A guide to digital marketing for small businesses

Research has found that almost half of all small business owners handle all marketing efforts single-handedly, but what does ‘marketing’ really mean? And how can you make it easier? In this blog, we’ll be breaking down the most important aspects of digital marketing (marketing your company online) and providing some tips on how best to manage them – so you can start to benefit in no time at all!

#1 Website

First of all, do you have a website? If you were searching for a company or service, would you be more likely to pick one with a website, which shows up on search results, or one that relies on social media or word of mouth? Probably the former!

A website is a great way to share your news (and increase your SEO ranking by updating your site regularly), give customers a way to reach you and build credibility. It’s also the best way to ensure that you have control over the way people perceive your business and understand what you do, and to grow your brand into something amazing. Here are a few of the main ways you can use your website for digital marketing:

Blogging
A blog is a brilliant way to get your personality across, which will keep your customers engaged. Use your blog to share exciting company news, new product announcements, ‘get to know us’ posts and more. For extra impact, you can also try to find guest blogging opportunities, which can help you to grow your audience and create valuable connections. If this isn’t for you, or you don’t have the time to post on other people’s blogs as well as your own, that’s okay! Just keeping yours updated regularly can make a huge difference.

Product and company information
If your customers have come to your website, they probably want to know more about what you do. ‘About us’ pages are a great way to show people a little more about who you are and what you do. If people frequently want to see your products in action, you might want to consider creating a demo video to engage them and encourage conversion. This gives your customers a better idea of how great your products and saves you having to spend too much of your valuable time explaining the same things, so everyone’s a winner!

eCommerce
If you’ve got great products, you obviously need a way to sell them! There are loads of easy and effective ways to promote your products with an online store. Try setting up discount codes to promote new products, organising your products by tag or category to ensure that the right people can find them, and adding new variations as soon as they come in – and make sure you share this on social media as well!

Contact forms
Encourage your customers to contact you and give them an easy way to do it with contact forms on your website. If someone has a query which might be a deciding factor for them, ensuring they have a way to ask it will ensure that you’re not losing business unnecessarily.

#2 Social media

Social media has become increasingly important in recent years, with more and more people using it to promote, sell and buy products. Having a presence on all the main platforms your customers are using ensures that you’ll show up wherever they search for you, which means they will also be able to contact you easily. In addition to the blog, it’s a fantastic way to keep your customers engaged, and to gain lifelong support for your business. Here are a few ways you can use social media:

Giveaways
Everyone loves a freebie, right? Depending on your product, giveaways are a relatively inexpensive way to engage your customers. You can give a wide audience the excitement of getting a new product, but you only have to give away one thing for free, so it shouldn’t be beyond your means. This is also a good way of widening your net on social media. See our social media blog for more information on how this works.

Making connections
Connect with similar accounts and meet potential prospects on social media. This will give you a good insight into what others are doing to market themselves, as well as opening up a large audience when you do start advertising. You can even promote other accounts in exchange for a promotion of your account – theoretically doubling your audience!

Showing off new products
This is especially effective on visual platforms like Instagram. In just a few seconds, you can upload a photo of a new product, tell people what it’s about, and use relevant hashtags to ensure the right people are seeing it. Simple! You can also share others’ photos of your products or services in action – or take some of your own. Keep it visually engaging and you’ll be sure to make an impression on potential customers.

An insight into who you are
Don’t be afraid to share a few non-product posts too! If you have a canine helper, a delicious working lunch or are simply taking a well-earned break somewhere beautiful, taking a few seconds to pop a post up will add to your online persona – boosting your brand at the same time.

#3 Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising

PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is one of the best ways to ensure that you’re reaching your target audience. It’s becoming increasingly important to use it these days, as more and more companies are using it – making it necessary just to keep up with the competition on search engines. Fortunately, as the name implies, PPC doesn’t cost anything unless people click on your adverts; and at least some of the people who do click on them should convert, which will ideally outweigh the cost of the advertising itself. In theory, it’s a win-win option! Available on search engines and on social media, it can be a brilliant tool.

There are some great guides to getting started with PPC available online, but here are a few of the key things to consider:

Keywords
To ensure you’re reaching your target audience, you need to make sure you’re using the right keywords. You can bid on certain keywords to make sure your ad shows up when potential customers type them into search engines. There are loads of great ways of making sure you’re using the right keywords and finding out how much they’ll cost, such as Google’s Keyword Planner. It’s not always better to use the most obvious terms; you may find that to outbid the competition, you’d end up having to bid much more than you could afford. Instead, use planners to find the best balance between affordability and relevance.

Engaging content
Reaching an audience is only the first step; you need to make sure that you can engage them too. The best way to do this is to create engaging, relevant copy for your ads – so they’ll click through – and the page they end up on – so they’ll convert, and you’ll get a good return on investment from your ads. Think about what your customers want, what you can offer them, and why you’re better than your competitors; and try and state this clearly and concisely.

Content and PPC can feed into each other: if you have good PPC ads, people are much more likely to click on your content; and if you have good content to promote through PPC ads, people are much more likely to click on these ads. Check out these tips on creating great content to ensure you’re on the right track

Budget
Because you can edit PPC ads, change bid and more, it’s easy to stick to a budget. Ensure you never bid more than you can afford, however, and check in regularly. If you’re spending a lot, it probably means your ad has been successful, but you should still set an overall budget. On most platforms, this will stop the ad running once you hit your budget; you can then restart it if you decide the investment is working out!

Trial and error
As with most things, there’s a degree of trial and error needed with PPC marketing. Don’t be afraid to test two ads at the same time to see which performs better, or to take down an ad you’re finding doesn’t convert. If an ad really isn’t working, you won’t have to pay for it (as you won’t get clicks) and if an ad is working but not ultimately converting, you can make changes before going over your budget.

#4 Emails

Email marketing is a great way to stay in touch with your customers. You can use it to keep them updated on new products, let them know about promotions, invite them to events and more. Here are a few of our top tips:

Newsletter
This is the best way to give your customers all the exciting facts in one go. By following a monthly or quarterly newsletter format, you can make your own life easier by giving yourself structure, and you can make your customers’ lives easier by saving them from having to search for new information on your company elsewhere. There are heaps of great tools to help you establish a system and format and execute newsletter campaigns; it can be really simple.

Don’t spam
Another great reason to have a newsletter is that it gives structure to your email marketing. The last thing you should do is spam your customers, or they’ll be hitting the ‘unsubscribe’ button before you can say ‘email’! Make sure you follow GDPR guidelines and check your customers actually want to be signed up to your mailing list, and then create an emailing schedule to ensure you’re only contacting them from time to time, and not overwhelming them.

Branding
Wherever possible, match the colours of your email templates to your website. This will make your emails look more legitimate, while also ensuring that your brand will stick in your customers’ minds. Once you’ve created a template, you can use it again and again, so making the effort now will go a long way!

Personalised email addresses
If you’re going to email your customers, make sure you’re using a professional email address. This will make your emails look much more legitimate, and will increase trust among your customers. Instead of using youremail@emailprovider.com, invest in an @yourbusinessname.com email address. There are several ways to get one of these, but the simplest way is to ensure that it’s included with your website and/or domain name.

#5 Customer service

Yes – customer service can be digital marketing! Responding to emails, social media queries and reviews…these are all digital marketing practices, and they’re all important! Ensure that you respond to customers promptly (when possible), and courteously, and give them a reason to want to buy from you! When you’re running a small business, it can feel like your personality and your business are intertwined, and in this instance that can be a very good thing! If you can consistently offer great customer service, you’ll make customers for life, not just for one terrible email exchange!

Be there for your customers
Replying to customers (across all platforms) can make a huge difference. More often than not, queries will be quick and easy to respond to, and taking a few minutes once or twice a day will help to build customer loyalty and trust. It might even be the difference between you making and losing a sale!

Respond to reviews and comments (even the bad ones)
Nobody likes a negative review, but responding to complaints and bad reviews can turn a customer’s negative experience around. It may be that you made a mistake, the customer misunderstood something or just that the product wasn’t for them; whatever the case, this doesn’t have to damage your reputation or your customers’ perception of you! Stay calm and follow handy online tips like these to ensure you can come out of a tricky situation with your head held high – and even learn something from it!

Be human
Many people choose to support small businesses because they’re run by individuals, and that shows in their customer service. Don’t be afraid to show your human side with personalised emails, behind-the-scenes blogs and more. These small insights and personal touches are what set you apart from huge corporations in the best possible way, by reminding your customers that they’re buying from a human, rather than a faceless entity.

 

You might be surprised to see that all these activities count as digital marketing, but they do! Chances are, you’re already doing quite a few of them – if you’re not, some of them are really quick and easy to institute, so you can be an expert digital marketer in no time!

While these are all different areas of digital marketing, one thing most of them have in common is the need for a website. For most businesses, this is the glue that holds things together! If you’re looking for a way to tick several things off the list at once, why not start a free trial of Go Sitebuilder today? It includes up to 5 professional email addresses, social media functionality, a beautiful website builder and a blog, so you can really start to get ahead when it comes to growing your business online.

The ultimate online success checklist for your small business

Just like people, cars and pets, businesses need a checkup every now and again to ensure that they’re as strong and healthy as they can be. We’ve created a little checklist of the top things you should include in your business’s MOT, so you can have it running as smoothly as possible in next to no time.

Strategy and goals

You can only become successful if you know what your goals are, and how you plan to reach them. Start by thinking about why you originally started your business. Are you still working towards the same goals? Once you’ve thought about the broader stuff, there are a few more specific areas to think about:

Do you have an idea of where you’d like your business to be this time next year?

Numerical, abstract or otherwise, this is a great way to give yourself direction and help you to establish priorities.
Tracking your return on investment (ROI) will help you discover when you break even on your investment and prove your success when you start making a profit.

If you’re selling products, will you be able to meet demand if your business grows in popularity?

Or do you need to get something in place for this? This isn’t just a case of being optimistic – it’s important to ensure that if your business gains momentum, you’ll be able to keep that going. Make a plan for how you might expand your offering to meet demand if the need arises.

Do you currently have a system in place to help raise brand awareness?

Whether that’s reviews, word of mouth, competitions or something else, brand awareness is an important part of growing any business. Take a look at what similar businesses are doing, and think about what would work best for your brand.

Are you achieving the goals you previously had in mind?

It’s totally okay to not be achieving every single one of your goals; it’s just important to be aware of them as a guideline, and to have an idea of where you are compared to where you wanted to be.

Website

Does your business have a website?

If yes:

Is it mobile friendly?

This is crucial to ensure that your website shows up on search engines like Google. It also means your customers can easily visit your website on the go!

Do you update it regularly?

This will keep your visitors coming back to your site and further boost your search engine rankings.

Is it easy to find? i.e. personalised domain, good keywords

It’s much easier for customers to find a website if its domain is simple and matches the company’s name. In conjunction with good SEO rankings, which you can boost by ensuring that you’re using relevant terms throughout your website, and by making the most of any SEO tools included in your website, this will ensure that you can be found by the customers you’re targeting.

Do the images fit with your branding elsewhere?

This will ensure that your brand sticks in your customers’ minds. They don’t need to match, but it’s good to ensure that they don’t look incongruous with the rest of your branding.

If you opened up the website and saw it for the first time, is there anything you’d change?

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try to take an objective look at your website. This will help you to identify any issues you might be missing by being too close to it!

If no:

Are you losing potential business by not having a website?

Not having a website makes it harder for potential customers to find your company, decreasing brand awareness and customer conversion.

What kind of website would suit your business?

Do you need a store? Just a blog? What kind of website would ensure that you’re keeping up with the competition? With a website builder, you can be really flexible, so just having a little look around at the kind of websites others have can help you to decide what you do and don’t need to include. Once you know, you can create your own unique, beautiful website in no time! It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming; sign up for a free trial of Go Sitebuilder to see for yourself!

For more hints and tips on the main things to consider when you’re making (or managing) a website, see our blog here.

Social media

Do you have:

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

LinkedIn?

The more social media accounts you have, the more people you’re likely to reach. Once you have a posting rhythm going, it won’t take much longer to post to several pages than it would to post to one. There are also loads of tools to help with this.

Have you replied to all the messages you need to reply to?

Did you know that Facebook rates your response rate for your customers? Try adding an automated message response to keep your rating high, and try to reply properly as soon as possible.

Do you update it regularly?

This is the best way to make sure you’re keeping your followers engaged. There are different studies on how regularly you should post, but many suggest once a day on Facebook, at least once on Instagram, at least twice a week on LinkedIn and between 3 and 30 times a day on Twitter (which can include retweets, of course).

Is it connected to your website?

This is an easy way to keep your website updated with little effort: featuring new social posts on your site ensure that visitors can see everything in one place.

If you use images, do they fit in with your branding elsewhere?

This will ensure that your brand sticks in your customers’ minds.

Are you engaging with your customers?

From liking posts you’re tagged in to asking questions, there are lots of ways to keep your customers engaged and active.

Do you follow accounts who offer good information/connections?

This is a great way of making sure you’re on top of the latest trends in your area. If you follow relevant accounts, not only will you be able to pick up on useful information, but you’re also more likely to find opportunities to promote your services or products!

Are you reposting content from others?

This helps to build a community, shows support for other local or small businesses and saves you from having to create original content every time you post. As an added bonus, if you share something of theirs, they’re more likely to post about your business in return!

For more advice on making the most of social media, check out our blog here.

Your own wellbeing

No matter how perfect all the other areas of your business are, you come first – and in order for a business to function well, its owner needs to function well too.

Are you getting enough time away from your work?

The key to a work-life balance is in the name – you’ve got to balance both things. Make sure you’re setting aside time to do things that aren’t related to work, whether that’s spending time with family, exercising, watching TV or a hobby.

Do you have a good working environment?

If you work in one place on a regular basis, ensure that it isn’t going to cause you any problems. General employer desk assessment checklists can help with this. If possible, always work away from where you sleep, as this can disrupt your all-important sleep!

Are you getting enough sleep?

Sleep is incredibly important, and it’s never worth sacrificing it. Even if you feel like you need to spend more time growing your business, being more tired will just end up making you less productive in the long-run.

Are you delegating tasks to colleagues (if applicable), technology and your future self, rather than trying to do everything?

If you employ anyone, make sure you’re delegating tasks, and not letting yourself get into the mindset of ‘it’ll just be quicker if I do it myself’. That task might be quicker, but it will always come at the cost of something else that needs doing. If you don’t employ anyone, then focus on prioritising and scheduling. Even though all tasks are technically delegated to you, that doesn’t mean you have to do them all at once.

Are you acknowledging your own achievements?

Remember to give yourself a pat on the back every now and then! You’re doing something amazing by running your own business, so make sure you acknowledge when something goes well – and go easy on yourself if it doesn’t.

Looking after your own wellbeing is such an important aspect of being a business owner – and one that’s often overlooked. If you’re finding yourself unable to tick any of these boxes it’s probably because your work-life balance isn’t quite in check. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! We’ve provided some helpful tips on ensuring that you’re maintaining a sustainable work-life balance in this free eBook.

This may look like a fairly long list, but in reality it should only take you a few minutes to go through it – and any unticked boxes can be rectified gradually before next time. Whether you use this list once every month, quarter or six months, it’s important to have a system in place to check your business’s metaphorical engine!

Do you really need a website as well as social media? (Yes!)

Now that most social platforms have a form of ‘business profile’ option, you might find yourself wondering if you really need a website as well as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. While it certainly makes sense to ask this question, especially with new features like product tagging on Instagram and Facebook, having a website is still very important for your business. The two platforms have their own benefits, but they are always at their most beneficial when used together; in this case, more actually is more!

The benefits of social media for your small business

It’s rare to find a business that doesn’t have a presence on at least one social media platform, as this has always been a good way of opening the doors for communication with potential and actual customers. Since such a huge majority of the business population is now active on social media, it’s no longer a particular advantage to have social media accounts – but it’s definitely a disadvantage not to.

It’s quick, free and easy to create an account on any of the main social media platforms, meaning that you can begin to build an online presence almost immediately. The interactivity of platforms like Facebook and Twitter means you can start to interact with your customers straight away, while also getting your brand seen by the friends of people you talk to, as your conversations show up on others’ newsfeeds.

The drawbacks

While social media offers some of the functions needed by small businesses, it lacks permanence and security. Instead of having ownership over your online presence, you are effectively ‘renting’ online space from the social media sites you use. This means that you are totally at the mercy of any algorithm changes that may prevent your page from appearing on newsfeeds. More and more frequently, businesses are being forced to pay for advertising in order to gain any exposure, rather than being able to keep using social media as a free way of growing their brand. In addition, while it may seem as though the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will be around forever, there’s no guarantee that they won’t eventually go down the same route as websites like Myspace and Friendster – meaning that you are also at the mercy of the fate of the platforms themselves.

Opportunities for branding and credibility are also limited on social media. Your branding has to fit in with that of the platform in question, which can seriously limits your options. While no business can have particularly strong branding on social media, not making up for this elsewhere can leave you lacking credibility and memorability. As mentioned above, while using social media can add to your business’s credibility slightly, this effect is now limited by the saturation-levels of social media, leaving everyone on a fairly even playing field.

The benefits of a website for your small business

In light of these drawbacks, a website can act as the perfect solution to the problems posed by social media. It’s possible to have much more ownership over a website than over social media, meaning that potential impermanence and changing algorithms are no longer an issue. There’s also a greater sense of credibility included in a website. This works on a sliding scale: just a website gives a certain amount; a domain name and personalised email address gives even more. A website also serves as a central location for information – instead of having to ask questions on social media, your customers can find answers on your website. This reduces the need for repetitive questions on social media, freeing it up as a platform for customer feedback, reviews and more favourable questions – all with the potential to build your brand. This directly benefits you at the same time as your business, freeing up your valuable time, as you’ll only need to answer these questions once.

While social media has more functionalities than it did a few years ago, websites still have a much broader range on offer. From blogs to eCommerce and more, they offer a smooth and complete way of operating that social media can’t. All of these functionalities work in conjunction with advanced website analytics – whether these are included in the website builder itself or from an external system like Google Analytics. While social media includes some analytics, they are not complex or complete enough for a growing small business’s needs.

Best of both worlds

It’s easy to pitch websites against social media when it comes to your web presence; in reality, they can work together in perfect harmony to make a much stronger online presence than either could alone. Both methods strengthen SEO, and a good social media following can drive customers to your website when it matters most – such as during a promotion or a big event. While this driving force aspect of social media is incredibly important and useful, it can’t help your business to reach its full potential without the stability, security and flexibility of a well branded website. A promotion, for example, can find popularity on social media, but can’t become a reality without the eCommerce functionality of a website; similarly, an event which requires customers to register their interest with their details will run much more smoothly with a dedicated contact form.

However you choose to use the two, you can (and should) use social media and a website in tandem to get the most out of both of these versatile, potential-packed platforms and grow your ideas into a great business. To get started today, download the Go Sitebuilder app on Google Play or the App Store, or access it through your browser here.