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  • Writer's pictureErin Ratliff

The Hierarchy of Needs: A Guide for Small Brands and Businesses to Guide Marketing & Communications

Marketing and Communications are critical for the success of any business, but for many small brands and businesses, knowing where and how to focus your limited resources can be challenging.

Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs has taught us that basic human needs must be met before advancing to higher-level needs. The graphic starts with physiological needs (food, water, shelter) and progresses to safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy, businesses must address basic marketing needs before moving on to advanced strategies. Understanding the correct hierarchy of Marketing/Communications needs can help small businesses prioritize their time and resources create a structured and effective marketing plan that allows them to build a solid foundation and then scale up as they grow.

"Much like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a business must first meet its basic needs before it can focus on more advanced marketing strategies."

HubSpot Blog​

The Importance of a Plan

The best Marketing & Communications Plans include a set of clear guidelines and boundaries about what's critical and what's not. It outlines the brand/business and departmental Purpose, Priorities, and Actions.

It's a thorough, thoughtful and aligned resource for teams to use and refer to in order to help get out of constant "triage"and into focused, tunnel vision. It answers very clearly and proactively: 

  • What will move us closer to the goal?

  • What is the best use of our time and money?

  • What is considered not worthwhile, or potentially wasteful?

The 5 Levels of Your MarComms Hierarchy

Level 1: CORE FOUNDATIONS: Your Brand Identity & Message

At the base of the hierarchy is establishing a strong brand identity. This essential, foundational level is about making sure your brand is recognizable and conveys the right message to your target audience.

Don’t be the person or company who makes the mistake of skipping this step! So many do and then wonder why they're struggle to see results with marketing.

Your brand messaging is everything that you will market moving forward and will help you better attract, nurture, and convert your ideal client or customer.

  • Define & Articulate the following transformational statement: I help [ideal client] with [pain point] so they can [goal] without [frustration]

    • Who is your ideal client/niche?

    • How can they relate to you?

    • How do you help them specifically?

    • What is the purpose of your business and services?

    • Why should they take action and work with you vs someone else?  

  • Create a unique and memorable brand name

  • Write a clear mission statement and value proposition.

  • Define your brand’s voice and key messaging points

  • Design and create a logo and corresponding brand style guide with color palete, fonts, etc

  • Design and create brand collateral like business cards, letterhead, product packaging etc.

  • Research your market for keywords

  • Develop a simple, easy-to-navigate professional website with essential information about your business, plus analytics capabilities and strategic opt-ins.

Level 2. VISIBILITY: Establishing Digital Presence, Increasing Awareness & Reach

Once your brand identity is established, the next step is to make sure your target audience knows you exist. This involves increasing your brand’s visibility through various channels.

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): 

    • Onsite: Optimize your website to rank higher in local and national search engine results.

    • Offsite: Create relevant social media and business profiles to increase online visibility and backlinks.

  • Social Media Marketing:  Create a content calendar for planning and posting consistent and engaging content.

  • Content Marketing: Create valuable content (blogs, videos, infographics, ebooks) to attract and retain customers, educate the audience, and enhance SEO. Post regularly about topics relevant to your audience.

    • Further boost rankings with strategies like cross-linking, FAQ schema, backlink building, and aiming for featured snippets.

Level 3: ENGAGEMENT: Building Relationships & Community

With increased visibility, the next priority is engaging with your audience to build relationships and foster a sense of community. Engagement helps turn potential customers into loyal advocates.

  • Generate Leads: Use compelling CTAs on your website and in your gated and free content to drive sales (content specialist)

  • Capturing Leads: Use CRM email marketing tools to set up and manage email campaigns, with personalized, segmented newsletters or promotional emails. (specialist)

  • Interaction & Engagement: Create polls, quizzes, and interactive content to engage your audience, Respond promptly to inquiries, comments and messages, Promoting the brand, engaging with the audience, and building trust without being overly promotional.(engagement and customer service specialist)

Level 4. CONVERSION: Turning Prospects into Customers

Once you have engaged your audience, the next step is to focus on conversion strategies to turn interested prospects into paying customers.

  • Seasonal Promotions & Exclusive Offers: Extend special or limited time offers to drive loyalty, word-of-mouth referrals and purchases. Create targeted, optimized landing pages for specific campaigns or products.

  • Paid Media

    • Social Media Advertising: Affordable entry into advertising through boosting posts and running targeted campaigns.

    • Pay-Per-Click/Google Ads: Effective for targeting specific searches with dedicated landing pages and clear calls-to-action.

  • Alternative Brand Awareness: For businesses with larger budgets, investing in billboards, print ads, event sponsorships, TV/streaming ads, and radio ads. These may be d ifficult to track efficacy but crucial for long-term brand presence, especially during economic downturns.

Level 5. LOYALTY: Retaining Customers & Encouraging Repeat Business

The final level focuses on retaining customers and encouraging repeat business, which is crucial for long-term success and sustainability.

  • Customer Loyalty or Referral Programs: Implement loyalty programs to reward repeat customers or attract new leads.

  • Personalized Marketing:  Segment your email list to send personalized offers based on customer preferences. Use customer data to personalize marketing messages and offers.

  • Feedback and Improvement: Collect customer feedback and continuously improve your products and services.

"What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important."

Dwight D. Eisenhower

A Friendly Reminder

Each of these tasks, small and large, are complex and best left to seasoned professionals with the right training and experience.

When all of the marketing responsibilities fall to just one person, that person becomes spread thin - leading to burnout, missed opportunities, a lack of innovation and higher turnover.

A team approach is far more effective and sustainable, allowing for better idea generation, and the ability to handle the complexity and ever-changing demands of modern marketing.

Building a strong marketing team of creatives who bring together many diverse skills, perspectives, and expertise necessary to develop and execute an effective marketing plan from start to finish. This will look like...





Content creators



Project Managers

and potentially several others!

Wrapping It Up

By following a "Hierarchy of Needs" framework, small brands and businesses can create a structured, focused and prioritized marketing plan. A step-by-step approach ensures that your marketing efforts are strategic, effective, and scalable as your business grows.

The key is to build a strong foundation before advancing to more complex tactics. It starts with developing a strong brand identity, then increasing visibility, engaging with your audience, converting prospects, and finally, retaining customers.

Need help knowing where to focus your attention and resources? I'm here for you.


Erin Ratliff is a holistic business coach and organic growth & visibility marketer serving energy-sensitive, earth-loving, heart-led soul-preneurs, self-starters, and founders with the mission of personal and planetary healing.

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