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Online marketing for small business: 8 tactics for growth

Online marketing for small business: Man multitasking at desk

Key takeaways

  • A sound online marketing plan will keep you from wasting time on tactics that don’t align with your business
  • Online marketing helps build brand awareness, secure new customers, and strengthen relationships with current customers
  • There are different areas of online marketing, many of which work in tandem with one another

Online marketing for small business is something all owners want to pursue, but the process can seem overwhelming. The truth is, online marketing doesn’t need to be overly complicated.

This guide will show you how to approach online marketing for your small business, including several marketing tactics to elevate your online presence and gain new customers.

How to plan your online marketing strategy

There are many factors to consider before approaching online marketing for small business. Start by coming up with a sound digital marketing strategy that includes setting goals, understanding your customer base, and developing a marketing plan.

Determine your online marketing goals

Small business owners turn to online marketing for a variety of reasons. Over 80% of consumers research a product or business online before making a purchase. Having an established online presence allows you to show up for those consumers, plus it builds brand awareness, attracts new customers, and strengthens relationships with current customers.

Each digital marketing component offers a unique perk for your business. Set a goal that your business is trying to achieve, like establishing better communication with customers, building brand loyalty, or increasing repeat business. You can then determine which areas to focus on with your digital marketing efforts.

Online components like your website, social media accounts, and advertisements expose your brand to those who may not have heard of you before. The goal is to be top of mindwhen more people are aware of your brand, you have a better chance of gaining new potential customers.

Digital marketing also builds relationships and trust with your current customers. You can use online marketing tools and strategies to communicate with them, drive brand loyalty, and increase repeat business.

Determine what you want to get out of your online marketing efforts. You’ll then have a clear goal before putting time and energy into marketing initiatives.

Understand your customers

Before making a marketing plan, you need to know who you’re marketing to. Conducting market research will tell you about your target customer demographics, their preferences, and why they might choose your business over your competitors.

You can brainstorm on your own or turn to current customers for more information. If your business is already up and running, you can receive real customer feedback by doing something as simple as asking them to fill out a quick survey. Incentivize people by offering a small discount, entry into a raffle, or a free gift on their next visit.

Once you have a good understanding of your audience, you can create customer segments and personas. Personas are groups of customers that are segmented by similar demographics, behaviors, and preferences. Well-defined personas enable you to cater your marketing messages and tactics to a specific target audience.

Develop a plan

Approach online marketing with a well-defined plan and marketing budget. Follow this guide to planning your digital marketing strategy to determine the appropriate marketing tactics. Doing so will help you avoid wasting time (and money) on initiatives that don’t align with your goals.

Write a comprehensive online marketing plan, and don’t try to do everything at once. Prioritize your marketing initiatives and stick to the plan.

8 areas of online marketing for small business

Florist taking online orders at her shop

Once you’ve established a plan with your digital marketing goals and audience in mind, it’s time to consider which type (or types) of online marketing will best suit your business. Below are eight popular marketing techniques to consider.

1. Earned vs. owned vs. paid

There are three aspects of online marketing strategies every business owner should know: earned, owned, and paid media.

Earned media is a result of customers distributing your online content. Shared posts, mentions, and reviews on your Yelp Business Page are great examples.

Owned media consists of the web properties that you control. For example, your website, social media accounts, or blog are all owned media.

Paid media is online advertising that you purchase. This includes pay-per-click ads (PPC), display ads, and social media ads.

2. Search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization is the process of trying to make your online content rank first on search engines like Google. You can improve your search engine rankings by understanding keywords and terms that people are searching for.

Conduct keyword research and plug relevant search terms into your website and blog to start climbing the ranks. SEO is typically free, while more advanced tools come at a cost. It will take a while for you to begin seeing results, so be patient. You’ll likely notice results after a few months of implementing your SEO strategy.

3. Social media marketing

Social media marketing uses social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook to promote your business and build relationships with customers. There are numerous ways to approach this type of online marketing for small business. 

One way is to promote giveaway contests to encourage customers to follow your page, repost your content, or interact with your brand. You could also create hashtags or seasonal marketing campaigns to encourage people to share content that’s tied to your business.

Another option is to partner with social media influencers, particularly micro-influencers. These local influencers offer a cost-effective way to build brand awareness and increase word of mouth. When their loyal followers learn about your business, they could potentially become new customers.

4. Website optimization

Having a website is vital to your business. However, it’s not enough just to have a siteit needs to be properly optimized. In other words, you want it to have the best chance for ranking high in search engines like Google. Optimizing can include formatting your website for mobile devices, creating an easy-to-navigate layout, offering valuable content (such as a blog), and decreasing page load speed.

One of the most important things is to optimize your site for mobile devices like smartphones. Nearly half of internet traffic in the U.S. comes from mobile devices, and that number is only rising. Your website should be user-friendly on all mobile devices since many people search for your businesses while on the go.

Make sure your website is functional and offers a smooth user experience. Visitors shouldn’t struggle or be confused when they land on your website.

Other considerations include properly setting up technical SEO components, maximizing page speed, and having other credible websites linking back to your site.

You can choose to optimize your site on your own, but some aspects might be too complicated to handle. If you can, hire a technical SEO consultant or even ask a tech-savvy friend or relative to fine-tune your website.

5. Content marketing

Content marketing is the production of high-quality content like articles, blogs, podcasts, or e-books that you can share with people online. Publishing informational pieces is an effective way to increase your exposure to potential new customers. The trick is to create content that is relevant and helpful to customers.

Don’t just write a blog about the weekly updates of your business. Dig deeper and create content that people find educational and engaging. For example, if you own a cafe, you can write weekly articles on the origins of coffee beans or different ways to brew coffee at home. You can then promote these posts on your social network.

This strategy works even if you don’t sell products on your site. Consistently creating informative and useful content can establish you as a trustworthy and authoritative source in your industry.

6. Email marketing

Email marketing is the act of communicating with customers through email. It’s also one of the best ways to stay in touch with people who frequent your business or have shown interest.

Collect email addresses through your website or in-store at your business. On your website, you can capture email addresses by offering a monthly newsletter that includes relevant content from your blog. At your brick-and-mortar location, you can offer a 10% discount or other incentives for signing up for your email list.

7. Online advertising

Similar to print or television ads, you can also advertise your business online. Online ads aim to draw in new customers as they browse the web.

You can customize this form of online marketing to suit your needs. For instance, you can assign each ad to match the personas and behaviors you created in your marketing plan.

There are a few different types of online ads. One option is display ads, which are the banners and tiles you see on websites. You can also create video ads that show up on places like YouTube, or social media advertisements such as Facebook Ads. Another option is search engine marketing (SEM) which are adslike Google Adwordsthat you see on search engines when you’re looking up a specific query.

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8. Yelp Business Page

An effective way to build authority online is by having a Yelp Business Page. A Yelp Business Page will showcase reviews from people who have frequented your business, which improves your reputation.

It’s free to claim your page, add detailed information and upload images.

You can also run ads on Yelp to gain more exposure from people who are currently searching for local businesses. Plus it will help improve your search engine rankings.

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Online marketing is essential for success

As a small business owner, a strong online presence helps you build brand awareness, gain new customers, and establish lasting relationships with current customers.

Start by creating a strategic marketing plan, and move on to choosing which marketing tactics will work best to meet your marketing goals. An easy first step is adding your business to Yelp, so you can start receiving reviews and interacting with your target audience.

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.