Marketing strategy

Local Marketing Strategy: How to Promote Your Small Business Locally (Part 1)

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April 25, 2024

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Every small business experiences growing pains, especially when it comes to marketing. In this post, we'll outline what a good marketing strategy is—and isn't—and how to develop one that suits you.

“I don’t have enough sales.”

This statement is all too familiar to most small business owners, often seeming like the crux of all their problems. 

If you grapple with this too, most people have probably suggested that you confront that old, familiar foe: marketing. 

Advice like "You need to advertise more," "Optimize your website better," or "Run a special offer" is often freely given. But does this advice involve? And more importantly, will it even work?!

When it comes to marketing, strategy is essential – it's the bread to your butter. The potato to your chips. The socks to your shoes. You get the drift. 

Jumping headfirst into “website optimization” might leave you in a pickle. Why website optimization and not something else? How do you know that’s what will move the needle? 

A well-defined marketing strategy helps you clarify your goals, understand your constraints and available resources, and prioritize. In this post, we’ll talk through:

  • What a good strategy is and isn’t
  • How to build a marketing strategy that’s right for you
  • And how to translate a marketing strategy into a plan of action

So, let’s get into it.

But first, strategy. (Erm, what exactly is it?)

In the McKinsey article, The Perils of Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt, Rumelt observes that effective strategies often look simple – obvious, even – in retrospect. 

Rumelt explains that in military, business, and life, skilled strategists excel not by predicting the future, but by pinpointing critical issues in a situation. These issues, also known as pivot points, can significantly amplify the effectiveness of efforts. He emphasizes the importance of focusing resources and efforts on these pivotal areas.

“A good strategy does more than urge us forward toward a goal or vision; it honestly acknowledges the challenges we face and provides an approach to overcoming them.”  - The Perils of Bad Strategy, Richard Rumelt 

There are a few indicators of a bad strategy. 

First, a bad strategy involves a failure to face the true problem and mistaking the goals of your strategy for the strategy itself. If you want more sales, you’ll need to figure out how to achieve that goal. “Get more sales” isn’t a strategy. 

Second, a bad strategy doesn’t have actionable, strategic objectives. It’s normally just a to-do list. Think “optimize website”, “advertise on social media”, and “run special offer”. Sound familiar? 

Third, a strategy may not be explicitly “bad”, but unhelpful, or weak. Weak strategic objectives simply restate the challenges and skip over the important part: How the heck you’re going to do it. 

Let’s dive into the hallmarks of good strategy from a small business perspective using Rumelt’s process. 

The 3 hallmarks of a good strategy

The Perils of Bad Strategy highlights three parts of a good strategy:

  1. A diagnosis - This explains the challenge at hand. A good diagnosis simplifies the complex reality by highlighting the critical aspects of the situation that must be addressed.
  2. A guiding policy - This represents the overall approach chosen to address or overcome the obstacles identified in the diagnosis.
  3. Coherent actions - These are the steps that are deliberately coordinated to support and implement the guiding policy effectively.

1. A diagnosis

To form a diagnosis, you’ll need to identify your business’ biggest problems and identify the right KPIs (marketing or otherwise) to help you improve. 

Going back to our original statement of “I don’t have enough sales.” Have a good think. Is this really an accurate diagnosis of your problem? Why don’t you have more sales? What changed? What needs to change?

Let’s dive a bit further into some more accurate diagnoses of your businesses’ challenges. Do any of these sound familiar?:

  • “People aren’t spending as much time in my shop as they used to.”
  • “There is more competition than there used to be. I don’t seem to stand out any more.”
  • “People aren’t responding to my businesses’ outreach and I don’t get as many sales inquiries.”
  • “I don’t get any customers from referrals. People only seem to find us through Google.”

Put pen to paper and list the things your business is struggling with. This will help you to get to the heart of the problem. This is also a great opportunity to ask your colleagues, staff, and even customers for feedback. 

From there you can start to see some themes emerge like:

  • Cash flow 
  • Product/service quality
  • Product differentiation 
  • Available on-hand support
  • Staff skill level
  • Marketing budget

Of course, you’re going to have limitations on how much you can improve. It’s not economically viable to throw more and more people or resources at an issue until it’s solved. And you don’t have an infinite amount of time available. Establishing good tactics is about identifying your restrictions and limitations. It’s painful, but it’s a start. 

2. A guiding policy

This stage is all about identifying what approach will have the highest impact in overcoming the problems you identified in the last step. When it comes to marketing, problems typically fall into five different buckets: 

  • Brand awareness
  • Purchase consideration
  • Purchase decision
  • Loyalty and retention
  • Customer advocacy


Problem statements such as “There’s too much competition,” “I don’t know my USP,” and “People don’t know about my business’ latest deals” relate to brand awareness. If your problem statement relates to attracting new customers, it probably has to do with awareness. 



During your diagnosis, did you have statements like “People are visiting my site but they don’t seem to spend long there,” or “People aren’t signing up for my newsletter”? If you’re struggling to convert prospects to leads, you’re probably stuck in the consideration stage. 

Purchase decision

“People look around in my shop but they don’t buy” is an issue related to your customers coming to a purchase decision. It’s a failure directly in the process of converting a lead to a sale. 

Loyalty and retention

“People only buy from us once,” and “Customers don’t engage with our emails,” are issues of loyalty and retention. This might be okay for some businesses if there is a natural churn built in. For example, holiday lets. Most people tend not to visit the same place over and over again. For most businesses though, loyalty and customer engagement matters. 

Loyal customers are precious and repeat customers spend 33% more than new customers. 


If you’ve found issues such as “My current customers don’t refer others to my business,” it’s likely an issue of advocacy. This relates to your current customers not promoting your brand to potential prospects. 

3. Coherent actions

Rumelt’s final step is planning out your plan of attack. It’s about the steps that are coordinated with one another to support the accomplishment of the guiding policy.

These actions that you take are essentially your tactics and how you plan to improve your business’ situation. Our next post will cover these small business tactics and how your business can maximize the use of your current resources to achieve the goals identified during the diagnosis process. Tune in for that next week!  

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