5 small business marketing strategies to grow your brand online
- There are affordable (or even free) marketing tactics such as SEO that effectively boost your brand visibility
- Consider investing in influencer marketing to boost your brand awareness across social media channels
- Claiming your Yelp Business Page is a free and easy way to convert page visitors into paying customers
If you’re a small business owner with a tight marketing budget, it might seem impossible to create and invest in a robust marketing strategy. But there are affordable marketing efforts that can get people through the door and grow your customer base.
Not all digital marketing strategies make sense for every small business or startup. Each company is unique and will benefit from certain marketing efforts more than others. The trick is to experiment with multiple marketing channels and find what works best for your company.
Here are five small business marketing strategies proven to work for a wide range of businesses.
1. Email marketing
Email marketing—or promoting your business via email—helps nurture relationships with your existing customer base and allows you to convert potential customers into new customers.
Effective small business email marketing also offers a great return on investment. For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $42.
There are three areas to consider for email marketing—building an email list, choosing the right email software, and creating an email strategy.
Build your email list
There’s no point in email marketing if you have a limited number of email subscribers. Depending on your industry, you can expect about a 3% click-through rate (CTR) for every email you send. This means if you have 100 subscribers, three people will click on the content in your email with the potential of becoming paying customers. Obviously, this is a numbers game with more high-quality subscribers equaling better payout.
Grow your email list using a call to action (a statement that prompts a response or action from readers) on various marketing channels. That could be a sign-up form on your website or incentives you promote on social media (for example, a 20% discount on a future purchase in exchange for providing their email address).
Select your email marketing software
Once you’ve started to build your email list, choose email marketing software that can help manage your communications with customers. Mailchimp and Constant Contact are two popular options. You can choose from a variety of plans and pricing, with the option to create automated emails that are sent at designated times.
Mailchimp has a free plan that allows you to email up to 1,000 subscribers. However, these emails will include ads. You can upgrade to higher-tiered plans that don’t include ads and allow for more customization starting at $10 per month. If you have the budget, you can outsource your email marketing services to another company for around $500–$2,000 per month.
Create your email strategy
After choosing an email marketing tool, it’s time to build your email strategy. First, determine which type of content you want to send. One strategy is using drip email marketing campaigns, which refers to a series of emails that automatically send to your email list after a set amount of time.
For instance, as soon as someone signs up for your email list, you can automatically send them a welcome email and introduce yourself. One week later, you could send an email with a promotion to encourage them to visit your business. You could also queue up a monthly newsletter updating people in your email list with current events, referral program details, or new products or services you offer.
2. Social media
Social media marketing allows you to interact directly with current and potential customers. Leveraging social media can build brand awareness, facilitate word-of-mouth growth, and keep you top of mind with your target audience.
The first step is to choose social media channels that will work for your business. Although it might be tempting to promote your brand on every platform to maximize exposure, not all social media platforms lend themselves to every type of business.
For example, a gourmet cupcake shop might not gain much traction using a platform like LinkedIn, which focuses on professional networking. Instead, the shop could receive more visibility and success using a platform like Pinterest or Instagram, which rely heavily on visuals.
Stick to social media platforms that make the most sense for your business and invest your time and energy into those. The key is to come up with a concrete social media strategy you can follow.
To begin, determine what types of content you’ll post—videos, photos, infographics, links to blog posts on your website, or a combination of these. Then, choose a few topics you can post about. For example, if you’re looking to promote your auto repair shop, you might focus on vehicle maintenance tips, customer discounts, or simple do-it-yourself vehicle tutorials.
You can also incorporate influencer marketing in your social media strategy, which involves paying influential people to post about your business. For example, a salon owner could offer free services or monetary compensation to influencers with thousands of local followers. In exchange, the influencer posts about the salon for their followers to see. When pursuing influencer marketing, be sure the influencers you partner with align with your own business values, and always follow endorsement guidelines.
The last step is to set a posting schedule. Decide how many posts you’ll send out each week and at what time you’ll post. Some data suggests there are specific days and times when posts receive higher engagement, depending on the social media channel and industry.
For example, according to Sprout Social, the best days to post on LinkedIn are Wednesdays and Thursdays; and the best specific time frame is on Tuesdays between 10 and noon. Sundays show the weakest engagement and aren’t ideal days to promote your business.
Be consistent with your social media posts, and stay active and responsive. Respond as soon as possible if someone comments on your post or reaches out via private message.
There are social media publishing tools like Hootsuite that allow you to plan and schedule posts on multiple social media platforms. Expect to pay about $30 per month for multiple social profiles and access to customized features.
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3. Online review platforms
Online review platforms like Yelp give people a place to read reviews and testimonials from previous customers, and they provide a one-stop location for all your pertinent business details, like address, operating hours, and photos.
These platforms also help increase your visibility on search engines and are a great small business marketing strategy. In fact, 97% of people make a purchase after visiting Yelp, and nearly 80% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. It’s therefore crucial that your local business uses a review platform to assist consumers when they’re conducting online research.
Claiming your Yelp Business Page allows you to respond to reviews from previous customers—whether it’s a positive review or negative comment. If someone leaves negative feedback on your review page, it’s a perfect opportunity to correct the issue and build confidence with other customers. Responding appropriately shows potential customers that you go out of your way to ensure a positive experience throughout the entire customer journey.
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4. Search engine optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is when you use specific keywords in your online content—such as your website or blog—that boost your visibility to search engines and helps your website rank higher on those search engines result pages, therefore increasing your overall website traffic.
Search engine optimization is cost-effective (as it’s primarily free) and should be a main pillar of your small business marketing strategy. Fifty-three percent of all online website traffic comes from organic search—that is, users who are researching on a search engine.
Boosting your website to the first page of search results is incredibly important as less than 1% of online searchers click on the second page of search results.
Although there’s no guarantee your content will rank on the first page of search results, you can start by ensuring your website has an excellent user experience. This means having an up-to-date website design with clear, simple organization. Search engines reward websites by ranking them higher if people stay on the site longer, which implies your site has useful content visitors trust.
Web pages with high bounce rates—which means a user visits your site and then immediately leaves without exploring further—have difficulty maintaining high search engine rankings. You can minimize the risk of visitors leaving your site by ensuring it’s user-friendly. Organize your content using headers, subheaders, bullet points, and an adequate amount of whitespace. (Nobody wants to stay on a web page that’s difficult to navigate.)
Another SEO tactic is increasing your page speed. Websites with slow load times often discourage users from staying on their site. There are many ways to increase your load speed, but one of the easiest ways is to reduce the image file sizes on your site. You can easily reduce and compress image sizes using one of these helpful image optimization tools.
Lastly, be sure to capitalize on local SEO so that your website is showing up in searches being done in your geographic area. Conduct a local SEO audit to assess how your site performs on local searches and what you can do to improve its visibility.
5. Content marketing
Content marketing consists of producing digital content that is distributed to your target market. Content refers to everything from photos and video to infographics, blog posts, webinars, and more.
One of the most effective forms of content marketing is blogging. A steady stream of informational blog posts can engage visitors and help your website climb the ranks on search engines.
But blogging is more than just writing posts on random topics. An effective blog is built on a sound strategy, keyword research, and consistency.
Start by conducting keyword research to determine what your target audience is actually searching online. You can use a variety of free keyword research tools to determine how many people are searching terms related to your business or niche.
The goal is to find topics to blog about that have high search traffic but low competition from other websites. A keyword research tool will give you an estimate of how difficult it is to rank for these terms.
For example, if you want to market your lawn care business, create posts that educate consumers on how to keep their lawn healthy and green year round. You could also post content that informs consumers about the best time to aerate their lawn.
Compose a list of terms that could make good topics for blog posts, then set a publishing schedule with the goal of posting at least one article per week.
Then, be sure to stick to your publishing schedule and produce quality content. Some research indicates bloggers who posted 16 posts per month increased traffic 3.5 times. Search engines will reward your site for consistently posting informational articles and keeping your site current.
Implement more than one small business marketing strategy
When it comes to small business marketing, you don’t need to implement all these marketing tips simultaneously, but you should experiment with one or two to see what gains the most traction and refine your strategy from there.
Once you’ve established an effective marketing plan, learn more ways to promote your local business.
The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.