These digital strategies may be cost-effective and highly influential, but that doesn’t make them easy. Marketing of any kind is often more difficult for small businesses, who often lack the big budgets required for wide-reaching promotion.
To help you navigate the tricky world of small business marketing in a digital age, here are some dos and don’ts to consider.
Do go mobile
Smartphones are the future of online marketing. In 2016, smartphone browsing overtook computer internet activity for the first time. Today, recent studies found that 71 percent of total digital minutes in the U.S. were spent on mobile devices—even more in Mexico and Indonesia, where the totals are 75 percent and 91 percent, respectively.
Think about how often you check your phone on your coffee break, over lunch or at night before you go to sleep, and you’ll start to see why mobile marketing is so important—especially for small businesses, where it’s all the more important to engage with a niche audience. So, what can you take away from all this? Make sure your website is optimized for mobile and tablet devices, and consider including apps in your marketing strategy. Otherwise, you could lose custom.
Do have an internet marketing budget
There is no such thing as free marketing—free marketing that works, anyway. When it comes to business cards, flyers, and pamphlets, we expect to pay for the materials, but many people still view the internet as “free press.” The trouble is, the online marketplace is highly saturated, and the companies paying the big bucks tend to take up the most room. That’s not to say there’s no place for small businesses on the internet, there absolutely is, and every company has to start somewhere, but you shouldn’t expect your efforts to pay off unless you’re prepared to invest a little cash. You might now have the biggest budget, but this doesn’t matter. It’s more about how you spend your money than how much you invest.
Online marketing is still cheaper than traditional marketing, so work out if your money could be better spent working on your website and social media ads than on costly flyers and leaflets. Then, work out where your money would be best spent by examining your target audience and niche. For example, if you run a floristry business, you might decide that hiring a professional photographer and running Instagram ads are the best ways to spend your money. However, if you’re offering a professional service like accounting or design, you might be better off using target Facebook ads that link to an inquiry form. As with all things in life, you get what you pay for, and your internet marketing strategy is certainly a worthwhile investment if it brings you more business.
Do emphasize quality over quantity
This phrase gets thrown around a lot, but in the case of internet marketing, it really is true: quality over quantity will reap the best results. For one thing, your time costs you money, and if you’re spending hours creating blog posts that no one will see, you’re losing money. It’s not about putting lots of content out there; it’s about creating the right sort of content and targeting it to your niche audience. For this reason, it’s always best to properly plan your internet marketing strategy before you start creating content.
The “quality over quantity” approach also applies to your customer service efforts. You don’t necessarily have to respond to every Tweet or Facebook comment (although some companies do), but when you do get in touch, make it count. Customer engagement plays a vital part in a successful internet marketing strategy, so it’s not one you can afford to neglect. If you don’t have time to respond to your customer complaints and inquiries, you can hire a social media communications manager to take care of this for you.
Do hire a professional
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been handling your company’s marketing for years; internet marketing is a whole different ballgame. There are so many components to the practice that it’s become a specialty in its own right. Metrics, platforms, SEO, if these terms don’t mean anything to you then you have two options: to become an expert or to hire one. Most business owners don’t have the time to learn everything there is to know about online marketing, and there are certain skills (website design, content creation, and social media management, to name a few) that are often best outsourced to professionals.
If you have a limited budget or want to simplify your marketing processes, your best option is to hire a professional to take care of your complete internet marketing strategy. A professional digital marketing consultant will plan and execute a successful strategy based on your business ethos, target audience and USP (unique selling proposition). The right consultant will take control of your website and help you achieve better placement in search engine results, as well as executing successful social media strategies, taking care of your design needs and handling SEO and PPC management; some will also take care of email marketing and other communication needs.
Do measure results
There’s no use implementing any kind of marketing strategy unless you can find out whether or not it works. Internet marketing is time-consuming, so it’s important to track your efforts so you can see where your time and resources are best invested. Keep tabs on your engagement on social channels, your “conversion rate” (which is how many site visitors you turn into customers) and just about every other element of user behavior by using analytics software.
Do some research into the best data analysis tools or consult your digital marketing manager. If you hire an internet marketing expert, he or she should provide you with regular insights into how their strategy is performing, so make sure this is something you ask for at the start. It’s important to know exactly what’s going on in your business at all times, and online user behavior is no exception.
Don’t make uninformed decisions
When sending marketing materials out into the world, you need to make decisions based on actual data and not just make shots in the dark. For instance, you might know that your target consumer is a 24-30-year-old female who earns $25,000 a year, but do you also know what kinds of websites she visits, and what times she typically logs onto social media each day? If you don’t know specifics, you could end up throwing money down the drain, so spend some time properly researching your demographic and defining your target market before you spend so much as a dime on your marketing strategy.
Don’t ignore your competitors
As a small business, it’s vital that you keep a close eye on your competitors and what they’re doing in their own marketing departments. Find out what works and what doesn’t, and with any luck, you’ll avoid making mistakes by learning from theirs. Look at what they do consistently, such as email marketing, Facebook ads, daily tweets or blog posts: if they’re doing it regularly, that probably means it’s working, so perhaps it could work for you too.
It’s tempting to avoid direct competitors, especially if they’re doing well or they make us feel inadequate. However, as the adage goes, knowledge is power, and you cannot hope to make it in your industry unless you scrutinize what your competitors are doing and learn from the information you find.
Don’t copy another business
When researching your competitors, you’re bound to come across other companies you admire or even ideas you wish you’d come up with first. If a business is doing particularly well, it’s tempting to try and “borrow” elements that align with your vision, for instance, the conversational tone or their social media posts or a particular website layout. This is fine in theory, just make sure you keep your USP in mind and don’t be afraid to be different. If a business is doing well as they are, there probably isn’t much room in the market for another company offering the same service, unless you have a unique angle or something that makes you better, of course.
If you’re a local business, you may be competing with physical stores or outlets, in which case it’s probably more obvious what your USP is. Perhaps you provide faster service or offer free home delivery? Or maybe your product or service is simply more affordable and better quality.
Internet marketing isn’t east, but it can be extremely effective (even on a small budget), so long as you get it right. The key is to research your target consumer and scope out your competitors before planning a marketing strategy. Better yet, you could hire a professional who will lend their expertise and take the weight off your shoulders so you can get back to running your business.