Everyone knows that small business owners organize their work days with to-do lists, but many owners have wish lists, too. If only you had more time, you would attend the marketing workshops, seminars and conferences you know could benefit your business. After all, more than any other division – accounting, human resources, production, purchasing – marketing is the division that many business owners are most likely to roll up their sleeves for and participate in directly. You may be out of time, but you don't need to be out of the marketing loop. You can “bookmark” four marketing issues that experts and watchdogs have identified as some of the most pressing issues that businesses like yours currently face. Think about them, mull them over with colleagues and, when time allows, add them to your to-do list. Now, that's effective time management.

Measuring Results

You're not the only small business owner who may gauge the success of a marketing campaign by how often the phone rings, how many emails you receive and how many sales you generate. At best, though, these are informal measurements, and they may not be as accurate as you think. A survey of 200 advertisers found measurement to be lacking. Of those who consider it important, only 29 percent trusted their measurements “completely” while 59 percent considered them “somewhat trustworthy.”

Incentric Digital Marketing makes a strong case for business owners to fortify their systems of measurement, which, in turn, enables them to set important benchmarks: "Benchmarks are the inspirational lines that encourage you to identify areas for improvement, set clear objectives and improve performance over time. They also serve as critical proof points when you have to demonstrate the need for new staff, a change to your media plan or a boost to your marketing budget."

Gathering Customer Insights

After deciding that accurate measurement is the first priority, it's often seen that gathering customer insights is the second priority, but it's still a vital challenge for small business owners. If a measurement supplies the what, then insights supply the why, which potentially unleashes a treasure trove of useful information that a small business owner could put to good use. The American Marketing Association casts the issue in terms of questions business owners should be willing to address, including:

  • How can I generate new and better customer insights?
  • How can I best capture my customers’ experience?
  • Can I also identify competitor insights?
  • How do I ingrain insight-driven approaches into all of our business processes?

And this is perhaps the most pointed question of all from the AMA: Who has cracked the “insights code” and how did they do it? In other words, which best practices and tools can a small business owner replicate?

Identifying Return on Investment

Sound tracking and measurement techniques are the path to identifying the return on your investment – on every flyer you mail; every promotion you advertise on your website and on every social media message you post. In this way, you force your marketing team to validate their efforts. Was there a disappointing ROI on the last flyer? Then don't expect a lucrative budget package for another one. Drawing the line in this way can be difficult for small business owners. As Hubspot says: “Tracking the ROI of every single marketing activity isn't always easy, especially if you don't have two-way communication between your marketing activities and sales reports.”

Therein lies the solution: Bridging the gap between your marketing and sales teams by drafting a service-level agreement, which “formalizes the measurement and monitoring processes that ensure progress and results.”

Harnessing Social Media

Some large companies boast about their “social media presence,” but it's really small business owners who stand to benefit the most from this dynamic marketing tool. The results are more immediate. But if you're having difficulty harnessing this medium, you should be relieved to know you have plenty of company. The Manifest found that more than one-quarter of social media marketers do not have the human or financial resources to manage social media. This challenge was followed closely by lacking a formal social media strategy and developing a loyal legion of followers and influencers. Tracking results reared its head again as a concern among about 17 percent of the respondents.

The lesson for small business owners will sound familiar: S_ocial media should be integrated in a strategic marketing plan, where it will rightly compete with other initiatives for time and money._ And the time, as they say, is now: The Manifest reports that 92 percent of small businesses plan to invest more in social media, as of the time of writing.