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The Beginner's Guide to Digital Marketing for Small Businesses

Imagine navigating a boat without a compass; that's what running a business without digital marketing is like today. It's not just important; it's essential. Why?  

Digital marketing is where your potential customers spend most of their time online. It turns clicks into opportunities and opens your business to the global market.

Digital marketing goes beyond simply having an online presence. It uses platforms like social media and websites to showcase your products or services, engage with customers, and build loyalty to your brand. By using these tools, you can learn who your potential customers are. Then, you can tailor messages that speak directly to them, making your marketing efforts more effective.

Are you interested in harnessing these opportunities? You're in the perfect place. We'll cover the top digital marketing channels for small businesses and their benefits. Our goal is to equip you with tools to create digital strategies that foster visibility and growth for your business.

 Ready to get started? 

 Let's dive right in and explore some of the most effective digital marketing channels.

Essential Channels of Digital Marketing for a Small Business

Content Marketing

Content marketing is about creating and sharing engaging content that provides value to your audience, like blog posts, guides, and videos. Your valuable content should directly address your target audience's challenges and concerns.

For example, imagine an accounting firm that shares articles and videos explaining complex topics in an easy-to-understand way. Their blog could offer advice on saving money on taxes, managing business finances, and staying up-to-date on the latest tax laws. By consistently creating informative content, they could establish themselves as experts in their field, attracting new customers searching online for reliable financial guidance. Or, 

Imagine a local bike shop that creates a series of informative blog posts or YouTube videos. These resources could cover essential topics like bike maintenance, providing valuable information to their target audience (cyclists), and attracting new customers – a double win!

Here's what we recommend you start with if this sounds like something you'd like to try for your small business:

  • If you don't have a website yet, building a professional-looking website is smart. It allows you to share customer stories and information, connect with new people, and sell your products or services. You can find resources online like "How to Build a Great Website" or consider hiring a professional for a more customized vision of a website.

  • If you already have a website, You can start creating and sharing content directly on your website or social media platforms. In the following sections, we'll discuss social media marketing strategies in more detail, so stay tuned!

 The conclusion here is: DO NOT underestimate the power of content marketing! Here's a guide to Creating a Content Marketing Strategy that you might find helpful. It could get you started by showing you how to set specific goals and work on a promotional strategy as well. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

How do you boost your online presence and draw in customers once you've set up your website? The answer is Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. 

SEO is about making your website better so it shows up more in Google, Bing, and other search engines when people look for things like:

  • The products you sell

  • The services you offer

  • Information on topics where you're an expert

Basically, SEO helps your site rank higher in search results for the keywords or terms that matter to your business. Suppose you run a bakery specializing in customized cakes. SEO can make your site one of the first results when someone searches for "customized cakes." This puts you right in front of people who are already interested in what you have.

What's the point? A strong SEO and content strategy can lead to more people visiting your site naturally. The more visible your pages are in search results, the more likely people will find and click on them. SEO aims to bring visitors to your site who might become regular customers.

While SEO is a powerful tool, it requires ongoing effort to achieve better results. Here are some key things to remember:

  • Start with a solid base. Ensure your website is easy to use and has good content before focusing on SEO.

  • Be patient. SEO is a long-term game that takes consistent effort to climb the rankings.

  • Consider getting help. Hiring an SEO expert is a good move for many small businesses, especially if you're too busy to handle it yourself. Watch out for cheap SEO services; they might do more harm than good.

Are you interested in knowing more about SEO? Check out this beginner's guide: SEO Basics: Beginner's Guide to SEO Success.

Social Media Marketing (SMM)

Social media marketing is a fantastic way for all businesses, to reach out and interact with their audience. You can post great content on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, talk with your followers, and promote what you sell.

Think of social media as a friendly online neighborhood where you can get to know potential customers in a more personal way. It's different from old-school marketing, which sends out messages without listening for a reply. With social media, you can chat back, solve problems, and get closer to your audience right away.

Let's say you have a bakery known for its tasty cupcakes. You could use social media to show off pictures of your cupcakes, share videos of how you decorate them or have live sessions where you answer customer questions. This content can make more people interested in your bakery and even bring them to your shop or website.

But remember, being successful with social media marketing means more than just posting now and then. You need to put in time, come up with creative ideas, and work at it. You'll want to make a plan that matches what you want to achieve with your marketing. This plan should include who you want to reach, what types of things you'll post, and when you'll post them.

Ready to make a social media marketing plan for your business? Here's a guide with tips to help you start: How To Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy for Small Businesses. And for inspiration, check out these 20 Awesome Examples Of Social Media Marketing.

Email Marketing

Signing up for updates from your favorite store is a common practice, and it's a perfect example of email marketing in action. You receive notifications about new products and special offers in your inbox by subscribing. 

Email marketing is a strategy that successful brands use to maintain a connection with their customers. Take, for instance, a garden center that sends out emails about upcoming plant care workshops or weekend discounts on gardening tools, effectively drawing more customers to their location and boosting their revenue.

Here's why email marketing is especially beneficial for small businesses:

  • Cost-effective: It's an affordable way to reach a broad audience.

  • Targeted audience: You communicate directly with people who have shown interest in your brand, increasing the likelihood of their engagement.

  • Boosts sales: Well-crafted emails can drive traffic to your website or physical store, leading to an increase in sales.

There are several ways to integrate email marketing into your business strategy:

  • Newsletters: Regularly update your audience about your business's latest news and happenings.

  • Special Offers: Inform customers about current promotions or newly launched products.

  • Welcome Emails: Introduce your brand to new subscribers with a warm welcome message.

Are you interested in trying it out? This guide will show you how to get started with email marketing: Email Marketing — A Step-By-Step Guide to Getting Started.

Pay Per Click (PPC) 

Have you ever noticed how certain services or products pop up at the top of your search results when searching for something you need? Those aren't just listings; they're ads created with PPC or Pay-Per-Click advertising.  

As the name reveals, PPC means you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. So, it's like putting up a targeted sign exactly where your ideal customers are looking online.

PPC is particularly beneficial for small businesses for these reasons:

  • Reach people in need: Whether people are searching for a general service or a specific product, you can use keywords or particular terms to target your ads effectively. This means your ad is shown to those actively looking for solutions you offer.

  • Show up when it matters: For urgent needs, people often turn to online searches for quick answers. PPC ensures that your business is visible right when it's most needed.

  • Target your ideal customer: PPC allows you to narrow down your audience by specific locations and demographics, making sure your ad is seen by those most likely to need your services.

The key to successful PPC marketing lies in the keywords you choose. Think of these keywords as direct calls to action for your target customers. The more accurately they reflect what people are searching for, the higher the chance they'll click on your ad and reach out to your business for solutions. 

Want to learn more? This guide offers a great introduction to PPC: What Is PPC? The Definitive Guide to Pay-Per-Click Marketing.

Steps to Build an Effective Digital Marketing Strategy

We explored digital marketing channels: social media, email, SEO, PPC. Now, it's time to put those channels to work! A digital marketing strategy is like a game plan. It shows exactly what you'll do to reach your goals, using the marketing tools (channels) we learned about earlier. It combines the different marketing tricks (called tactics) you'll use on those channels and how much you'll invest in each.

Ready to be a digital marketing champion? Let's build your strategy in a few simple steps:

1. Establish a budget

At the outset, you should decide how much you want to spend on your digital marketing. If you're applying for business financing, choose how much of the funding will be spent on your marketing strategy. 

If you plan on hiring a marketing agency or consultant, talk to them about their pricing options. They might help you establish your budget before you start to outline your strategy. 

2. Determine your goals

Next, decide what you want to achieve with your digital marketing strategy. Of course, your ultimate goal is to earn more profit, but it's important to outline specific, achievable goals that digital marketing tactics will help you meet. 

Here are a few examples of goals you might set for your digital marketing strategy: 

  • Increase customer acquisition: Digital marketing can help you boost your acquisition rate by reaching a wider audience. It can also help you expand your reach to new audiences. For example, if you want to reach more young customers, you should invest in social media marketing. If you want to target an older, professional audience, try email marketing. 

  • Increase customer conversion: Digital marketing tools are helpful for customer conversion, or turning "lookers" into paying customers. Automated emails can re-target customers who visited your website without making a purchase. Encouraging customers to follow you on social media can also help keep your brand on their minds. 

  • Raise customer retention rates: Acquiring a new customer can cost five to seven times more than retaining an existing one. That's why many B2C companies choose to focus their marketing strategies on customer retention. Digital marketing is a tool to engage with your existing customers and keep them coming back. 

  • Meet an expected Return-of-investment (ROI): An average digital marketing strategy may achieve an ROI of around 5:1. That's $5 earned for every $1 spent on your marketing. You can work with your digital marketing team to establish an ROI goal before you get started. The agency or professional you're working with may not be able to guarantee a certain ROI, but they'll help you track your progress and adjust your strategy to maximize your investment.

3. Invest in digital marketing tactics

Next, it's time to decide which tactics you want to incorporate into your digital strategy. If you aren't already working with a digital marketing team or consultant, this might be a good time to reach out to one. They can help you make a plan and decide which tactics meet your budget and goals. 

Remember that not all digital marketing tools will be right for every business. A roofing business, for example, may not benefit from retention-focused tactics like customer loyalty programs or social media outreach. Instead, that business should focus more on SEO strategies or PPC ads to reach new customers.

4. Track your progress

Even the best digital marketing strategies take time. You may not notice growth in your customer acquisitions, conversions, or retention right away. Track your progress and adjust your digital marketing strategy as needed. A few key metrics you'll want to keep track of include:

  • Number of website visits

  • Likes, comments, and shares on your social media pages

  • Online sales

  • Leads generated from different sources, such as phone calls, website visits, and emails

  • Foot traffic if your business has a brick-and-mortar location

5. Adjust your strategy and re-invest 

The lifespan of a typical marketing campaign is around three months. But that doesn't mean digital marketing is a one-time project. After you've met your initial ROI goals, it's time to re-evaluate your strategy, make changes, and keep investing in tactics that will help you grow your business. 

If your digital marketing strategy isn't as successful as you wanted, you may need to try different tactics. It might be time to hire a professional marketer if you aren't working with one already. They'll help you troubleshoot your strategy and make a plan to maximize your ROI. 

You've Got This! Taking Your Small Business Online

The digital marketing world is full of chances for small businesses to meet more customers and grow their brands.

Social media marketing lets you talk directly with customers and build good relationships. Email marketing is a cheap and easy way to keep in touch with people who like your business. SEO makes your website appear higher in search results, helping more people find you. And with PPC ads, you can pay to have your ads show up where your perfect customers are looking. When you combine all these digital marketing tools, your small business can take off and hit its marketing and business growth goals.

Disclaimer: The content of this post has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. Consult with your tax, legal, and accounting advisor before engaging in any transaction.

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