Looking for marketing advice for your small business? Santander Bank’s CMO Maria Veltre offers her top 5 tips.

Headshot of Maria Veltre

Maria Veltre, CMO of Santander Bank

Marketing is an important component to the success and growth of small businesses. A well-executed marketing strategy can reach new customers, drive sales and have a significant impact on the bottom line. We asked Santander Executive CMO Maria Veltre for her perspective on how small business owners should think about developing and executing a marketing strategy, and what advice she would offer to them. In response, she offered the following five tips:

1. Think of marketing as defending and growing your business

Running a business can use up all of your time and energy. Making a product or performing a service, attending to customers, dealing with suppliers, doing the books and managing employees can be quite a workload, leaving little time for anything else. For this reason, marketing is frequently an afterthought for small businesses. How can I make time for marketing when I have all of these other things to deal with? Rather than “making time for marketing,” think of it as defending and growing your business.

You work hard every day to build a business and make it successful. Isn’t it worth your time to defend what you have created and think about how to grow it?

Thinking of how to defend and grow a business is the best way to naturally come up with marketing tactics

Looking at marketing from that perspective transforms it from a nice to have to something that is absolutely essential. Thinking of how to defend and grow a business is the best way to naturally come up with marketing tactics—it doesn’t have to be “I’m going to sit down and do marketing.” As a business owner, you know who your competitors are. How are you going to defend your business from them?  You know your target audience. How are you going to reach them more effectively? Knowing those answers and taking action on them are a good start in developing your marketing strategy.

2. Be confident in yourself

It’s okay to make mistakes (everybody does!), and it’s okay to admit that you don’t have all the answers (nobody else does either). Accepting those things and forging ahead anyway are how you can lead your business to new heights. The key ingredient is believing in yourself—self-confidence. The best way to build confidence in yourself as a business owner is to remind yourself that you know the products and services that you provide better than anybody else. You know how to defend your business and how to grow your business because you know your competitors and customers. You’ve proven that you know how to run a business. Don’t be afraid to try new things that might help your business reach its full potential.

I’ll use an example of a client I worked with years ago. She owned a cosmetics company—under $5 million in annual sales—small relative to the mega cosmetics companies. She would put out “how to” YouTube videos before anybody was doing that. So she not only showed her product, but she was helpful and she gained viral momentum because she was providing something that was unique and of real value to people. The videos were very popular and had a big impact on her business. And she was able to do that because she knew her audience and had the confidence to try something none of her competitors were doing.

3. Take smart risks

Smart risks are the ones that offer upside without exposing you to too much downside. You hear a lot of phrases like “fail fast” or “fail cheap”, but if you’re not failing at all you’re not pushing the envelope. Most business owners don’t have the resources to do lots of testing, and that’s okay. Business owners, especially small business owners, need to think of little experiments or things to try without exposing the business to too much risk.

In the world of social media there are things that you can experiment with. Think about doing something on your Facebook page or somewhere where your audience is naturally more limited (although it can still have shareability because that’s what you want). It doesn’t cost much to do because you’re not spending too much money and it’s not a big deal if it doesn’t work. For example, some small businesses use their Facebook page to promote upcoming trade shows or events where they’ll appear. Others post special offers or new product announcements. Using Facebook in these ways lets you promote your business for little effort and at minimal risk.

Call five of your customers and say “I was thinking about doing this. How would you react if I did that?”

Larger companies do things like focus groups and quantitative surveys because they have access to all these resources. Well, just think about shrinking it a little bit if you’re a smaller company. Call five of your customers and say “I was thinking about doing this. How would you react if I did that?” It’s the same principle as doing expensive market research; you’re just doing it on a scale that makes sense.

4. Be passionate. Imagine you’re talking to your best prospect – what would you say?

One of the keys to remember is there is no one more passionate about a business than the owner of that business, and passion is what will help you get to great marketing. You can sell your product to anybody if you are given a chance because that’s how much passion you have. Focus on bringing that passion into your work whenever you can. Imagine that you are selling to your best prospect. What would you say? How would you want them to feel? What would you offer them? Now think about how you can tap into passion at every customer touchpoint.

You don’t need to be thinking about how to sell all the time. You need to think about defending and growing, which isn’t always about selling. You need to think about the marketing channels appropriately, and not always what you’re trying to sell today, but what you are doing to serve your customers and prospects. Think about showing your best self and all the ways you can show your skill. That’s marketing in a softer and different way.

5. Know your points of differentiation

You have to remember who your competitors are—not just how you might narrowly define them, but as broadly as possible so that you understand your unique position. How do you create points of differentiation, even when you may be up against competitors who have more resources?

Most business books on this would say you either need to provide better service, a cheaper rate, or something no one else can offer. So you only have a couple of choices. Just remind yourself which of these apply to your business. Or better yet, ask your existing customers what makes your business different from your competitors. Once you’ve identified what it is, make sure that is a key part of your positioning moving forward.

Another way small businesses can differentiate themselves is by providing value-added information. That isn’t an expensive thing to do today, and it can generate customer loyalty when executed well. For example there are a lot of businesses, both big and small, that offer home security and fire protection services. One way to set yourself apart in that industry is by producing educational content that teaches customers common best practices for limiting fire or security risks in your home. By delivering value beyond your core product or service offering, you give customers a reason to choose your business rather than a competitor.

Santander Bank does not make any claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in this article.

Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax advisors regarding any financial or tax strategies mentioned in this article. These materials are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Santander Bank.

  Equal Housing Lender. Santander Bank, N.A. is a Member FDIC and a wholly owned subsidiary of Banco Santander, S.A. ©2018 Santander Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Santander, Santander Bank, and the Flame Logo are trademarks of Banco Santander, S.A. or its subsidiaries in the United States or other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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