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Marketing 101 for small business: Go-to-market

To successfully market your business, use the classic Five Ws and One H as your guiding principles: who, what, where, when, why and how?

You know the answers to these questions because you’ve already done your market research and built a strong brand identity. It’s time to get the plan on paper.


You need to understand your target market (the broad group of people likely to buy your product) and target audience (specific groups within the target market you are trying to reach with different marketing). Even though target audiences are all part of your target market, you need to speak to each audience in a way that resonates with them (for more information, visit this article). You can use ATB’s Marketing Plan Builder to explore further. 
Consider how your customer’s mindset is aligned with your business purpose.

Consider how your customer’s mindset is aligned with your business purpose.

  • Who is your ideal customer? 
  • What are their problems and priorities?
  • What do you have in common with your customers?

Business owners need to know specific customer demographics. Narrow it down as best you can (gender, age, location, income, education, values and so on). What you’re offering can’t be for everyone. Moreover, demographics can change over time, which will inform your marketing strategy—you might continually re-evaluate both. Are you going to move with your current demographic as people age or find a new market after a certain period because the individuals you’ve been serving don’t need your product anymore?

Once demographics are decided, look at the needs and desires of the customer and how your products or services attach desire to that need. For example, when buying a car, the need is transportation. But a brand like Lexus is selling the desire for luxury while Toyota is about durability.

Then, think of your demographic’s preferred method of communication and buying habits (impulse or more trust involved?) and meet your customers where they’re at. 


What problem are you trying to solve, and what is unique about your business? This is your value proposition.

Author Simon Sinek says: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” Develop your story so clients understand your why.


What’s your main message? Don’t let it get lost in the clutter of the ever-expanding internet.

Anchor your message so it speaks to the desires of the customer and how it will benefit them.


Where will you put your message so it has the most reach?

Know where your customers are, and be easy to contact.

For example, you wouldn’t market motorized scooters to seniors on Instagram or TikTok. Find them where they are or identify who the decision maker is by talking to their children or caregivers. Change the marketing and talk to the right person in that voice. 


How will you put your message out there?

Formats that could work for you include social media, guerilla marketing, emails or newsletters, online, print, radio or television ads, targeted mailers, webinars, workshops, blog posts and engaging videos.

As Canadian communication theorist Marshall McLuhan famously said: “The medium is the message.”

Whatever format you choose, your message needs to be seen and be brought to life through your brand voice. It comes down to knowing your audience and your voice—and making the two match. Where will that be maximized? Where is your audience listening to your voice?

You might use different strategies in different business stages, like initially starting with free social media platforms, seeing what sticks and working up to paying for targeted ads on those very platforms.


When it comes to timing, what process does a consumer need to go through to get to a decision point?

It might not be definable by a time frame but instead by steps. It’s the difference between impulse buying a chocolate bar at a gas station (“I’m snacky now!”) versus buying a house (“What do I need in a house? What’s my budget? What are financing options? What features are a must? What features am I willing to be flexible on?”)

Define what the steps are and make sure your marketing and sales processes address them.

Digital marketing for small businesses

There are inexpensive ways to build your customer base, like posting old-school flyers and posters in strategic locations, sending press releases to news outlets, following up with customers after a round of ads via cold calls, getting referrals, and offering discounts or a call to action. But a key piece of getting your name out there is digital marketing, so ensure you prioritize that in your strategy.

At minimum, everybody should have a mobile-friendly fast-loading website with basic but crucial details about your service or product, location, hours and contact information. You need a clear landing page with a call to action. For many consumers, this is where their research begins. You should also register your business for a Google profile for free so people can find you even more easily and leave reviews. Yellow Pages, Better Business Bureau, Yelp and Foursquare are options too.

Your social media presence is the next thing to consider: Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and the platform formerly known as Twitter are all good starting points, depending on what you want to accomplish in your marketing strategy. Create a content calendar and schedule posts, tailoring them to each platform.

Another skill to develop is Search Engine Optimization (SEO), so people can find your business in the cluttered internet space through keywords and tags. Research what terms your customers are searching for so you can strategically use them on your website.
Measure your success by using data reporting services like Google Analytics, Facebook Insights or Mailchimp to track traffic and effectiveness. 

Bonus marketing tips

  • Get professional market research done. 
  • Have a clear marketing canvas (your marketing strategy condensed onto one page, much like an elevator pitch).
  • Market research plus your canvas will reduce overwhelm by breaking it down into manageable parts. Knowing your audience and voice will guide you to clarity.
  • Your marketing strategy needs a strong focus—not a big budget. Entrepreneurs are now able to easily track success with modern marketing tools and analytics as well as publish content via smartphones. 
  • Quality over quantity: do one tactic well instead of a bunch of average ones. High-quality visuals are crucial. Where can you have the greatest impact?
  • Start small in your strategy and build from there depending on what works.
  • Consistent, repetitive branding is key.
  • Balance maintaining existing customer relationships with creating new ones. Continue to market to the customers you already have. 
  • Gather feedback from your audience continuously and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly, depending on customer needs.
  • Focus on building a community around your product or service. You might not have the power of big brands, so grow your network and make personal connections: meet people in the demographic you’re after at events or join an industry-specific community online or in person.

Yellow Pages, your new tool

Remember the Yellow Pages, that phonebook on your doorstep? It has since become a full-service digital marketing agency ready to support small businesses with their marketing needs.

ATB Financial has a partnership with Yellow Pages, where ATB business clients get exclusive discounts on marketing solutions. The Yellow Pages boosts value by creating custom digital marketing packages best suited to your needs.

Now that your marketing strategy is finalized and in motion, learn how to set up your merchant services