How to Market a Small Business Online

How to Market a Small Business Online

When it comes to marketing your small business online, you can get lost in all the acronyms and models and theories. Finding a way to explain it is quite difficult.  Until last week, when I heard a fantastic podcast (by Target Internet) that summed up everything I was trying to say, perfectly.


Having studied marketing, at a number of levels now, I have learnt that there is one resounding theory that is so well developed that it seems to work across all business formats. PR Smith’s SOSTAC®  was developed by Paul Smith and it works. It helps you to work out the why’s and how’s, in a simple manner. Whilst this model was originally a terrestrial theory, it is perfectly adaptable to the digital world, making it THE model to use to start marketing your business.

Let us help you break it down into easy to follow steps.

1. Where are you now?

Take a look at your current situation. Where are your customers coming from? Don’t use this as an opportunity to merely pull data from your analytics (if you have them). Instead, look at how you currently interact with your customers. Make some notes, bullet points about your current situation.

For Example:

Do you sell goods online? If so, how many clicks until they commit?

Are you a builder? How many people enquire digitally?

Are you a design company? How many people use your website?

Do you even have a website? How do your customers find you?

2. Where do you want to be?

This is where you state your objectives. What do you want to achieve from this project.

It is sensible to mention here, that your primary objective for your marketing might not actually be digital, so you could have a primary (digital) objective and a business objective.

For Example:

A retail company: Your business objective is to increase footfall in branches. So your primary objective, for this project could be to increase views of your map/location pages, digitally.

Or, if you’re an interior designer. The business objective is to serve more clients, your primary objective is to generate leads (by prospective clients completing a form online).

Or, if you’re Kitchen Fitter and your business objective might be to expand into a new area, your primary objective is to get your brand seen by customers in that new location.

3. Why do you want to get there?

Known in marketing as your “strategic positioning”, this element looks at how you want to be known to your target customer.

What is it that drives you to achieve this objective? What would you achieve by getting there?

This “why” needs to be something that is meaningful to your brand. You cannot be everything to everyone, so don’t try. Do you want to be known for service? A great pricing strategy? Or excellent customer experience?

For Example:

A letting agent might want to be known locally for “offering the best priced 3 bed houses”

A carpet fitter might be want to be known as having the “best response rate in town”

A shoe shop might want to achieve the reputation for having “the best customer service”

A digital marketer might want to earn the status of being “trusted to market small businesses”

4. How can you get there?

This is the tactical part of the model. This looks at which channels you can and should use to achieve your objective?

Use the information you already know to start this. There are loads of channels and tactics you can use to achieve your objectives. You should choose just a couple to get you going. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin. Plus, the more different tactics you try at once, the harder it might be to measure which one is working and which is a waste of resource.

For Example:

You want to sell more online – one channel you will need to utilise is a website. Do you have one? Is it up-to-date? Have you got the right information on it?

Channels to use: Website, SEO, Content Marketing

If you’re want to get new leads online – you might want to add a form to your website or social media profiles, so its easy for the customer to talk to you.

Channels to use: Website, SEO, Social Media Management, Survey

You want to raise your profile online as an expert in your field – use blogs and forums to show your knowledge, and link this with content that you’re writing.

Channels to use: Copywriting, SEO, Blogging, Social Media Management

5. Actions that will get you there?

This section looks at the actual actions you will use. This drills down into availability of resource and knowledge and really allows you to see the bigger picture of what it takes to achieve your objective.

For Example:

Who is going to do the work? You? An employee? An Agency?

If its yourself, have you got the right channels already set up… Facebook, LinkedIn, Website, WordPress Blog…

Do you have the time and money?

Do you have the office space and technology to work efficiently?

Speak to a few agencies who do what you need, and try and get ballpark costs. Most agencies will want to know the answers to the above questions to be able to quote. Most will do a package deal too e.g. get a management package which covers SEO, content, website management… if that’s what you want, that is.

6. How to measure that you’ve got there?

There are loads of great tools out there to measure your objectives, but as with anything, we have our favourite. Google Analytics is a great place to start. The free version allows you to track all your visitors, where they’ve come from and when, what search term they used, how long they stayed… you get the picture…?

Set up ‘goals’ in Analytics to be able to track your precise objective measurement.

For example:

Your objective is to get more leads – you can set up a goal on form completions

Your objective is to sell more online – set up a goal on the order confirmation page

There is a great tutorial on using Google Analytics that will get you started, if you’re game… just click here to learn more.

Measurement is key to knowing whether what you have tried is working for you. If its not, tweak it and try again. Don’t see failure as a bad thing, see it as a learning curve. You won’t get it right every time!


The key is to keep it simple. Marketing doesn’t need to be difficult, and when you get it right, you can REALLY get it right! Stick to the plan, answer the questions honestly, and don’t deviate from the plan too much. Tweak it and try again if it doesn’t work.

If you do find yourself not understanding anything, just drop us an email and we’ll do our best to answer.

Credit where credit is due…

As a qualified marketer, I find all this stuff really interesting. Other people don’t. I get that! When I was originally writing this article, I was a bit stumped on how to explain some areas, until I heard a podcast by Target Internet’s Digital Marketing Podcast that was on pretty much the same topic, they were much more articulate though – very much worth a listen. You can access it here or subscribe to their channel on iTunes.

SOSTAC® is a registered trade mark of PR Smith. For more information on SOSTAC® Planning & becoming a SOSTAC® Certified Planner visit .

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Ciaran Rogers

    So pleased you enjoyed the podcast Ruth. 🙂 Thanks for the feedback

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