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Why your small business needs a digital marketing strategy

 Every small business needs a digital marketing strategy.

There are so many positive benefits for small businesses to take the time to outline and implement a digital marketing strategy. I’ve seen too many business owners avoid long-term planning due to time constraints and instead opt for a short-term, reactive approach to marketing and sales.

This approach often leaves you with no time to experiment or research what would be best for the business long-term and ultimately hampers growth. This means that the mantra “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is adopted in fear of losing out while any new channel to increase sales is investigated.

I’ve also seen many small companies try social media or paid advertising half-heartedly and not accommodate for time to experiment and fail, which solidifies opinion about what seemingly works or not. This is a real shame because it is more crucial now than ever before to ensure that your marketing strategy evolves with the times so you don’t get left behind.

Business Models Have Changed

Everything and everyone is going digital, which means if you don’t cater to this new tech-savvy audience you are going to fall behind your competitors and lose a lot of potential business. This can be seen in the mini-cab industry more than anywhere else. Once, a small business that only needed phones and radios to set-up, plus leaflet-drop the local area and have a catchy phone number that people could remember to call when they were drunk.

Now they have to cater to an audience that is used to the seamless technology of using Uber, who was able to be promoted purely through word-of-mouth because of the experience of booking a cab was so easy. Customers always wanted to book online, pay online and not have to tell their driver the best route to go and Uber provided what the market wanted. The costs are then kept lower because of the automation.

You can understand why this is attractive to the user and why the company has gone on to dominate the world. This is a whole industry disrupted and local towns and mini-cab businesses are still feeling the effects today 6 years after Uber launched in the UK.

The Markets Have Responded

Business models change and the way we market our businesses needs to change with them. The world knows this. While you have been working your traditional marketing channels, there has been a quiet rise of digital marketing domination. Back in 2011, this is what the digital marketing technology landscape looked like:

Yet in 2017, the number of companies providing digital marketing technology to businesses and individuals has simply exploded:

It’s big and competitive for reason: digital marketing works for all manner of businesses and the software supporting that has grown to cater to the market. There are enough tools and platforms to reach your market and if you plan carefully you can ensure that it’s targeted and effective.

How Small Businesses Can Take Advantage

So you’ve got a website, and a Facebook page and blog once a month. You get your leads from search traffic, but that’s decreasing year-on-year and you’re part of a few online directories. That’s not a strategy, it’s just being present. You need a long-term plan that reflects the challenges and changes you can see in your market using the best and most relevant tools available.

In 2018, marketers in the UK are expected to spend more than double the amount in digital channels than TV, or any other traditional medium. They know that the truth is, without a digital marketing campaign to boost your visibility online, the likelihood of your website succeeding over your competitors is very slim. There’s just too much volume.

The rise of Google and Facebook has meant lower-cost advertising on their platforms that reach millions of people in targeted fashion and you receive great intel on how those ads perform, meaning that bad performing ads can be replaced or updated. Compared to radio, print or TV, this is a better return on investment, especially when funds are tight.

A local restaurant only needed to advertise in the Yellow Pages twenty years ago, but now has to be online, maintain great reviews via Yelp and TripAdvisor and also allow for online booking and payments. The Yellow Pages will stop printing in 2019 after 51 years because they were not being used and now restauranteurs need to ensure that customers honest reviews don’t affect business. However, if you are smart with your marketing, you can get an unknown restaurant to the top of the ratings on a review site and become an overnight success.

The playing field is level and your small business has as many opportunities as your bigger competitors if you plan.

Start With Your Customers

The goal of any good digital marketing strategy is to connect your business’ value to the right customer base. You find where your customers are and you match your products and services to them. Once you know who they are, you know which marketing strategy will be viable and which will be a waste of time.

It takes a little time to set-up, but once you have invested time into thinking about your customers, you can start to develop a personality for them. This means you start to think about how they use the internet and where their attention goes day-to-day.

You know your customer because they’ve bought from you, you kept their details and followed up with questions about how they found you and you continued to keep in touch about your services via email or phone. If you don’t do this, you need to start doing it today because your customers guide your marketing efforts.

Once you know a bit about their average age, where they live, what they buy and when and how they buy it, you can start to work out where others like them might live online and that’s where to go next with your strategy development.

There Is No Magic Marketing Strategy

So now you know where your customer liked to spend their attention online, you investigate how you can get in front of them by picking a selection of tools and platforms, within your budget, that you can test.

It may be that your previous approach of blogging occasionally on your website and adding daily Facebook post doesn’t apply anymore because you can see that your users are pinning your pictures from your pottery website to Pinterest instead.

Social network use is huge in the UK and we’re all on Facebook, but some of our attention is elsewhere and that attention is what you want to chase. Pinterest has its own ad platform and anyone can join and set-up an account start targeting users that like the type of things you sell.

You figure out a plan that sticks within your budget and time availability.  A good strategy isn’t trying to do everything all at once but trying different things systematically to see what works.

It could be that you want to try and leverage more traffic to join your mailing list because you know that when you send an email to your customer base, they buy from you. So you try a little social advertising and test different types of ads:

Perhaps you’re spread really thin doing demonstrations of your products and filming the demos and adding to YouTube would help you reach a bigger market.

Planning for the Long-Term

My background is in project management and I am a big fan of the Agile approach, which denotes that you have a fixed period to build or create something, you test that something and then you put it to market. Using the results, you then improve on what you have done. I believe that adopting this approach for your businesses’ digital marketing strategy is key because then you are able to give yourself enough time to see what doesn’t work and time to reflect on why.

Part of your strategy should be to test something thoroughly before you move onto another channel or another approach. Shutting it down when there are no leads after 1 week of trying isn’t a strategy. It can take weeks or months for a new strategy to gain traction and provide results. Planning for this is brave for a business that may be used to short-term approaches.

How You Can Start

There are some great tools online that can help you start to ask some of the bigger business strategy questions. Google ‘create business strategy‘ and you’ll see some tools marketing at you in the search results ad space.

Alternatively, open a blank doc and start from scratch, asking yourself about your customers and where they live online. Tools like Survey Monkey can get you started to collect that type of data, but quite often a good old fashioned conversion will do!

Then go and research the platforms. There is so much available info out there that in theory, if you have the time, you need never have to use a marketer or agency to do the management of this for you.

Facebook offers free training:
Google has their own academy:
MailChimp has an endless resource:

Finally, don’t forget to box in some time to test and review. It’s this that will transform how you work. A day  week is ideal but if you can’t afford to do this, then scale back your efforts to something that works for you. It can only grow from there.

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