Until a decade ago, big used to matter. Homes. Cars. Businesses. The world had a natural affiliation towards everything bigger.
Even bigger enterprises were considered to being worthy of calling legitimate businesses. A bigger enterprise meant value was created at scale. But, it is not just big enterprises that are adding value to the world.
Small businesses, on their own, started rewriting several industries and practices. They have the dexterity and agility in operations that large-scale enterprises cannot even think of. Imagine discussing an idea and seeing it as a product launch in a few days — small businesses can do that. All these factors and several others have made small the new big.
According to the US Small Business Administration, even in 2012, small businesses made up 99.7% of the employer firms. They were and continue to be a major force of economic development.
Nevertheless, small businesses are plagued with several challenges that are hampering their scalability. Marketing, for one, has always been a big challenge for small businesses. Small businesses felt powerless against large corporations that had deep pockets for marketing and advertising spend.
Digital marketing is changing all that. It is democratizing global market accessibility for small and big businesses alike. In the process, it is also empowering SMBs to reach for their moonshot goals.
Digital Marketing Democratizes The Global Market
Digital marketing is creating an advantageous position and changing the fortunes of small businesses in several ways.
- Creates an equal level field for all players
Digital marketing ensures that every business, irrespective of size, has the same channels and tactics to reach its targeted audience.
2. Places talent above resources
Digital marketing is a game of talent. A strategic approach to digital marketing can outplay and win even those with extensive offline marketing resources at their disposal.
3. Creates a unique brand identity
It creates a recognizable online brand identity without pouring millions on advertising campaigns. Also, a brand created through digital marketing is evergreen and can stand the test of time.
4. Offers a cost-effective means of marketing
Digital marketing requires a fraction of resources compared to traditional marketing activities. It can even achieve impressive dollars with meager spending. That makes it a cost-effective strategy for small businesses so they can spend money on other equally important elements like cloud accounting software and team collaboration.
6 Digital Marketing Strategies That Can Set Your Small Business For Success
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art and science of making search engines work in your favor. The tactics used in SEO help your business bring prospects and customers to your business than the other way around.
In SEO, your business website forms the foundation of all activities. It turns your website into a virtual storefront or a virtual office lobby where customers can find relevant information before deciding to transact business.
If you are skeptical about the power of search engine optimization, be informed that 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine (Bright Edge Research, 2019). Your next prospect or customer could actually be looking for you. Instead of your business pitching to uninterested and hard-to-impress customers, with SEO you can attract personas who would be very much interested in your product.
That poses the question — “How does that work?” SEO works by matching user search queries to information available on the web. Search engines deploy software programs known as crawlers or bots to crawl through websites and find and index relevant information. The information is indexed in a gigantic database of the search engine where it is listed under relevant categories contextually matching the search phrase.
When a user searches for a phrase, the search engine displays SERPS (search engine results page) which are pages containing content that satisfy the user’s search intent. Of course, there are several other factors that bots consider before making a web page rank; the website’s user experience, the trustworthiness of the content, are some of them.
Why should your small business care about SEO in 2021?
- It can work for the long-term
If your website manages to rank for the relevant keyword on the first page of SERPs, you will continue to receive a steady stream of incoming traffic for years to come. However, there is much hard work to be done before your web pages can start ranking.
- It is cost-effective
SEO does not demand your budding business to spend millions on campaigns. Instead, it asks for a fraction to create and curate content, build back links, create and maintain an SEO-friendly website, and so on.
- It builds brand authority
Search engines rank a piece of content or website only if it is providing real value to the user. Phrased differently, your high-ranking web pages can place your brand as a subject-matter authority in your space.
2. Content Marketing
Seth Godin, the American marketing guru opines, “Content Marketing is all the marketing that's left.” Content marketing breaks away from the traditional mold of marketing where the business wants to sell to customers who know everything about the product and its capabilities.
Content marketing takes an alternate route where it educates, creates awareness, and then finally persuades (and not forces) its customers to make a purchase. It is not pushy like traditional sales. It ensures that there is a strong connection between the customer and the business before a transaction takes place.
Content marketing can be considered as a feeder for SEO. It creates content around topic clusters that your target audience is deeply interested in. In the process, it builds credibility, brand authority, and also brings in organic traffic. If done correctly, content marketing can help your business reap evergreen value from a single piece of content like a blog, eBook, white paper, etc. And the great thing is that there are many free traffic sources you can leverage as part of your content strategy.
Also, it gives an avenue for your business to tell your story in a way that will differentiate it from the crowd of cookie-cutters. This ensures that you do not have to try too hard to persuade customers to choose you over competitors, even if they are large-scale enterprises.
3. Social Media Marketing
Social media consists of several platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and the likes. The use of these channels to connect with your customers, interact with them, and increase the chances of selling. In digital marketing and eCommerce, this is referred to as social commerce. Social media marketing can also help grow your email list and website traffic.
For any small business, social media offers a powerful means to communicate their content in a personalized manner to customers. The good news is, social media marketing can be done on a zero-dollar basis as well.
It is possible to create content in the form of text, images, video, sliders, and so on with web-based tools. They can be published consistently across all platforms with the help of a social media calendar. Furthermore, if required, there are social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, Kontentino, etc. that can take some load off your shoulders.
One of the under-rated benefits of social media marketing is that you can always have a constant pulse of what your followers (or customers) are talking about you, what your competition is going, and how well your social quotient is faring.
To make your social handles stay unique and attractive you can even try social proofing. Social proofing is a term coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book Influence. It refers to the social phenomenon wherein people copy the actions of others in specific scenarios. Social proofing the actions of popular brands can help you overcome PR disasters, build follower growth, and also turn your social handles into popular conversation platforms. In short, social media is a channel where strategy and creativity can go hand-in-hand to drive success.
Why should small businesses care about social media in 2021?
Social media is the modern-day grapevine communication channel. It helps the quick distribution of formal as well as informal information. It is worth noting that currently there are 3.78 billion social media users.
This is one reason enough to start building your small business social presence right away. Also, millennial customers look upon social media handles as a channel for customer support. If your business is not present there, chances are that they will be disappointed with the customer service and use that as a sole reason to switch loyalty to competitors. In short, social media marketing is not a good-to-do tactic, but a must-do digital marketing tactic for small businesses.
4. Email marketing
The birth of the internet can be attributed to email. It was the very first email that was sent in 1971 that has led to the massive growth of the internet into the globe-consuming information portal that it is today. Although written communication is the primary purpose of email, in marketing parlance, it also doubles up as an excellent channel to reach the targeted audience where they're frequently the most - their inboxes.
But, is email still relevant in the age of social media? Studies suggest that 58% of consumers open their email first thing in the morning (Sendx Email Marketing Statistics). Despite the raging popularity of social media, email still remains the primary means of communication for corporates and individuals. This makes it one of the most RoI-yielding digital marketing strategies. A strategy that delivers as much as 40x RoI compared to other channels like SEO, mobile marketing, keyword ads, banner ads, etc.
Why should small businesses take email marketing seriously?
- It is a versatile communication channel
You can use email marketing to welcome a new customer, send a promotional email, distribute monthly newsletters, or even trigger re-engagement emails.
- It can initiate conversations
Email offers a truly personalized and direct communication avenue that social media or mobile marketing cannot offer. It creates an impression that customers can make their voice heard directly to the brand as an individual to solve their problems or inform their feedback.
- Email lists are evergreen
A well-maintained email list — your blog subscribers, customers, and prospects can be nurtured for a long period. The constant connection can go a long way in converting customers even if the deal takes a while to come around.
- It is easy to manage
Thanks to easily available email marketing software, it is possible to plan, send, and measure your email marketing efforts. This software can also help you with scheduling emails in case your target audience is scattered across multiple geographies.
With digital marketing, you can make your small business a local in any geography even if it does not have a physical office in the region. Localization is the magic wand that can make this happen. Localization refers to all those activities a business will undertake to make its offerings and content relevant to an audience in a specific location.
For example, IKEA is a Finland-based brand. When it opens a store in the UAE, it will localize its UAE website, instruction manuals, and customer support articles into Arabic so that local customers in the region can easily consume them.
Localization ensures that your customers can connect with you at a colloquial level and thus extend the relationship further.
Should small businesses take localization seriously?
Being a small business implies that the scale of operations is smaller and restricted to a specific region. However, growth is always on the side. Small businesses need to exert localization efforts so that they can grow out of the small business label and join the bandwagon of established firms.
In addition to this, there are several other benefits that localization can offer:
- It creates a local presence
Localization ensures that your customers can reach your business easily without having to dial up an internal number or write to a foreign address.
- It improves SEO performance
Localization makes it easy for customers to find information that they are looking for easily and in the language that they are looking for. This ensures that your local content ranks higher on SERPs thus serving your SEO efforts.
- It drives regional growth
Localization helps segment your market into specific regions. It simplifies the task of demarcating the market into multiple geographies, each with its own set of KPIs and metrics to measure.
In the past, businesses used to eye each other as arch-rivals who had to outwit each other. But, times are changing. For businesses to grow and flourish, it is necessary to collaborate and integrate their processes extensively. Also, specializing in one’s expertise and outsourcing the rest to others is a great productivity hack.
It applies to digital marketing as well. As you might be aware by now, digital marketing is a vast expanse of marketing activities that no single person can master. Sometimes it is beneficial for all to gather their forces together rather than face the competition all along.
Co-marketing is one such digital marketing tactic. It provides different businesses to work together on marketing campaigns that will drive growth. This could be in the form of a co-branded product, an event, or even content collateral released to the public.
Why co-marketing matters to small businesses?
Like mentioned earlier, no business can have it all. Co-marketing ensures that small businesses can help each other in achieving their goals. It makes diverse resources available to all without having to spend for it or be without it.
For example, a small business with a good social media presence and another with a great offline presence can work together to create a unique marketing synergy for each other. The collaborative effort will help both the businesses negate their weaknesses and augment their strengths.
Final Words: How Digital Marketing Can Grow Your Small Business
How often do you see a billboard? Not often? How often do you see a website banner image? Too often. That proves how digitally influenced our lives are. Digital marketing has become the new normal in digital marketing. It is going to be the way forward for all, specifically small businesses.
Small businesses often work with a shoestring budget. Digital marketing plays to that weakness and ensures that they can reap all benefits that large-scale enterprises can enjoy with abundant resources.
However, it is worth noting that digital marketing is not a single strategy. It is a collection of several strategies which, when combined, create a multiplier effect. For example, search engine optimization helps put your website in front of your customers. Great content marketing feeds on SEO efforts and multiples the effect that SEO has created.
Social media, on the other hand, goes on to create a unique social identity for the business. It augments all the goodwill that SEO and content marketing has created for the business.
In addition to these digital marketing strategies, a small business can also count on alternatives like email marketing, localization, and co-marketing to script its growth story.
All said digital marketing can be a powerful weapon in the marketing arsenal of small and growing businesses.