The world of digital marketing for small business is in upheaval. Rapid change is the name of the game and privacy concerns, data breaches, and the mysterious mechanics of algorithms have plagued the industry in recent times that is why it is best to know modern rules of digital marketing for small business owners.
But for businesses, using digital marketing to connect with customers has never been more crucial. It just means it’s imperative to do so in an ethical way. Through building trust and delivering value, businesses can harness digital marketing to drive sales and retention, resulting in a win-win situation.
Digital Marketing for All Budgets
Digital marketing channels are measurable and generally produce higher ROI. Whether you’re a coach, consultant, or small business owner, an online presence is a must in 2019. In fact, digital marketing for small business owners is what will enable you to target your most ideal clients and get the most out of your marketing efforts and budget.
Today, businesses now have access to tools and data that even the biggest corporates could never have dreamed of just a few years ago. However, in this democratic landscape, STRATEGY is what will set the winners apart.
So how do you create a winning digital marketing strategy?
Set Your Vision
First, as any digital marketing agency will tell you, it’s crucial to identify your target audience. Who is your ideal client? Where do they congregate online? Targeting is an essential component of all digital marketing campaigns. Determine who it is you are marketing to and tailor your marketing accordingly.
The second golden rule of digital marketing for small business owners is to set tangible goals and monitor your performance. The beauty of digital marketing is that you can track and measure the performance of all of your activities.
If you don’t know how your content is performing, what’s the point? Look at the metrics and adapt your strategy as needed.
Digital Marketing for Small Business – Choose Your Tools Wisely
Digital marketing tools are only as effective as the people using them. It’s more important to choose the tools that meet your needs and that you can navigate, than tools with all the bells and whistles. There’s no sense in having access to a million powerful features that you don’t actually use.
It’s fine to start small and simple, and scale up as your goals and requirements evolve. Whether it’s the platform that powers your website, your email marketing software, or social media management tool – always go for usability over flashiness. It’s easy to be swayed by exciting possibilities, but don’t be dazzled by sales pitches.
Digital Marketing Channels for Small Businesses
You don’t have time to be everywhere all the time, but the good news is you don’t have to be!
To maximise engagement and ROI from your target audience, focus on the digital marketing channels where your key audiences are. If your target clients are mid-career professionals, focus on LinkedIn over Pinterest, for example. Fish in the right pools to maximise your investment. Keep this in mind if you want to success in digital marketing for small business owners
Polish Up Your Website
The first place to start is with your own website. Owning your own domain is crucial. Relying on social media or other third-party sites puts you at the mercy of someone else, and that’s not a foundation to build a business on. Think of your website as your home base, your shop front – the place where someone would go to get a sense of what you offer and why they might choose you over a competitor.
Your website should reflect your points of differentiation and tell a compelling story that captures visitors’ attention, as well as outlining the services or products you offer. This is your best chance to convert a lead. Make it easy for someone to buy from you, sign up for your lead magnet, book a consultation call, or whatever makes the most sense for your business. Optimise your website to encourage users to take the desired action.
The Rise of Browser Push Notifications
Perhaps due to the rise of mobile push notifications, web-based push notifications have also become mainstream of late. Browser push notifications operate in the same fashion, and can be used to re-engage visitors with a direct invitation to return. You may want to alert someone to your latest blog post, or to the fact that they didn’t complete their online booking. This is a very new strategy on digital marketing for small business owners
SEO: The Backbone of Your Web Traffic
Search engine optimisation refers to optimising the content and technical set-up of your website so that it appears high up in the results when somebody searches for products, services, or information related to your business. Organic search is a key driver of traffic to any website. It’s important to indicate to Google that you are an authority in your industry. Signals that Google takes into account include backlinks (other websites linking to your website), SSL certification (security), and up-to-date, quality content. So be sure to review your web content on a regular basis. Highlight your relevant qualifications and publish articles on topics that demonstrate your expertise in the field. If your business is highly location-specific, try targeting hyperlocal search terms. You might even try creating landing pages tailored to certain regions for this purpose.
As voice search gains popularity, it will become increasingly important to adapt your web content for conversational search queries that originate through smartphones and smart speakers. Verbal searches tend to be more oriented towards highly granular questions. For example, in this context, people may be more likely to request information about location, price, time, and similar details all in a single search, compared to a more traditional text-based search. And voice search results may only deliver one or two suggestions, compared to endless pages on a browser.
It’s also important to ensure your website is fast and mobile-friendly to avoid being penalised in search rankings and to provide a positive user experience for your visitors. Otherwise, your website performance will suffer the consequences. A digital marketing agency can help you get the technical aspects of SEO sorted. Getting a digital marketing agency is one of the best way on how you can be successful in digital marketing for small business owners.
Ensure your website is optimised for search and for mobile users
– both important types of traffic sources. Photo: Burst by Shopify
SEM: The Other Side of The Coin
While SEO relates to attracting free traffic from Google, search engine marketing is about optimising paid search engine traffic. SEM is a form of pay-per-click advertising. Text-based ads are displayed on search result pages along with organic content. You pay each time someone clicks on one of your ads (but not if your ad is displayed but not clicked).
When setting up your campaigns, you can dictate when you want your ads to appear, based on the search terms and types of users you wish to target. AdWords can offer local businesses a particularly effective avenue to reach prospects. You can use location extensions, link to your Google business page or include your phone number for extra local cred.
Competition can be fierce in certain niches and clicks in those industries can be highly expensive – think hundreds of dollars a click. Competition is very common in digital marketing for small business owners. SEM can be a highly effective digital marketing channel for some, but for others it’s not an efficient use of a marketing budget. This is one area where getting expert advice before diving in can really pay off, and outsourcing campaign management to a digital marketing agency is often a sound investment.
Third-Party E-Commerce Platforms
For those in the business of selling physical products, marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy can provide another avenue for marketing and sales. These sites enjoy enormous amounts of traffic, with visitors ready to buy there and then.
For those with service or knowledge-based offers, teaching a course on a platform like Udemy or Skillshare can be a great way to establish your expertise and enhance your reputation in the field. Then there are even more specific platforms like Oneflare or Hipages designed to connect tradies with customers, or UberEats to connect restaurants and customers.
Claim Your Online Listings
Consider setting your business up on directories like Foursquare, Yelp, and Google My Business. This adds credibility, associates your business with a specific address, and creates another way for people to find you online. For example, a Google My Business listing makes it easy for someone to call, message, find directions or see reviews.
But be careful not to forget about these accounts. These profiles can quickly get out of date. Schedule in regular time to maintain these third-party pages and update them as necessary. When it comes to digital marketing for small business, it’s well worth tending to your presence on these platforms.
Get Those Testimonials Flowing
Don’t wait around hoping that reviews will flow in from your clients. Be proactive about asking for testimonials. You can even build this into the follow-up process after you conclude a project, and add a call-to-action in your email signature. You can then add direct quotes from satisfied customers to your website, to your email communications, and more.
It’s also relatively friction-less for clients to leave a review or rating via Facebook, Google, Yelp, etc. But again, it’s up to you to make that request. People are busy and have plenty of other priorities! But keep in mind that testimonials or reviews are greatly essential in digital marketing for small business owners.
Encourage everyone to leave you feedback, so that prospective future customers can check out those positive reviews to help them make the right choice. Photo: Burst by Shopify
Is Display Advertising Still Worthwhile?
Traditional display banner ads still have a role to play in building brand awareness and reach. It’s quick and easy to set up a campaign on the Google Display Network, and choose which types of websites or which types of people you’d like your ads to be shown. Retargeting should also form part of any display campaign, targeting users who visited your website but didn’t convert, and encouraging them to return.
There are countless combinations of ad formats, sizes, and styles you can make use of. Static ads require you to design each individual version, while dynamic ads are smart ads that automatically adapt based on where they appear (for example, desktop website, mobile website, app) in exchange for you relinquishing a certain degree of control over how they look.
That said, display ads are often ignored by users (ever heard of the term “banner blindness”?) and click-through rates are typically below 1 percent. What’s more, a growing number of people are using ad blockers to browse the web and never even see ads on the websites they visit.
The Importance of Email Marketing
Email is one of the best ways to reach people and build a relationship over time. But it goes way beyond bombarding your list with sales messages or dull newsletters. Deliver consistent, relevant content that enriches your brand story and speaks to your customers’ key desires and needs, in order to stay top of mind. Use email to share more about yourself, to answer key questions that are top of mind for your audience, and provide as much value as possible to nurture a connection.
You can send targeted campaigns to better increase your ROI (in other words, only sending content to relevant recipients). The more you know about your subscribers, the more you can personalise your email efforts. Marketing automation platforms make it easy to set up regular welcome email sequences, sales funnels, and other types of campaigns based on action triggers or user demographics.
Jumping on the podcasts wave…While the podcast has been around for many years, this format has really surged to prominence in recent times. Apple has its own built-in app for podcasts, and podcasts have also recently come to Spotify.
According to ABC research, 86% of Australians are now aware of podcasts. Podcast listening increased over 50% between 2016 and 2017, and regular listeners spend nearly an hour a week consuming podcasts.
From a marketing perspective, there are several opportunities to capitalise on the rise of the podcast. At one end of the spectrum, there may be advertising opportunities available on relevant podcasts that target your niche, which enable you to reach your ideal client in a different way. Or some of those podcasts may accept guests – so you could pitch yourself as an interviewee, giving you exposure in exchange for nothing but your time. This gives you a chance to share your story, raise your profile, and weave in some subtle self-promotion along the way. Offering listeners a unique promo code or freebie enables you to directly track some of the ROI from that particular podcast.
At the other end of the scale, you might consider starting up your own podcast. If you can create audio content that is educational and ideally entertaining to boot, you might have a winning formula on your hands.
While podcasts aren’t something to embark on upon a whim and aren’t right for everyone, they are a great medium for anyone whose strengths lie in expressing themselves through speaking. Photo: Burst by Shopify
Chat and Instant Messaging
Direct and private messaging accounts for more and more of our screen time these days. According to Statista, there are now 11 million Australians using messaging apps. Naturally, digital marketers have embraced chat as a channel.
According to Dave Chaffey on Smart Insights, the increased use of Messenger on Facebook (which also owns WhatsApp) is a huge opportunity.
“The latest statistics from Facebook show the importance of Messenger: with 1.3 billion people use Messenger every month; 8 billion messages exchanged between people and businesses every month and 78% of people with smartphones using messaging every month. As well as targeted sponsored ads, use of Messenger for conversations is a major trend. Nike has one of the most advanced commercial chat applications and well used implementations I have seen that is worth checking out.”
Chatbots are popping up everywhere, from websites to within social media. They can serve a variety of purposes, from providing customer support to taking product orders to running sales funnels. But most often they are used to answer straightforward questions or carry out simple self-service functions.
As natural language processing is still in its infancy, many bots are not that intuitive and are restricted to fairly rote, scripted responses. Keeping their scope limited to simple interactions, queries and tasks is the best way to set realistic customer expectations.
You don’t need to be a coder, or to have an in-house development team, to set up a bot. Platforms like Chatfuel can help even small business owners build a simple Messenger bot to augment your digital marketing strategy.
An Intro to Social Media Marketing
Some social networks will be ideal for you to market on, and others will not. To succeed with social media marketing, you must understand the nuances of each social network you use. Adapt and tailor your practices accordingly for each channel.
The features and audiences on TikTok have little in common with those of LinkedIn, for example. Norms and language that are commonplace on Twitter don’t fly on Snapchat. Reddit and YouTube serve vastly different purposes. And while Facebook owns Instagram, the two platforms are definitely not interchangeable. Identify where you should be playing, create and publish consistent content, and commit to a regular rhythm to build your presence (an editorial calendar can help keep you on track).
Before you start to get your head around the finer details of groups, hashtags, posts, DMs, polls, GIFs, reactions, and all the rest of it – one major thing to wrap your mind around is the nature of algorithms. These drive what users see in their feeds and personalises each individual’s experience.
So not everyone who follows you will see all of your content; in fact, only a tiny minority will. And as organic reach has continued to decline, paid social media advertising options have matured quickly. Sponsored posts and ads are now part of the everyday experience, allowing businesses to hone in on their target customers with laser precision.
What’s more, the social media space is constantly changing. New features are being released all the time, such as shopping features on Instagram and Pinterest that will benefit online retailers. Keeping on top of the latest developments is essential if your digital marketing strategy is to keep pace. This is where a digital marketing agency can excel, providing tips on how to leverage the current trends.
Tapping Into Influencer Marketing
Social media is all about connections, social proof, personal recommendations and word-of-mouth. While paid ad campaigns can be highly effective, leveraging influencers with an existing following can be a winning strategy. They don’t have to be celebrities with millions of fans.
Teaming up with a micro-influencer with a smaller but highly engaged audience in the thousands or tens of thousands can be even more effective. It’s most common for influencers to incorporate a brand into their regular content. However, you can also arrange a social media ‘takeover’ where an influencer runs your social media accounts for a day, encouraging their followers to follow your account as well, and bring their audience to you in that way.
As social media algorithms continue to prioritise person-to-person interactions over brand interactions, the popularity of using influencers to spread the word has remained steady. In a B2B context, partnering with complementary affiliates can dramatically increase your reach and number of qualified prospects. The key is to find someone who is authentically aligned with your mission and vision, not a direct competitor, and who resonates with your target customer.
You can either engage a digital marketing agency to manage influencer relationships on your behalf, or liaise directly with individual influencers yourself. Photo: Burst by Shopify
Video Marketing Isn’t Going Anywhere
Currently, 75% of video is watched on mobile and by 2022, online video will make up over 80% of internet traffic. Fortunately, you don’t need professional production talent to tap into the power of video marketing. Tools like Biteable and Powtoon put video creation within reach of anyone with a computer.
When it comes to digital marketing for small business, here are just a few types of videos you can create in 2019 on your own or with help from a digital marketing agency:
– How-to videos
– Product demos
– Customer testimonials
– Behind the scenes videos
– Event videos
– Live video – the fastest-growing media
Live streamed content is perhaps the easiest type of video content to get started with. It’s free to create (all you need is your smartphone), doesn’t require editing, and offers the potential for real-time engagement. You can broadcast from anywhere, delivering thought leadership straight to camera, offering an insight into your company culture, interviewing other people … the opportunities are almost endless.
Writing for Digital Doughnut, Rick Barron outlines how the live video function has changed the game for businesses. “Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have laid the perfect foundation for brands to make the most of their marketing and advertising endeavors through the ‘Live Video feature’. The biggest benefactors have been e-commerce brands as they can promote product descriptions, and demo tutorials in a more effective way.”
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Marketing
AR offers businesses a way to combine the real world with an additional layer of digital content, bringing their offer to life in a more tangible way. This is particularly useful for those that sell physical goods. Think fashion and beauty brands that allow users to virtually “try on” their products and see how they would look. If people can visualise the effect, they’re more likely to purchase.
VR is about crafting an all immersive digital experience that feels just like the real thing (usually by way of a special headset). Typically reserved for those with big budgets, a great example of VR in use is by travel and tourism brands, showcasing destinations to potential travellers and inspiring them to plan their next holiday.
VR and AR are relatively major undertakings, so it’s best to take them on with
support from a specialist digital marketing agency. Photo: Burst by Shopify
Digital Marketing for Small Business Owners – It’s All About Content
As you’ll have observed in all of these trends so far, the common thread is the importance of content. Content is central to any digital marketing strategy. So what do you need to know about creating outstanding digital content?
– Make your content unique. Unique content is the only content that stands out in today’s crowded landscape. Create your own point of view and stay true to it.
– Choose the right formats. Think beyond blogs/plain text and branch out into images, animations, infographics, videos, and other forms of content. Tailor these to the channel in which they will be distributed (for example, videos for Instagram should be square or vertical).
– Be relevant. It’s critical to understand your audience and create content that resonates. Otherwise, your efforts will go ignored. Be responsive and do more of what works, while scaling back on content that falls flat.
– Take some creative risks. Experimentation is the name of the game. But stay true to your brand mission and identity.
Digital Marketing is About Constant Experimentation
Social media makes it easy to try new things and see what sticks. Different content formats, different publishing times, different target audiences … the sky’s the limit.
This culture of testing and optimisation should extend to all of your digital marketing efforts. In the email marketing space, you can test different subject lines and content to see which versions people open more or click on more. When it comes to your digital ads, create several variations using different copy and visuals, and upweight those that perform better. On your website, you can run similar tests using tools like Google Optimize or Optimizely. Try changing up headlines, CTAs, colours, images, layouts, and more to see what tweaks result in more sales. This is known as conversion rate optimisation, and is a common digital marketing agency service.
Digital Marketing for Small Business – Understanding Personalisation
The more you know about your customer, the more you can personalise content for them – in emails, on social media, in digital ads, even on your website. This goes way beyond simply dropping their name into an email.
Somewhat ironically, with the rise of marketing automation tools, you can build segments and rules to trigger personalised emails, product recommendations, and web content to increase the odds of reaching the right people in the right place, with the right message at the right time.
The more relevant your content, the more likely people are to engage and to act. As technology continues to improve, the easier it will be to implement personalisation as part of your digital marketing strategy.
Should You Hire a Digital Marketing Agency?
If you’re nodding your head and eager to get started in the exciting new world of digital marketing for small business, but don’t have the resources to dedicate to it – no problem. Hiring a digital marketing agency to support you just might be the smartest marketing investment you ever make.