Digital marketing is all about the shift in marketing away from the focus on an actual physical store, to the online world - a bigger, global market.
Just like in the past, when a retailer's focus was on their shop window - ensuring it attracts customers into the store - so today every business (whatever their business) has a virtual shop window on the internet to attract customers. But no one is going to go into a store, even with the most attractive front window, if no one knows about it.
Yes, sometimes people stumble across a great shop by accident and then they tell their friends and word spreads, but no one builds a business by just hoping to get a lucky break! So traditional stores have always marketed themselves using flyers, billboards, broadcasting ads, print media ads etc. While businesses can still market themselves using those traditional paid channels, they can be expensive and are also hard to track and determine whether advertising spend is worthwhile (ROI).
Thus, the advent of digital marketing. Not only are there many free and/or cheap methods to choose from, but also generally they are easier to track and determine ROI.
But what are the basic components of a digital marketing strategy that small businesses should focus on? *skip to the summary*
The first thing any small business owner needs to do is get their website looking good (attractive storefront) and working for you, as this is what all your other marketing efforts will lead people to.
You want visitors to be impressed enough to go in and find out about what you have to offer, when they come across your website link.
Make sure that you have chosen a good website template, if using a hosted service, or that you employ a good web developer, if you want a unique, custom site. Website structure and content management is very important for both human visitors and search engine robots!
Your website should have a simple, logical structure with a clear reason and focus for each page.
Time and effort should also be spent on ensuring that the skeleton of the website - the unseen but very important parts of the structure that search engines like Google are focussed on - is properly constructed. Think of these as the interdependence of the products with the layout and decoration of a traditional shop.
It doesn’t help if you have a great product if customers can’t find it or don’t want to go in to look for it!
This is what SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is all about. It is an area that starts off quite simple but can become very technical. However, its importance in the long term organic (non-paid) growth of your web presence cannot be underestimated, and it should be given proper attention.
Since you are now digital, remember that you have the advantage of being able to easily track visitors and their habits. So remember to set up an analytics tool (or two!) on your website. Google Analytics and Hotjar are free and relatively user-friendly tools.
Blog & Social Media
Establish a blog and a social media presence as soon as possible. B2B companies should focus on Twitter and LinkedIn, while B2C companies would need to have a wider social media presence - the choice of adding Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest etc. will be dependent on your market.
Basically, the blog post on the website as well as events, news, special offers etc. gets pushed to the social media profiles. Believe it or not, this actually means you get more exposure for less effort! You are not doing many different things, but rather you are doing only a few things that are then made available in several ways.
The blog posts should be related to your business but can cover a wide range of subjects.
The content of your posts should be interesting and relevant to your intended customers. Remember that a blog post should be a minimum of 300 words, but the longer and more detailed the better. It should be checked and edited for grammar and spelling or it looks sloppy and unprofessional. And each post should have its own unique page & url.
Where possible, every blog post should have a relevant image as it grabs people's attention and the posts get more traction. A "hero" image (big bold image at the top/start) is best, but you can also use smaller images within the text. These images are then used when posting to your social media profiles.
Decide on a frequency for posting that is realistic for your business (will you be able to post once a week, every 2 weeks, once a month?) Choose which url shortener you want to use that can track the links and consider using UTM parameters. It is a good idea to use a social media scheduling app to queue the social media posts.
You can also supplement and increase the frequency of posts on your social media profiles by making announcements and observations (especially on Twitter) and by posting other people's content that is relevant to your business and to your potential customers ALONG WITH your own commentary on it. Never post other people or businesses' content on its own - you must say something about it in order to be seen to be adding value.
Start to read and comment on relevant forums and other business's social media profiles and blogs.
You want to be seen as polite, friendly, helpful, and adding value. Identify and follow Influencers in your niche so that you can see their posts and either re-post or comment on them. You basically want to start to get noticed as a business that knows what it is talking about - knowledgeable but transparent and approachable.
Especially in the beginning of a website launch or the start of a new business, it can take a long time to establish yourself on the internet, despite your best efforts. It is always worthwhile considering setting aside a small budget for online advertising to help get exposure early on. This will in turn help your organic ranking with search engines.
Paid search - such as Google Adwords or social media advertising - is relatively inexpensive and easy to manage and control costs. In order to make the most of your budget though, you need a well-structured campaign - so ensure you employ the right person to manage this for you.
Once you have a customer email list that you can use for marketing purposes, you can consider email marketing. This can range from the simple occasional newsletter, to sophisticated marketing automation emails based on visitor interactions on your website.
Don’t forget the GDPR though! Make sure you have privacy and cookie policies in place along with the relevant information and notices on your website and emails.
- Make sure your website has both the proper structure and good content required by both human visitors and search engine robots.
- Create your business social media profiles.
- Create a blog and write your first blog post with an image.
- Post a link to that blog post on your social media profiles with a good comment and the image from the blog post. A good time to post to these is Thursday at 1pm.
- Create a list of potential blog post ideas and then start writing them - you can save to draft.
- Establish a realistic blog schedule and start to schedule the completed posts for publication.
- Use a social media scheduling app to automatically post to your social media profiles.
- Consider the judicious use of online advertising.
- Ensure you are legitimately obtaining emails for marketing purposes and then start to send out marketing emails.
- Measure and analyse all your digital marketing efforts to ensure you get the best ROI possible for your business.