You know you want to get more customers for your business—but how? The first step, according to Russell McClellan, is understanding who your ideal customers are.

By Rieva Lesonsky

“Marketing is all about attracting and selling [to] the customers that are the best for the business,” explains McClellan. If you don’t know what kind of customer you want, don’t understand what’s important to them, and don’t understand how they decide what to buy, your marketing won’t be as successful as it should be.

As an instructor for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, McClellan

teaches entrepreneurs how marketing can take their companies to the next level. (Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is an intensive education program that gives growth-oriented entrepreneurs the tools they need to create jobs and economic opportunity; read more about how the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program works.)

SmallBizDaily asked McClellan to share some best practices for small business marketing.

Understand Your Target Customer

“All successful small business marketing plans must start with understanding their customers,” says McClellan. “This is something most small businesses don’t do.”

To create a successful marketing plan, he says you must answer these questions:

  • Who are my best customers? Knowing which customers are the most valuable to your business is key to successful marketing.
  • How are they different from my other customers?
  • What problem are my customers trying to solve?
  • How do my customers search for and make decisions on what and where they will buy?
  • Who are my competitors for the customer’s business?
  • What’s the most important thing customers want from my business?

To get answers, do market research, conduct customer surveys, and assess the customer data your business gathers using tools such as customer relationship management (CRM) or website analytics software.

Go Beyond the Business Website

A compelling, effective website is the foundation of your business marketing—but that alone isn’t enough, says McClellan. “Internet marketing has moved beyond simply having a website. To be successful today, a small business must develop an integrated marketing strategy.” That includes online marketing, social media marketing and online reviews.

Online marketing, such as search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click advertising, is extremely valuable for small businesses. McClellan says this type of marketing is highly targeted, has relatively low costs and is easy for most small businesses to manage.

Social media marketing is another huge opportunity for small businesses, McClellan says. “It’s highly targeted, relatively inexpensive and can be used with a variety of inexpensive or free analytic tools so the business can know exactly what’s working and what’s not.”

Online reviews can not only boost your business’s reputation, but also provide opportunities to get insights into customers’ expectations and experiences. McClellan suggests you use them to identify ways you can better meet your target customers’ needs.

Last, but not least, measure the results of your online marketing using analytics tools such as Google Analytics. It’s important to regularly analyze if your marketing is actually delivering the kinds of customers you want in a cost-effective way.

For Southern California Entrepreneurs Only

If you’re in the Southern California area, there are three exciting opportunities to grow your business coming up.

Learn More About Marketing: Attend the SBDC workshop Marketing 101, November 15 from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm at El Camino College Business Training Center in Hawthorne, CA. The event is free; register here.

The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program is currently accepting applications for cohorts (groups of participants) for 2019 programs at Long Beach City College and Los Angeles City College.

  • The deadline to apply for the Los Angeles City College cohort is November 15, 2018, and the program begins on March 15, 2019.
  • The deadline to apply for the Long Beach City College cohort is December 19, 2018, and the program begins on April 5, 2019.
  • Apply here or call 562-938-5054.

Want expert help starting or growing your business, but not ready for 10,000 Small Businesses? Whatever stage your business is in, The LA SBDC can help. Get confidential advice from business experts at no cost or attend affordable workshops on starting and running a business.  Visit the LA SBDC website ( ) to find an advising center near you or call 866-588-SBDC.

Target customers stock photo by non c/Shutterstock