Attracting customers and maintaining a positive reputation are two core goals of any size business. With large companies, the foundations to accomplish those two goals can be spread out amongst a host of department and functional teams. In small companies, often the team can be a team of one. Yet, customers expect anyone competing for their business to have a standard baseline of resources from which to work.

Here are five challenges that small businesses often face within marketing communications along with tips on how to mitigate these challenges.

1. Target Audience Identification:

Defining and understanding the target audience’s preferences, behaviors, and needs can be difficult without a full scale audit, survey or constant data gathering. Without it, the result can be time and money wasted on ineffective messaging and campaigns. If you have a social media following, run a poll on the platform. See  these social media survey choices and pick the one where you have the largest following. Other survey platforms are available, like Google Forms or Survey Monkey, many for free depending on your needs and scope.  

2. Limited Budget:

Small businesses often have restricted financial resources, making it challenging to allocate sufficient funds for effective marketing and PR campaigns. Today, there are so many channels and digital platforms available to a company. Each one of those takes time and money to examine, implement and tweak along the way. Once you’ve determined your target audience, spend the time and money in media channels that are the closest match. More here about methods of budgeting, along with some other great tips aligned with my article. 

3. Branding Consistency:

Maintaining consistent branding across various marketing channels and PR efforts takes a consistent drive to avoid the shiny object, and stick with the stuff. Otherwise,  there is a lack of message continuity, and resulting momentum of a brand in the mind of the consumer if all those messages aren’t delivered consistently. Build yourself a brand kit, with all the colors you use for your brand, your logo, your style and so on. Decide a “look and feel”. Remember, by the time you are tired of looking at your brand, your audience starts remembering it and connecting with it. So don’t get bored with it. Most companies are very cautious when changing their brand, since a change can lead to a loss in brand equity.  More about branding consistency here.

4. Competition and Differentation

Standing out in a crowded market and effectively differentiating the business from competitors can be a struggle, impacting the ability to attract and retain customers. If businesses have a me-too product, then either price, placement (brick and mortar, online, through distributors) or promotion can be the differentiator. One aspect that I have seen entrepreneurs ignore is competition. “Nobody has anything like this” is almost always wrong. Competition is based someone making a choice. And the choice may be “do nothing”. Be honest and compare/contrast your offering with your competitors. Here are some ways to differentiate.

5. Social Media Management

While social media offers powerful marketing and PR opportunities, managing various platforms, creating engaging content, and handling negative comments can be time-consuming and overwhelming for small business owners, where the person handling social media is likely handling many other marketing tasks. It’s also easy to say the wrong thing on social and have a pile-on of negative comments. The same goes for online reviews. Put thought into your responses and your proactive posts — avoid a “knee-jerk” reaction. Sprout Social’s primer on social media management is a great read.

Addressing these challenges requires careful planning, creativity, and a willingness to adapt to changing circumstances. Small businesses can benefit from seeking outside assistance, such as hiring freelance professionals or agencies, to help them navigate these marketing communications and PR hurdles.

PART 2: Five More Marketing Challenges