Nov. 8, 2019

AUSTIN, Texas — Juli James, assistant professor of Marketing in the Bill Munday School of Business at St. Edward’s University, is nationally recognized for her expertise in leveraging sales marketing platforms, including Salesforce and Marketo.

In recognition of Small Business Saturday, which this year falls on Nov. 30th, St. Edward’s asked James to share some tips on how small businesses could be more effective at online marketing. For those that don’t own a small business, she gives online shopping tips and a reminder that we are all marketing our favorite brands every day whether we realize it or not.    

What are the best online marketing tactics for small businesses?

For small businesses, social media posting and advertising will always be a good tactic, but what really works well is user-generated content — getting your brand advocates to post for you and talk about how much they love your brand and why. For any business, what our customers say about us speaks volumes to our potential customers. In this day and age where consumers are trusting corporations less and less, smaller businesses can work to earn that trust not just with user-generated content, but also with relationship building. That involves being on the same level with your customers and potential customers — actually speaking to them, going to the same places they go (tribal marketing), speaking the same language they speak (contextual marketing), and being honest, open and providing value to them.

What are the top mistakes small businesses make when marketing online?

There are a few mistakes that I commonly see in small businesses that they can and should be avoided easily.

1. Not understanding your business’ value to your customers. What makes your business different? What is your value proposition? Small businesses can’t compete on price alone, so what extra added value are you providing?

2. Not focusing on your target market. We would all love to be able to sell to everyone all the time, but this is hard, even for the biggest companies with the largest marketing departments and budgets. In a small business, you need to focus on your target market, and personalize your message to them in the right marketing channels.

3. Not having a website or social media accounts. All businesses can benefit from having a website or social channels. It’s an easy way to reach your target market without it costing too much. Building very specific audiences on social media platforms for advertising purposes has never been easier.

4. Not having a plan! All businesses need to have a plan with SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) objectives to not only measure what worked and where your budget went, but also to measure what didn’t work and what you can improve and optimize for next time.

What pitfalls should consumers avoid on Cyber Monday?

The biggest pitfall to avoid is getting sucked into something that looks like a great deal but isn’t. Consumers have to remember that in the run up to Cyber Monday, businesses could be slowly increasing the prices of their goods and services so that when it comes to the ‘big sale’ they’re actually not offering much of a discount. Don’t rush into purchasing something because it says ‘ends in 3 hours’ or ‘only 10 items left’. If the sale is going well, the business is more likely to extend it or add more inventory. If there is something you’ve been looking to purchase for a while but are waiting for a Cyber Monday deal, don’t be surprised if it was cheaper before and after Cyber Monday. Also, always check returns and exchange policies around Cyber Monday. Some of those great deals might have very limited return policies.

What advice would you offer for anyone who wants to better understand the marketing field?

If you’re looking to understand the field of marketing more, there are some excellent free trainings available. Hubspot, Facebook, Marketo, Twitter, Salesforce, Wix, etc. all have great free training resources that help give a more general understanding of marketing. However, always remember, everyone is a marketer in their own way, with the brands we buy, wear and talk about, the products we review online and the comments we post on social media. We’re all constantly marketing our favorite brands without realizing it.