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Marketing Your New Business: Are You a Small Business or a Startup?

By September 6, 2016August 13th, 2017Strategy

If you’re starting a new business and are starting to consider how to approach marking your business, it is important to answer this question: is your business a startup or a small business? Of course, technically, you’re both. You’re small because your new, and you’re a startup because you’re just starting your business. But there is a difference in your future plans that plays an important role in how you plan to market and grow your business.

Local vs. National and Beyond

In our experience, a small business is primarily focused on local markets. Another way to say this is that a small business doesn’t plan to grow significantly beyond a local territory. Startups, on the other hand, tend to have plans to scale to much wider geographies and audiences. A person starting an online fitness training program, for example, that could be used anywhere in the world is different than a person starting a local gym. This difference plays a significant role in how you plan to market and grow your business.

Marketing Expense vs. Investment

Small businesses tend to view marketing as an expense and keep it to a minimum. They typically buy business cards, create flyers, create a small website using a free platform like Wix or SquareSpace, and perhaps advertise in local media. A startup usually realizes that in order to reach its intended audience it needs to invest in a marketing strategy that will get its message out to the right people. They perform a careful analysis of the company’s ideal customers, their decision-making processes, trusted influencers, and likes and dislikes. They build a marketing plan that aligns with a business plan, with marketing goals designed to reach business goals.

Building a Foundation or Use Cheapest Tools Possible

In order to grow a business, you will need certain tools. You’ll need a website most likely, which requires hosting as well as web development. You’ll need a phone and online communication system. You’ll need a logo and slogan. A small business typically spends as little as possible on these tools. While a startup that intends to scale knows it needs a foundation that can support growth. This requires a more robust infrastructure such as a website that can grow beyond the limitations of free web building products, a scalable hosting platform, a contact database that will be able to be used by multiple sales people and connect sales and marketing. It is extremely difficult to move from cheap tools to business-class tools once growth starts to come it.

Tactics vs. Process

Similarly, small businesses tend to focus on tactics. They believe they need a website, but aren’t always sure exactly why and what it should do for them. The need a tradeshow booth or display but don’t really have a strategy for how to make a tradeshow productive. A startup will build processes before jumping into implementation. Yes, you want to make the phone ring, but how will you qualify leads, nurture them into sales, follow up with leads that don’t immediately become sales? Tactics don’t scale. Processes do. Just like with the tools you invest in for your business, moving from manual efforts to track down business to repeatable processes is a much better way to prepare for the growth you envision.

There is nothing wrong with small businesses, and there is nothing morally superior about being a startup. But in our experience, they approach their business growth in very different ways. It really doesn’t have so much to do with the size of the company but with the growth plans and vision. You can be a one-person business with an idea for a physical product like the world’s first healthy donut and open a storefront and be very successful. You can also take that product and sell it all over the worlds with an e-commerce site.

If your vision is to grow your business beyond a local territory, it is really important to see marketing as an investment and not an expense and to build a strong foundation of tools and processes that will support your growth.

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