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Successful Online Marketing for Small Businesses

With so many online tools for small business available, it’s no wonder small business owners feel overwhelmed. And it’s not just the overabundance of tools available, it’s also the never-ending sea of advice on what you should and should not be doing when it comes to online marketing.

It wouldn’t be so bad if you had the luxury of time to cut through the clutter and get to what really matters. Not easy to do when just one of the hats you begrudgingly wear is marketer. 

How customers find you

The reality is people are looking for and being exposed to businesses online all the time.

Just think about your own experience finding a business for the first time. It’s likely that some form of word of mouth made you aware of the business. Either you asked for a recommendation, seen someone mention or share something from a business on social media, or were exposed to an advertising message.

Other times you may have searched for something the business offers, whether that’s in an app like Yelp or through a search engine. Whatever the case may be, you then begin taking the next steps to research the business online to decide whether or not the business is right for you.

It’s the same approach your potential customers are taking when it comes to choosing to do business with you. Below are the practical tools to give your business a real chance at success online.

Tools for digital marketing

The first tools necessary are those that allow you to build a strong online foundation. With these tools in place and an understanding of how they work together to get the word out, you’ll position yourself to drive new and repeat business before you need to think about adding new items to your toolbox.

Here’s where you should start.

1. A mobile-friendly website

Plain and simple, your business needs a website. It’s one of the first things people look for to validate and learn more about your business. And since most everyone is carrying a handheld computer, your website must be easily read and maneuvered on a mobile device.

Your website serves as an introduction to a potential customer. Use it as a resource to answer the questions they may have in relation to your business and how you can serve them. If you don’t have a website or if it isn’t mobile responsive, a website builder makes it easier to get started with a small investment of time and money.

2. An email marketing tool

Most times, you’re left waiting for new or repeat business to come to you. Email marketing offers a way for you to stay top-of-mind with the people who want to hear about your business. And you can do so without having to worry about the ever-changing algorithms on social channels that limit your reach. 

By using a combination of educational and promotional emails on a consistent basis, you can drive engagement and sales for your business with this highly effective channel.

3. A primary social channel

Social media channels give you another opportunity to reach and engage with people who may be interested in your business. Because of their social nature, when your connections engage with your business on these platforms, they expose you to their connections, who often have similar characteristics and make great prospective customers for your business.

Focus on one or two social channels to start. Learn how they work best for your business before adding another to the mix. Social media management can get overwhelming. Starting slow and focused keeps you from spinning your wheels with little to show for your efforts.

4. Up-to-date business listings

People find information about your business in many ways. It’s possible for someone to find your business through an app, listing, or review site. For this reason, it’s important to claim your business so you can control the information on those pages and respond to reviews. Failing to do so can make your business look unresponsive, causing you to potentially lose customers.

Claim your listings and respond professionally to positive and negative reviews. Doing so not only allows you to strengthen relationships and rectify potential negative experiences, but also gives prospects a look at the type of business you run and how you treat your customers.

5. A way to easily create content

Content is what people search for, consume, and share online. Content supports your marketing efforts across various channels. With a blog, your website you can easily add content that allows you to answer common questions asked by your prospects and customers. This content can also help your website rank higher in search engines.

Don’t let the idea of creating content overwhelm you. Get started by making a list of your customers’ frequently asked questions. Answer each question, individually and fully, to create a blog post. In the future, you can get more specific and make optimizations for search engines.

Digital tools working together

These foundational digital tools work together to bring you new and repeat business in an ongoing series of steps:

  • Step 1: Connect. Someone hears about or is exposed to your business through social, search, or a listing. They then dig deeper.
  • Step 2: Experience. As potential customers begin engaging with your business, make sure you’re providing the best experience possible. That means having a website they can easily navigate to find the information they need, updating with accurate information on listings, and responding to those who choose to engage with you.
  • Step 3: Entice. After having a great experience with your business, you have the opportunity to ask people to stay connected with you. This could just mean staying connected on social media, but what’s even better is getting their email address so you have a direct line of communication to a potential customer.
  • Step 4: Engage. Be sure to engage with this audience to keep your business top-of-mind and drive new and repeat business. This engagement also encourages more word-of-mouth referrals. In which case the cycle repeats itself.

Amplify your online marketing efforts

Once you have these tools in place, you’ll want to consider amplifying your efforts with paid advertising such as Facebook and Instagram ads, Google search ads, and others that may make sense for your business. Be smart with your dollars by putting money behind things that you know already work.

For example, if you have a hot-selling product, start experimenting with ads for that product because you already know people will buy it. Don’t waste money trying to sell something that isn’t already proven. Once you’re more comfortable with paid advertising, you can begin taking more risks.

Next steps

If you don’t already have the tools mentioned above in place, now you know where to start. Ignore everything else until then. Stay focused on what matters to avoid being overwhelmed and start making real gains.

If you’d like more details on how online marketing can work for your business, check out our free guide, The Download: Making Sense of Online Marketing.

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