The digital marketing world is vast and expansive. It’s constantly evolving. And it’s daily adding to its population.
New apps are created. New website trends emerge as old ones fade. Strategies come and go.
How can a small business possibly navigate such a knotty, broad expanse?
Forming a digital marketing strategy in this day and age is, indeed, tricky. There are so many options—so many paths to take, innumerable offshoots on each.
As with so much in life, the key comes down to choosing a destination, or a goal, and sticking to it.
And, no matter what, small businesses need to know where in the digital world they can find their customers, lest they arrive at their destination with no one but themselves. Once the correct audience is located, modern marketers must deliver content specifically curated for that crowd. That content has to arrive in a timely manner and move customers along, toward the destination.
How do you find where your audience hangs out online? There’s no universal answer. Different industries find customers in different corners of the Internet and the search for yours may be more challenging than you’d expect.
Once you’ve found your customers, your digital marketing strategy really comes in to focus. Do you have a plan for delivering compelling content? Does it make sense for the platform where your audience is?
Where is your audience online?
If you’re just beginning the process of developing your digital marketing strategy, you’re beginning with audience location. Don’t waste your breath in the wrong spaces, on the wrong crowds. Carefully pinpoint where they are and how active they are.
Define your target audience.
A smart customer relationship management (CRM) tool can precisely detail your average customer. Having an accurate customer profile is the first step in hunting for your target audience. Know their average age, income level, interests, and more.
If your CRM gathers extensive contact information for customers, you can easily turn out data on what percentages of your customers use which social media platforms, or how many prefer to be contacted via email, as opposed to other modes. The more data you have, the more successful you’ll be in finding your target audience, which will lead to more efficient content creation, higher conversion rates, and more.
Where are their digital footprints?
If you’re a restaurant, your target audience is probably on Yelp, Trip Advisor, or on a similar hospitality-centric review site. If you’re a higher-end restaurant, your target audience likely doesn’t use Snap Chat or some other faddy social media app.
This is where customer data comes in to play, helping you to either back up or dash down your assumptions.
Look at competitors’ digital marketing efforts. Where are they engaging their customers? What’s working and what’s not working for them on the digital marketing front? Have they left any gaps that your brand could fill?
Once you find your customers, watch their vernacular and patterns when possible. Immerse your brand in those platforms. Take email marketing, for example. Tracking behavior—from open rates to click-throughs—based on your particulars will allow you to more effectively reach customers and know if email is a digital haunt of your target audience.
SEO, social media, affiliate, email, review sites
Different digital marketing platforms and tactics apply to different businesses in different industries. Bear this in mind as you craft your digital marketing strategy.
Here are some different platforms and practices, who they should be used by, and how they should be used by those businesses:
If your small business is looking to drive e-commerce as part of your digital marketing strategy, you’ll struggle to do it without search engine optimization (SEO) content. Simply routing customers from email or social media to your site limits your reach. How will new customers and non-followers find you? Don’t you want to turn your “open” sign on its brightest setting, swinging open the front door of your website to customers from all over? SEO content is a key way to draw people from all over the world wide web to your website, giving your e-commerce initiatives a major boost.
Social media is surely crucial to today’s small businesses. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow brands to interact with prospects and leads instantly and remotely. If handled correctly, this can be a big league tool for brands to boost loyalty, increase ubiquity, and win business. But know which platforms you need to be on and don’t take today’s overemphasis on social media presence too seriously. If you’re a pest exterminator, you don’t need to be on Pinterest.
Certain businesses hold affiliate marketing as a key component of their digital marketing strategy. Partnering with third parties or other businesses to pair offerings online can generate mounds of newfound revenue can especially benefit service-based companies. Affiliates have large marketing network which can connect your brand to customers who may not ever hear of you, especially if you don’t have a naturally-visible brand or your business won’t generate a lot of web traffic, based on the industry it’s in or its product or service offering.
Few businesses have a valid reason for not using email marketing as a key component in their digital marketing strategy. Email may look like an artifact beside digital advancements and trends like social media, text messaging, and mobile applications, but the decades-old technology remains a communications pivot point for as many as 2.5 billion people worldwide. Email is direct, showing up on the digital doorstep of customers, not just floating in static in a cranny of the Internet. It can be personalized, not just generalized to a broad user base. And it’s cheaper than most other commonly-used digital marketing tactics.
A variation of social media, review sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, Urban Spoon, Angie’s List and others are common haunts for hospitality and service customers. Paying attention to what reviewers say about your business—objectively processing it to improve your business model and better hone your offering—is an excellent marketing strategy. If the site offers advertising, consider putting together a package to reach customers there. And if the site offers business-to-user interaction, respond to reviews—both positive and negative—to give your business some humanity and swoop in on easy, direct marketing.
What does your audience want to know?
Now that you’ve found your audience, you can’t blow it. You have their attention, if even just for a moment. It’s time to deliver compelling content at this point in your digital marketing strategy.
Ask yourself—what do they want to know? They may be nothing but a lukewarm lead, but how can you preemptively serve them?
And what is it that you’ll serve them? Figuring out this piece—and nailing it—will establish a business-customer relationship before any money even changes hands. Your first transaction will be one where your company freely serves the prospect, priming them for future business.
Here are some compelling content types to consider offering:
Instructional content that helps customers to solve a problem or accomplish something. A Tex-Mex restaurant could teach customers how to make delicious guacamole. A social media management company could publish an article on what Instagram filters to use with which types of pictures. A plumbing service could teach customers how to spot emergency leaks or how to diagnose a garbage disposal problem. Here is where you build your authority and invoke trust in customers.
Answer a question. Explain the ins and outs of something. Serve potential future customers education. Whether creating a blog post, a YouTube video, or a smaller piece of content, the idea remains—you can build rapport with prospects through creating informative content.
Explain something. Why does a clean workspace boost productivity? A cleaning service could answer that. Why is your computer battery draining so quickly? An IT firm could speak into that. Figure out what you can explain and serve people those explanations.
List-based content is taking the Internet by storm. What lists can your business create to reel eyes? “Five reasons to (blank).” “11 things to remember when (blank).” This works particularly well for a blog-based digital marketing strategy, but could also be slowly rolled out over social media.
Don’t shy away from videos. They’re increasingly easy to produce and increasingly more popular, thanks to platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and even Instagram. A video is a great way for your company to put a face on its brand and engage customers and future customers. Any of the above strategies could be easily integrated into a video campaign.
What are the common threads in effective content?
Poor execution will dampen even the strongest digital marketing strategy. Remember, effective digital content tends to possess the following traits:
Proportionately size your content for the particular medium. Don’t over or underserve.
Educate, assist, advise, offer tips. Don’t sales pitch.
Show care in what you’re creating to build trust. Polish your content. Sloppy content may suggest sloppy service from your company.
Give your content legs. Build it with sharing in mind—aiming for customers to share with others.