Small businesses worldwide need to use and apply the best online marketing tools and strategies to stay competitive. In this guide, I’ll pinpoint the pillars of online marketing and suggest the strategies to use if you want to take your small online business to the next level.
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Written by Martin Nikolaev: Point of Sale Expert
Starting a new small company is all about getting as many clients as fast as you can, which is exactly where online marketing for small businesses comes in handy. Of course, all the traditional advertising means could be useful for some, but combining them with a strong online presence is often the top-notch combination in such cases. Such convergence often brings amazing results, but solely relying on online marketing is also likely to bring you better results than you’ve ever dreamed of.
Online marketing for small businesses is bigger than ever before because of the changes in people’s habits. We have all discovered the ease of online shopping, and most of us spend hours on social media platforms every day. And most people aren’t just browsing the web, too: in the U.S. alone, roughly three-quarters of all consumers have purchased something online*.
The above goes to show that you can reach a vast audience regardless of your location, niche, or products. It’s all a matter of finding the best online marketing channels, tools, and strategies and fitting them to your needs. There’s nothing more to it, but it may seem like a burden if you’ve never done it before or if you’ve just started your small online business with no money upfront and you think you couldn’t afford online marketing activities.
To help you understand the whole concept and explore the possible online marketing actions you need to take, I’ll highlight the pillars of this type of marketing, and I’ll also suggest the tools and tricks you can use to propel your business forward.
* Pasquali, Marina. Online shopping behavior in the United States – statistics & facts, Statista, 9 Jan. 2023, www.statista.com/topics/2477/online-shopping-behavior/#topicOverview Accessed January 30, 2023.
The Pillars of Online Marketing for Small Businesses
I know you must be quite eager to know which marketing strategies have been proven to help most online small businesses achieve success, so I’ll get right to enumerating them as follows:
- Online Advertising
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
- Content Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Influencer Marketing
However, I strongly encourage you to go through the rest of this guide in order to fully grasp the concepts and tactics of a successful online marketing campaign:
- The Basics of Online Marketing for Small Business
- Types of Online Marketing Tools
- Benefits of Online Marketing to Your Small Business
The pillars of online marketing are the primary tools, channels, and strategies to implement when running your small business (and possibly trying to expand it). No two businesses are the same, and even if you see a working combination of factors that your closest competitors use, it might not bring the same results your way.
The good news is that every online marketing strategy is a highly customizable solution, which is both a perk and a feature you need to maximize your results without spending a small fortune. To help you get a clearer picture, I’ll focus on the important pillars – i.e., strategies – that you’re likely to rely on in your quest for more clients and bigger profits.
6 Effective Online Marketing Strategies for Small Business
1. Online Advertising
I underlined that online advertising is not a synonym of online marketing, but it’s probably the most important component of the latter. Advertising is the first word that comes to mind when you think about a marketing strategy. It all comes down to creating ads online that generate traffic to whichever sales channel you prioritize: an online store, blog posts designed to house promo offers, and so forth.
You can use ads for more than just direct sales. They are a great tool to gain brand authority, expand your audience, harvest feedback, and retain clients. Additionally, you could target and localize ads depending on client profiles, locations, and other criteria. The price for online advertising can vary a lot as well, so you need to be careful when creating a budget or agreeing on one if you’re outsourcing all advertising activities to an agency.
2. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
SEO is an invaluable part of every online marketing strategy, and it requires a high level of professionalism to make the difference it’s capable of. SEO can dramatically increase the visibility of your website or online store, allowing users to see it when they conduct a search through any of the available search engines today.
To make every SEO project work, you need proper and relevant content that all the SEO tools use to push a website up and rank it among the top results on the search engine results page (SERP). While some business owners underestimate the power of SEO, others have already discovered that it could work wonders. A great example of a successful SEO and advertising platform you can use is SEMrush.
3. Content Marketing
No SEO strategy can work its magic unless it’s based on specifically structured content sprinkled with the most relevant keywords. Creating a content marketing strategy is vital for the success of any marketing project.
But content marketing doesn’t only come down to written text. Everything you use to advertise and promote your products, services, and brand refers to content: blog posts, audio and video content, social media posts, images, and so forth. Most of the content you share and use would not be directly geared toward making sales, but rather promoting your brand and expanding its audience. To properly manage your content strategy, you can use a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress.
4. Social Media Marketing
Over 4.6 billion people worldwide use social media today, according to a recent report published by DataReportal.com*. Simply put, more than half the world’s population is on social media, so there’s no wonder millions of businesses are trying to attract their attention every single minute.
The most popular platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Reddit, and Tumblr, to name a few, offer plenty of opportunities for advertising. Based on engaging posts, quality content, campaigns, giveaways, collaborations, and competitive promo offers, you can get a slice of the pie, both locally and internationally, depending on your scope.
Being able to increase your social media following is not something all business owners can achieve on their own, so they resort to paid ads, contracts with influencers, and plenty of other tactics. It all comes down to your specific goals and the products or services you’re selling. Some businesses, for example, are very successful thanks to campaigns based on Pinterest ads and content.
* Kemp, Simon. DIGITAL 2022: GLOBAL OVERVIEW REPORT, DataReportal.com, 26 Jan. 2023, www.datareportal.com/reports/digital-2022-global-overview-report Accessed January 30, 2023.
5. Email Marketing
Some business owners think that email marketing is dead, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Cold email pitches can be extremely successful. Here’s a statistic to back this up: over 333 billion emails were sent every day throughout 2022. What’s even better is that email marketing can be extremely cost-effective: based on an article on Oberlo.com published at the end of 2022, the average ROI (return on investment) for a single U.S. dollar spent on email marketing is $40*. This is an impressive result, to say the least.
Email marketing combines many of the content marketing tips and tricks and leverages them by reaching out to preliminary set recipients who are part of meticulously built sales funnels. An email can contain just a few paragraphs of text alongside videos, promo offers, podcast links, and whatever you can think of that could help you promote your brand and/or products.
Using an email management platform such as Sender can tremendously increase your capability of utilizing emails and using them to your advantage 24/7.
6. Influencer Marketing
Times change, and so does the world of marketing. This is good news for you as a business owner, because new and attractive marketing tools and tricks emerge all the time. The influencer scene is one of the best examples. Just a decade or so ago, nobody could have guessed that being an influencer could be a full-time job that’s part of an enormous industry.
Today, influencers are everywhere, and they promote every type of business you can imagine. Working with someone whose large fan base can relate to your products or services is an easy (although sometimes expensive) way to make sales and increase your brand awareness. There are plenty of ways to measure your success if you choose influencer marketing: affiliate programs, Google Analytics, and more.
* Mohsin, Maryam. 10 EMAIL MARKETING STATS YOU NEED TO KNOW IN 2023, Oberlo.com, 4 Dec. 2022, www.oberlo.com/blog/email-marketing-statistics Accessed January 30, 2023.
Online Marketing for Small Businesses in 2023: The Basics
We all know what marketing is, or so we think. We at least know what it’s meant to do for us as business owners. Truth is, we often get confused about it. I’ve seen many people surprised when they learn that online marketing and online advertising are not the same thing. The latter is part of the former, and there’s so much an online marketing strategy could include PR, distribution, media publications, communities, customer support, and dozens of other components. Social media posts, email campaigns, and affiliate links don’t even begin to describe the essence of online marketing and the impact it can have on small businesses everywhere.
Steve Jobs once said: “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves” *. We have all experienced this as consumers: some businesses introduce a product or service just when we need it the most. This is not magic, but merely clever marketing, and it would not be possible in our modern world without online interaction. I’ll list some basics you need to know about below, and I’ll continue with the online marketing pillars after that.
To stay afloat or to develop your business, you most probably need to embrace online marketing. Most business owners need this, and it all starts with defining your goals. You need to consider future growth, expansion, partnerships, changes in your portfolio, and every other aspect you can think of. Being able to define the needs of your business comes first. Once you have a clear vision, you can wrap an appropriate marketing strategy around it.
The next step is to identify your customers’ needs. Figuring this out will outline your target audience. This will help you pinpoint every aspect of your marketing strategy and come up with the most relevant solutions to include in a detailed framework. If you’re able to talk to your existing customers and find out all the answers that you need to further expand your audience, that would be great. You can create polls or surveys to get that all-important feedback you must analyze before designing an online marketing strategy from scratch.
Questions You Need to Ask Your Clients Before Expanding Your Outreach
Asking your existing clientele the following questions would help you define your strategy and pinpoint some changes you never knew you had to apply before. Here’s a list of suggestions to start with:
- How did they find your products?
- How happy are they with it?
- Would they continue buying from you?
- What improvements do they think would make it even better?
- Would they consider a better product?
- What are the products that best fit their needs?
Sure enough, there are plenty of other questions to add to the list, but the goal is always the same: to find out how to offer the perfect product for your customer, instead of offering your products to everyone. The difference is that the latter would not bring results and would consume a lot of resources, while the former will allow you to market a particular product in a precise, targeted fashion that would result in a much-desired rise in sales.
Things to Consider When Defining Your Audience
When you’re certain about the needs of your target audience, you must segment it based on several criteria, including location, occupation, gender, age, and so forth. This will allow you to localize and precise every offer, thus you will optimize your spending and achieve higher revenue at the end of the day. Doing this will also help you determine your core audience.
At this point, you will be able to dig deeper and create an even more precise segmentation based on individuals’ preferences. This is a tricky part, and it needs to take into account several demographic and behavioral factors, among others.
When you’re done with identifying your core customers, you will be ready to bring out your marketing arsenal and choose the specific means to reach every target sub-group you may want to target. This requires careful planning and lots of research.
Your audience will more or less define your goals as well. You could double down on a specific activity or choose to pursue several goals at once (entering new markets or launching new products, for example), and that would be unthinkable without an extended marketing strategy.
You should know that today’s online marketing strategies go far beyond just driving traffic to your website or social media account. With that said, you should not ditch the traffic generation tools, but you must introduce a plethora of additional ones to achieve the best possible result. More traffic often equals more conversions, but shoppers today look forward to more than just a hook that leads them to a particular offer.
Types of Online Marketing Channels
You have a plethora of options when it comes to all the online marketing channels you can exploit, depending on your vision and business plan. From blog websites and social media platforms to streaming platforms and forums, you can market your business in more than a few ways simultaneously. But there is another classification that you need to keep in mind: it depends on what it costs for you to run your strategy.
For example, you can create your own platforms or use existing ones you have to promote your business, such as your website, YouTube channel, social media business pages, mobile apps, and so on. This would allow you to advertise as frequently as you wish.
Paid online marketing involves a lot of activities, such as PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns on social media, sponsored social media and blog posts, website banners, and plenty more. This is the most common type of marketing, and if you play your cards well, the budget you spend on it would pay off big time.
Earned media attention brings value for no money, but it’s the hardest to achieve. This type refers to all the times your content or brand (or both) gets distributed by third parties with nothing in return. This usually happens through the brand evangelists I mentioned earlier. It’s a free type of promotion that could generate sales and raise your brand awareness, as long as your content and brand are mentioned in a positive way. If you enjoy this, then you’re on the right path.
Goals and Expected Results from Implementing Proper Online Marketing Strategies
When you design a specific online marketing campaign that defines all your sales channels, targeting specifics, tools, and schedules, you must prioritize a few key aspects that are both goals and results of relying on online marketing altogether.
While you need to attract real clients (that turn into peers) instead of one-time shoppers, a strict sales strategy is always a must-have. Turning a prospect into a buyer is the goal here, and the right strategy will make it happen. But there’s a danger of becoming too salesy. Using the proper marketing tools according to your product and niche, you will be able to up your performance without focusing on the sales message. Thanks to consistent, well-timed posts and ads that bring value instead of just offers and promotions, and by using different channels to remain in your potential customers’ sight, you will be able to do this.
If you’re storming new markets, you need to make sure everyone within your target group knows about your brand. Again, this would be nearly impossible without the power of online marketing. The more people know about your brand, the better your brand awareness is.
Becoming easily recognizable might seem hard, but it can be a seamless and straightforward process, as long as you have a well-crafted marketing strategy in motion. It’s usually a parallel set of activities that go hand in hand with your sales strategy. Building brand awareness can also generate sales, but it’s never its primary goal. Rather, it’s aimed at helping the steady growth or sustainability of your small business.
I already mentioned the importance of converting prospects into peers, and this is as vital as your best sales strategy, if not more. When you’re starting small, you need dedicated customers who will not only come back for more of the goods or services you’re selling, but they might also spread the word, thus becoming brand evangelists. Having such clients is a true blessing, but you need to work hard for such a following.
To retain customers, you must do whatever it takes to increase their engagement with your business. There’s no other way to achieve this, but you also need to maintain a high level of quality, customer support, and a myriad of other things. Even the greatest marketing campaign will not work wonders if the other aspects related to it are not top-notch.
Benefits of Online Marketing for Small Business + Additional Tips
The list of the possible benefits of implementing online marketing tools and strategies to grow your small businesses is a long one, but I’ll mention the most important ones:
- More sales than ever before
- A wider audience (possibly international)
- Improved brand awareness
- Higher revenue
- Additional sales channels
- New partnerships and collaborations
- Better interaction with your clients
- Accurate targeting, localization, and scalability
- Optimized budgets and better reporting
- Precise result tracking and monitoring
- Analytics and real-time data you can use to improve your performance
Tips and Additional Aspects of Online Marketing for Small Businesses to Consider
There are plenty of hints I could share, but I think that the most relevant ones would be enough if you’re just about to dive into the world of online marketing for small businesses. The rest you’ll learn either by trial and error or from the experience you gained by experimenting with different tactics.
Learn Online for Free
The first important thing is to learn as much about online marketing as possible on your own. There are plenty of trusted sources online that bring a lot of value for no extra charge, and this includes extended online courses. Take advantage of them whenever you can.
Make Sure You Allow for Reviews and Feedback
You need all the feedback and product reviews that can be published on your online store or website, as well as on third-party reviews and analysis. According to the article on Oberlo.com that I quoted earlier in this guide, 54.7% read no less than four independent product reviews before they make a purchase*. That’s half of all the buyers worldwide, meaning that you need to play your cards right and score good ratings and positive reviews.
* Mohsin, Maryam. 10 EMAIL MARKETING STATS YOU NEED TO KNOW IN 2023, Oberlo.com, 4 Dec. 2022, www.oberlo.com/blog/email-marketing-statistics Accessed January 30, 2023.
Check Out Your Competition
I mentioned that no two marketing strategies are the same, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t research the marketing strategies your fiercest competitors are using. It might turn out that they are using something you neglected, and if it works, make sure to give it a try. Some people only stick to profiled niches based on their products or services – for example, some business owners only use LinkedIn for their B2B (business-to-business) campaigns, but that can be very limiting. If you notice someone is doing things differently, ask yourself if their strategy is applicable to your vision.
Choose Your Sales Channels Wisely
The previous tip reminded me of the next one: be careful when designing your strategy. Wrapping it around the wrong sales channel can end up in disaster. You have no actual limitations when you decide to advertise on social media, for example, but some of the platforms you could choose from would be moderately inappropriate or completely irrelevant to your audience or products (or both).
Be Within Your Customers’ Reach
This is valid in both literal and figurative meaning. You need to offer top-notch customer support because it’s a form of online marketing, as weird as it sounds. A misunderstanding or an issue can be turned into a positive situation by a friendly helpdesk associate who has the right attitude and knowledge, so you must invest in this department.
Figuratively speaking, your business (and the content you use to promote it) must be crafted in a way that allows users to reach it. This is done in a plethora of ways: for example, you need to use the most relevant keywords your potential customers would use to search for similar products or services to the ones you offer. The stronger your online presence is, the easier your future clients will find you.
Online Marketing for Small Business: FAQs
How to Do Online Marketing for Small Business?
To create a working online marketing strategy for small businesses, you need to use SEO tools to boost your SERP ranking, alongside other tricks, such as optimizing your website for mobile, creating SEO-driven content, uploading images and videos, creating business pages on social media, and more.
Which Marketing Is Best for Small Businesses?
There are dozens of online marketing tools for social media that you could use, including content marketing, email marketing, SEO, affiliate programs, PR content, and so forth.
How Can Online Marketing Help Small Businesses?
A working online marketing strategy for small businesses can help them study their audience’s behavior and preferences. It can also allow them to create precise targeting and conduct proper research in an attempt to determine their future actions, which means they will be able to tweak their offers and overall online presence accordingly.
What Are the Seven C’s of Online Marketing?
The seven C’s of online marketing represent its framework. They are Customer, Content, Context, Community, Convenience, Cohesion, and Conversion.