Updated: 6th May 2021
The internet is a busy place and with the rise of digital devices, people are looking online to buy and research services and products. The good news is, there has never been a better time to consider promoting your small business online. This is why learning the basics of digital marketing is a savvy move for any small business owner.
You may be wondering why digital marketing is important for your small business. There are currently over 4.33 billion active internet users worldwide and to reach them, you’ll need to be able to connect with them online.
What is digital marketing?
Digital marketing is the activity that goes into promoting your small business on the internet.
By promoting your small business online (whether by paying for advertising or sharing videos, images or written content) you can reach and connect with your customers using digital devices.
Digital channels like search engines, social media, email, and other websites, provide the digital platforms where you can promote your business and connect with current and prospective customers.
Why do I need digital marketing?
If you’re promoting your business online, you’re likely to be spending your hard earned money on digital marketing. Unlike traditional marketing, you can get lots of valuable insight about what your customers are interacting with through their digital behaviour. For example, if you run a digital ad, you’ll be able to see how many people clicked on it and then visited your website to buy a product, or request a service. Understanding the basics will help you make the most of your marketing dollars, while helping you to grow your business over time.
So how do you get started? It can feel overwhelming if you’re just learning about what digital marketing is. Here’s our top tips for how you can get up to speed on the basics – and fast.
Know who you are and what you care about
Marketing your business online means going back to your core business strategy. Understanding the basics needs that your business fulfils for the customer is the best way to set yourself up for success:
- Who is your audience?
- What do you do/sell that fulfils their needs?
- How do you do this differently to your competitors?
- What are your best performing products and/or services?
Next, consider what your goal is for your digital marketing. What are you trying to achieve by marketing your business online?
- Do you want to reach new markets?
- Do you want to test or promote new products?
- Are you trying to adapt in a changing environment?
Whatever your reasons may be, the key to great marketing is being clear on your business value, who you’re trying to reach (your key audience) and what success looks like to you.
Right message, right place, right time
Knowing how to communicate the value of your products and services is key to promoting your small business online. This means you’ll need to think about how to describe them in a way that your customers can engage with. This can be using video content, photographs, static imagery or written content. Depending on what digital channels you end up using, you might find that a particular format works best.
Keep an eye on the performance of each of your messages to get a good idea of what resonates with your customers and what doesn’t.
Reaching the right audience online isn’t as easy as knowing who you want to speak to. There are lots of different digital channels to choose from, including deciding whether you want to pay for digital advertising or share organic content (unpaid), or both. Some of these options include:
- Search engine optimisation (SEO)
- Content marketing
- Social media marketing
- Email marketing
- Inbound marketing
- Sponsored content
There are positive and negatives to each of these options, and we recommend doing some research to work out what is right for you and your audience. If in doubt, always consider the key questions you considered above). Will this reach my intended customer?
As a small business, you don’t need to be on every platform or channel. Finding out where your target audience is will help you be more strategic with your budget and hopefully, get more traffic and conversions (purchases) on your website.
Digital advertising has options to target particular demographics and groups, however, some channels are better suited to particular content – for example, a florist specialising in events will do well to advertise on Instagram and to share their content via Pinterest so potential customers can ‘pin’ their flowers and click through to their website.
What’s the point of promoting your business online if no one is going to see it? You want to share your content at a time when your potential buyers are most active. For example, many people are unlikely to be browsing the internet at 4am unless they have trouble sleeping, which could be a genius time to promote an anti-anxiety product, but not perhaps best for your new range of kitchenware.
You can also make the most of your digital advertising spend by focusing on the time of year that matters most to your business. Be aware that costs of digital advertising rise around key holidays such as Black Friday (in the United States) and Christmas, so be strategic and find a time when you can shine.
Complete a website health check
Your website is important because it is the destination you’re leading all your potential customers towards. Bringing more people to your website is why you’re investing in digital marketing in the first place, so why would you invest in a bad experience?
Before you start building your digital marketing strategy, consider your website experience. Click around your website and check these off:
- Does it contain all the relevant information (for example, product information, contact details, FAQs section and so on)?
- Are the images high quality?
- Can people complete their tasks (for example, buy a product or request a service) easily and without links breaking?
- What happens once they make a purchase/complete a request?
You want to consider the customer journey from the moment a potential customer hits your site to the moment they leave.
Sending people to your website and giving them a bad experience is like throwing your digital marketing budget down the drain.
What’s next? Learn how to promote your small business online
At Xero, we want to make life easier for small businesses, to help them learn, grow and thrive. With this in mind, we’ve put together a learning journey with free resources to help you promote and market your small business online. This includes tools and tips for optimising your website, planning your digital marketing strategy, what SEO and Google Analytics are, staying engaged with your customers, and lots more.