If you have ever launched a marketing promotion and the only thing that you hear is the tick of the office clock heralding the passing of yet another minute without a sale, then this article is for you.

To succeed in marketing your small business, you need to get on top of some fundamentals that apply no matter what and where you choose to do your marketing.


First – You Need to Cross the Trust Bridge

You first need to get your potential client past the Gatekeeper of Doom who guards the Trust Bridge. The Gatekeeper is a hypervigilant wizard that constantly challenges the potential client with the shrill refrain, “Can you trust them?”

Before your client assesses what you are offering, they first assess whether or not you are to be trusted.

This assessment of your trustworthiness happens in a microsecond and is based initially on first appearances and gut feel.

How your website or marketing looks, the design of your marketing collateral, the photos and images that you use and the words that you choose for your website, all form part of the assessment of your trustworthiness. Your job in marketing your business is to build your perceived trustworthiness in everything you do.

You don’t need $10,000 websites with all the bells and whistles that have taken 18 months to create, and you don’t need business cards made of artisan paper hand stamped by remote Amazon tribes in pigment made from crushed beetles.

You just need a website that works and looks halfway decent and modern, and cards that are clear and don’t feel “thin.”

If you are judged as untrustworthy, your potential client will not pass across the bridge, and will disappear into the valley of lost opportunities.

Other aspects that go towards placating the wizard are if you are a known and trusted brand, if people they know and trust recommend you, if people they don’t know recommend you, and if they can find reputable mentions of you in other places.

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Assuming you are not judged as totally untrustworthy at first glance, people will take a few steps across the bridge to explore the five “right” questions.

Don’t take this as a good thing.

Every question and every stage needs to reinforce your trustworthiness.

If the wizard has not been fully placated and deemed you 100% trustworthy, they will then pop up with a resounding “Are you sure can trust them” at each stage of the journey, eager to get your client to turn around and run for the hills.


Then Make The Right Offer

If a person wants a leaky roof repaired and all you are offering is gutter cleaning, then you will not make a sale. You need to make the right offer to your clients in order to make money.

Elements of a right offer include:

  • clearly articulating what is included and excluded in your offer,
  • the features and benefits of your offer,
  • why people should take you up on your offer.

A confused mind says no, so if any aspect of what you are offering is confusing or hard to understand, then expect the wizard to chime in and suggest that your offer is not to be trusted, and to run away.

If your marketing campaign has tanked, then look at your offer.

Is it clear and compelling? Is it logically packaged in a way that people can understand? Does it cover both features and benefits? Does it answer all the questions people may have about your services?


At The Right Time

People only buy a product or service when they need it.

If you try to sell Christmas decorations in February, then don’t expect many sales. If you try to sell a university course to Year 12 students after the students have already lodged their university preferences you will get a low take up rate. If you try to sell a bikini in mid-winter, then the only people who take you up will be masochists hell bent on hypothermia.

Every offer has an optimal time to run.

Your campaign needs to match this ideal time and not run too early or too late.

This is a critical factor on social media, with entire digital forests giving up their lives for articles on the optimal time to post on social media. Pick the time that delivers the best results for your campaign.

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You also need to match your offer to the perfect time in their buying cycle.

Every decision to buy follows a predictable path of information seeking and relationship building before the decision to buy is made.

Don’t just jump into “buy me now” as your first point of conversation – your timing is too early in the relationship and you are prematurely closing (with about as much joy as anything that happens prematurely). You need to take people through their buying decision process to reach the desired result.


To The Right People

Who are you marketing to? Take a moment for some deep contemplation about who your marketing campaign is truly targeting. Look at your language, the images and the offering for clues about whom you are currently targeting, and then answer the question …

“Am I targeting the right people?”

You may have loads of adoring fans who love your campaign, but if none of them have budgetary discretion, (or the pester-ability to get the person to spend their budgetary power in your direction), you have wasted your campaign.

If you are offering free trials or giveaways, then know you will get a lot of freebie seekers who may not be your ideal target market and will turn into shadows as soon as you have the temerity to ask them to pay for something.

Target decision makers who actually have the money to buy your offering through your images, words, and call to action. Find your businesses sweet spot. 

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Using The Right Channel

Humans are a funny bunch. We like to hang out with people who are like us, which is why you generally won’t see extreme right wing politicians at gay marriage parades.

Part of belonging to our tribe is we read the same sort of magazines and newspapers, use the same type of social media, and watch the same sort of TV programs.

By knowing where the tribe that you are targeting hangs out, you can choose the right channel to reach them.

If you want to get in front of Brides-to-Be, then a strong Pinterest strategy needs to be part of your marketing as many brides use Pinterest to help organise their weddings.

If you want to get in front of Baby Boomers, then head to Facebook as they are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook. If you want to target Millennials, then Facebook is not the ideal channel as many of them only use it for the chat feature and not much else.

The right channel also extends to the form of advertising that you use.

Banner ads have now faded into insignificance. Their click through rates have plummeted and they now seem to be covered in cloaks of invisibility as people do little optical hops around and away from the ad – they no longer register in the brain.

When you add in the negative SEO impact of having banners and sliders across the top, you wonder why people bother … and yet small businesses still try and run banner ads.

If that is your only marketing channel, then stop it right now and try something that has a better chance of success! (Just as an aside, this is why sliders are having a hard time – most people no longer see them).

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Other channels to avoid for most small businesses:

White Pages, Yellow Pages, cheap SEO, and buying followers on social media.

Use the advertising channel that works for your ideal target market, and do your research before you plonk down any money.


At The Right Price

If you have everything else going for you, you can still fall at the last hurdle – price.

Another name for price is perceived value.

If people believe they are getting amazing value for money for something they really want, they will generally take up the offer. If they turn down the offer, the perceived value is too low.

Yes, there are loads of tricks around how to make your prices seem small, but the bottom line is to ensure that your prices are justified, that people can see the value they are getting and that the benefits are ones that they want to buy.

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Trust and price are inextricably linked. The higher the trust the higher the premium you can charge, which is why “Most trusted brands” status is hotly contested and desired.

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The Keys To Marketing Success

First, people have to trust you. Then you need to make:

  • The right offer
  • At the right time
  • To the right people
  • Using the right channels
  • At the right price

Ingrid Moyle

Ingrid Moyle (BA - Psych/Industrial Relations) is the Chief Web Wizard at Heart Harmony Communications. A self-confessed multipotentialite, Ingrid shamelessly blends her passions of human resources, psychology, web design and copywriting. When not hardwired to her computer, she quests for the perfect coffee while chasing virtual reality creatures across the backstreets of Brisbane.