The Founder of Marketoonist, Tom Fishburne, said it best:
“The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.”
Consumers are savvy. They know what a Facebook ad is, what a Google search looks like, how to find a certain website, and how businesses pay to get their product at eye level. They know it all.
It’s okay if you don’t. This blog is here to bring you up to speed on the topic of online advertising for small businesses. We will go through the main components of marketing strategies for small businesses, so you know every piece of the puzzle, its role, and importance.
The best part? You can do most of these for $0!
Let’s get started!
One Strategy Does Not Fit All
Marketing is all about connecting the value of your business to the right customer base. Yes, it is a simple concept, but it can take on a million different shades.
How do you avoid unfavorable “shades?” You do a basic Q&A (with yourself) to assess where you are in your niche and who your ideal clients are. Ask yourself:
- What demographics make up my customer base?
- Where do they live?
- Where do they hang out online?
- How do they look for products and services in my niche?
- Who do they listen to when making decisions relative to my product or service?
Answer these, and you will know the rough boundaries of your small business profile. From then on, you can start strategizing.
You can’t skip the Q&A stage, although it will seemingly save you time. Why?
There is no universal, magical marketing strategy for small businesses that you can copy/paste and use for your own company. It just doesn’t work like that.
The key to your success is not in copycat-ing.
It’s not in paid ads alone.
It’s not just in (Organic & Local) SEO.
It’s not only in social media posts.
It’s in using the tools others are utilizing, but in a way that serves your unique purpose and goals.
Most consultants will tell you that if you want to advertise your business online, you should start by developing a marketing plan. Yes and No. Yes, because you have to do it, and no, because you can’t make something you don’t understand.
You should, therefore, start with understanding and not developing.
Below is a (painless) dissection of the major components in the most effective marketing strategies for small businesses.
Ready. Set. Go!
It all starts here.
When it comes to fulfilling the primary goal of marketing (which is to make your business as visible and recognizable as possible), it comes to Search Engine Optimization. We already discussed what SEO is and how it functions in a previous blog.
Being the backbone of your marketing efforts and a focal point in your strategy, ensuring your website appears at the top of search page results is crucial.
Think about it: when you, yourself are looking for something online, don’t you just click on the first result you see? It’s the same with your potential clients. They are not looking for a company, they are looking for a service, and they will pick the first one they see and like. Ergo, you NEED your website ranked at the top.
Keeping track of what changes in the industry, and the way search engines “choose” which content to rank and which to skip, has never been more important. Small tweaks in the algorithm are sometimes all the difference between your website popping up first for “landscaping services in Venice, FL” and sinking to the bottom of the second page.
Why is a page 2 placement so bad, you might ask?
Only around 10% of people doing an online search are interested in looking at the second results page (much less the 3rd, 4th, 5th, n-th page). If you rank somewhere on the second page, that means you are automatically losing about 90% of your target audience. Meaning you’re losing potential clients, potential sales, potential profits, and potential business.
One of our internal research reports at 411 Locals showed that organic ranking factors like keywords and links are crucial in improving your local ranking. We devised a checklist that helped us improve the keyword ranking of our clients by 16%.
There are billions of people in the world. And while we are all different, we do have something in common. Most of us are constantly looking for something online. And we are looking for it nearby. Whether it be a pharmacy, a car dealership, or a grocery store — we want it here and now, and close by.
With people searching for local businesses every second of the day (and night), making yours as visible as possible to them becomes an absolute necessity.
Much like organic, local SEO also requires constant tracking and strategy customization. Like another internal research of our R&D team at 411 Locals established, sometimes something as small as hiding your address in GMB (Google My Business) can result in worsening your ranking. If you hide it for as little as 48 hours, your ranking can approximately drop by 1,28 positions. And that’s just in the first 2 days, imagine if you do that for longer!
Paid Advertising (Facebook, Instagram, Google Ads)
In the simplest of terms, paid advertising is any form of advertising you have to pay for as opposed to earned or owned advertising.
What Is Earned Advertising?
Earned advertising is all reviews, shares, mentions, replies, and other forms of buzz created and published by external sources, such as your customers and influencers. The rule of thumb is, you need to invest in paid advertising first, so it can “pay off” in the form of earned advertising later on.
What Is Owned Advertising?
Owned advertising, on the other hand, is any kind of web property that is unique to your brand/company and is within your control. This includes your website, blog, and social media channels.
Now that we know the different types of advertising, let’s see why you need to pay for it, and how it will benefit your marketing campaign.
# Social Media
There is no doubt the world has fallen in love with social media. It is no secret youngsters are the primary driver for this, but these are clients you need too, right?
And while setting up a profile on Facebook and Instagram for your small business is free, no one will come to you before you invest in advertising it. To gain a following, you have to lure it in first. It happens through paid, targeted ads.
Let’s take Facebook, for example. Your advertising options are many and diverse, depending on the lead generation approach you have adopted and the nature of your business. Examples include:
- Link Click Ads
- Video Ads
- Boosted Page Posts
- Multi-Product (Carousel) Ads
- Dynamic Product Ads (DPA)
- Facebook Lead Ads
- Canvas Ads
- Collection Ads
- Page Like/Video/Post Ads
Think of your own purchasing decisions. Have you ever made a purchase based on a sponsored ad you saw on Facebook or another social media platform? That’s the same effect you will have on your prospective clients with your paid ads. The backbone of any successful marketing strategy for small businesses is to promote your business on social media every way you can.
# PPC (Pay-Per-Click)
When we talk about PPC, we are referring to pay-per-click ads.
According to a study by Clutch for 2018, a total of 45% of small businesses (with less than 50 employees) invest in PPC advertising.
Yes, as a small business owner, your marketing budget is usually scarce, and every penny matters. You’d rightfully be apprehensive to invest in marketing activities with dubious ROI, but PPC helps you:
- Reach your target audience
- Drive traffic to your website (thus, improve your organic ranking)
- Convert viewers into buyers/clients
- Drive profit
- Develop brand awareness
- Understand the profile of your most profitable clients
With PPC, you can benefit from advanced marketing and targeting techniques, such as retargeting and display campaigns. The first enables you to reach people who are already familiar with your business and have visited your website, while the latter is about personalizing your ad campaigns, so they target people visiting websites related to your niche.
Given that Google holds well over 90% of the search engine market share (for both desktop and mobile searches), the main focus when it comes to PPC is Google Ads.
Organic Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn)
We already covered paid social media above. So, here we are focusing on the organic (non-paid) part of it.
Organic social media is all about using the free tools provided by each channel you are using so you can build a community, establish engagement, interact with it, share posts, and respond to customer comments/inquiries. Pretty much most of what you are already doing for your private social media accounts, only not in terms of friends and affiliates but clients.
Although media, like Facebook and Instagram, have become increasingly more paid, and organic has been pushed to the side, there is still a lot you can achieve with the latter.
Plus, statistics are encouraging — As of 2017, a total of 81% of the US population has made a profile on social media.
As a small business owner, possibly the first thing that crosses your mind after you hear video marketing are those costly ads of big brands like Toyota, Heineken, and Hershey’s. The truth is, no one is making you invest thousands of dollars on fancy-looking videos, but you need visual means to relay your message, better.
How can video help your small business?
- Introduce yourself
- Explain your product/service
- Provide social proof (client testimonials)
- Share your origin story (how your business came to be)
- Thank your customers
- Wish your customers happy holidays (Christmas, Easter, 4th of July, etc.)
- Show people your team
- Show completed projects (garden designs, remodels, etc.)
The format of the video can be anything from animation to recording with your iPhone. Of course, the small business marketing services you are using should cover video as part of the package. If they do not, you should probably look for a company that does.
Email marketing doesn’t mean sending out annoying promotional emails that nobody ever opens. Although many businesses who DIY their email campaigns do just that, it doesn’t make it right. There are many ways to advertise your product/service the right way.
Email is a great tool to approach prospective clients (entice them with your offer) and current customers (establish trust and loyalty). You can keep them updated on your product/service list, seasonal discounts, new arrivals (for e-commerce), online promotions, news about the industry and your business, loyalty programs, you name it. Email remains one of the most conversion-rich and cost-effective channels in digital marketing.
Let’s speak in numbers.
On a global scale, there are 3.7 billion email users as of 2017. Around 233 million of those are based in the United States. According to Statista, that number for the US alone will reach nearly 255 million users by the end of 2020. About half of US marketers intend to increase their email marketing budgets, which would make for a total increase from 270 million in 2015 to 350 million in 2019.
Number of email users in the United States from 2013 to 2020 (in millions + projections):
Content is absolutely everywhere. It’s on the label of your Coke, your favorite Nike commercial, the sports magazine you love to read, even in the slogan of your beloved automobile brand.
That can create the false idea that people will like any content connected to their favorite product or service. Wrong. It is content that makes you like that product or service in the first place. How did that Coke get on your table, and what enticed you to buy your running shoes? You were “infected” with marketing content in some shape or form.
This is why content is in every aspect of your marketing campaign. Or, in other words:
“Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.”
So far, so good… until we look at some statistics.
Online content is being generated at a break-neck pace, flooding people with promotional messages day in and day out. To speak in numbers, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day, and that pace seems to be speeding up.
Content is king, but visuals are its crown. They go hand in hand, so your strategy should also cover graphic design, or some of your content pieces will never get the attention they deserve.
Speaking of visuals, here is what content is posted online in just 1 minute:
According to Domo’s Data Never Sleeps 5.0 report, these are numbers generated every minute of every day:
- Snapchat users share 527,760 photos
- More than 120 professionals join LinkedIn
- Users watch 4,146,600 YouTube videos
- 456,000 tweets are sent on Twitter
- Instagram users post 46,740 photos
Your Strategy Is a Living Organism
As such, it means it evolves just like any other living thing. What is today, is not the same tomorrow! You don’t water your plants just once and hope they blossom all on their own. The same holds true for your marketing campaign. It is an on-going effort that every Marketing 101 guide will recommend, and for good reason.
Of course, you can dedicate thousands of your hard-earned dollars in mastering the intricacies of digital marketing so you can do it yourself. But, if you prefer to focus your effort on your actual business, turning to a small business marketing company is the right choice.
What is more, some of the Best Creative Advertising Agencies in the US today are able to provide quality digital marketing services for budgets that most small businesses can afford. The decision is yours!