You’ve encountered the hurdle that so many small and medium-sized businesses face: marketing your product or service to make it a success.

Essential Exposure

“The first step is to be crystal clear about what you provide and who you provide it for,” says Ryan Poissant, Advisor, IT, Communications and Entertainment at MaRS Discovery District.

“Small businesses need to work out who their customer is and how they should be communicating in order to translate a crisp value proposition for them.”

“Small businesses need to work out who their customer is and how they should be communicating in order to translate a crisp value proposition for them.”

Use the web

The Internet is a tool that provides unprecedented, low cost opportunities for businesses to spread their message and reach out directly to prospective customers. But, it’s not just about having an online presence; you need to be authentic and consistent with your mission, vision and values.

“The ability to reach people online is unparalleled,” explains Poissant.  “A webpage is a storefront that never closes.”

It’s important to communicate with current customers, to find out who they are and why they like to do business with you. What is it that you’re doing for them; and what is it about their characteristics that makes them part of your customer base?

“When you have worked out the traits of your customers, you can use tools that allow you to reach out to people who are similar,” says Poissant.

“Those tools include simple AdWord buying on Google, posting in the right place on Facebook and understanding and listening to what’s happening on LinkedIn or Twitter.”

“The ability to reach people online is unparalleled.  A webpage is a storefront that never closes.”

Don’t ignore traditional methods

But, don’t make the mistake of thinking that all of your marketing needs have to be focused online.

“Get yourself out there so that the public notices you in a positive way, whichever way you can do it,” explains Ron Buist, Marketing Guru and inventor of Tim Hortons’ ‘Roll Up The Rim To Win’ campaign.

“I have leaflets coming into my house through the mail on a daily basis, and for those companies, it can be great exposure.”


Video Credit: MaRS Discovery District

Buist tells the story of a time that he received a leaflet in his letterbox from a local man advertising his services as a computer technician. It just so happened that Buist was having computer problems at the time.

“The fellow had just started out in Canada and had trouble speaking English, but he was brilliant with computers. He offered a service to my door, he had to the ability to carry it out, and away we went,” says Buist.

“There are different ways of getting exposure. It just takes one or two positive people and then your story will spread by word of mouth, which is still one of the best forms or advertising.”

“Marketing is everything, because – if you’ve got a strong product or service – it’ll be the marketing execution that’s either going to make you a winner or a loser in the marketplace.”

Think outside the box

Making contacts with other organizations or entrepreneurs in your sector is an effective way of spreading the word about what your company is doing and of getting a sense of where your sector is heading. 

“We tell our young companies to get involved with the trade associations and the workshops and seminars in which people in their niche are involved,” says Tom Corr, President and CEO of Ontario Centre's of Excellence.

Most start-ups and small businesses have limited financial resources and won’t necessarily be in a position to pay a full-time marketing specialist.

“Even if this is the case, you still need somebody who is integrated right into the company and into the marketing role,” explains Corr.  “Marketing is everything, because – if you’ve got a strong product or service – it’ll be the marketing execution that’s either going to make you a winner or a loser in the marketplace.”