Some marketing tactics work well for small businesses, and some don’t. A critical caveat: which tactics work best always depends on your ideal customers, your business, and your ability to execute. While there are exceptions to every rule, the guidelines below hold true for most small businesses.

1. Advertising. It takes a well-trained, experienced marketer to guide the creation of an effective ad and to buy ad space that delivers. Without these two components, you’re throwing your money away. Please, no more art-directing your own ads. No funds to outsource ad creation and media buys? Consider high-ROI email instead.

2. PR. Same as advertising: it takes an expert to run a strategic PR campaign to deliver exactly what you need. Unless you’re willing to set aside running your business to learn how to become a PR guru, don’t do this on your own. Instead, consider securing speaking engagements where your target audience gathers: trade and professional associations.

3. Events. Large events, when needed, can be cost-effectively outsourced to a professional event planner. We’re happy to recommend a few rock stars. Done in-house, though, large events frequently lose money. Instead, consider smaller, more targeted events – open houses, small-scale celebrations, breakfasts or lunches – to grow your pool of potential clients.

Make your marketing dollars even work harder by avoiding these all-too-common mistakes:

  • Daily discount emails. You’re usually paid 30% or less of your front-line price and attract one-time, price-conscious (cheap) customers. Ugh. There is a reason that Groupon and LivingSocial are struggling.
  • Heavy investment in social media. Instead, consider low-cost, narrowly-targeted campaigns. If you’re not sure where to focus, Facebook often performs best for selling directly to consumers, LinkedIn for B2B.
  • SEO and Google AdWords. Tough to do well, these often need an expert or a high-investment, intensive plan and attract less-informed, price-conscious customers.

Instead, consider our list of which marketing tactics are most effective for small businesses. Or, if you’d like to talk through which tactics will or won’t work for your business, email or call to set up a 15-minute discussion of what to keep and what to cut.