Digital Marketing Guide for Small Businesses

Creating a digital marketing strategy is a crucial step for any small business. But it can be a difficult one as many small business owners aren’t sure of how to get started. Digital marketing, however, can be a perfect way to advertise your services, get a loyal following and grow your small business's brand beyond the borders of your location.

There are many components to a successful digital marketing strategy. Your own website, social media, the content you produce and more. However, if you really want to create a perfect digital marketing strategy, you have to understand digital marketing, what it has to offer and how it all blends together to allow success for brands.

So, here you have it - the guide to digital marketing.

Digital Marketing: What Is It?

Digital marketing means promoting and selling your products or services by using online marketing strategies that can help improve your chances of making a conversion. It is a subset of your broader small business marketing strategy. Online marketing strategies include social media marketing, email marketing and search engine optimization.

This is still marketing - just like you would have created and bought time for your TV commercial or advertised in the papers a few decades ago. It’s all about getting your messages and your products or services in front of your audience. However, digital marketing puts you at an advantage over traditional mediums because you get to choose who sees your messages and you get to adjust many more things in the process.

Therefore, the first rule of digital marketing is that you have to make your offers at the right time and in the right place. So, your customer is online, just hanging out or looking for something. But then you are there too, in those same channels, available to always make an offer, learn more about your customers or engage with them in any other way.

Now, digital marketing gets pretty scary to newcomers because it has so many components. However, take a closer look and you’ll see that it’s really not that complicated.

How Does Digital Marketing Work?

Most of the time, digital marketing strongly resembles traditional marketing. You basically do the same thing - look for prospective customers and build relationships with them in order to achieve conversions.

But, the ‘how’ has changed. Digital marketing is built to accommodate modern customers.

For instance, while you may have had to look for a service or a product in the papers or through recommendations in the past, now you would just Google what you need. Much easier, and more personalized.  The buying decision is made based on reviews you see online and all of the available information you have gathered in your research.

So, in order to have a business that actually produces results, you have to be online as well, no matter what you have to sell.

The key here is to place yourself and your messages in front of your customers in the channels they already frequent in order to connect with them. You can do this by:

  • Posting meaningful content that informs them, solves their problems or updates them
  • Optimizing your content so it can be easily found on the web (specifically in those situations when someone just Googles their problem or need)
  • Posting on social media to engage on a more personal level
  • Advertising to get paid traffic
  • Sending emails that can either inform or teach or simply follow up after a purchase

All of this is intertwined and works like a well-oiled machine to bring you traffic, engagement, exposure and yes - revenue.

What Are The Benefits Of Digital Marketing?

So, after learning all of that, you must be wondering what you get from investing all that time and effort into your digital marketing. Well, a lot:

  • Digital marketing helps you build awareness of your brand and engage with your target audiences before and after a purchase
  • Digital marketing can help you turn your customers into fans that will buy from you over and over again
  • Digital marketing makes it easier for your brand to grow through social media sharing and simple word-of-mouth
  • Digital marketing helps shorten the buyer’s journey by presenting your messages and offers at the right times

10 Digital Marketing Steps That Work

Digital marketing is one of the best things you will do for your business. However, you need to understand that digital marketing is also very fluid, dynamic and ever-changing. One day a tactic will work perfectly and then it won’t the next.

But, the basics have been established. The major components of digital marketing are set. Gurus and bloggers may promote a strategy like the new best quick fix but it doesn’t work that way.

What you need to do is focus on steady, stable foundations that have been used since the start and have proven successful in the past.

1. Understand Your Target Audience

Before you do anything else, you need to stop and be very sure of who your customers are. As a small business, you probably have some existing, happy customers. Now, ask them - how they learned about you, what made them convert, what they find valuable about you, what they value in brands in general.

If you are good at what you do, you will get plenty of stories about how your business solved their problems and how you got to improve their life. Gather demographics as well - age, gender, profession, roles in the household, profession, interests, most used social media channels and so on. All of this will help you learn who your customers are and how they behave online.

Then, in order to be able to send targeted messages, you need to create buyer personas based on the general segments that you want to target.

2. Plan It Out

Just showing up and throwing your messages out there doesn’t cut it. If you want to stay on top of your strategy and if you want to stay ahead of your competitors, you need to make a plan.

The only way to create a viable digital marketing plan is to base it on accurate data and then test your strategies. You need to consistently do things, test them and then track their success.

Sure, you can apply any of the following strategies willy-nilly but making informed marketing decisions is what will actually bring you results. This is where research comes into play. And it will take a lot of it before you even get started with digital marketing.

However, all of that will pay off big time once you actually start applying these strategies in a smart way and then testing and adjusting to your own audience.

3. Have a Website That’s Mobile Friendly

Having a website nowadays is not something you can avoid. And why would you? It’s your own corner of the web, the place where  your customers will ultimately land to make a purchase and how they will find you when searching for your type of product or service.

A professional website shows credibility as well. Building a website can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. The key here is for everything to look and work perfectly, to have great content and to be mobile-friendly.

Because, let’s face it - most people Google on their phones. Especially if they realize they need something and they just want to see what’s out there quickly. This means that the first interaction of your customers with your brand will be with the mobile version.

Your website needs to load quickly both on mobile and on desktop.

Having a blog is another useful strategy. This is the place where you can share problem-solving blog posts for your customers and get their engagement this way - you can establish yourself as an authority in your niche.

Blogs also boost your search engine optimisation (SEO) and can help your customer through the buyer’s journey. What is SEO? Read on!

4. Apply SEO

SEO is a range of actions you can take to increase the chances of your web pages appearing high in search engine results, in front of people searching for keywords related to your business.

There are several rules when it comes to SEO:

  • Do your keyword research, pick good keywords and use them appropriately in your content
  • Your chosen keyword should be placed in the first 100 words of your blog post or content
  • It should also be in the heading and subheadings (at least one)
  • It should be placed appropriately throughout your content
  • Build backlinks to high authority sites
  • Create interesting content that will keep your visitors on the page for longer
  • Make sure that your page loads quickly
  • Make sure that your website is mobile-friendly
  • Ask your happy customers to write good reviews of your product or service on third party websites

These are just some of the basics of SEO but there is much more to it.

5. Incorporate Social Media

Social media is where everyone is. This is why having social media pages is necessary. Use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat and other social media channels to interact with your customers and engage with them on a more personal level.

There are countless ways to use social media for your business. You can create specialized hashtag campaigns, try influencer marketing, create posts about deals, you can create giveaways or contests, share your content, manage your reputation and so on.

The ultimate goal is to get your customers to follow your business and improve your reach by sharing your content, building loyalty, building brand awareness and so on.

6. Use Content Marketing

Content marketing means creating and sharing online material like articles and videos, in order to meet certain goals. This strategy doesn’t explicitly advertise your brand but it rather informs your audience, stimulates interest and builds a community around your brand

Content marketing is a crucial tool for any brand that wants to succeed. Content can easily be crafted to build awareness, and customer relationships and engagement. Sometimes, content can increase traffic and sales too.

7. Include Email Marketing

Email marketing is a valuable part of content marketing because it delivers content straight to someone’s inbox. You can use it to raise awareness of your blog posts and other content marketing campaigns.

This is one of the best tools for retention and engagement as well as sales.

8. Apply CRO

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is a process of increasing the proportion of your website visitors who complete a desired action like buying or signing up.

You can do this by:

  • Emphasizing relevant links on your home page so they entice readers to click on them (such as experimenting with copy, color, placement and fonts)
  • Optimizing your pricing pages (for instance, showing the smallest and the most expensive package and then highlighting the medium package as the best value)
  • Offering lead magnets
  • Creating optimized landing pages
  • Adding calls-to-action to your blog

There are plenty more strategies but these are just some of the basics of what you can to to optimize your conversion rate. Why not give them a try?

9. Analyze

This is a crucial part of your plan. After you apply any or all of these strategies, you need to analyze their success to understand what you did well and where you made mistakes. This is a continuous process that will enable you to always improve and get better at delivering messages and gaining conversions.

10. Scale

Once you have established your strategies and see some growth and converting, you will have the resources necessary to scale for growth.

Here are some useful tactics to scale for growth:

  • Invest in high quality video marketing
  • Go to trade shows
  • Use traditional advertising - TV, print, radio, billboards, etc.

Time to Start Using Digital Marketing For Your Small Businesses

All of these strategies, on their own, may not show much success. However, combining them together can make for a perfect balance. You just have to plan your strategy properly and adjust the ratios of each component to find your business's sweet spot.

Remember that there is no final destination in digital marketing. In the end, it's a process where you have to make informed decisions and use thorough analytics to improve and adjust.

Small businesses thrive in digital marketing because it opens up so many doors for them and it makes for easier access to highly targeted, niche markets and people who might otherwise never have heard of you.

Your best bet will be to utilize all of these strategies, work on your branding and ultimately, show the world what you are all about.

About the author: Steven Novak

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