“What a lot of successful businesses get right is getting their marketing down pat before their launch and then sticking to it for a few years before rebranding.”

Are you missing a marketing opportunity and paying the price? A selection of leading small business owners spoke to SmartCompany about running a successful business, sharing the most valuable lessons they have learnt along the way.

Lesson 1: Don’t blow your budget

Once a professional ballet dancer, Alexandra Mills is now the chief executive of a suite of brands owned by eCommerce group AussieCommerce, including The Home, Brands Exclusive and TheActive. Last year, AussieCommerce recorded statutory revenue of more than $100 million.

“The difference between us and our competitors, who still make large losses, is marketing spend. They’re spending millions on marketing, and we’re not,” she says. “The key, basic principle of marketing is having the right product at the right price. People talk about it. Someone’s going to tell someone if you’ve got a good offering.”

Mills also focuses on quality content marketing to give people another reason to come to the site.

Lesson 2: Establish your point of difference

Lucy Glade-Wright co-founded homewares business Hunting for George with her sister, Jo Harris, in 2010. They first noticed an improvement in growth when they decided to sell their own-design products online: “People engaged with us because we were doing something different.”

Glade-Wright also believes businesses should make their unique offering clear on their website, so people understand who they are and what they stand for.

“That’s something I suggest people do if they’re just starting out. If you’re using a [website] template, think of how you can make that your own rather than turning it into a cookie cutter website,” she says. “You need to be able to find that point of difference to keep going.”

The team are strategic with how they spend their marketing budget, and have found the most effective ROI comes from targeted Facebook campaigns that are fun and innovative, and that their audience find instantly engaging.

Lesson 3: Invest in branding

Chris Thomson, co-founder of Noosa Chocolate Factory – named number seven in the SmartCompany Smart50 awards last year, says you should invest in good branding in the first few months before you begin expansion and start opening up more stores.

“If you have multiple stores and are changing the signage and labelling, it can be very expensive,” he says. “I did it all myself and, looking back, it would have been a lot easier to pay someone $15,000 to get it all sorted.

“What a lot of successful businesses get right is getting their marketing down pat before their launch and then sticking to it for a few years before rebranding.”

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