How to Get Started With Digital Marketing for Small Business
When I was studying digital marketing, I was surprised at how many people responded with “what’s that?”.
Some of these people were business owners who kind of knew what I meant, but weren’t really sure.
Another interesting thing I hear is “you have to be on Facebook, so I started a Facebook page for my business”, but the page just sits there doing nothing.
It’s no wonder a lot of people question if they in fact do need to be on Facebook, or online anywhere other than their website. Because if you don’t actually know what to do with your online marketing you’re definitely not going to see any results.
On top of that, when you’ve tried a few things that don’t work you’re going to conclude that it’s a waste of time and give up.
This blog is aimed to help you with all that.
So, how do you get started as a small business owner with your online marketing? There are a million different options and things you can do. In this blog, I’m going to flesh out the fundamentals of digital marketing to help you get started (the right way), and know when it’s time to outsource the job to a pro.
Hey, you might even become a pro, kudos to you if you do!
The first hurdle is understanding the benefits of digital marketing. Yes, you can survive (maybe?) as a business without it, but that’s always going to be a risk. Why? Because the whole world has moved online and that’s not going to change any time soon, if ever.
What is definitely changing is technology, buyer behaviour and your competition. You might be doing ok solely with traditional marketing now, and that’s great, but at least get your head around the fundamentals of digital marketing for when the time comes.
Here are some of the things digital marketing can do that traditional marketing can’t:
1. Target your advertising to a precise demographic and then change this mid campaign
2. Make minor edits to content at zero expense to you (think reprinting and distributing pamphlets compared to editing your display ad copy)
3. Gain earned media when your followers share your content, again at zero expense to you
4. Expose you to over 3.5 billion Google searches per day
Now you don’t have to leverage this, but why wouldn’t you? Herein lies the punch. It all sounds great, but it’s a lot of work and requires learning, which takes time that you probably don’t have. So, read on, because I’m going to map it out.
Digital Marketing Fundamentals
I get it. Jumping into digital marketing when it’s all new is kind of like jumping into the beach when you can’t read the tide. You’ve got no idea if you’re safe or if this is going to be a sort of nightmare.
The principles of digital marketing are the same as traditional marketing. We are still considering how to deliver the right solution to the right people in the right place at the right time. We’re just using online marketing channels to do it.
So, here’s a basic break down of the process to get started with your online presence.
Understand the online landscape and how it’s different to offline
Check out what your competition is doing
Choose the right marketing channels
Establish your budget
Track your results
There are also a couple of key terms that get used a lot in digital marketing so I’ll give you a quick run-down now.
Organic content is content you have created and shared online that you haven’t paid to promote. This can be things like social media posts and blogs on your website that people come across through a search or in their social feeds.
This stands for price per click and is the main method of payment for online advertising. People often refer to paid advertising as PPC. If you pay to promote your website in Google, you will usually pay for each click you receive. You can also PPC for social media promotions.
Owned Media and Owned Channels
When you own media or a channel it means that you are in total control of it (short of the internet ceasing to exist).
For example, your email list is a channel you own because it isn’t subject to the platform changing. Your Facebook account on the other hand is not owned by you, it is owned by Facebook and they set the rules.
You can own a blog on your website (which is another channel you own) and post it to Facebook. It is still content you own but you have shared it on a platform that you don’t own.
Earned media is one of the best perks of online marketing. Technically you can get earned media from offline marketing channels, but it’s a lot easier online.
Say you post a video to Facebook, pay to promote it and it gets 10,000 views. That’s not earned media. Now say you post another video and it gets 100 shares. You earned those 100 shares.
Earned media is the love people give to your content that they didn’t have to but chose to, because you deserved it.
Know What You’re Trying to Achieve
Before you do anything, you need to know what you’re trying to achieve. It’s obvious, but still easy to forget. For example; it’s easy to get carried away with vanity metrics instead of the ones that actually contribute to your goals.
Got 20,000 followers on Instagram? Great, now what? Is that actually converting into you making a living? Did you spend heaps of time building that following only to realise it hasn’t helped you accomplish what you need?
Social media is a real cracker for this. You’d be amazed at how many Facebook pages there are with tens of thousands of likes that have little to no engagement on every single post. What is the point in that? It’s almost the same as having a beautiful website that sits online and gets zero traffic.
This is what we want to avoid, and the way to do that is to be clear from the start about what you’re trying to achieve.
This can be things like:
Click to your website
Positive online reviews
Purchases via your website
Customers finding and visiting your store
Getting found on Google
Now flesh these out into SMART goals so they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
For example; you don’t just want website clicks, you want to increase website traffic from social media by 25% in 6 months with a content marketing campaign.
Goals keep you on track. They are the anchor that stops you getting swept away once you jump into the waves of the online world and freak out. You might feel lost with how to use social media, but you can always refer back to your goals to remember at least why you’re trying to figure it out.
The next thing to consider is your budget.
There are two ways of looking at this. You might not have a lot of capital to invest in your marketing, but you might have time. If you’ve got money and no time you can outsource this work sooner, or all together.
So, choose your currency. Thanks to things like SEO, content marketing and social media you can run a “free” campaign. By free I mean, you pay with your time instead of your money.
This bring us back to earned media. You earn it because you put the time in to make it great.
So, if you’ve got time, buckle up and learn how to do this stuff yourself (at least at first).
Even if you don’t have a big budget right now, eventually you will want to spend some money on advertising. Save this until you know what the best online channels are for your business (we’re getting to that bit).
Know What You’re in For
Before you start, develop the right mind-set. This is marketing, just like any other kind of marketing. Love it or hate it, it’s work (albeit, sometimes fun work) and it’s not going away.
It’s better to go slow and steady than to start with a boom of social media activity and then burn out and stop completely. Be prepared to spend at least half an hour a day on social media.
Social media is a must have for almost all businesses, if that’s the only digital channel that you use in the end, make sure you can give it the time to do it well.
Sus Out Your Competition
Knowing where to be and what to do online is confusing when you’re getting started. The best way to know where to start is to look at where your competitors already are and what they are doing there.
Start with a google search for one of your competitors, or do a search for services in your field and find businesses that you feel are competitive with yours. Here’s an example.
While you’re on their site, make some mental notes of compelling features that make them competitive. Do they have a lot of great reviews? Are they using chatbots? Make a note of anything that they are doing well. Even if you don’t know how they’ve done it, we can figure that out later.
Now see if they have icon links to any social media profiles and check them out. It will look something like this.
You will need to choose which social media platforms to use. There are so many and you can’t (and don’t need to) use them all.
Each social media channel offers something different, the key is to find the ones where your clients already are. Your competitors have likely already figured this out which takes some of the work out of it for you.
Now, go to these social platforms and do a search for businesses like yours to make sure that there are businesses successfully using the platform and getting good results. Specifically look for engagement on posts, video views, shares and reviews.
With this information, make a list of the most relevant social media channels for your business
Choose the Right Channels
In digital marketing talk, channels are general, online places that you can be. Social media is a channel; Facebook is a platform. SEO is a channel; a blog post is content.
Each channel works differently to accomplish a different task. Here’s an outline of the most common digital marketing channels.
Social media is a must have for businesses. People expect to be able to check out your reviews and content on social media. Having at least one active social media account says that your business is relevant and making an effort to be transparent and engage with customers.
There are tons of social media platforms, these are the most popular ones for business.
Facebook has 2.6 billion active users per month. It’s great because it’s built for every type of content. You can share video, links, long form blog content and photos without tight restrictions on word count or video length.
The other great thing about Facebook for business is its targeted advertising. Not only can you promote any kind of content on Facebook (as long as it meets Facebooks rules), you can target your ads to the exact audience you’re looking for.
Instagram has a much younger audience than Facebook with over half of its users under the age of 34.
Whatever you do, make sure your photos and videos look great at a glance, because Instagram is all about visual content. This is what will get people to click through to discover who you are.
While Facebook is good for nurturing the followers you already have, Instagram is great for getting in front of new audiences by using hashtags. When you add a hashtag to a post it will show up to anyone who follows that hashtag or is searching it up.
Instagram also has a great advertising platform. It is owned by Facebook, so you have to set up your ads via Facebooks ads manager.
If you are a business professional, LinkedIn is another must-have. Especially if your business is corporate.
You can utilise hashtags on LinkedIn the same way you do on Instagram. LinkedIn is also a great networking tool. Join groups that are relevant to your industry and comment on posts. Connect with influencers with your personal profile and share content to your company page.
Twitter has 330 million monthly active users. It is best for short “snackable” posts, links and conversational type content.
You can also leverage hashtags in Twitter to increase your visibility to new audiences. Twitter is a little bit restricting because you can only type 280 characters per post.
Think of Twitter as your most casual conversational tool with your customers.
YouTube has 2 billion monthly active users worldwide. It’s owned by Google and is the second biggest search engine on the internet.
People love video content. It’s easy to consume and can be entertaining and educational at once. If video is your thing, YouTube is a must.
You can create your own channel for users to subscribe to. When you post new content, your subscribers will be notified. Make sure your content ticks at least one of these boxes:
This is the golden rule for all content.
Explore other social platforms if you find your competitors using them, just don’t try and take on too many to start with. Your next step with social media will be to create an audit of your competition and a content calendar for yourself.
Of all of the advancements in digital marketing and technology, email is still hailed as the most effective digital marketing channel of them all with an average ROI of $38 for each $1 spent.
This is partly because emails land in your customer’s mailbox, away from the intense competition on social media and search engines. Email is also personal without being invasive. The focus is zoned into your conversation with the customer instead of getting lost in a sea of content.
The other major benefit of email is that it’s an owned media channel. You aren’t at the mercy of changing algorithms, changing rules or platforms collapsing altogether. You own your list, and unless email becomes extinct, you always will.
Building an email list and nurturing your subscribers is one of the most effective digital marketing tools available.
SMS marketing is starting to gain traction as a channel. It teeters on being invasive, so if you decide to use it make sure you do so wisely. Sending marketing text messages to your customers can easily do you more harm than good.
Peoples mobile phones are much more personal than their email inbox and you should only venture there if you have something worthy to offer.
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. I’ve laid the ground work on this topic in another blog if you’d like to know more about the basics of SEO.
Getting found in search engines will not only drive traffic to your site, it will increase trust, awareness and authority for your brand.
I think it’s important to understand the fundamentals of SEO, though at some point you will most likely want to outsource this job. SEO takes time, trial and error and continual research.
It’s also organic and earned. You can’t pay for an organic search ranking, only for a paid ad in the search engines.
SEM stands for search engine marketing and refers to paid ads in the search engine. This is a quick way to land at the top of the SERP but won’t have the benefits of organic search results.
Paid Google ad campaign are managed in Google Ads. Businesses bid on keywords to show up in searches that contain those words.
Display ads are all of the ads that you see while you are browsing the internet. Users click on the ad that takes them to your landing page or website. Usually these ads are charged to the advertiser as PPC. Display ads are also created in Google Ads. These are the different types of display ads you can run:
Ads containing rich media
Influencer marketing leverages professional relationships to expose your brand to the influencers audience. The benefit of this is that you piggyback on the pre-existing relationship between the influencer and their audience.
There are whole companies built on matching businesses with influencers to promote their products and brands. Influencer marketing comes across as native content which is what makes it so effective.
Here’s an example of how influencer marketing works.
You’re a small business in the fitness/ health industry. You have a product you’d like to promote and you find an authoritative figure in this niche with a bigger audience than yours.
You strike a deal and your influencer puts up a couple of Instagram posts talking about your product in a subtle way that implies that this person supports your product.
Again, this is a tactic that needs to be approached wisely. Most influencers won’t promote products unless they believe in them and are receiving a benefit that’s worthwhile.
Your Marketing Mix
Your marketing mix is the total combination of channels that you decide to use to make up your online presence. Having a presence and running an advertising campaign on each channel are two different things. You can start out by establishing a presence and build it over time.
Create a list of the channels that you think will benefit your business the most. Start with a few and tackle the rest at a set date down the track. If you’re starting out doing this yourself, it’s wise to do one or two things well instead of 15 things poorly.
Track Your Analytics
Lastly, you won’t be getting the most out of your online marketing efforts if you don’t track what worked, what didn’t and how you plan to improve.
Every one of the channels we’ve covered provides a way to access your analytics. Check out which social media posts are giving you the most engagement, which keywords you are ranking well for in Google and where most of your website traffic is coming from. Which display ads are getting you the most clicks? Which emails?
A/B Test Your Ads
A way to optimise your results is to A/B test your ads. Create two banner ads that are the same with slight variations. That might be the main colours or different copy. Run both ads and measure your key analytics again. This is a simple, effective way to refine your content for better results.
Remember, there’s only so long you can sit around thinking about this stuff. The sooner you dive in, the sooner you will learn what works to get you the results you’re after.
Here’s a great example from the folks at Optimizely.
Start with a plan.
If you’re not sure what channels to use, your competition has likely already figured it out. Start small with one or two digital channels and do them well. If you feel like you’re drowning, hire help.
And as usual, if in doubt, make your decisions based on what is most useful for your customers, not search engines or social media algorithms.
If you’re starting a business or trying to up your online marketing, I can help you. I write content that boosts search rankings and marketing copy that increases website conversions.
Hit me up, I’d love to chat!