Tips for Small Business Digital Marketing
If you’re just getting started with your business, or just with your marketing program, you know how difficult it is to decide which marketing strategies to focus on for your small business. The good new is you’re not alone. Most businesses, large and small, are having the same difficulties. But what makes this ability to focus even more crucial for small businesses, of course, is budget constraints. While the big guys can disguise their lack of focus by throwing money at their problems, small businesses like ours don’t have that luxury. We need to make every dollar count, and can’t afford programs that don’t provide obvious value.
Here are 4 proven tips that will get your small business’s marketing program back on track:
Starting small is especially important with digital marketing, as it is very easy to dive into the new shiny tools that are introduced every day. However, by spreading your efforts thin around a lot of different platforms, or trying to start with complex plans, you are inevitably decreasing the value you’re getting out of each tactic.
What you can do today: If you already have a marketing program in the works, take an inventory of all of the different areas that you include in the mix. Then, look at the direct value you’re getting from each of those areas. If one particular tactic isn’t really providing direct value, phase it out! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to use ALL of the digital marketing tools available to you. Start with the ones that you can master, and then expand from there.
Learn from the big guys
But don’t try to keep up. Large companies like Coca Cola, Deloitte and Burberry have massive marketing budgets. They can usually spend and spend until they find a solution that works. Small businesses, however, rarely have the same luxury. But just because you won’t be able to match the scale of their programs, you can definitely learn from their actions. If you’re in independent CPA for example, pay close attention to what the large financial firms are focusing their marketing on. Is it contributing to Facebook conversations? Is it lead generation through online advertising? Are they blogging about tax tips? Study what is working for them, and figure out how to scale it down to your market.
What you can do today: Identify the “big guys” in your industry, and do a little stalking. Study each of their social profiles, and take note of what they are doing to engage with their audiences. Then, hit the search engines with terms that consumers of your industry might use. Are the big companies appearing in the sponsored results? Are they appearing in the organic search results? If so, try to figure out what’s getting them there — like blogging and other content development. Once you have a sense of what the big guys are doing right, scale it down. While you won’t be able to compete directly with them, given the differences in resources, you should be able to implement similar strategies narrowed down to your particular niche. One of the best places to “narrow down” is to base your strategy around the geographic area you serve. While you may not be able to rank well for “affordable CPA,” you could very well rank for “affordable CPA in Grand Rapids MI.”
Learn to love your analytics
I know it seems dull. Looking at the metrics for your website, or studying the growth of your social community. It’s not the most exciting aspect of digital marketing, but it is one of the most important. Analytics are what allow nimble businesses to quickly shift their investments from poorly performing strategies to programs that are performing well. Without well designed and measurable goals for each of your marketing programs, and an analytics system to report successes or failures, many small businesses spend far too much time and money on things that provide little/no value.
What you can do today: The most important thing you can do today is to implement a web analytics program for your website. I highly recommend Google Analytics because it’s free, it’s super easy to set up, and it’s just as easy to learn how to run reports and find the data you need. Talk to your web developer about adding the analytics html snippet to your website to get you rolling. In addition to all of that technical mumbo-jumbo, another thing you can do to get started is to make sure you have defined measurable goals for every online marketing channel you’re using. Instead of using marketing tools blindly, make sure to set some performance expectations around everything you do. When you start measuring and analyzing data, these goals will help you to determine what’s working and what’s not.
Get some consulting help
This is not a sales pitch. An outside marketing consultant will be able to give you the objective point of view that is very beneficial to focusing on the right marketing tactics in your small business. There may be some areas of your marketing strategy that you aren’t properly optimizing, or that simply aren’t providing value. A consultant is experienced in studying the needs of your business and applying appropriate marketing strategies. They will also be able to help you improve and optimize the programs you already have running. If you’ve done 80% of what you need to do, an objective 3rd party may be just what it takes to get you the rest of the way.
What you can do today: Ask around within your network for recommendations for a digital marketing consultant or agency. Despite the irony, word of mouth is the best means for finding digital marketing expertise. The reason for this is that many digital marketing agencies are very good at talking in jargon and making elaborate promises for establishing your brand online. They have years of experience playing the “internet game,” which can be misleading for potential clients. The best digital marketers will be able to set realistic goals and systematically help their clients meet them. This method isn’t as sexy as those internet marketers who promise “page 1 of Google overnight!” but it’s one that can be trusted. The digital marketer you want for your small business understands that business goals come first, and technology comes second.