As a small business owner, your time is limited and it can be difficult to know where to apply your precious time and resources for the best results. In our workshop, I explained a few of the techniques small business owners can start applying right away and how to get the best return on that investment. Watch the video in full below; I’ve also written a full article below it which outlined everything I was saying for those of you who would prefer to read:

Digital marketing for small businesses

Digital marketing is a incredibly valuable tool for small businesses that want to grow. Whilst the physical locations or shop fronts of small businesses or start ups might be a lot smaller than their larger competitors, online smaller companies can gain a much larger presence and even compete with those bigger entities through savvy marketing.

Consider the internet a level playing field, where everyone has the chance to be seen as the best in their field. By identifying the channels that are relevant to your target audience and creating the content that best represents your products/services/business, you too can grow online.

Setting up your stall

The first step in a small business’ digital marketing campaign is to get the website right. This means investing in a site which shows your business in the best possible light.

Choose a website designer/developer who understands what your business is all about and ensure they understand what you’re trying to achieve. An ecommerce site (one which sells products) will be quite different to a lead generation or brochure site so it’s important that your design/development company is able to produce what you need. Today more than ever it’s important that your site is mobile-friendly, too – learn more about Google’s mobile update here.

It’s also essential you consider the content that will be going on the site before it goes live. The website should showcase all of your services/products/product categories so they appeal to your target customer, and this should be considered in the way you structure your navigation and pages.

Each one of your services/products/product categories should have its own page on your website. So on our site, for example, you’ll notice that we have a separate page for SEO, for PPC, for PR and so on – although we could just as easily have had one page that talked about ‘digital marketing services’, by separating these out and giving them a page of their own, we allow potential customers to find comprehensive information on the service they require. It also means that people searching, for example, for ‘SEO Nottingham’ will see our SEO page in the search results, whilst a page which attempted to cover all of our services would struggle to rank highly for any one of them.

If you have a huge number of products – perhaps, like the Music Exchange in Nottingham, you have hundreds of vinyl records to sell but don’t sell them through your site – you might prefer to focus on creating product category pages (e.g. ‘jazz music’ or ’80s rock’) rather than creating one page for every single record you have.

Promoting your website

With your website up and representing you in the best possible way, it’s time to start promoting it around the web. Not only will this improve awareness of your brand and drive website traffic, it will also help to improve your Google rankings as Google recognises each mention of your business across the web as a ‘vote’ for your site’s authority.

There are various ways to do this and for small businesses, PR can be a great place to start. Try looking at places like Source Bottle, which is a free resource for you to receive journalist requests, and lists of local media such as this list of Nottingham press on Twitter to find out what journalists are after and connect with them. Be aware of what kind of stories get covered in your local newspapers and news websites and what stories from your own business might be of interest to them.

You can also look at niche directories for your industry where you might list your business (e.g. http://www.musicshopuk.com/ for Music Exchange) and also at industry relevant websites that might feature your stories.

What’s missing?

Promoting your business is a LOT easier when you know what you’re trying to say. You’ll struggle to get people talking about you if you don’t have a story and to get them to link to your website without having something useful, engaging or interesting for them to link to.

This means your strategy must also include a content strategy. Consider the following things when deciding what you will create content about:

Brand stories

A ‘brand story’ is a story from your business. What would you say to me if you met me at a networking event and I asked what your business was? Some people call it an ‘elevator pitch’ to know how you’d pitch your business in a short time, but brand stories go beyond this. Think about what makes your business unique and different from its competitors and come up with a list of stories you want to promote.

Audience

You must understand your audience if you are to attract them to your business. Think about who they are, what positions they occupy in their business, what challenges face them and their industry – if they’re a consumer rather than a business customer, what difficulties do they have, what interests them and how is your product or service going to help them? By considering all of these things, you can start to create content that’s relevant to them.

Reason

You need to have a reason for creating your content. What are you trying to achieve? If it’s brand awareness, you’ll need to consider what about your brand you’re trying to share and where you’re going to share it. Perhaps you’re looking to showcase a particular element of your expertise and show thought leadership, in which case you’re going to benefit more from long form content that allows you to put across your ideas.

I recently wrote a post on Smart Insights which takes you through some tools to help you develop a content marketing strategy.

Measuring your results

It’s important with any marketing activity that you have a way of measuring your results. Think SMART – it’s an old technique but a good one.

This means your goals should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-constrained

Next, think about how you’ll measure those goals. Google Analytics is free to use and enables you to track information about the visitors to your site. Think about setting up goals in Analytics and using the standard reports such as the Channels report to show you which channels are delivering traffic. If you sell products online, you’ll need to apply ecommerce tracking too.

Your goal might be as simple as growing brand awareness, but this isn’t a SMART goal. To make it so, you might amend it so your goal is to increase website traffic (which would be an indicator that you have improved awareness of your brand). This can be measured using Google Analytics, is certainly achievable, is relevant to what you want to achieve and to make it time-constrained, why not set a goal to increase your website traffic by 10% in the next month?

If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help your business grow online, get in touch or you keep following our blog for more tips and advice. You can also follow us on Twitter @impressiontalk and on LinkedIn.

You can see the slides from the event here:

Laura Hampton

Head of Digital PR

Head of Digital PR at Impression working with colleagues and clients to deliver link acquisition campaigns that support SEO visibility and wider marketing goals. Regular speaker at industry conferences and contributor to industry publications. In my spare time, I jump out of planes.

Laura has specialist knowledge in Digital PR and Content Marketing.

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