8 Ways to Promote Your Small Business Online
If you’ve got a small business with an online presence, the good news is there’s a wide variety of ways to promote your business online. But how do you know which marketing channels are best suited to your business, and how do you go about successfully marketing across each of those channels?
Because of the sheer volume of marketing channels available today, you can’t utilise them all. Therefore, to help you make the best choice for your business, we’ll walk you through what it takes to effectively reach your target audience using the marketing channels we feel deliver small business owners the highest return on their investment.
We’ll list the top channels we recommend small business owners should consider as part of their marketing strategy, breaking them up into three key categories.
- Compulsory marketing channels
- Highly Desirable marketing channels, and
- Optional marketing channels
We recommend working to build a presence across all the compulsory marketing channels, at least a couple of the highly desirable marketing channels, and if you’ve got the time and resources; maybe picking up an optional marketing channel if you’re seeing strong results in the Compulsory and Highly Desirable categories.
Compulsory Marketing Channels
If you run a small business, there are some compulsory marketing channels you absolutely need to develop a presence on over time. These marketing channels are areas of your business that your customers will expect you to present well on, maintain a presence, and will assist you to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
In today’s Internet-driven market, these channels are the “must-do's” when it comes to small business marketing. Not only are they a requirement if you want to compete, but can be the difference between steadily growing your business or getting pushed out of the market by your competitors.
#1. Google My Business Listing
If you haven’t listed your business of Google My Business, this simple process is one of the most effective ways to promote your small business online. By listing your small business on Google My Business, you’re able to showcase your services to your local market for free, on Google, gaining access to a massive audience of potential customers.
However, listing your business on Google My Business is not enough to start seeing enquiries come through, you need to ensure you cover off on a handful of key elements to begin to rank above your competitors. This includes:
- Ensuring you answer all of your My Business profile: This should include a high resolution company logo and as many photos as you can that will add value to your business listing.
- Select multiple business categories: Many people don’t realise that you can select more than one My Business category. Usually there are at least two relevant categories you can add your business to, so if possible try and add more your listing under more than one business category.
- Work to build your reviews: Long-term you’ll need to build your review count. This is one of the most important ranking factors when it comes to My Business listings, however as show below it is possible to rank for this service without reviews when combined with a strong search marketing presence. But remember, don’t spam this service in any way, Google will know and penalise you. Instead try to encourage customers to review your business on their own.
Google My Business marketing is a slow-burn marketing channel, however if effectively implemented is very powerful. If you’re listing your business on this service for the first time, be prepared that it may take up to 8 weeks for your listing to show prominently and you will have to verify your business by entering a secret code sent to you via post to your business address.
#2. A brochure-style website
It sounds obvious but many small business owners still don’t offer a brochure-style website that effectively summarises their key services. Even if your business is app-based business, you should still have a basic website that summarises your services.
As a general rule, your small business website should include the following:
- What your key services are: A detailed page dedicated to each service which breaks down your areas of expertise giving your customers key insights into what your business is offering.
- How you can assist potential customers: The goal of any small business website is to sell the benefits of their service to their customers. This is important because if your customers can’t see value in what you’re offering, then they won’t make an enquiry with you. Because potential customers will make an assessment about your value to them via your website, it’s vitally important you put your best foot forward online if you're looking to drive enquiries.
- A design that adds value to your brand: At OSE we’re firm believers in quality design when it comes to web development. We recently spent a great deal of effort re-focussing our design and brand direction and in our case we've been well rewarded. Design in many cases can be an after thought for small businesses, but we argue that it’s a quality signal that can either quickly turn on or off your potential customer base.
- Regularly updated content: One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make when it comes to their websites is building them and forgetting to update the content on their site. Sure your site might look good today, but it can easily become irrelevant and send the wrong message to your audience over time which is why you need to pay attention to whether the message you’re communicating online matches what your business is actually offering. This can be easily achieved using a CMS such as WordPress, so when building your next brochure-style website, make sure you're using a content management system (CMS) such as this.
- Consideration of SEO: Even if you don’t have budget for a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) campaign, you can still implement a few simple tips and tricks on your site that will help describe your pages more accurately to Google. This includes clear and concise title and description tags. These two tags are two of the most important on-site SEO elements you can work to enhance, so spend some time ensuring these elements accurately describe your pages so Google has a better idea of what they’re about, assisting you to rank higher in relevant searches.
#3 Search Engine marketing
Of all the online marketing channels you can utilise, search engine marketing if done right will drive the most relevant, regular source of traffic to your website day-in-day-out.
Without a doubt, if you’re running a small business, you want to be appearing in Google’s search index for relevant terms. But did you know that you don’t have to rank for highly competitive generic terms in your niche to have an impact on your business’ bottom-line?
In fact, you’re better to rank for a larger volume of what’s called long-tail keywords. These keywords and phrases are much more specific, often include multiple words, and more accurately describe what a user is searching for. By ranking for these type of keywords, you’re actually giving searchers exactly what they want because their searches are that much more relevant. Sure the search volume is lower than generic searches, but you’re much more likely to rank for these particular types of search terms increasing the likelihood of enquiry.
Highly Desirable marketing channels
Once you have the core elements of your online marketing in place, you’re going to want to consider branching out to increase your online visibility. To do so, you’re going to need a combination of quality content, increased resources, and tools to measure the success of your marketing campaigns.
The below options are excellent examples your small business should consider when looking to promote your services online. However, do so only when you have the resources to support each channel properly. A poorly executed online marketing channel will do more damage than good to your business.
#4. At least one social media account
You may be wondering why we didn’t include social media as one of our Compulsory marketing channels, and with good reason.
Social media is an incredibly effective means of reaching large audiences online, but in most cases fails to drive relevant traffic to small business websites. The reason for this is because businesses often miss their mark by either choosing the wrong social media account for the business type, spreading themselves too thin across too many social media platforms, or does not post regularly enough to appear relevant.
All this considered, if you’re going to maintain a social media presence, you have to commit to it. It can’t be a passing interest or your efforts will be wasted. We recommend:
- Committing to a single social media network and building an audience there first before branching out to other networks
- Posting at least twice a week
- Posting pictures with positive imagery on a regular basis
- Giving your social media users a reason to share your updates
- Avoid being too promotional
- Using a social media monitoring tool such as Buffer to assess your progress and adjust what you’re doing over time
- Research which social media networks your competitors are doing well on first, before selecting your network of choice
#5 Regular on-site and off-site content marketing
You’ve probably heard the term “content marketing” thrown around before. But do you know what it takes to be successful in this space and how powerful it can be? If not, you’re in for a surprise, as content marketing in our opinion is one of the most important marketing methods you can use to promote your small business online.
In fact, if every business had the time and resources to invest in an effective content marketing process, we would have ranked this item #1 on this list without any doubt at all. The reason being, it’s so effective long term and can assist you to build a widespread following across search and social channels, resulting in increased enquiry on an almost daily basis!
To play in the content marketing space, your goal should be to produce content that positions you as an authority in your niche that people will want to share. This requires:
- Publishing at least 1 article per week (we generally publish two).
- Producing long-form content (in excess of 1500 words) on a regular basis discussing niche topics in full detail. This type of content ranks much higher in search engines and is seen as authoritative.
- Producing quality content on relevant industry sites. This can be anything from guest posts, to start-up interviews to editorials. But make sure when writing for someone else, the quality of the piece is as good as it would be on your own site if you’re doing the writing.
- Ensure you support what you’re saying with facts, not fiction, and have a reason for publishing content on your site.
If you commit to a content marketing strategy, at first things will be pretty slow. However, after about three months concerted effort, watch your traffic go through the roof!
#6 Regular email marketing (EDM) campaigns
Email marketing is in no way cutting-edge or new to the digital marketing arena, however it’s value to the business community cannot be ignored.
Email marketing has for some time now been recognised as the second most effective online marketing channel behind search engine marketing. Of course it’s usefulness only extends to those with a well-built website where you can drive visitation, but our point stands.
If you’re not working to grow your email marketing database week-in-week-out, you’re definitely missing out. It really doesn’t matter which email marketing service you use to send your emails, just that you’re doing so on a regular basis. We recommend:
- Depending on your niche, sending an email to a segmented database at least once per fortnight
- Ensuring your emails have well-designed imagery and a strong call to action (CTA)
- Are only sent to those who specifically subscribed to receive email correspondence you from. Email list spamming was so 1999.
You can capture emails by reaching out to your existing customers, gathering emails at trade shows, or via online forms on your website. As long as you’ve got permission to send correspondence you’ll be OK. And just remember, the power of email marketing is through persistence. Just because someone doesn’t purchase from you today, doesn’t mean they won’t next week.
Image source: campaignmonitor.com
Optional Marketing Channels
If you’ve got the time, energy and resources to expand the promotion of your small business online, then you may want to consider one or both of the following Optional marketing channels.
As mentioned previously, adding marketing channels to your existing marketing base is something we only recommend when you’re delivering strong channel-specific results and are ready to grow your business. So make sure you assess how you’re performing across your Compulsory and Highly Desirable channels first before adding to that base.
#7 Paid Search and/or Social Media marketing
The reality is that paid search services such as Google AdWords, or paid social media channels such as Facebook or LinkedIn offer incredible opportunity to reach deeply segmented audiences, provided you have the time and budget to play in this space.
The risk here is cost. These channels are expensive, and if you don’t know what you’re doing can prove to be very costly. That being said, if you engage a professional agency in this space, you can do very well.
Many start-ups, organisations looking for quick wins, or those without any real online marketing experience are often quick to jump on these channels and try them out with limited budgets. This approach almost never works. You need to commit a sizable budget over a period of at least 6 weeks before you see any real results.
Our tip here is to work with a paid marketing agency in this space before jumping in. Paid online advertising is a challenging niche, but if done right can bring fantastic reward.
#8 Video marketing on YouTube
Separate to search and social marketing channels in our opinion is YouTube.
YouTube offers a unique opportunity for businesses to build a distinctly social following with regular, entertaining or informative video updates that people will want to watch and share.
Video marketing as a service is something which can produce slow-burn results be time consuming to produce, but if done right can generate amazing results.
There have been many cases of small businesses who have built large follower bases on YouTube through creative video marketing, but remember you do need to put in a solid amount of time on this channel and be quite creative for this to work.
YouTube marketing is best suited to those who have businesses that can tech you something, make you laugh, or are part of pop-culture in some way.
Ideally if you're going to invest in YouTube marketing, we recommend producing a video at least once per fortnight to keep your audience coming back for more.
Online marketing for small businesses is all amount about resource allocation. Therefore, if you’re going to do partake, market across each channel well. This principle should be at the forefront of all online marketing activities you undertake, and be sure to assess your progress along the way.
The key with promoting your small business online is to ensure you’re not spreading yourself too thin. Start with the basics, make sure your website sells what you do, and then tell the world all about it. Keep it simple, focussed, and update your customer base regularly and you’ll do very well.