Digital steps for small business owners

Setting up a small business has never been more popular, and as you’ll know if you’ve taken the plunge yourself, there are a million and one tasks you need to do to get started.

Naturally, one of the most important things is to get your name out there so you can acquire potential customers. If you’ve never done any sales and marketing before, you could well be thinking: “Where do I begin?” In this article, I’ll show you how to create and implement a digital marketing strategy, so you can set up an online presence and start to win business.

Step 1. Plan, plan, plan…

Ever heard the saying: ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’? It’s an old chestnut but it’s 100% true. Even if you’ve worked in marketing before, you can’t expect to succeed if you go at it like a bull at a gate.

A few points to consider when thinking about how to market your small business online:

  • Your digital marketing goals. Do you want to gain enquiries, followers, sales? Or just raise awareness of your brand?
  • Your target audience.  Who are your customers and where are they online? What interests them and will make them buy from you? What kind of content will engage them with your brand?
  • Your activities. What online channels will you use to communicate with customers and prospects? (You’ll find suggestions in Steps 2 to 5.) How often will you post content?
  • Your budget. How much money can you invest in digital marketing? Will you need to do everything yourself, or could tasks be outsourced to a Digital Marketing Consultant or agency?
  • Your position in 6, 12 and 24 months’ time. What will you have achieved online, e.g. how many followers will you have? How many clients will you have gained? What will your target average sale value and monthly turnover be?

When you’ve gathered all this information, use it to create a digital marketing plan and initial 12 month calendar. This will mark out your activities, goals and costs for the first year.

Step 2. Your Website

Your website is one of the biggest investments you’ll make in your business, so take the time and effort to get it right. If you have the time and skills, you could design and develop your own site. But if not, get a web design/development company to do it for you.

The advantage of this is that many firms offer an end-to-end service, from registering your domain name and setting up hosting, to designing, building and optimising the site. Some companies also offer content-writing services if you don’t fancy drafting the copy yourself.

The size and nature of your website will depend on your business type and budget. But however you approach it, here are a few extra words of advice:

  • Make sure YOU own the domain name, not the web developer. Otherwise, it could be hard to move the site to another provider in the future.
  • Do some keyword research before writing your content, or get your web developer (or digital marketing consultant) to do it for you.
  • Include keywords in the back end of the website (page titles, meta descriptions and so on) as well as the front end. This is important for SEO.
  • If you’ll be maintaining and updating the site yourself, don’t forget to make sure it has a Content Management System (CMS) and you know how to use it.
  • Set up blog capability from the start, or make sure this can be easily bolted on.

Step 3. Social media 

Next, set up social media accounts for your business. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are good places to start, as they’re widely-used and you can post most types of content. Any other platforms should be a good fit with your business and the content you’ll be posting.

For example, if you’re planning to post lots of product images, Pinterest and Instagram are probably the best platforms, whilst YouTube is the obvious choice for videos. Make sure you include links to your website from all your accounts.

Once everything’s up and running, post relevant content in line with your digital marketing plan. And share content from other pages which your target audience might find interesting. This will encourage people to engage with your brand, helping you start conversations that will hopefully convert prospects into customers.

Step 4. Google My Business

There are lots of business directories out there but Google My Business is the most important. This is especially so if your business operates locally, as Google always takes location into account during searches and highlights top-ranking businesses in ‘The Local Pack.’

As well as boosting your search engine rankings, Google My Business provides useful information to prospective customers. This includes opening hours, contact details, a link to your website, photographs and customer reviews. Complete your profile as fully as possible, using geographical keywords if appropriate.

Step 5. Email marketing

Email marketing is a little trickier since GDPR came along. To develop a compliant contact list, people generally have to opt in voluntarily rather than being asked (although there are exceptions – please ask me for more details). If you’re able to do this, however, email marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways of engaging with your customers.

There are several good quality platforms to choose from, including a free service from MailChimp that lets you email up to 2,000 contacts every day. It’s relatively simple to create a template, or you could ask a graphic designer or digital marketer to help do this.

Step 6. Ongoing activities

On top of regular social media and email activity, you’ll need to factor in additional tasks to ensure your business keeps getting found online. These might include:

  • Refreshing website content regularly, to keep people coming back to your site.
  • Writing and posting regular blog articles and linking to these from your social media accounts.
  • Ongoing SEO. This covers a range of activities from Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising to writing guest blogs for other websites.

By developing good working practices, you’ll help boost and preserve those all-important search engine rankings whilst continuing to interest and engage your audience.

Step 7. Analysis, review & revision

Like any business activity, there’s an element of ‘try it and see’ with digital marketing. What works for one company might be a waste of time for another, so factor in regular reviews to determine what’s working and what isn’t.

Every six months or so, analyse your performance against the targets set in Step 1. Tools such as Google Analytics, Twitter Analytics, Facebook Insights, MailChimp reports and, of course, your sales figures will give you the information you need.

If you’re not hitting your targets, don’t despair. You might just have been a bit too ambitious in the first place. Revise your goals for the next six months and step up your activity if you have time. You could be surprised at the results next time around!

Could Imagine Digital Marketing help your business?

I understand that setting up and running a digital marketing strategy can be daunting. You might feel you lack the skills, or the time, to manage it effectively on your own. If so, don’t worry. I can help. My services begin with a FREE initial consultation, after which prices start from just £220 a day for one day of support a month.

Please call me on 01636 922 747 to discuss how I can help, or book your initial consultation online today.