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Six Digital Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses
6 Mar

Six Digital Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses
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(Last Updated On: August 10, 2022)

Digital marketing is an integral part of a successful business, and many companies started by developing eye-catching and appealing strategies when they were starting. But digital marketing is so much more. From helping you attract new customers to increasing your sales, the right digital marketing strategy can take your business growth to new heights.

Here’s what Allan Dib, the author of ‘The One-Page Marketing Plan’ has to say regarding the importance of digital marketing:

“Many business owners fool themselves into thinking that if their product is excellent, the market will buy. While “if you build it, they will come” makes a great movie plot, it’s a terrible business strategy. It’s an expensive strategy and comes with a high rate of failure. History is littered with technically superior products that commercially failed. A few examples include Betamax, The Newton and LaserDisc, to name just a few. Good, even great, products are simply not enough. Marketing must be one of your major activities if you’re to have business success.”

This article will discuss six highly effective digital marketing strategies you can follow for your business.

While all of them are tested and guaranteed to work, not all of them will work for you. We recommend you consider all the strategies in this guide and try out two or three. It’ll become clear which ones will work best for your business.

1) Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing, or SEM, as the name suggests, promotes a website by boosting its visibility on search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and countless others. It’s a form of marketing that’s very common and used by every major company online, so you should be on that game if you want your small business to flourish. 

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Find a set of keywords your target audience uses to search for your products or services. For example, if you sell shoes in Vancouver, Canada, something like ‘best formal shoes in Vancouver, BC’ or ‘awesome sports shoes in Vancouver’ would be good keywords to target.

Step 2: Once you pick a keyword, create an ad for it. Usually, search engines only display text ads, so you’ll need to include a highly compelling and motivational copy to start generating traffic. Hiring a PPC (pay-per-click) or SEM expert to create your ad is a good idea.

Step 3: Finally, start your paid search campaign. When a person enters the keywords you’ve targeted into a search engine; your text ad will appear in the search results. You’ll pay a small fee once a person clicks on your ad. That’s because, in SEM, you’re charged on a pay-per-click basis.

Note: SEM should not be confused with SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is a marketing strategy in which you improve your website’s ranking organically on search engines by using keyword research and other related techniques.

The most significant advantage of SEM is that you instantly gain access to an already highly motivated audience looking for a solution. Just because they are using a search engine to find a product or service like yours makes them qualified customers who are very likely to purchase.

In contrast to an SEO strategy, you won’t have to wait weeks or months for your rank to improve. The results of a successful SEM strategy come much faster than those of an SEO approach.

SEM works great as a digital marketing strategy, especially if yours is a retail business.

A study by Forrester Research and Shop.org proves that:

“… 85 percent of retailers surveyed said search marketing (including paid and SEO) was the most effective customer acquisition tactic. And, the research showed paid search was the channel most heavily invested in.”

Google also supports this idea, stating that, on average, for every $1 spent on Google Adwords, businesses earned $2 back. What’s more, if your local business provides information online that people find helpful, 3 out of 4 will also visit your physical store.

If done right, SEM can earn you a 100% ROI. That isn’t easy to achieve with other marketing strategies.

A SEM strategy is basic for your blog

2) Social Media Marketing

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are trendy. Millions of people use these platforms daily to connect with friends and family and even reach out to their favourite brands and celebrities; the list is endless!

In fact, as a business owner, you might be interested to know that 97% of all online customers access social media at least once per month. Many use social media as the primary source of new product information, making them an extremely lucrative marketing channel.

But what exactly is social media marketing (SMM)?

Buffer, a popular social media management tool, offers an excellent definition. According to them:

Social media marketing is using social media platforms to connect with your audience to build your brand, increase sales, and drive website traffic. This involves publishing great content on your social media profiles, listening to and engaging your followers, analyzing your results, and running social media advertisements.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Choose a social media network that most of your target audience uses. For example, if you’re selling printed t-shirts, the ideal social network would be Facebook or Instagram. Since younger people favour t-shirts, then the two social media above will be your right bet. The clue is to research your product and its demographics before targeting your audience through social media ads.

On the other hand, if you’re selling corporate legal services, a platform like LinkedIn would be a better choice. LinkedIn is where you’ll find business people likely to need legal services.

Step 2: After choosing your desired social media network, you’ll have to sign-up to use their ad service. For example, to create a Facebook ad, you must create an account on Meta for Business. Similarly, if you want to create a LinkedIn ad, you’ll have to create an account on LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

Step 3: With your target audience, create an ad that will speak to them through emotionally compelling copy.

Step 4: Finally, allocate your budget and ad duration. If you don’t know how to do that, you can find helpful information online or hire a social media marketing expert to do it for you.

This is a simple explanation of how SMM works. In addition to the steps above, you will need to create new posts on your social media profile, optimize your audience groups, run A/B tests, and experiment with different ads to see which ones work best.

If you’re eager to learn more about SMM, every social network, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram, offers basic tutorials on running ads on their platforms.

Social media is an extremly lucrative channel

3) Content Marketing

This is a pretty ordinary marketing strategy, especially among small businesses. That’s why many business websites have a blog section for sharing helpful information with their customers; it’s part of their content marketing strategy.

What Is Content Marketing?

Content Marketing Institute, a popular blog dedicated to content marketing, offers a concise explanation:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Let’s break down the key phrases in that definition.

“Create valuable, relevant and consistent content.”

In content marketing, the most important thing is to create valuable, relevant content perceived by your audience, not just once but consistently. You can do this by determining the needs and problems of your target audience.

For instance, if you own a shoe store, an example of valuable, relevant content would be an article like ‘Five Effective Ways to Make your Shoes Look New Again.’ This would qualify as “valuable, relevant” content because it directly addresses a shoe shopper’s problem, i.e., taking care of their shoes.

And remember, content doesn’t just mean articles. It can also mean ebooks, video guides, and even infographics.

“Attract and retain a clearly defined audience.”

Creating high-quality content frequently isn’t enough. You also have to market your content to the right audience. There are many channels where you can promote your content to your target audience. You’ll get the most out of your content marketing strategy if you can “attract and retain” the right audience.

For example, you can optimize your articles for search engines (in other words, use all the available SEO tactics) so they will rank on the first page of search results. You can promote your content by running ads on platforms like Google Adwords or Facebook Ads. Another way is to publish a guest post on another blog your target audience visits, linking to your website.

“Drive profitable customer action.”

When you create high-quality, relevant content and your target audience consumes it, you’ll build a following of loyal, engaged customers and prospects, all eager for more helpful information. You can grow this following by gathering email subscribers and social media followers or getting more website visitors. Once you establish your following, it’s time to pull the trigger and “drive profitable customer action.”

Gradually present your audience with the products or services you want to sell. Capitalizing on the goodwill you’ve established, you should be able to convince many of them to become regular customers.

All that sounds great, but does content marketing work?

Research shows that it does. First, 60% of internet users read blogs regularly, and many purchase based on recommendations from their favourite blogs. They don’t like seeing ads.

More than 42% of the global internet users have some ad blocker installed that blocks traditional ads on major sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest. This means content marketing is one of small businesses’ most visible marketing channels.

Content marketing is cheaper than other strategies too. Content marketing generates leads that are 31% more affordable than SEM. Plus, it generates three times more leads than SEM.
The bottom line is companies that use content marketing as a strategy have a higher conversion rate (i.e., more sales and customers) than companies that don’t do content marketing.

Create relevant, valuable and consistent content
Image Credit: Social Samosa

4) Personalized Email Marketing

If there is one digital marketing strategy that you should try, it’s email marketing.

Time and time again, this strategy has proven its worth in the marketing world and helped many small businesses increase sales. Email marketing is so popular that marketers everywhere echo its tagline: “The money is in the list!”

Although newer forms of communication are taking over slowly and steadily, email marketing is still called the “king of the marketing kingdom.”

Stats published by Hubspot state that 37% of brands actively increase their email marketing budget because they see growing returns. On the other hand, smartphone users have access to more direct means of communication, but despite that, they like receiving brand news and updates via email.

What is email marketing? Here’s Wikipedia’s definition:

“Email marketing is the act of sending a commercial message, typically to a group of people, using email. In its broadest sense, every email sent to a potential or current customer could be considered email marketing. It usually involves using email to send advertisements, request business, or solicit sales or donations, and is meant to build loyalty, trust, or brand awareness.”

An email marketing strategy is basic to get more subscribers

To better understand this definition, let’s dive deeper into how email marketing works:

Start by building your email list. In email marketing, the first thing to do is collect the email addresses of your target audience. You can drive traffic to your website, blog articles, or landing pages. That’s where you’ll create a ‘call-to-action’ that asks visitors to subscribe to your email list.

People are often reluctant to give out their email addresses. If you help them, they’ll sign up for your email list. To convince them, offer a lead magnet like an ebook, a discount coupon, a step-by-step guide on an interesting topic, or anything they might find helpful.

You can also personalize your email marketing by sending targeted emails to customers who haven’t completed a purchase or informing them of a new product similar to one they bought in the past.

5) Affiliate Marketing

How awesome would that be?

Imagine having a whole sales team working 24/7 to market and sell your products.

You can make that happen once you tap into an affiliate marketing network.

In simple terms, affiliate marketing is when another person markets and sells your products for you. In exchange, you offer this person (known as an ‘affiliate’) a percentage of the profits they generate when they sell your products or services.

It’s an incredibly effective digital marketing strategy, especially if you have a business that sells physical or digital products to mass audiences.

You’ll have to work with an affiliate marketing network to enable other people to become your affiliates and sell your products.

You can either join an affiliate network or create your own. Many sites have a strong network of affiliate marketers, for example, Commission Junction and ShareASale. You enter the products you want marketers to sell on your behalf, and interested parties will get a unique link to share with their audiences.

If you don’t want to join an affiliate network (since they ask for a hefty fee), you can install a WordPress or Shopify plugin that will enable you to create an affiliate network. If you have a custom website or online store, you can use a service like ReferralCandy instead. Remember, going this route means you’ll have to find affiliate marketers yourself.

After you’ve joined an affiliate network (or created one yourself), you’ll have to determine a commission strategy. That means analyzing how much you’re willing to pay your affiliates. Will it be a fixed amount on each sale or a percentage of the profits? Will all affiliates be treated equally, or will those who sell more be rewarded with a better commission? All that is up to you to decide.

As you can see, while it does take time to set up an affiliate marketing network, the procedure is quite simple.

Amazon, the famous online eCommerce giant, uses this digital marketing strategy greatly. Named Amazon Associates, it’s the world’s largest affiliate programme accounting for more than half of Amazon’s total sales.

Moreover, while email is the king of marketing, affiliate marketing stands with it on equal terms. This is according to a report by Business Insider stating that both email and affiliate marketing are responsible for 16% of all eCommerce purchases. The same report also mentions that 74% of US shoppers visit 2-3 non-retail sites (where most affiliate links are published) before buying a product.

Marketing must be one of your major activities if you're to have business success

6) Influencer Marketing

Adweek, a renowned advertising industry publication, observed how and what influences a customer’s primary buying decision a few years back.

Here’s what they said:

As the world has shifted to social media, consumers look at fellow consumers to inform their purchasing decisions. Instead of looking at companies, as they did in the past, they now look at each other and their favourite personalities, consolidating massive followings on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and other platforms.

This represents a significant shift in customers’ motivation to buy a company’s products and services. Customers no longer trust traditional ads, instead looking to their favourite personalities’ to help them make purchasing decisions.

Those personalities are called influencers because they have a large following of highly engaged fans that will buy a product or service based solely on their recommendation. Their audience trusts the influencer’s expertise and doesn’t consider the recommendations as ads.

When brands and businesses started to realize this, a new marketing strategy emerged called influencer marketing.

Here’s an explanation of how it works:

Step 1: Your company finds an influencer with an audience that would be interested in your products or services. For example, if you sell phone accessories, you’d want to find a person that reviews tech products and has a large, tech-savvy audience.

Step 2: Contact the influencer and ask them to review, recommend, or simply mention your product in their content. It could be an article, video, or even something as simple as an Instagram picture, in exchange for a fixed fee.

Step 3: The influencer recommends your product to their highly engaged audience. You get increased brand awareness, a spike in sales, and, hopefully, new customers.

According to a report published by Mediakix, 80% of marketers found influencer marketing effective. The same report said that the customer quality from influencer marketing is better compared to other sources. Instagram is the most popular social media channel for influencer marketing, with YouTube and Facebook completing the top three.

If you decide to try influencer marketing, you should start with those channels. Instagram, especially, seems highly important, which isn’t surprising. That’s the social network used by a considerable number of millennials, who, by 2020, will have a combined purchasing power of over $1.4 trillion.

urture your email subscribers by building a proper drip campaign

Bonus Digital Marketing Strategies

This article has discussed the major digital marketing strategies that will be effective for small-to-medium-sized businesses like yours. There are a few lesser-known strategies that are worth mentioning.

Some of these bonus strategies are emerging – they have yet to prove their worth, but the signs are positive. Others are older, underrated strategies that can still bring positive results. Knowing about these strategies might be helpful to you in the future.

Market Your Business on a Podcast

According to Edison Research, by the end of 2022, 177 million US residents will have listened to a podcast, up 5% from 2021. A 2019 research by Adobe stated that 65% of people prefer listening to podcasts on their smartphones, and only 25% use a computer. 10% listen on a smart speaker like the ones from Google and Amazon, and this trend will likely continue in 2022.

The demographics that make up the podcast-listening community are desirable for business owners. The research states that 17% of podcast listeners have an income higher than $100k, and approximately 28% have a college degree.

What’s more, podcast audiences are highly engaged. They don’t mind hearing audio ads. This presents a golden opportunity for your business to advertise products and services on podcasts. You may even decide to create a podcast yourself.

Here’s what eMarketer said about podcast listeners:

Podcasts may give advertisers an avenue, however, as listeners are highly engaged when tuned into a podcast and usually don’t mind hearing ads. That’s because podcast ads tend to be kept to a minimum and are relevant to the program’s content, often via host-read ads. Trust and brand recall for podcast ads is also high compared to other audio formats.

Create a Google Business Profile Listing

A Google Business Profile listing is what you see in the right-hand column of Google search results when typing in a business name.

For example, if you enter the name of your favourite restaurant, you’ll see its pictures, directions, phone number, a few reviews, FAQs, and more. Nearly every detail a person might need from a business will be available in a Google Business Profile listing.

You should create a listing if your business has a physical location because it will offer you greater visibility on search engines. Plus, your address and location will appear when people search using Google Maps.

Join Facebook Groups, and Forums

Facebook is more than a communication and marketing channel. While they offer a great place to start improving your brand visibility, Facebook Groups marketers tend to place them in a lesser role. 

Find Facebook groups close to your business type and share compelling content with its members. It’s easy, and most importantly, you’re building prospects without spending any of your marketing budgets.

While you should keep the posts running slowly on third-party groups for them not to be considered spam, you can always create your own group and engage with your customers on the most popular social media platform.

Facebook Groups are often a much faster way to respond to customers’ questions and solve their issues. Publicly responding will give new customers the confidence they need to pick your products or services more easily.

Start a Blog

Starting a blog requires lots of time and a constant stream of topics to maintain the readers’ interest. It’s a fun and deeply creative process while writing about interesting subjects surrounding your business can create excitement and keep your users engaged on your website.

Writing about exciting subjects can help you establish credibility, and you could build a more trustworthy and knowledgeable profile than your competitors.

Other marketing strategies that will help your business

List Your Business on a Popular Directory

It doesn’t matter what kind of product or service you sell; there’s sure to be a directory suited for your business.

If you own a restaurant, you might want to list your business on Yelp. If you sell a digital product, like a SaaS product, then a platform like Product Hunt would be a great place to list it.

Listing your business in various directories makes it possible for people to review your products or services. Prospective customers who read positive reviews are more likely to buy from you.

Make Digital Marketing Work for You

We want to leave you with one last point:

The strategies we mentioned, while highly effective, work best if you combine two or three of them.

For example, if you try email marketing, you’ll also have to do some content marketing. That’s because unless you create awesome content that attracts the right audience, you won’t be able to convince people to subscribe to your email list.

Similarly, starting a social media marketing campaign must have somewhere to direct your followers. If you don’t have a website or a landing page where they can read your content or subscribe to your email list, that’s a marketing dead-end.

You can excel with any marketing strategies we’ve covered by providing high-quality content. Find the right approach for your business, and make digital marketing work for you.

Did you find this blog interesting? Check out our other topics right from our HostPapa blog.

María Bustillos

María is an enthusiast of cinema, literature and digital communication. As Content Coordinator at HostPapa, she focuses on the publication of content for the blog and social networks, organizing the translations, as well as writing and editing articles for the KB.

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