In 2018, the United States had close to 275 million internet users. This figure is projected to grow to 310.1 million internet users in 2022 with the United States being one of the biggest online markets worldwide. If you own a small business and are not putting resources towards digital marketing, you’re missing out!
Here’s a handy check list you can use to plan your online strategy and increase sales and awareness.
1. Web Design
Poor web design – both in appearance and functionality - might be affecting your online sales. Studies show that first impressions of a website are about 94 percent design-related. Additionally, about 75 percent of users will equate credibility of your brand with a well-designed site.
For example, if your contact information isn’t easily accessed, potential customers might leave in frustration.
If your site takes time to load on mobile, you might lose shoppers before they hit your landing page. Here’s a list of design elements to pay attention to as you create or update your site:
- Clutter free
- Easily found by Google
- Mobile friendly
- Professional looking branding
- Contact details easily found
- Simple and unique design
- Fast load time
- Relevant content
2. SEO and CRO
CRO, or conversion rate optimization, can be confused with SEO, or search engine optimization.
A CRO strategy goal is to increase conversions on a website. For CRO best practices, check out The Best CRO Strategy for 2019 from The Daily Egg blog. The goal of SEO is to ultimately drive traffic to the website, leading to more sales. The article SEO Tips for Small Business Websites shows how you can create Google-friendly locally targeted pages, use stronger keywords, optimize for mobile, and more.
Check out this infographic with more great information about search engine optimization: SEO Checklist – 8 Layman Steps for Success.
3. Social Media Marketing
It’s no secret that social media can play a very important role in shaping the success or failure of a small business.
In fact, SmartBiz Loans has spoken with many customers who are successfully driving sales on social media channels without spending a fortune. RoShamBo Baby, makers of kid-friendly sunglasses, has a Facebook page targeting parents with over 40,000 loyal followers. The creators of the Infinity Strap yoga prop report that Instagram drives 80% of the sales completely organically, without any paid advertising.
As social media continues to advance with the rapid development of new platforms and marketing methods, it can be hard for a busy business owner to keep up. The SmartBiz Blog has written extensively about social media and how to use it to effectively promote your business.
Review Social Media Tips for Small Businesses for reasons to use social media and how to get started.
If you’re not prepared to go it alone, consider hiring a professional. We’ve got tips to help you find the right person for the job here: Small Business Marketing Tip: How to Hire a Social Media Strategist.
4. Affiliate Programs
The Affiliate Royale blog explains affiliate marketing: When your business uses affiliate marketing, it offers a commission to people who are willing to market your products on their own sites. When one of your affiliates successfully refers a lead, who ends up making a purchase, that affiliate earns a small percentage of the sale (while you keep the rest).
Experts predict spending on affiliate marketing could hit $8.2 billion by 2022. If you’re ready to explore this strategy, check out this list from Small Business Trends: The 25 Best Affiliate Marketing Companies in 2019.
5. Hire a Coach or Consultant
Starting and running a small business isn’t easy! While it can be fulfilling and lucrative, not every entrepreneur with a great idea has a business background. That’s where a coach or consultant comes in. This person can help you before you launch by devising a comprehensive business plan.
Once you’re up and running, they can guide you as you grow, helping you strengthen your business and avoid rookie mistakes. Just like a sports coach, they can give you encouragement no matter what stage you’re in.
Small business consultants typically cost $1,000 per month and some have larger fees than that. If that amount is outside of your budget, you can join professional business groups and seek out a mentor who has a successful small business track record. If you need motivation and information, there are a wealth of podcasts, books and webinars that can help you out.
Check out these resources:
6. Email Marketing
The email marketing channel typically performs well for small businesses. By sending out regular emails with relevant content to your current and potential customers, you can easily measure performance with open and click rate. Use email campaigns to share new products, special promotions, and important updates related to your business.
Launching an email marketing campaign might sound overwhelming but the payoff can lead to increased brand awareness and sales. Visit the SmartBiz Blog for tips to help you get started: Email Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners.
Use opt-in email to avoid landing in the trash or spam folder. Opt-in email is a term used when someone is given the option to receive email. Give your current or potential customers the opportunity to subscribe to your email distribution list through your website.
Make sure the sign up is easy and that you’re ultimately sending content that your subscribers will find valuable.
7. Get into Articles or News Stories
Media coverage can have a big payoff for a small business. Local news channels, newspapers, magazines or radio programs always have a slot for an attention-grabbing story with a local angle. Don’t just blast out a pitch. Do some research to find the right contact at each outlet who handles business or local news.
Some ways to create a newsworthy story include donating a percentage of proceeds or products to a local charity or sponsoring local events (like a marathon or farmer’s market). If you’re an expert in your field, monitor current events to see if your knowledge or opinions could add to a story.
For example, if you have a landscaping business, you could discuss drought resistant plants before the summer heat kicks in. If you own a bakery, you could talk about nut-free treats you offer that are perfect for kid’s lunches or classroom parties when school time rolls around.
8. Online Press Releases
Placing a well-written press release online can get your story picked up by a local or national news outlet. The Constant Contact Blog has a guide that can help: How to Write a Press Release. The number one tip? First make sure your story is newsworthy, then worry about the title and content.
9. Contests and Giveaways
Everyone likes a bargain! But don’t just give away stuff or give random discounts. Have a strategy behind your deal. To attract new consumers, consider a referral program. Offer shoppers specials like free shipping, coupons, a discount, or store credit for referring another shopper who purchases from you.
If you have the budget, you can create branded merchandise to give away in your store, with a purchase, or at community events. For creative ideas, check out this post filled with merchandise shoppers will love: Promotional Items for Your Small Business.
If you’ve determined that publishing a blog could help reach your ideal customer, the first step is to figure out who you expect to read your blog and write content specifically for them. As a blog publisher, SmartBiz Loans has unique insight into this topic.
Review this comprehensive article to help get you started: Develop a Blog Strategy for Your Small Business. You’ll learn how to target your content, identify keywords, develop an editorial calendar and more. And you don’t have to write the blog on your own. Inviting others to guest blog for you can help extend your reach when they promote for you.
11. Personal Branding
Personal branding helps you become an authority in your field, separate from what your company offers. When you become a public figure, you can develop new relationships and connections that can help elevate your company and ultimately increase sales.
Small Business Trends has a step-by-step guide to help you discover and promote yourself: 5 Self-Branding Tips for Small Business Owners.
12. Video Creation
A great reason to use video marketing is because it helps communicate your company’s unique value proposition in an engaging way. You’ll put a face to your brand, increasing trust and spark word-of-mouth recommendations. With technology these days, there’s no need to hire an expensive production company to produce a quality video. You just have to figure out your video content strategy and choose the best way to promote it.
If you need guidance, freelancers, interns or even college students can help you craft quality content without a large investment.