This series explores some of the most common and difficult challenges faced by small business owners. Part 1 explored how to effectively manage cash flow, and Part 2 laid out steps to find and retain employees.
Marketing has always been a challenge for small business owners, but in the “olden days,” marketing methods such as print ads, direct mail and public relations stayed fairly stable. Digital marketing changes constantly, and with so many options for marketing online, many entrepreneurs are overwhelmed.
If this is you, take a deep breath, keep reading, and incorporate these online marketing “essentials” into your marketing plan.
Build a Website
It's hard to believe, but as recently as 2017, 29 percent of small businesses did not have a website. If you’re one of them, get moving! There are many providers that offer one-stop services including everything from registering your website domain name and hosting your site to designing, building and maintaining it.
- Mobile optimized. The percentage of online searches on mobile devices surpassed the number of searches on desktops back in in 2016, and by 2021, the number of mobile search users is expected to grow to 221 million people. Make sure your site looks great and works great on all types of smartphones and tablets—not just on computers.
- Fast. Your customers are impatient folks, and speed is especially important on mobile devices. According to data from DoubleClick, 53 percent of mobile website visits are abandoned because it takes longer than three seconds for the site to load.
- Optimized for search. Search engine optimization (SEO) helps your website appear higher in search results. You can optimize your website for search by researching keywords that prospects are likely to use when searching for your business. Use those keywords throughout the site in text, headlines, product descriptions and “tags” on images and pages.
Get the Local Edge
If your business relies on local customers, use these local digital marketing strategies to get more business.
- Get listed in local search directories.BrightLocal reports 97 percent of consumers searched online for local businesses last year. Google My Business is the most important local search directory (since more than 59 percent of all online searches start on Google), but there are many others, such as Bing, Local.com, Citysearch and Yellow Pages. It’s free to get listed, and having a presence in online directories makes a huge difference in whether prospects find you when they search online.
- Take advantage of online reviews. Online reviews are the new word-of-mouth. According to BrightLocal, 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. Get listed on review sites such as Yelp or Angie's List. Then monitor reviews and quickly respond to any critical ones.
- Related content: Why Local SEO Matters More Than Ever (and 4 Steps to Success)
Whether you own a B2B or B2C business, whether you sell products or services, and especially if your target customers who are millennials or younger, you need a presence on social media. More than half of small businesses say social media is somewhat or very important to attracting new customers, communicating with existing customers, and marketing to both new and existing customers.
Use social media posts to drive customers to take action, such as visiting your website, filling out a form or making a purchase. Want to get attention? According to HubSpot, photos and videos are over 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than text-based content.
Don’t Forget About…
Email marketing has a median return on investment (ROI )of 122 percent—more than four times the ROI of social media, direct mail or paid search, according to DMA and Demand Metric. Use email to send special offers, newsletters, or updates about your business. Make sure your emails are optimized for mobile devices. If they aren’t, over 80 percent of recipients will delete them.
Digital marketing is a huge landscape, and I’ve only touched on the basics here. The good news is, there are plenty of places to get expert help with everything from website design to email marketing and local search listings – with plenty of digital tips right here on the Bank of America Small Business Community.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.
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