Digital marketing is at the forefront of inbound marketing efforts today and SMBs with limited marketing budgets and expertise are struggling to keep up with multi-channel strategies employed by bigger competitors. Getting ahead of your digital marketing strategy is the only way to meaningfully grow your SMB, but with limited resources, you have to pick your battles and focus on channels that deliver.
As a small business, you have to balance direct online sales with inbound and outbound marketing. There are constantly new channels in the digital landscape to advertise and sell your products and services, while tried and tested channels continue to bring in leads and customers. What strategies are worth focusing on as an SMB making a name for itself online today?
1. SEM and Local Search Optimization
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) are long-term strategies to build your visibility in local markets. These two strategies target major search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) where local customers turn first when they’re in search of a business.
Search Engine Marketing is pay-per-click advertising on search engines like Google, where you bid on promotional space on the first SERP (Search Engine Result Page) according to keyword. The first place to start is knowing the keywords that matter in your business. What are people typing into search engines when they’re trying to find a business like yours?
It’s one thing to place promoted results with a search engine, but customers trust organic results. That’s where SEO and local search optimization come in. Search engines rank websites higher when they’re regularly updated with relevant content, a fact that’s driving the surge in digital marketing content. Local search optimization is about making sure your contact information is readily available and that you appear in Google’s “Local Pack” – the top 3 results with contact information and their location displayed on Google Maps.
2. Facebook Marketplace
In October 2016, the social media giant launched Facebook Marketplace, a site and app where you can buy and sell local goods. Unlike its biggest ecommerce competitors eBay and Etsy, Facebook Marketplace doesn’t take a cut of your sales and you can integrate paid Facebook advertising. It automatically shows products to local customers and capitalizes on mobile commerce, which is growing even faster than ecommerce today.
3. Classified Ads
Go straight to the source by promoting your online business on classified sites. Online classified ads remain one of the most effective ways to sell directly to customers and promote your business online. Online classifieds are one of the first places customers go when they need a product or service and they’re being used more and more often for big ticket items like cars and property. Classified sites like Kijiji have become major advertising channels for car dealers, real estate agents, rental companies, freelancers, and contractors.
4. Email Marketing
Email marketing is the outbound channel of choice for small and big businesses alike. Create a newsletter and design your website to prompt sign ups. Don’t forget to encourage customers to sign up, too – it can take several years, but 25% of your customer base should be repeat customers. Repeat buyers generate more revenue and you should be doing everything you can to cultivate past customers.
Success on the digital stage demands a multi-channels approach. Keep up with new digital marketing channels and stay persistent using those with a proven ROI. There are no shortcuts to generating customers online.