Digital marketing strategy for small businesses
First published 02 January 2019 • Updated 01 November 2019
A well-planned digital marketing strategy helps your business stay competitive. It means your website, online store, social media channels, email communications and any other online activities are all optimised towards your business goals. Your digital strategy will include key elements such as:
- Website design
- SEO (how well do you show up in searches?)
- Online advertising (such as pay-per-click)
- Social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram)
- Email marketing
- Content marketing
What is a digital strategy?
Your digital strategy will be a key part of your overall business strategy. Business is increasingly conducted online, so your digital strategy simply covers this aspect of your business. If your business operates exclusively online, then your digital and business strategy may be virtually the same thing.
Here are some guidelines to consider when creating your digital strategy.
- Plan first. Think about your customer’s perspective and what they’ll be looking for on your website. Make their journey and experience as easy and positive as you can.
- Stay up to date. The internet and its associated technologies are constantly evolving. Make sure you educate yourself regularly on trends and developments, such as by subscribing to publications or attending seminars, so you can keep pace with competitors or get ahead. Also ensure that your content stays fresh and that the site is well-maintained. Online stores especially should be updated as often as necessary.
- Choose your platforms. Select the social media platforms that suit your brand and are used by your target audience. Don’t feel you have to be everywhere, especially if your customers aren’t.
- Budget appropriately. Some online activity may be free, but other areas can be very cost-heavy. Talk to your accountant to ensure you are spending efficiently and in line with your business plan.
Designing your website
Your website is more than a shop window. It should engage customers and reflect your values. It also needs to be simple to use and easy to navigate.
Make sure the style suits the kind of business you are and the services or products you offer. That said, you shouldn’t just copy your competitors if you want to stand out. Investment in a professionally designed and built website is never wasted – professional designers can capture the right look and feel while also being unique to you, so no-one can easily copy you. You may also want to engage UX (user experience) designers to ensure your customers have the smoothest possible journey.
Read our article Selling Online to learn more about this area.
Social media can drum up interest in your business – if you get it right. Merely ‘being on Twitter’ isn’t enough – you need to choose your platform carefully, build a strategy and commit to it. Each of the major platforms has its own strengths, limitations and unique features, so choose carefully.
Ever popular with the largest user base, Facebook is great for sharing links, images and videos. It allows you to link to events, join groups and launch paid promotions. The average age of users is rising, so it’s great for older audiences but less effective for the young. Promoted content can be particularly good value for money.
Summary: A bit old-hat, but still effective.
Regarded as the best platform for social customer service, Twitter is fast paced and reactive. Users post messages of up to 280 characters and share all sorts of content. Like Facebook, you can pay to promote content, although it’s generally not as effective for the price.
Summary: Best for raising awareness and building contacts rather than directly marketing.
This is a visual social media platform, so ideal for your videos and photos. Essentially for mobile devices, Instagram has a younger user profile, although older people are embracing it more and more.
Summary: Particularly effective for targeting audiences with a short attention span.
Here’s the largest network for professionals. You can use it to add and find connections, join groups and search by company location, industry and skill.
Summary: Essential for building B2B contacts – just don’t expect to find any customers on there.
This is a video-sharing platform with over a billion users. You can upload, view, rate, share, subscribe to and comment on content.
Summary: Useful not just for marketing but for supporting your own products with tutorials, help videos etc. If you can post something people find useful, the potential is limitless.
Getting started on social media
Once you’ve chosen your platforms, plan your social media strategy accordingly. Before you start actively marketing you may have to do a lot of groundwork, building up your followers, developing a presence and getting people interested. Engage with people, react to comments and contribute to conversations that are relevant to your business. Join groups and follow key players in your industry.
Social media respect is hard-won and easily lost, so tread carefully. If you build up a large following only to spam them with sales messages, you’ll wreck all your hard work. Bear these rules in mind:
- Be respectful
- Be interesting
- Be useful
Use your social media channels to give people something for free, even if it’s just your sense of humour or your favourite recipes. Then they may reward you by checking out your products.
Engaging through email
Email marketing can be a very cost-effective way to reach new customers and retain existing ones. Here’s what you need to get started.
Build a good list
Your emails need to reach the right people, and the best way to find them is through a lead capture form on your website. Offer people something interesting and relevant, like an engaging piece of content relating to your market, in exchange for their email address and permission to send occasional emails. Make sure people know what they’re signing up for when they submit their contact details.
What type of email?
You might want to write a regular email newsletter, launch a promotion, send seasonal messages or create a loyalty program. Just ensure that you’re sending something of value to your customers, so they get in the habit of opening your emails rather than just deleting them. For every piece of marketing, have something that people will read for its own sake.
Design and content
Always keep your goal and your customer in mind when creating your email campaign. Segment your contacts into smaller lists with similar interests. This will make it much easier to craft a relevant message for each group. Make sure your call to action is clear and concise too. Your design needn’t try too hard. It should reflect your business and be appealing, but not busy or cluttered.
How did your emails do? Keep a close eye on performance and you can tune your next message to make it even more effective.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It’s all about boosting your online visibility and getting your website noticed. Put simply, good SEO means a higher ranking.
To achieve really effective SEO, you probably need an expert partner with experience in this field. They will be able to analyse your website, research and develop keywords, optimise content and measure success for you.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is about attracting customers by giving them something interesting, informative, useful or entertaining – usually for free. In the process, you can draw traffic to your site, attract the right kind of audience, give them something they will appreciate and develop your brand at the same time.
Content marketing may include:
- Useful tools
The list goes on. ‘Content’ is simply anything that people will consume online for its own sake, and hopefully share with others. In the process, users will come across your brand and (hopefully) be tempted to explore it further. Just make sure that your content has a strong connection with what you’re offering in terms of products or services.
Remember, no part of business changes faster than the digital sphere, which is why your digital strategy needs to be flexible, agile and always ready to develop into new areas.
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