6 hacks to improve your small business digital marketing

BBC Apprentice winner Mark Wright offers small businesses six ways to get results from their digital marketing.

The exponential growth of tech platforms has completely transformed how businesses communicate and engage with their stakeholders, where a strong online presence is now more important than ever before.

For small businesses, trying to compete with larger brands online can seem a daunting task, but, in reality, the growth in digital platforms has levelled the playing field, providing the opportunity for businesses large and small to directly engage with their target audiences in real-time.

That said, many small businesses struggle to find the time to implement a coherent digital marketing strategy or, with advancing tech platforms, are unsure where to start.

If this sounds familiar, the following small business digital marketing hacks are guaranteed to boost your presence and build your brand awareness online:

Don’t underestimate video

By the close of 2019, video will account for at least 85pc of internet traffic. This means if you aren’t creating video content to promote your product or service online, you’ll be out of the game.

Don’t be under the illusion that video content needs to be professionally shot. Smartphone cameras are now more sophisticated than ever before and provide excellent quality for shooting short soundbites of video content. To engage your customers, you need to create content which informs and educates. If you’re a dentist, talk about the top tips for preventing gum disease; if you’re a personal trainer, show your audience how to get abs of steel. Keep it short, simple, but effective.

Valuable content

From content published through social media, to content sent directly to your customers through email marketing, you need to ensure that your content is valuable, informative and engaging. Your target audiences don’t want to hear about how amazing your company, product or service is or what Phil in accounting has eaten for lunch.

The most effective small business digital marketing is that which educates, informs or emotes. For example, think about why people invest in your product or service, and create content around whatever problem you solve. Where the dentist could create content on the top five foods to avoid that stain your teeth, a personal trainer could post an infographic on five easy exercises to complete from the comfort of your home.

The more valuable your consumers or stakeholders find your content, the more they will engage with your business and brand online, eventually converting to paying customers.

Budget for ads

To get real traction on social media today you need to put aside a budget for social media advertising. Why? Without an influential following, organic reach on platforms like Facebook is practically dead for SMEs. However, both the Instagram and Facebook advertising platforms are extremely effective for marketing your business online, enabling you to reach, engage with and re-market to your target audience on a mass scale.

With sophisticated targeting methods, you will be able to reach audiences by location, age demographic, interests or even behaviours. You can even create “lookalike audiences”, which enables you to target audiences that are engaged with and follow your market competitors.

Automation tools

If you’re struggling for time, then you need to tap into the power of automation technology for small business digital marketing. Whether utilising automated email marketing platforms like Active Campaign or social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite or Tweet Deck, these platforms enable you to plan and schedule your marketing activity in advance, so that you can continue running your business day-to-day.

One of the fastest growing small business digital marketing automation tools for improving online engagement is the chatbot. Aside from providing real-time engagement, chatbots are becoming an increasingly valuable sales tool. Through sophisticated artificial intelligence and learned behaviour, they can now assist and drive new sales leads for organisations large or small. Platforms such as Gobot enable you to build your own chatbot, where you can program FAQs which will help qualify your sales leads via your website, before they reach your inbox.

Lead generation

Many small businesses publish content via social media platforms, send out the odd monthly newsletter or emailer, then conclude that marketing doesn’t work for them. Sound familiar? You aren’t doing it right. With every marketing strategy you put into place, you need to create a lead generation funnel to engage target audiences and maximise the opportunity for conversions.

This could be as simple as promoting a series of hints and tips via video content online, and then asking people to sign up to your newsletter to receive an exclusive offer to work with you directly. Or you could create a more sophisticated lead generation funnel that integrates with re-marketing to increase online conversions and resulting growth.

A/B (split) testing (tweaking digital campaigns to see which version works best) and continuous evaluation of success metrics are key here, enabling you to create and refine a lead generation strategy which resonates with your target audience and converts consumers into customers.

Measure your success

Before you start any digital marketing strategy, you need to implement some clear key performance indicators (KPIs) to work towards. Whether you want to increase your social media following, drive new client enquiries, or increase sales for your new product, be clear on your numbers and be clear on your goals.

Without these goals and KPIs, your digital marketing strategy will lack purpose and you will quickly give up. Digital marketing is a process. This means you need to consistently measure and evaluate what is or isn’t working in order to get it right and drive tangible results.

If you aren’t dedicating enough time, are being inconsistent with your approach, and aren’t thinking about lead generation strategies, marketing will not work for you. Consumers are online looking for and waiting to engage with your product and/or service.

Put in the time, get it right and you will convert them to customers.

Mark Wright is founder of digital marketing agency Climb Online

Further reading

Low cost digital marketing strategies for businesses on a budget

Mark Wright

Mark Wright

Mark Wright is a winner of BBC’s The Apprentice and director of digital marketing agency Climb Online.