How to Market Your Small Business Online
If you're a small business owner, you’re probably handling all your marketing efforts by yourself. Chances are you are also exploring a myriad of local advertising ideas like local TV, newspaper ads, direct mail, and more. Before you buy a local TV commercial spot and do a cheesy advertisement in a costume, take a deep breath. It’s more beneficial for you to focus on digital marketing.
In the United States alone, digital ad spending hit over 50% in 2019. Online marketing has taken over traditional mediums like print and broadcast in countries like Canada, Russia, China, the U.K., and Norway. Digital ad spend only continues to increase, while traditional media are dealing with cord cutters or the death of magazines.
Although it seems daunting to market your small business online, it’s a lot easier than you think. You don’t even have to spend money to do it! There are plenty of free marketing tools you can use to tackle your online marketing.
Here are some marketing tips you can use:
- Identify goals
To properly market your business, you need to figure out what your goals are. Are you simply trying to raise awareness of your brand? Do you have a certain sales number you want to hit? Are you trying to drive engagement on social media? Make a list of your goals and prioritize them so you know where to start with your digital marketing strategy.
- Understand your customers
Another thing you need to do before you begin marketing online is to analyze and get an understanding of your target audience. It’s crucial to know who you’re talking to and what their needs are, so you market your business in a way that is compelling to them. Learn more about identifying your target audience here.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
One of the cheapest and easiest ways to market your small business online is to optimize your website for search. When your website follows SEO best practices, your business will appear higher in search results on Google. Basically, SEO ensures you’re using the right keywords on your website so when people use those search terms, your business pops up at the top of the list.
You need to identify keywords associated with your business and find out what your competitors are using. Take advantage of free SEO tools like Google Analytics and Google Adwords and use SEO plugins on your website to make sure your site is optimized and ready to go.
- Start blogging
Blogging is an easy—and free—way to enhance your SEO for your website and provide value for your customers. If you own a boutique, blog about new styles and trends that feature shoppable items from your store. If you own a bakery, try posting blogs with recipes or tips for hosting a party.
Content marketing allows you to create simple content seeded with keywords relating to your business, which in turn will help you rank higher in search.
- Social media
Social media marketing is free. If you own a local business, social media can be the most effective way to connect with your customers. Nextdoor, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have free and easy-to-set-up tools for businesses to connect with their customers.
Use social media to give customers an inside look at your business and brand story, announce new items, promote special sales, and most importantly, engage with your customers. Social media is a great place for marketing campaigns, influencer marketing, and video content; the ideas are endless. Strategically select a social media marketing tool based on your goals and where your customers are likely to engage with you.
For example, Nextdoor is a neighborhood hub where members actively look to each other to stay abreast of local news, exchange everyday recommendations, and positively contribute to their communities. Members on Nextdoor interact with their neighbors and make connections that are literally close to home; therefore they are more likely to support businesses that feel like they are part of the local community. If you are a small business that relies on customers that live in close proximity to your location, represent your business on Nextdoor for free with a Business Page, where you can receive 1:1 messages from neighbors, gather customer recommendations, and share your brand story with your neighborhood.
- Engage your shoppers
To grow your social media presence, talk to your customers! If they comment on your social media posts or mention your business in your Nextdoor neighborhood newsfeed, comment back. When someone sends you a direct message, respond promptly. Take some time to search popular trending topics that are relevant to you, and comment on posts to raise brand awareness.
- Gather online reviews
Claim or set up your business profile on Nextdoor so customers can recommend you with a positive review. Similarly, monitor your customer reviews on Google My Business, Thumbtack, Angie’s List, Yahoo! Local, and other free review sites. It’s now common practice for people to check out business reviews before visiting or shopping. Having profiles on these sites makes your business look more professional. Customers will naturally post reviews, but you can get even more by incentivizing—such as providing a coupon for their next visit if someone posts a review. Make sure you respond to reviews professionally!
- Email marketing
Email marketing is crucial when you have a small business—people check their email multiple times every single day, so that you can reach a large number of customers. The conversion rates from email to purchase are staggering, and email boasts a 4400% ROI according to Campaign Monitor. It’s super easy to set up, and there are a ton of free email marketing services you can use. Email marketing is a great way to keep your customers informed of new items, sales, events, content from your blog, and more.