Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, Shelley Mayer always felt the draw towards becoming an entrepreneur herself. In 2011, after ten years in national automotive sales and marketing, she made that dream come true by starting Ramp Communications. She loved the creative side of marketing and communications and was very interested in helping non-profit organizations and charities, so that is what inspired her to marry her two interested to start Ramp.

Ramp is a full service marketing and advertising agency that specializes in the social profit sector. They are a Certified B-Corporation that works with charities, non-profits, social enterprise, the public sector and organizations that measure success not only through profit but also by social impact. They provide strategic and creative services to help shape their clients’ brands and campaigns and also manage campaigns from concept through to execution and implementation.

Shelley is a leader in marketing and communications with her years of expertise working with a variety of different clients, so we thought we’d catch up with her to get some insight on marketing for small business.

What do you find to be the biggest challenge for new entrepreneurs and small businesses when it comes to marketing?

I think that really honing in on your most strategic target audience and pointing everything in that direction is a challenge for most entrepreneurs. There is a tendency to want to think that everybody is your client and most entrepreneurs have limited budgets so focus helps to use funds most efficiently.

If you were to recommend to a new entrepreneur to focus on one (or two) areas when it comes to their marketing what would they be? 

Well the tactics totally depend on the nature of the business and who your customer is, but I guess I would say to:

1) Get very clear on your customer and value proposition; ensure you know who is going to be most likely to buy your product or service and why they are going to buy from you.

2) Plan one tactic to reach that audience and measure your results before adapting and adjusting. I see a lot of people dilute their effort by trying to do too many different things and doing nothing effectively.

What are your suggestions for entrepreneurs that don’t have a marketing budget that allows them to hire experts or an agency? 

Building on my previous answer, I would say don’t spread yourself too thin, and really make sure that all your efforts are aimed at that specific ideal customer.

Branding is so critical in the first stages of building your business. Where do you suggest entrepreneurs start? 

Branding is a critical element and I think it is something to be invested in. But you can’t build your brand if you aren’t clear about who you are. Understanding the values that underlay your business, why you do what you do (your company’s purpose) and your vision for the future are important aspects to settle before you attempt to create a brand. The best brands reflect the essence of who they are at their core back to the world. With authentic values and a clear purpose in place, day-to-day business decisions become easier to make because they are informed by who you truly are as a business and your team can live the brand each day.

Social media/online marketing or traditional marketing tactics – where do you think is the best for small businesses to focus? Why? 

Digital tactics tend to scale better to a wide range of budgets. The barriers to entry are low and you can measure results relatively easily so you get immediate feedback about what is working. However, traditional tactics should not be overlooked as they offer a wider range of media types and placement options that can help you reach a mass audience effectively. Regardless of the tactic you choose, ensure your ads/communications reflect your brand, speak to your ideal client and communicate your main value proposition.

What’s your one piece of advice to aspiring or new entrepreneurs?

Spending time up front to think about your brand, target audience and main value proposition can save time and effort down the road, help you get your business/brand in front of the right people from the beginning, and keep your team, suppliers, and other stakeholders on track to be effective brand ambassadors.

To learn more about Ramp Communications, visit their website here.

Written by: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada