How to Determine the Best Marketing Channel for Your SMB: An SMB Marketing Guide

There’s a well-planned marketing strategy behind every successful small business. It’s an indispensable tool to stay ahead of the competition in an increasingly competitive landscape.

There are numerous ways to promote a small business. However, many small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) find it difficult to choose from the effective marketing channels available within their shoestring budget.

First off, let’s talk a bit about the marketing channels where the small and medium business can invest:

Print Media:

Direct Mail, Yellow Pages, Flyers, Leaflets, Business Cards, Newspapers, Magazines.

When it comes to print media, there is a slew of options such as ads in local newspapers, community magazines, yellow page ads, business cards, flyers, leaflets, direct mails and many others.

Of all these options, cost of newspaper ads and magazine ads could be relatively much higher than that of yellow page ads, business cards, flyers, and leaflets.

Moreover, it depends on your business goals and target customer base.

The only downside to print marketing is it can lead to wasted impression on unqualified customers.


Billboards, Banners, Signage.

Investing in billboards is one of the most common outdoor marketing channels for small businesses. They not only bring customers to your store, but boost your brand identity as well. A great billboard at the right location can do marketing wonders for small and medium businesses.

Billboards can be both economical and expensive marketing proposition depending on your budget. According to FitSmallBusiness, a standard printed billboard at Albuquerque, NM can cost $1200 and can get you 692,000 impressions.

Banners and signage are also some other popular outdoor marketing options for small businesses that can be cost effective as well.

While outdoor marketing is effective for some SMBs, there is no way to effectively track the Return on Investment (ROI). This is probably one of the reasons why many SMBs are hesitating to choose outdoor marketing as their first choice.

Electronic Media:

Radio Spots, TV Spots, SMS Marketing, Telemarketing.


Promoting your small business through the electronic media such as radio ads and TV commercials are a great idea but it can also be very expensive for some, depending on their marketing budget.

As per FitSmallBusiness, a radio campaign on a popular station can cost around $500 per week in a small town like Myrtle Beach, SC.

In big cities such New York, they can cost a staggering $8000 per week!

SMS marketing and telemarketing are some of the other electronic media through which you could gain significant leads. While they are relatively cheaper, they are considered extremely invasive and hence, can potentially hurt your brand image.

Digital Media:

SEO, PPC, Email Marketing, Blogging, Affiliate Marketing, Video Marketing, Online Coupons.

Speaking of marketing channels for SMBs, Digital Marketing has emerged as the most popular form of promotion in the United States.

According to a recent survey by HubShout, nearly 74% of agencies surveyed said they expected their clients’ online marketing budgets to increase in 2016, and 17% of the respondents said they expected a significant increase.

Here’s the highlight of the survey for your quick reference:

Source: HubShout

So why is digital marketing so popular with small and medium businesses?

A survey conducted by Bright Local in 2014, revealed nearly 32% small business found Internet Marketing to be “very effective” at attracting new customers while 75% said they found it effective enough to continue spending on online marketing channels.

How much do the SMBs spend on internet marketing monthly?

70% of all SMBs surveyed said they spent less than $500 monthly while 83% of SMBs invested less than $1000 per month on online marketing channels.

One of the key findings in the survey was that 20% SMBs found SEO as the most effective marketing channel to attract new customers, which stood second only to ‘word of mouth’ (28%) in the survey.

Among other online marketing channels, Blogging and Content Marketing have remained very popular among SMBs as well.

Here’s some quick advice on how to grow a blog for your small business.

From email marketing to video marketing to online coupons, online advertising channels are becoming some of the best promotional options for SMBs due to low cost and high return on investment.

Social Media:

Facebook Marketing, Twitter Marketing, Word of Mouth.

The insane popularity of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter has made them one of the most in-demand spaces for promoting businesses.

Both Facebook and Twitter allow businesses to market their products and services in front of their target audience and drive potential leads.

Although not as popular as SEO, Facebook is still one of the favorite marketing channels for SMBs that are looking to boost their brand identity and spread the message via word of mouth.

Alignable, a local business networking site, recently held survey among 1200 local businesses in order to find the popularity of Facebook Marketing among small businesses.

According to the survey, most SMB advertisers spent less than $50 on Facebook Marketing per month. Among those who invested in Facebook Marketing, generating awareness was the biggest success for many.

The number of social media services is growing tremendously and each one of them is trying to increase their user base. Choose the right platform based on your specific business goals.

How do SMBs determine which is best for them?

Choosing the right marketing channel is a daunting task for any SMBs, particularly for those with no promotional experience.

To start on a right note, SMBs must deliberate on the following lines:

Who is my target customer?

Try to establish your target demographics before selecting a marketing channel. Consider the age, gender, location and economic status of the target audience in order to choose the right marketing channel.

What’s the most effective medium to reach my target customer?

Choose a medium based on its popularity among your target audience. For example, if your target audience uses smartphones, it’d perhaps be a good idea to invest in a mobile app.

What’s the most unique feature of my products/services?

In order to make a strong emotional impact on your target customers, you need to establish the most unique feature of your products or services. This will help you craft an effective marketing message no matter which medium you choose.

What’s the average customer acquisition cost?

Estimating your average customer acquisition cost helps you choose the right marketing channels based on your budget.

For example, if you’re choosing a specific demographic on Facebook within your given budget, you can find out the potential outreach of your campaign.

Choosing the right marketing channel can be tricky — it depends on quite a few things including the nature of your business and your target audience.

Rand Fishkin, the marketing wizard at Moz, believes SMBs should ask themselves three key questions to find the answer themselves.

  • What am I good at?
  • Where do my target customers dwell?
  • Where can I deliver unique value?

What am I good at?

When you’re confused about choosing the right marketing channel, Rand advises you to introspect and find out which marketing model you can excel at.

Are you good at making videos, making online presentations or speaking at conference? You’re more likely to succeed with your marketing effort if it’s something you’re great at.

Where do my target customers dwell?

Your choice of marketing medium should be based on the location of your target audience. Your marketing effort can go in vain if it’s not targeted at the right location, Research where your target customers spend most of their time before investing in a particular channel.

Where can I deliver unique value?

Discovering the unique value in your products or services is key to delivering an effective marketing message. Establish the key benefits you offer to your target customers and how they set your products/services apart from the competition. Incorporate the unique value proposition into your marketing message to make your message effectively stand out from others.

If you want to learn more about SMBs marketing best practices, check out this great post.

Take Away

There’s no magic bullet to achieving your marketing goals. However, as a small business owner, you should consider the points mentioned in this guide to ensure optimum return on investment.

What is the most effective marketing advice you would like to offer to a friend starting a small business? Please, let us know in the comments below.

About The Author
Susanta Sahoo is founder and chief content marketing strategist at Top League Technologies, a digital marketing start-up in Bhubaneswar, India. By offering SEO consulting services, he helps SMB’s build their online presence and boost ROI. Follow him on Twitter:@sushantsahoo

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