Small Business

No matter what the circumstances, starting a small business is expensive. Entrepreneurs are faced with lots of upfront expenses, and there’s a natural lag between the time you open your doors and when you start generating revenue. There’s also no guarantee you’ll turn a profit. With the costs of filing legal paperwork, setting up your physical space, working with vendors, and producing (or stocking) inventory, it’s only natural to be tempted to cut corners and costs wherever possible. That may lead you to the conclusion that marketing is an unnecessary expense. While that notion is understandable, it is completely and inherently incorrect. In fact, marketing may be your most important expense. Here are some critical reasons why.


You’ve probably spent a lot of time projecting profitability, learning how to do market research for a startup, and setting up your supply chain. That’s good; these are all essential components of business both at the beginning and moving forward. They also won’t do you any good if no-one knows your business exists, what it does, or how to buy your product or service.

The primary function of marketing and advertising is to introduce your brand to the public, demonstrate its benefit, and ask them to buy. Without an ad budget allocated to support this, you are likely relying on word-of-mouth, and organic social media posts. Word-of-mouth is certainly great, but it can take a long time to reach enough people to have an impact. Non-paid social media posts seem like a great idea because they’re free and shareable. Consider this, though: social media platforms generate their revenue by selling ads. Most internet savvy people are at least somewhat aware that users’ algorithms are manipulated to serve them content they’re likely to engage with. They are also manipulated to bury free advertising, and they all have automated systems that can spot an ad the second it’s posted. Maintaining social presence is crucial, and paid social ads are great, but don’t rely on them as your sole marketing channel.


Hopefully, when you built your business model, you were able to find a hole in the marketplace for you to own. That can be a product type or line that no-one else carries, deeper discounts, or service after the sale. Whatever that is, it’s your unique selling proposition, and it should be the focus of your advertising efforts. Think about Geico: whatever their ads are about, or however they look, they are singularly focused to reinforce that “15 minutes could save you 15%.” Differentiation and awareness go hand in hand. You can’t rely on customer traffic and word of mouth to explain why you are different or better than your competition. You must craft that messaging itself and reinforce it relentlessly and consistently.

Customer Retention

In the early days of a small business, generating new customers is the immediate challenge, which is why awareness and differentiation are so vital. Once you’ve started to establish a customer base, however, it is also critically important that you keep them! Customer loyalty rewards programs are more popular and important than ever. Giving a small discount to repeat customers will pay for itself many times over if they keep coming back. You may think this isn’t a marketing expense, but to do this properly and without investing too much of your own time, you should contract for email or SMS text blasts to handle your program. It’s a small investment that will likely pay off massively.

Defense Against Market Changes

Finally, let’s say a new competitor moves into town and sets up shop down the street from you. You need to go on the advertising offense as quickly as possible. While negative ads may deliver mixed results, you must reinforce what your existing and potential customers can get from you that they can’t get from them one way or another.

You’ve poured blood, sweat, tears and capital into your business. Don’t risk all of that by ignoring the importance of marketing. Allocate an advertising budget, and work with local media professionals to put it to work for you.