Small business marketing tips to grow online in 2021

 

Grow online with our small business marketing tips

If you’re currently running a business, or you’re thinking of starting one, you’re on an exciting journey! But you’ll also face a fair few challenges as you grow your business. You need to have a product or service that your customers need and will want to buy; you need to find the right pricing point and sales channels for them to buy; and you need to have a solid retention strategy to keep your buyers coming back for more, time and time again.

One particular challenge that you’ll come up against is doing marketing that actually helps you grow your business online. 

Unfortunately, having fantastic products and/or services isn’t enough. If people don’t know about your business or how amazing it is, you’ll never get the sales – and thus you need to market your business.

We work with plenty of small businesses at Buzzbar, and we often hear things like:

“I have a website, but I’m not getting any traffic”

“I get people to my website, but no one is buying my product or services”

“I know that I need to do marketing, but I don’t know where to start”

Sounds familiar?

This is why we put together our X tips for how to grow your small business online.

Marketing and advertising often get confused with one another. 


What does it mean to do marketing?

Marketing and advertising often get confused with one another. 

In the simplest of terms, doing marketing means shining a light on your business, helping customers find you so that they can buy from you.

Often this means promoting your product, service, company or brand through different channels, with different types of content.

Doing marketing well means building relationships and conversations online, and connecting with your audience in a human way, without pushing a sales message down their throats.

As a small business, marketing can change the way you connect with your audience and potential prospects.

How to get started with your marketing

Get to know your audience

A common mistake we see businesses make is trying to speak to everyone and anyone. A lot of businesses do this because they think that it’ll increase their chances of reaching their audience and get the results they’re looking for.

What often happens, as a result, is that they’ll get engagement, but not the end result they’re looking for – like an increase in sales, more newsletter subscribers, more book purchases, or more leads generated.

For your marketing to be successful,you need to talk to the right audience at the right time. In fact, the more precise, the better. Being precise improves your lead quality and can help segment your audience and create buyer personas.

Audience segmentation is the process of grouping together individuals that have things in common. Buyer personas are a fictional ideology of a user, they represent a type of user that might use your website in a particular way, or have similar behaviors. Breaking down your buyer personas and segmenting your audience, ensure that you can tailor your content to the interests of your audience.

Showing your ads to as many people as possible comes with a big price tag, and doesn't yield a substantial return on investment. So it's important to drill down your audience and find out not only who you're talking to, but what their interests are. 

But if you haven't established an online presence yet, start simple. Take a look at your existing clients. Are there any similar interests or behaviors? What was it that made them need/want your products or services? Once you have established all there is to know about your existing client base, you can start researching new audiences.

Data is going to be the key to helping you find and define your target audiences. Using insights you can sift through and find similarities and behaviors that reoccur frequently to help you discover new audience types. Surveys, interviews, and focus groups are just a few other ways to pick up valuable data that will help you see into the minds of your present and future audiences. 

Set marketing goals

The best kind of marketing is marketing that is connected to goals. 

Goals make it easier to track your marketing effectiveness and to identify when you should do more of something, or less.

If you don’t have marketing goals for your business yet, or you’re struggling to actually come up with any, take a look at the list below for some ideas – taken from clients that we work with:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Increase brand engagement
  • Increase the number of qualified leads generated online
  • Establish thought leadership in your industry
  • Grow social media following
  • Promote new products or services
  • Increase website traffic
  • Grow your newsletter
  • Promote a book or podcast
  • Retain existing customers
  • Improve your website experience

The list can go on, but hopefully the above helps you on your way, or gets you thinking about other goals you might set for yourself.

Once you know your marketing goals, you can come up with marketing ideas that will help achieve those goals.

For example, if one of your goals is to grow your brand engagement – which means building a connection between your customer and your brand – you could start sharing more of your brand story online, send personalised emails after someone buys from you, or share content on social media that sparks conversations.

And if your goal is to grow the number of qualified leads generated online, you could create an ebook on your website and offer it to people free, if they give you their email address.

Write a marketing strategy

A marketing strategy is a document where you write down what your goals are, and how you intend on reaching them.

Having a marketing strategy is beneficial because it gives you a blueprint that you can use to assess how well you’re doing your marketing… It doesn’t have to be a 20-page document – for some businesses, because of how large they are, they need 20-pages to include all of the information they need, but for smaller businesses, you’ll be fine with 3-5 pages.

If you want a detailed guide to how to create your own marketing strategy, you can read our blog post.

Make the most of social media

It is safe to say that social media channels are here to stay, and that they offer incredible opportunities for your business to engage directly with your customers or clients online.

However, what we often notice when working with clients, is that there’s a lack of understanding how to actually make social media “work for your business”.

Simply having an Instagram account or a LinkedIn page doesn’t mean you’ll get the most out of social media – quite the opposite. 

Here are a few things we always say about making the most of social media:

  1. Give it time – regardless of whether you just set up your social accounts, or you started them a while back, accept that it takes time and effort to grow your social media following and engagement. You need to consistently post and engage with your followers to see results from your social channels. 
  2. Don’t try to be in every channel – you’ll soon run into social fatigue, and you’re less likely to see results if you try to be in every channel. Pick one or two channels that you enjoy creating content for, and where you think your audience will spend their time, 
  3. Share content that adds value – this comes back to the first point about knowing your audience, but also requires you to know your business. Ask yourself these questions:
    1. What do you do? 
    2. What do you stand for? 
    3. What content do you want to be known for?
    4. What content do you think will help/interest your customers?

Don’t fall for the trap of posting content that drives engagement only, if it adds no actual value for you as a business. You can share lots of TikTok videos/Instagram reels/Facebook stories of cute cats and dogs, and get lots of attention from people who love cats and dogs – but if you’re selling financial services, cookbooks or cars, most likely, the engagement you see won’t generate any sales, and thus it wont grow your business.

 

Also, it’s worth noting that no one likes a sales pitch. So if you’re wondering how much sales-y content to share, we suggest keeping it to a minimum. A good rule of thumb is to post 80-85% content that is free and valuable, and 10-15% that promotes your products and/or services.

 

  1. Create a list of ideas for your social content – having a list of inspiration and ideas to go to will help you when you get stuck on what to post. And if you don’t know where to start, take a look at some ideas below to help you get started:
    1. Social holidays and world events – there are tonnes of holidays and world events that you can create content around – if they’re relevant to your business
    2. FAQs from your customers – such a simple thing as creating content that answers your customer’s questions is a great way to build your list of ideas.
    3. Behind the scenes – behind the scenes can be great if you have a business where you can share what it looks like to work for the company. Naturally, if you need to keep company secrets, don’t go for this one!
    4. Product explanations or descriptions – if you have technical products, how about ideas for how to demonstrate how it works?
    5. Service explanation or descriptions – even if you’re not selling tangible goods, you can create content around the services you offer and what people can expect
    6. Customer reviews – a brilliant way to share relevant content, and help your audience see what others think of you – be mindful not to overdo it. Reviews can get boring very fast if you overdo it

 

If you want more information on creating content for social media, have a read-through of our guide to how to build a brand on social media – the art of creating thumb-stopping content

Make the most of free tools and resources

Free tools and resources are life-savers when you're a small business. Firstly, they don’t break the bank, and secondly, they’re many times just as good as some of the pricier options in the marketplace, if not better. Double win!

However, just because a tool is free doesn’t mean that it’ll be that useful to you if you don’t know what it’s for or what benefits it can give you.

To do marketing well, you want to use tools that help you deliver the content that you need, and that also tell you how well you’re doing your marketing. Ideally, you find a few favourites that are easy to use, and that makes it easy for you to assess your marketing efforts.

Below are some of our favourite tools to use when it comes to doing marketing well, and you don’t have a large budget to spend on creative or data analysis tools. We’ve divided them into categories to make it easier for you to identify which ones could be useful for you, and we have included tools that are completely free, and tools that offer free accounts, yet also offer premium access for a fee. 

Please note that we’re linking to these companies because we think they’ve got some kick-ass tools that actually help a lot of small businesses do marketing well. We’re not affiliated with any of them, nor do we get any commission should you choose to sign up and use them.

Content creation tools

Content creation tools that we love fall into the categories of 

  • Canva – Canva is an online design and publishing tool that provides you with access to pre-made templates and design ideas for your content. They provide the ability to create templates for social media posts, presentations, video, print production and stationery. There is a PRO version if you want to upgrade from the freemium version, but in our opinion, the free tool will take you far!

Data tracking and analysis tools

  • Google Analytics – in our opinion, THE tool to use for your website data tracking and analysis. Yes, with WordPress, Squarespace, and Shopify websites, you get built-in analytics tools that will give you a great overview of how your site is being used. Still, the level of details that you can go into with Google Analytics doesn’t compare, and we’re major fans of using Analytics to see who your audience is, how they use your site, where you lose them on their journey, and how they interact with your different landing pages. 
  • Google Tag Manager – the oh-so-important sibling to Google Analytics. If you want to dive even deeper into your website data and visitor behaviour, and you don’t feel like you get enough from Google Analytics, then Tag Manager will be your go-to. With Tag Manager, you can set up tracking to see what buttons people click, how far they watch your videos if they download your PDFs, or how far they go with filling out forms.

Please note: Tag Manager and Google Analytics work together. Tag Manager itself doesn’t actually rack any data. You set up Tag Manager to track what you want the tool to track, and all of your data goes over to Google Analytics. Tag Manager does not work without Google Analytics implemented.

  • Hotjar – a tracking tool that can help you better understand how visitors behave when they come to your website. With Hotjar you can record how website visitors move, what they click on, and what makes them leave so that you can make the right changes on your website, improve UX, and grow conversions.

Social media tools

  • Later - A social scheduling tool that can save you hours and hours worth of planning and posting! Not only that, but it’s drag and drop, so super easy to use for anyone.

SEO tools

  • Google Keyword Planner – a handy tool for doing keyword research. Keyword research is helpful to understand what people search for online. This way, you can make sure your content is always relevant, current, and has people looking for it.
  • SEMRush – SEMRush is one of the major players in the SEO-market, and provides a freemium tool that gives you access to SEO-data like what people search for, how your content ranks, what your competitors look like and ideas for content. Do note that on the free account, you still get access to a whole lot of good SEO-data, but you are limited to how much data you can actually access. In order to unlock the full potential of the tool, you will have to pay.
  • SEranking - An all-in-one powerhouse tool that allows you to create reports, audit, check rankings and do just about anything you would need to know the health of your website and SEO. It also allows you to have more than one project.

Online Ads

  • For online ads, we recommend that you pick a channel that you want to advertise in – whether that is Google Ads, Facebook and Instagram Ads, LinkedIn Ads, Twitter Ads, Quora Ads, TikTok Ads or Reddit Ads – and use their built-in Ads tools. 
  • These are usually user-friendly and offer guidance along the way of how to set the ads up properly. Plus, if you run into issues, you have direct access to their respective support teams, and they can help you on a lot of matters that other general tools won’t.

Make sure that you blog consistently

Blogging can be a fantastic way to grow your online presence. Writing great content and posting it to your website or blog can help grow your search ranking, improve your SEO and drive organic traffic to your website.

Blogging is also great for creating content that you can “repurpose” or reuse across other marketing channels. It’s a common tactic in the world of marketing, to create content that you use in multiple channels in multiple ways.

For example, a well-written blog post can be used in so many ways:

  1. Posted on your website or blog to drive traffic organically
  2. Shared on social media, with a link back to the blog post
  3. Reused as imagery, with quotes, information or statistics taken from the blog post
  4. Reused as a podcast, either as a conversation with another person, or as the theme for a podcast talk
  5. Reused for a video, where you talk about the blog post or the topic at hand
  6. Shared in groups or forums on the topic
  7. Remade along with a number of other blog posts into an ebook that can be used as a lead magnet

When writing blog posts, it's important to have a plan for what you should write about. Think back to our point about social content – it should be relevant to you as a business, yet valuable or helpful for your audience. If your business isn’t about cats and dogs, you probably shouldn’t write about them. Otherwise, you could spend a lot of time writing, yet seeing very little traction.

When deciding what to write about, think of uniqueness and value/helpfulness. The quality of your blog post and how educational and helpful it is to your readers is what matters. Think of it as a way to present yourself and your knowledge to your readers. If they like what they read and they find it useful, they’re more likely to come back to read other posts, or explore what your business does, than if you write content that doesn’t matter to the audience.

How often should you post?

You can post as often as you’d like and have time for, but set yourself realistic goals. Writing takes time and effort, and you’re far better off writing a few really thought-through blog posts than many small, itty-bitty posts that don’t provide much value or insights. Like most things in marketing, think quality over quantity. 

Plus, in the eyes of Google and other search engines, if you write quality content, you’re more likely to provide answers and solutions to those that search. And the whole point of Google and search engines ranking businesses and content is to help those searching for something, find what they’re looking for, so that they can keep coming back to the search engine time and time again for their queries.

So if you’re choosing between writing many short blog posts and publishing them daily, or one or two longer ones a month but with in-depth detail, we’d suggest that you start with the longer pieces first. Once you have a library of them, you can add in smaller posts to link between posts and topics.

If you want further information on how to craft stellar blog content, and tips on how to get started with writing your own, check out our guide to “writing stellar blog content”.

Make sure that you track your efforts

With all of the work that you have done, and all of the marketing… at the end of the day, if you don’t know what’s working, how can you optimise the time that you spend doing marketing, so that you get better results?

It's important to track your data on performance to know what's working and what isn't. If you put all of your time into doing something that your audience doesn't like, that's a lot of wasted time. Some important metrics to track are;

  • New users
  • Bounce rate
  • Page sessions
  • Top performing pages
  • Devices people are using to view your website to name a few

Our top 3 Takeaways

As with all things marketing, it’s difficult to do it all at once – especially if you’re a small business owner doing it all on your own.

So to help you on your growth journey, we thought we’d share our top 3 takeaways from this guide. if you only do three things, we’d suggest you do the following:

Steady Growth Is The Goal 

Business growth should be steady, too much too quickly can be overwhelming and often causes brands to dip in customer service and providing a high-quality service.

Make Customers Feel Valued 

The number one priority for your marketing strategy is always your audience. Making them feel valued and building relationships is the goal always. 

Content Is King 

Creating visual and written content is the best way to start conversations with your audience. With the rise of video content always growing this is something to keep in mind for your marketing strategy.

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