professional philosophy can be summed up in four words: “Only performance is real”. Today, he runs a successful strategic planning consulting,  Website