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You have your business idea and you have your name. Maybe you even have a website and some customers. But what next? You know marketing will help you take this from your side gig to your big money maker, but with all of these online resources and gurus…where do you start? Lucky for you, I sat down with our team at Set Fire Creative and asked real marketing professionals what their top tips would be for a business owner looking to start their marketing. So here you have it, your Ultimate Marketing Checklist! 

The following points are listed in the order our team recommended them, but every point may not apply to you and your business. Read through and see what marketing strategies you might have overlooked.

1: Business Verification

A common misconception is that marketing is just coordinating colors and catchy copy, but it is really so much more. Marketing is the effective communication to your audience that you know and understand their needs AND you’re going to help them!

According to Kennadie, you need to consider your business model before starting your marketing. “If it’s a great idea but no one wants it – it’s not going to take off. Make sure it solves someone’s problem or it won’t work.”

It stands to reason that before starting your business, you should understand your audience and what they need from a service or good like yours. What pain points aren’t being addressed in this industry that your potential customers could tell you all about, if you only asked? This alone would make “Business Verification” number one on our business marketing checklist!

Additionally, verifying your business idea will help you find your audience and understand where they spend their time and money. This will help you more accurately choose the different marketing strategies you’ll want to use in the future.

“Know your audience. Know where your audience hangs out online, hangs out socially. You gotta know where your audience is at and how to engage them. And you gotta make sure there is demand.”- Matt Loveland

There are many ways to start this research. You can build buyer personas, interview potential customers, or set up a survey. 

Whichever method you choose, you should know who your potential customer is, where they shop, what their stresses are (specifically in regards to your industry), and how you will best solve that for them.

Additionally, you’ll also want to incorporate some research into any digital marketing strategies you’d like to consider. Matt recommends starting with “Audience research on Facebook and keyword testing on Google.”

And remember; starting a business isn’t for the faint or flighty of heart! 

Businesses take significant time and resource investments to get them off the ground. Kennadie’s advice is that “You better love it because if you’re going to pursue it you better be ready to invest in your business and spend some money.”

2: Branding

If you ask our founder, McCain what the number one marketing strategy business owners neglect, he’ll tell you it’s “Branding. A lot of companies try to rush from a-z real fast, throwing up a website with poor copy, and then they want to go straight to ads. That’s where a lot of business owners go wrong. Figure out your brand. Figure out your message. And then figure out your target demographic and from there stick it on your website.”

Think of it this way; your brand is the impression your potential customer is left with regarding your business. Your brand is how your business is perceived, it’s the first and lasting impression you’ll be giving prospective clients and as such, it warrants more than just a passing thought about your color scheme.

Consider your brand’s personality, the messaging, what makes it memorable, what makes it relatable. Defining your brand will help inform all of your other marketing strategies in the future. From what kind of emojis you’ll use in your social media to how often your email newsletter goes out to what your website looks like, your brand matters in how you communicate with your customers.

3: SEO

I think it’s safe to say that SEO is now considered the boring “nutritional” option in the marketing world. It’s something every business knows they need, but too many ignore because there are easier, more appealing strategies that could bring faster results. 

But just like healthy eating, when it comes to starting a business “Basic on-page SEO is going to be important.” That’s Dale’s recommendation. He also says that, unlike other digital marketing strategies, “It’s a free option, it’s not terribly difficult to do, but it can make a huge difference. You can start seeing results pretty fast just by targeting the right keywords.”

“Everyone thinks SEO is a long-game strategy – and it is, but first of all, that’s where you see the most gains and it can have short-term results.” 

Long-term gains?

SHORT-term results?!


Of course, SEO makes a star appearance on our marketing checklist!

4: Organic Social

Let’s be honest, I knew I was going to include organic social media on this checklist and so did you. How can a business market today without some sort of presence on social media?

As Cayden so eloquently wrote in his blog, “Social media has quickly become one of the most effective and engaging mediums for advertising in this day and age and it’s not hard to see why. With billions of monthly users on nearly every major platform, it is without a doubt the best place to advertise if you’re looking to get the maximum number of eyes on your brand. “ 

That being said, not every social media platform is meant for every business. This is why Celia recommends businesses, “Research and decide which social platforms will work best for your brand. Then start using it, learning it, keep up with best practices, and that will really help you build your brand’s personality.” 

Choose a viable platform and play on it! Like Celia says, spend some time getting to know the platform. Experiment with it and all its capabilities and you’ll not only find your brand voice in doing so, but you’ll also discover what really resonates with your audience.

5: Ads

While definitely not a requirement to start your business, nothing really sets fire to your marketing like a rock-solid ad strategy! And whether it’s Google or a social media ad strategy, there are a few things to keep in mind:


Celia urges small or new businesses to “Do your research [first]. Choose one and stick with it, start small and scale.” You don’t have to spend like crazy as you get started. Scaling is a very real possibility with ads! Which goes hand in hand with Matt’s first piece of advice for those new to advertising. He adds, “I can’t stress this enough—you need to know what you can afford to spend on advertising before launching your business. “ 


Keep in mind as you get started that all digital ad platforms require…some assembly. “Facebook ads manager, just like a couch from Ikea, requires some setting up first before it can do its job. “ – Dale. If your business sells physical products, Dale also advises that “ you will… need to set up a product catalog. A catalog is a great way to expedite the buying process for those who see your ads.” Both Facebook and Google offer their own versions and both are worth considering.


Last but not least, it’s important to remember that while popular and extremely helpful, digital advertising platforms are frequently changing. 

For example, Facebook’s most recent cataclysmic change regarding the iOS 14 updates changed how advertisers can reach and target iOS users using Facebook’s products. Abe wrote an excellent blog detailing what the update was and how it would affect ads if you’d like to learn more. The most important takeaway from this change was that these platforms can and will change as they feel. If you’re going to use these tools, you need to be aware and be prepared.

6: Content Marketing

Another commonly overlooked marketing strategy for new businesses is content marketing!

Now, the term “content marketing” is more of an umbrella term for a variety of mediums, but the idea is to create a long-term strategy to deliver valuable content (in various forms) to your audience. It’s important to remember the keyword is “valuable”. 

As Matt said, when it comes to content marketing it really “… depends on the content you make: it has to be relatable and attractive. This content has to be able to pull in visitors, and it has to be shared easily. Popular forms of content marketing include free reports, video tutorials, “how-to” documents, blogs, infographics, podcasts, and other informative content.”

Blogging may be one of the simplest and most versatile means to start your content marketing strategy. For example, according to McCain, “A blog is your company’s way of providing free advice and information to your current and future customers. This builds trust with your audience and positions your employees as thought leaders in the industry. Whether you’re an eCommerce shop or a law firm, a company blog should be a piece of your digital marketing strategy.” 

If that doesn’t convince you, Matt also has“… a not-so-secret secret: a blog is an SEO goldmine.” It’s true! Blogs specifically, (but also other forms of content marketing) aren’t just another way to share information with your prospective customers – they’re also an excellent way to boost your SEO! Blogs also play nicely with other formats and can be the perfect jumping-off point for your overall content marketing strategy. You can repurpose blogs for video content, organic social media, or use them to build funnels for your ad strategies.

7: Help

And last, but certainly not least, one of the things that should be on any business marketing checklist is considering the help you need to run, analyze, and strategize your marketing. Running a business is hard by itself; day to day operations, long-term planning, shipments, customer service, invoicing…it’s a lot to do. And small business owners often wear most if not all the hats in their companies, which is why we’ve put “Help” on this list.

Having someone in-office help with marketing definitely has its perks, but it’s often more affordable to partner with an agency. Not only that, but while an employee may have many strengths, they most likely have one or two focuses. Agencies can offer you a wide variety of services or credible partners they work with to give you laser-focused skills on the marketing strategies you need most.

If you are considering outsourcing to an agency, Celia’s tip is to“…take into consideration the size of the firm and the difference that will make in terms of your experience.” 

At the end of the day, whichever marketing strategy fits your business’s needs, you have to remember that it’s all a long-term process. Mariam’s number one piece of advice to all business owners new to marketing is that “Patience and flexibility are needed … Results may not happen overnight” Remember, each strategy on this list will take time to set up, find your groove, and to begin seeing results. 

If you need help deciding where or how to start, reach out today and we’d be happy to help!