What is marketing?
Marketing is a method of building brand awareness. Your small business marketing strategies might relay specific messages and advertise your business in many forms. Marketing:
- builds your business reputation,
- optimizes your online presence,
- improves customer service,
- increases authority in your field and
- maintains brand integrity.
What we won’t talk about
This is not a guide to making money while you sleep, becoming an overnight sensation, or getting rich quick on the internet. This is not a seven-figure system, or a six-figure template. We are not talking about affiliate marketing, network marketing or multi-level marketing.
This is not step 1: learn SEO and step 2: decide what you want to do.
We’re going to discuss digital marketing for your small business, including online marketing, offline marketing, outbound marketing, and inbound lead generation.
Offline marketing is still very important for your small business to expand your reach and target your ideal customers. It includes print and digital forms of advertising such as billboards, product demos, radio, television, and phone marketing.
Radio marketing still reaches 54% of the US adult population every week , with users listening an average of 104 minutes per day. This form of advertising may be more effective for business-to-consumer marketing because it broadcasts to a general local audience. Internet radio keeps this form of entertainment alive online, reaching 44% of the US Population in 2015.
Television advertising is very expensive and unspecific. A form of mass media, it has evolved to entertain. For example, creating an intentionally shocking, blacklisted commercial can create a stir, and go viral.
Telemarketing isn’t just cold calling, which may still work for B2B, but it is also text marketing. You might offer coupons, customer service reminders, a loyalty program or promote a giveaway using new tools and apps, like Heyo, Belly, PunchCard, ShoutEm and more. One strategy that is often misused is QR codes: try to avoid it, or make sure it’s done right for the most effective return and usefulness for the customer.
A powerful and fun marketing tactic, guerrilla marketing can draw out your creative side. Here are some cost-effective offline advertising ideas for new small businesses:
- Leave sticky notes in random places
- Accidentally leave a branded pen at the bank
- Put your business card on public bulletin boards
- Leave your business card in complementary places
- Take pictures and videos of events to share on social media
- Network by joining groups and associations
- Hold a B2B luncheon or host a workshop or free consultation day
- Use flyers with infographics, tips, and coupons. Create infographics using free templates at venngage, Canva, freepik, and other services offering free trials.
- Create a unique business card that is colorful or portrait orientation
- Wrap your vehicle or split the cost of a billboard with a complementary business or vendor
- Use recycled material for your product packaging and marketing materials
Your traditional marketing materials are still useful. Brochures and business cards provide customer service reminders to current and potential customers, and allow them to make referrals with a physical reminder. Always be sure your print media guides the recipient to all your preferred contact methods, including telephone, email, and website. It is surprising when I’m handed a business card and someone says, “just email me,” but the email address is not on the card.
If you build an email marketing list with customer addresses, you can run a postcard campaign offering an in-store discount for a limited time. Having an expiration date on the promotion creates an urgency and reminds them to come back. Running a Vistaprint postcard promotion to 250 addresses that you provide can be as little as $140, or get a quote from any number of service providers of USPS’s Every-Door-Direct-Mail which offers demographic targeting.
When you start your business, add services, or change target audiences, a brochure is still a great way to get the word out. For example, you may obtain a mailing list from your local Chamber of Commerce, usually if you are already a member. This works great for business-to-business service providers.
There are many budget-friendly ways to advertise your business. Ensure you have print material to work with and distribute it creatively. Here are some advertising tips:
- Advertise during your peak seasons and hold promotions to compete with other local business promotions
- Track your offline marketing with a call tracking or toll-free phone number, new email address or specific discount code
- Have a clear and memorable brand image and be consistent
- Keep your advertising simple with white space to allow people to focus on and digest your message
- Use sans-serif fonts with dark type on a light background
- Use vector graphics for modern ads or photographs of people or objects in specific messages
- Images should be print-ready, copyright-free and DPI of 300
- Use small classified ads consistently
- Sponsor a team or community event
- Volunteer to be a speaker in your field, to a group or class
Search Engine Optimization
Build SEO in at conception and have administrators follow best practices consistently to avoid having to perform a daunting site-wide audit. SEO best practices include:
- Long-tail keyword focus (not the metatag, but the subject of the content)
- Proper page titles targeting the subject designated for that page
- Organized structure
- Nested, List-driven navigation
- Optimized link structure using keywords for the page name
- Structured taxonomy of Categories and Tags
- Organized content
- written in small chunks
- short sentences
- section headings
- optimized length
- Optimized images, compressed for speed with descriptive filenames and ALT tags
- Phenomenal user experience that converts visitors to customers and customers to loyal brand advocates
Learning to follow SEO best practices can take some practice. For example, this article’s subject may be marketing, but more specifically, it targets small business marketing. Our content answers the question: How can small business succeed in digital marketing? Because we touch on both online and offline marketing for business-to-business and B2C small businesses, it can certainly become a step by step series for specific industries. We may offer this as a slideshow in the future.
How can we help you succeed? Master Web Creations offers WordPress website maintenance on our platform or yours.
Optimize your website
- For Speed: Google uses site speed and page speed as a ranking factor. It has been an increasingly important element of a great website since before it became a ranking factor in 2010. Google and other search engines will index pages with short load times, and may choose not to index a page that takes seconds to access.
- For Mobile users and mobile searches: There are many studies proving how integrated mobile device usage is in our daily lives. You simply must have a mobile-responsive, or mobile version of your website. To gain mobile rankings, you should optimize for screen real estate, as well as follow all SEO best practices.
Local searches lead 50% of mobile visitors to visit stores within one day. (Google, 2014)
- For Local search: From 2014-2015, “Near me” searches grew more than 130% YoY. Three key ways to optimize for local search are: follow SEO best practices, include your location in your content where appropriate, and use local business schema markup.
78% of local-mobile searches result in offline purchases. (Search Engine Land, 2014)
72% of consumers who did a local search visited a store within five miles. (WordStream, 2016)
- For Usability:
UX increases KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) by up to 83%.
Source: Jakob Nielsen.
Two of the top KPIs to monitor are conversions such as form completions, calls and emails and conversion rates. Monitoring customer satisfaction with SurveyMonkey, is also a great performance indicator. Keep a pulse on acquisitions and behaviors, so you can track your marketing efforts or adjust landing pages to improve conversions.
- For Voice search: update your subject from long-tail keywords to conversational subject matter – what question are you answering? What problem do you solve? Use structured data markup wherever possible, and ensure your Google My Business information is accurately detailed.
To optimize your WordPress website for speed, an elegant plug in will help guide you through important steps.
- First, find out if your site is slow and where you need to improve by running a page speed test at pingdom or google. The speed test results will tell you where to make needed improvements, for example, Google will break out your grade for mobile and desktop, and offer solutions to common ailments, such as Optimize images, minify scripts, Eliminate render-blocking scripts above-the-fold.
- Next, ensure your core files are current by checking your WordPress updates page. Back up your files and database and update as necessary.
- Then, remove plugins that are resource hogs, eye-candy or otherwise not used.
- Install a plugin that enables caching, like WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache. Utilizing caching reduces loading time by relieving the server of the processing task to retrieve the html. Caching stores a copy of the HTML for a set amount of time in the browser’s memory.
- If you have a very large, aging website, optimize your database manually, or use a plug in such as WP Optimize or WP Rocket.
- Optimize your images using WP Smush or an alternative plug in.
- Finally, the problem may lie at your website host, if you’ve done all you can to speed up your site but can’t get better than a “Poor” speed rating from google or a “C” grade for speed from Pingdom. You may need to look for a VPS plan or managed hosting.
- Webmasters can do some further coding enhancements by concatenating scripts, using sprites, resizing images and moving script loading to the footer.
- You may also decide to switch themes, or use a lazy loader plug in.
- Other highly rated caching plugins include WP Fastest Cache and AutoOptimize to speed up your site. Note that Google’s PageSpeed test tends to be stricter than Pingdom’s Website Speed Test.
To optimize your WordPress website for mobile, the best way is to revisit your design and choose a responsive template and add mobile site plugins as necessary for enhanced UX on smaller screens.
To optimize your WordPress website for local search, choose a plug in that adds microdata to posts and pages using Schema.org standards for your address. Our favorite for small business is the Organization Schema Widget. Add an enhanced contact page, hyperlocal and relevant content, and update your website title to include your business physical location.
To optimize your WordPress website’s user experience, verify your mobile optimization. Do you use a hamburger menu and sticky search? Is it fast and secure? Review your content for readability, scannability by using bullets, lists, well-written headings, subheadings, images and other media, color to guide the user’s focus, optimized calls-to-action and use of active whitespace. Also, optimize for mobile usability by removing or minimizing visual page dividers, fewer design elements and enhanced mobile forms and buttons.
To optimize your business for voice search, review your local business listings and ensure you have as much information available as possible, as accurately as possible, including your hours and specific category. Target your website content to answer questions directly, with long-tail subjects. Review your local search optimization – ensure you are using structured data markup and have submitted your sitemap to Google and other search engines webmaster tools. Review your mobile optimization, speed, and user experience.
Do you need help updating your WordPress website? We have reasonable rates, so start a conversation about your project.
Optimize your content
50% of search queries are four words or longer. (WordStream, 2016)
Content optimization has always been a part of search engine optimization. The Google SEO Starter Guide from 2010 outlines SEO Basics including meta tags and page titles, site structure including navigation and page URLs, and content optimization. Google is the search engine authority on search engines, and suggests the following SEO best practices:
- Create brief but descriptive, unique page titles to accurately describe the page content. Google will penalize for duplicate page content. Most page titles will display the first 60 characters in search engine results pages (SERPs).
- Use the description meta tag. This is easy with Yoast’s SEO plugin. Write an appealing, unique snippet to summarize the page content. Descriptions should be active, specific and actionable. The description earns user click-through and can include a call to action. Keep your description under 160 characters for desktop and 130 characters for mobile, with the focus keyword toward the beginning.
- Use words in your URLs and a simple directory structure. They should be human-readable and contain the keyword phrase, as they can also influence click-through from SERPs.URLs should be short, and relay value, but if the length exceeds 50 characters, the search engine will not penalize you. Use hyphens and underscores as separators and exclude stop words.
- Plan your navigation and use breadcrumbs.
- Monitor your page not found errors and correct them as quickly and accurately as possible. Use a plug in to easily manage 404s and redirects for WordPress.
- Submit your XML sitemap from your Yoast SEO plugin to Google Search Console and consider offering an HTML-based site map for your users.
- Offer quality, compelling, unique, and useful content for your users in an easy-to-read, organized manner that maintains topical focus.
- Write descriptive and concise anchor text. Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink. Search engines use anchor text as a reflection of what your pages may be about. Google recommends “make sure that anchor text you use within your own site is useful, descriptive, and relevant.”
- Use the alt attribute for brief, descriptive file names. Alt tags provide better image context/descriptions to search engine crawlers, helping them to index an image properly. When choosing alt text, focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and is in context of the content of the page. Avoid keyword stuffing as it results in a negative user experience and may cause your site to be seen as spam. Keep your alt text below 125 characters for best screen-reading tool usability.
- Use heading tags appropriately and ensure proper nesting: H1, H2, em and strong formatting only where appropriate. Use only one h1. Treat H2s as sections to describe the main topics, and use H3 to break up sections. Keep formatting consistent and make them interesting.
- Promote your site in an ethical manner, for example, via social media and newsletters.
- Use Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) and Analytics to monitor your site’s performance and react to issues.
Here are some further tips for optimizing and marketing your website content:
Build your cornerstone, 10x content, and then produce smaller, digestible pieces to link to that content, such as smaller articles, infographics, tutorials, animations, or e-books.
Find more tips in the inbound lead generation section below.
A word on User Experience
In user experience design, the user’s feelings always come first. The product (website) should be useful, usable, aesthetically pleasing, accessible and credible, for example, to illustrate your respect for them and commitment to a quality experience. This builds the relationship with your audience and gets them to keep coming back.
Usability and user experience are similar disciplines based on human computer interaction and testing. The former focuses on intuitiveness of design and the latter explores the users’ feelings about the system.
Every part of the system has user experience: from interface to interaction, from content to branding. You can learn more about usability and user experience at https://www.usability.gov/ and https://www.nngroup.com/topic/web-usability/
SEM and PPC
Search advertising, or pay per click can be expensive, but striking a good balance between relevant keywords and affordable keywords will keep your campaigns on track for reaching your target audience.
It is crucial to your small business pay per click campaign success to understand campaign fundamentals.
- It is important to first establish your goals and objectives. How much do you want to spend? What would you like customers to do? Understand your sales funnel so you can set up your Conversion goals in the ad tool and the tracking on your website.
- Focus, then Expand. Start small by choosing brand or product keywords targeting specific locations.
- There are lot of options for campaign settings – your best bet is to start simple. If it is very important to have a separate ad group targeting mobile users or segmenting networks, here is where you begin. Understand your options and goals so you can design your campaign structure accordingly to avoid auditing a messy campaign later.
- Basics: Search Queries, Ad Groups, Ad Copy, Landing Pages, Bids. Conduct your keyword research and build a list of low competition, high traffic keywords. Design your hierarchy of ad groups based on your desired campaigns and topics. Write clear ads with compelling CTAs. Design your landing pages for each ad group. Set your budget and your bids. Now you can set up your conversion tracking, connect it to your analytics account and monitor and adjust moving forward.
- Once your experience grows, so can your ad campaigns. Expand your target, keywords, ad groups and campaigns. Add extensions and adjust your bids. Try split testing to create optimized landing pages that convert.
Once you have a successful and growing ad campaign or two, you can grow and optimize your campaign as you learn best practices to reach new and past customers, maximize profits, monitor analytics and work effectively.
The importance of landing pages
Your landing page should have one message and a clear and powerful call to action. Design your landing page to capture leads through forms and offers. A good design will use panels and bulleted sections for important information, offer a simplified menu of services and options, and can have a social media section. Your landing page should identify who you are and may have a contact info section, or testimonials and trust seals.
Landing pages aren’t just for your paid advertising campaigns – they are an effective means of generating leads by alluring customers with interesting and useful content.
Here are some helpful tips for building and optimizing landing pages that convert:
- Have a clear call to action, both visually and verbally – limit the number of options on the page and make active use of white space.
- Using product videos can increase lead generation rate up to 33% 
- Have a valuable offer for your visitor to merit providing their personal information in exchange for it.
- Ensure your landing pages and forms are mobile-friendly
- Market, Measure, Modify. Track your progress and page value and organize your leads with marketing automation software, CRM software or a WordPress plug-in. Some highly rated CRM plugins include: UkuuPeople, UpiCRM, WordPress Leads, WP-CRM, WPForms, PressPoint, and WP-CRM System.
Content marketing or content distribution provides timely and relevant value to the audience. Here, you focus on strategic content delivery with occasional offers. If you don’t respect the context of the platform, your long-form content won’t be useful. As mentioned earlier, break your content into chunks, publishing an infographic to social media, which links back to the long-form or to a shorter piece which then leads to the long form content. You have less than 8 seconds to get and keep your audience’s attention, according to the 2015 Microsoft survey of Canadians.
By creating and publishing valuable content, you become a trusted advisor to your prospects. Buyers do their own educational research on search engines and social media, by which they learn a great deal about a service or product before even speaking to a sales representative. Creating a lead generation strategy and valuable content will capture the interest of the buyer and build your business’s digital presence.
There are many types of content assets, from infographics to slide decks, research reports and webinars, and blog posts such as How-To guides and industry changes. Distribute assets via email, organic search, social media or pay per click. The important part is to plan, create, distribute, and measure over time. Be consistent and have patience. Building your content marketing strategy is a long-term investment, compared to the immediate results of a pay-per-click advertising campaign. Your content must evolve naturally as your trustworthy reputation grows as a reputable source of information.
Learn more about content marketing in the inbound lead generation section below.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing enables you to build your small business brand voice and engage with customers. It allows you to build relationships and send users to your products and services. It easily integrates into your pay-per-click campaigns and content marketing efforts, due to the free platforms which also offer targeted, scalable advertising.
Social media is a great platform for generating leads while providing a modern avenue of customer service. Buyers usually research and learn about products and services through peers and influencers. It is an important tool for generating buzz as well as branding and should be a critical component of your marketing plan. Allure customers with your CTA, driving them to your landing pages with your valuable and unique offer.
- Post links to your landing pages of high-performing offers on social media.
- Use your social platform to create interactive posts and get to know your customers:
- Run a contest
- Promote an event
- Start a conversation with an open-ended question or
- Share a funny image and story and ask your followers to comment with a response or a gif
- Conduct a poll
- Write posts on LinkedIn
- Answer questions on Quora
- Send SlideShare traffic to a landing page (this one now included with the cost of a premium membership)
- Use followerwonk to reach out to new customers
- Use twitter lead cards to increase leads significantly
- Join Google+ communities
Another important part of social media and content marketing is tracking your leads – where they came from, did they convert and when, what content or landing pages are most successful? Create campaigns for each platform or timeframe using Google’s URL builder. You’ll be able to monitor your success and respond when you’re not meeting your goals.
Master Web Creations offers social media management, content development and pay-per-click campaign management. Reach out to us for help in aligning your marketing efforts and reaching your target audiences.
Email marketing may be old school, but you’re marketing or re-marketing directly to ‘warm’ leads – people who actively signed up to receive email from you. These may be past customers who are likely to purchase again because they already care about your product or service. Email marketing is a strategy of outbound marketing, allowing you to target these specific opportunities and give potential customers the extra nudge they need to fully convert.
Never purchase email lists. Most marketing software will not allow you to deliver to emails that are not from an opt-in list because email service providers that don’t poison the deliverability of email from that shared IP address. A purchased email list is not a warm lead. Likely, you aren’t the only one to pay for that email address, and the recipients’ inboxes are already full of spam. Don’t be the spam guy. You risk ruining your reputation, your company’s reputation, your email provider’s reputation – nobody gets a good deal from an email list.
- Use social media contests, successful landing pages with valuable offers, and be creative with your current email marketing to grow your subscriber list naturally.
- Host a webinar or a demo with Google, AnyMeeting, FreeConferenceCall.com and collect those email addresses
- Add email opt-in forms to your videos with Turnstile
- Offer downloadable content
- Use your own email signature as well as your email content to link back to landing pages
- Set expectations, follow up consistently.
- Use your providers auto-response to send that critical, first follow up confirmation email.
- Provide new content and valuable updates.
- Write awesome subject lines with interesting and relevant preview text
- Have a clean and organized design
- Send out milestone emails like birthdays and anniversaries with special offers
- Be brief, be refreshing, be brilliant
- Use a responsive template and customize it to optimize your brand image and voice
- Use visuals and integrate social media sharing, icons
- Always offer to unsubscribe
Outbound marketing targets specific opportunities with a clear call to action. Inbound lead generation is broad, then outbound opportunities nurture those leads. Some examples of outbound marketing include:
- Direct mail
- Pay per click
- Email marketing
- Content syndication
- Sales reps
Inbound Lead Generation
77% of Companies with fewer than 200 employees generated less than 100 leads per month
If you don’t offer content at the beginning of the sales funnel, you may never get that potential lead back. Visitors who are not ready to buy may be interested in checklists, guides free tools or templates. The closer they are to purchase, the more likely they will be interested in a demo or webinar to learn something new and important to them, for free.
The more landing pages you have, the more leads you will get. Create interesting and useful content, and get users to give you their contact info for some downloadable content or exclusive email updates or discounts. Promote your content everywhere you can. Get reviews and maintain a good reputation to influence future buying decisions.
You can use some offline marketing tactics to generate leads, you can also use print ads to cast a broad net and gain attention.
Build an optimized website following SEO best practices, and then design your content strategy. For example, use a worksheet to decide what to share and when. Focus on your related and relatable subjects to provide value for your customers.
Website content table for a local custom firearms shop:
|1st of the month||15th of the month||Holiday|
|Topic||Brief History of Mosin-Nagant||Commonly misused Gun terms||Gift ideas for Gun enthusiasts of all kinds|
|Media type||RF historical images||Diagram/infographic||products|
|Resources||Wikimedia, Wikipedia||G&A mag||Product sellers|
Social content table:
|Topic||Random Product/News/Meme Share||Funny meme-o-the-day||Safety Saturday Share|
|Time of Day||6:00 PM||4:40 PM||11:00 AM|
|Content type||Content share||Content share||Content share|
|Media type||Image or webpage||Image||Webpage|
|Resources||Pages I follow||NRA, NSSF, new blogs|
Marketing content table:
|Topic||Promo product drawing||Safety Strategy Training||Coupon or How-to guide|
|Freebie type||SWAG Bag||Seminar|
|CTA||“Refuse to be a victim” NRA|
|Requirements||Name, address||Email, phone||Newsletter sign up|
|CCW if training with your own unloaded weapon|
|Resources||Hire a certified instructor|
Future marketing ideas: females with firearms, families, etc.
We mentioned cornerstone content and 10x content earlier. Both describe the same thing. Yoast refers to cornerstone content for SEO and Rand Fishkin of Moz renamed it 10x, because the name explains it better. Essentially, your content should be ten times better than anything else out there, in terms of comprehensiveness, uniqueness, reliability and evoking emotion. The term cornerstone is older, though, and outlines that your content should:
- have a specific focus in terms of answering a question,
- have a structured and relevant title, headline, and subheadings,
- be an awesome, comprehensive, quality piece,
- (or could) have an optimized landing page,
- have current, relevant content surrounding it on your website, and linking to it on others.
The landing page is optional, if you prefer a gateway that asks for emails before allowing users to view or download the content. In the tables above, we recommend a landing page for marketing content, and an email sign-up form for website content. Refer to the section above for more on building optimized landing pages.
Content Promotion and Distribution
Moz also focuses on promoting your 10x content to build your reputation for that topic, which is what we’ve been talking about all this time. Post it to social media outlets, link to it in your newsletter, create a complementary slideshow and post it on SlideShare, create an infographic and share it on Pinterest, talk about it in your webinars, presentations, or podcasts, and join a community or two where your target market is, such as reddit, list.ly, the Next Web, or Quora.
Choose your distribution channels carefully – you want to target your customers where they consume content, or reach out to new customers on platforms that support your user personas. Also, use caution in forums. Too much assertiveness can get you banned for spamming.
It is okay to share your own content on social, more than once. Re-post content that might have missed your audience, for example, due to good or bad weather phenomena or an accidental off-peak post. Use a different angle to sharing it, such as a different image, or enhanced with an infographic, to give your promotion a little twist.
You can also guest post on other blogs to build your reputation and meet new people or republish to certain outlets such as Medium, Huffington Post or Mashable.
Further, you can reach out to influencers, to get them to share your content. Some will promote your content for a fee, but smaller, niche-market influencers may simply enjoy your content. Use Buzzsumo to find influencers for your topics.
Each tip is going to be different for your market, industry, and topic – you can take it or leave it, but consider the possibility, and do the research before discarding a distribution tactic.
With so many affordable options, the biggest consideration for small business marketing is time. Another challenge may be organization.
Consider your audience first: you should review your business plan at least annually to keep your finger on the pulse of your industry. Have your customers’ needs changed? Do you have new competitors who do things differently, if not better than you? You already have your customer profiles, which are the basis of your user personas. Consider updating your plan to define marketing personas, as they work towards meeting customer needs, rather than business needs.
Based on where your customers are both online and off, select effective marketing tactics to connect with them in a method that is appropriate for their position in the sales funnel.
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