Marketing is the lifeblood of any business. But small to medium size business marketing requires a unique and efficient strategy. If you own or manage an SMB, and your marketing plan never changes, your competitors will find a way to exploit your vulnerabilities and steal market share from you. Once you lose that competitive edge, catching up is a bitch.

How can you avoid falling into this pit of misery? Here are 5 simple things you can start doing right now.

1. Learn From The Best. Be The Best.

Who better to learn from than the best in the business. Getting hammered by Amazon? Observe what they do best, and decide what you can adapt to your business. How do they attract repeat business? Amazon is a notorious retargeter. Have you ever shopped for a book, a sweater, or anything on, and then felt like somehow they were stalking you with banner ads that feature the exact product you were looking at? Congratulations. you’ve been retargeted. It’s a great tactic that might work for you.

Auto dealers (and anyone who wants to learn how to deliver better customer service) would benefit from checking out the book “Customers For Life” by Texas mega-dealer Carl Sewell. Sewell has expanded his business from $10 million in 1968 to $850 million today. Sewell’s automotive group literally wrote the book on stellar customer service. People in his area don’t buy set out to buy a new Cadillacs, Lexuses, Infinitis or Chevrolets. They buy new Sewells. You see, Sewell’s customers are lifetime customers. He doesn’t merely top the customer service charts. He keeps redefining “best.”

Learn from your best local competitors. If you keep seeing Facebook posts from your competitors, you’re probably seeing “promoted” or paid posts. Social media advertising is one of the most efficient forms of advertising we do for our clients here at BAM. Targetable by geography, demographics, and now by allowing real-time, biddable, targeted ads within the news feed; a move welcomed by many marketers. The News Feed is where people spend the most amount of time than any other part of Facebook.

2. What Beats A Referral or Recommendation?

What did you do before you bought or sold your home? You probably asked friends and family if they knew a good Realtor. Thought about purchasing insurance lately? You probably asked a co-worker if they knew a good agent. You can attract more business if you ask your customers for recommendations. Ask them to write a brief review or a testimonial. Then post them on your website, share them on social media. And include them in your advertising.

Recommendations in the form of online reviews are powerful. One of our clients is a Connecticut auto dealer who gets lots of 5 star reviews on Google, Facebook and Auto Trader. We just produced a TV commercial that leverages the power of some of those reviews:

Treat your customers like gold. Over-deliver. Blow them away with customer service. And ask them to leave reviews on social media. This can be an efficient and important part of your small business marketing strategy.

3. Keep Your Social Media Fresh.

“Yeah… we’re on Twitter.” “ Sure, we have an Instagram account.” We hear comments like these all the time. But just having an account doesn’t mean you’re on social media. Even if you’re regularly posting and doing everything right, less than 5% of your followers will ever see your posts. If your posting frequency drops to just a few times a week, forget about it. Facebook probably won’t push your posts out to our followers at all. You must consistently create compelling content that demands attention and encourages engagement.

Get started posting something every day. You can repost the same content at different times on different days during the week. You’ll reach an unduplicated audience. And keep your social media account information accurate. Your business evolves, and your account info might need to be updated. Check out your hours, website links, logo, etc., and make sure they’re all up to date.

Post about sales, promotions, new model introductions, special events, staff changes, awards, accolades, community involvement. And post photos and video content for better engagement. And #hashtag deep into your category. There are thousands of things to post about. Just look around.

4. Get The Hell Out Of Your Office.

I know, It’s comfy in that chair. But from that seat, you can only see as far as your office door, your showroom, your storefront. So get off your ass and get out into the world of your customers. You’ll gain a whole new perspective.

To market any business you’ve got to be able to see things through your customer’s eyes. What do your customers see when they’re looking at your business? What brand impression are you projecting? How does your advertising position you in the mind of consumers. You can’t see those things from behind a desk. You have to get out and talk to people. Make the rounds. Walk in their shoes.

Recently I had to get an iPhone screen replaced. I decided to bring the phone to a business that is now located in the same space formerly occupied by a retail business I used to own. I entered that store through the same door I used to walk through 7 days a week over 30 years ago. As I walked up to the entrance, I reached for the door handle and it almost fell off in my hand. In that instant, two things came to mind. First, I recognized that door handle was the same one that was there 3 decades ago. I knew that because I always meant to have it replaced. And second, I thought to myself… “hmm, if they don’t give a damn about the first impression their customers get when they first enter the store, how much will they care about the quality of work they perform on my iPhone? If you don’t get out and walk the the same walk your customers do, then you will never see your business they way they do.

Take a look at your business from a distance. I guarantee you’ll see things you never noticed before.

5. Study. Write. Read. Volunteer. Become An Expert.

If you’re successful, its because you have a certain set of skills in a particular business category. But do you know all there is to know about your area of expertise? Unlikely.

Read up on areas you feel you need deeper knowledge in. Network with other successful business colleagues. Join a Chamber of Commerce, a networking group, or Rotary. Seek out and join Facebook groups that are focused on your business category. Listen to podcasts, subscribe to YouTube channels that interest you. I learn more from one youTube episode of  Ask Gary Vee then I get from many seminars I attend. You’ll find that in a short time you’ll be more of an expert. Then, others will seek YOU out for advice.

Make yourself available to the press, be open to accepting invitations to speak. Write, blog, and market yourself and your business. If you’re an accountant, volunteer to help a not-for-profit get their financial affairs in order. If you’re a car dealer, leverage your high profile in the media to publicize food drives, coat drives, and other charitable events. The result.. a competitive advantage.

And there you have it. 5 proven strategies that won’t cost much (if anything), and will have a positive impact on how you market your small to medium size business. Interested in finding out about how Bob Abbate Marketing can help you market smarter and boost sales? Let’s have a conversation! Just tell us how to get in touch:

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Bob Abbate is the President and Creative Director of Bob Abbate Marketing. During his career, Bob has worked with national brands like Nissan, Sony, Apple, Ford, McDonald’s, Anheuser-Busch, Snapple, and Planet Fitness, as well as hundreds of the best known local companies.