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Back to school marketing with Professor Beverly Barker

September has arrived. While that means back to school for kids up and down the country, it’s also a nice moment, for the sake of this intro at least, for entrepreneurs to reflect on how they might be able to build up their business skills. One integral part of any entrepreneur’s efforts, particularly online, is marketing. To help you swot up, we spoke to Professor Beverly Barker, a Lecturer in Advertising at Bournemouth University, to get her take on best practice basics and common mistakes small businesses can avoid.

How did you get started in marketing?

My first experience of marketing was when I was worked on Times Classified, liaising with numerous small businesses looking to promote themselves. I moved from there to Ogilvy & Mather, and later to Carat UK. Here I devised and implemented marketing campaigns for both small and large organisations.

Tell us a quick bit about your history of working with small businesses.

The majority of the small businesses that I worked with were either within the financial sector or tech. My core role has been to help them with the communications aspects of their marketing mix. How they present themselves, attract prospects and convert them to business.

Is marketing for small business a question of focusing on doing the basics well or can you be more adventurous?

Marketing for me is always about understanding what your customers want and ensuring that you deliver it well. Getting the basics of the product and service right, knowing what others are offering and making sure that you understand your competition. You need to know which segment of the market you are targeting and ensure that you offer a good service. Many small businesses offer the same or similar products – it is generally the service, the personal touch, and the people that differentiate the organisation. You know yourself that you prefer to buy a coffee from someone who is polite and friendly rather than from someone who is rude.

You prefer to buy a coffee from someone who is polite and friendly than from someone who is rude.

What advantages do small businesses have over larger businesses?

Small businesses are more personal, should be able to listen more, and be swifter to respond to changing needs. This is a huge competitive advantage.

What piece of marketing advice do you most regularly give to small businesses?

Listen to the prospects and customers. How can your products and services help them? Identify the benefits of your products and services, the range of skills you offer and how they can be adapted to resolve your customers’ problems.

People like to say that they are not influenced by advertising but it is impossible to buy something you don’t know about.

Is there a common marketing mistake you often see from small businesses?

1) Small businesses often lack confidence. They believe someone else somewhere will be doing it better, faster or cheaper. This often undermines how they promote themselves.

2) Similarly, many organisations believe that just because they are in business, customers will come knocking at the door. But it doesn’t happen. Whether you are having a festival, selling coffee or designing mobile apps, planned marketing communications, and the word of mouth generated by it, are vital to success.

People like to say that they are not influenced by advertising or marcomms, but it is impossible to buy or use something you don’t know about – it’s just that we don’t buy or use everything we know about. You need to ensure that you promote your business in the appropriate way and that you can be found through a simple search.

School yourself better

Great stuff from Professor Barker there. If you fancy brushing up on your skills there are a lot of places that can help. We’ve compiled a list below of 3 great online schools offering a wide range of marketing courses to help your business on its way to online domination.

Future Learn

Future Learn provides free online courses as well as access to resources from institutions such as the British Library and the British Council. Head to the ‘online’ and ‘digital’ domains of their site to select courses such as ‘Digital Marketing: Challenges and Insights’, ‘Contract Management: Building relationships in business’ and ‘Intercultural communications’ – each course is facilitated by leading practitioners, experts and academics.


This world-renowned site’s blog posts are mini-seminars in online marketing best practice, as well as teaching you how to best navigate new trends and tools. In addition, the site runs over 30 courses around the country, but if you cannot make it in person, you can also learn online.


Udemy, is a leading online learning resource that promises to ‘help anyone learn anything’. An online emporium of learning, Udemy has over 30,000 courses and more than 6.5 million hours of educational video content to choose from. Some courses are free, while others range from a few pounds to a few hundred, but each course is flexible meaning you can work around your time.

For free, impartial business tech help and advice, why not book a session with an O2 Guru? They’re available online, in store and over the phone.

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