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Crafting a digital marketing strategy for small businesses

In this article, we will explore the fundamental elements necessary to develop a successful digital marketing strategy, including understanding your target audience, selecting the right digital channels, creating engaging content, optimising for search engines, and measuring performance metrics.

What is a digital marketing strategy?

A digital marketing strategy is your approach to how you’re going to market your business in the digital world. Having a strategy in place ensures your budget and resources are allocated effectively to deliver you the best results based on your objectives. Not doing so, risks you wasting your money or time on ineffective activity. We all want to work smarter, right?

Some of the key digital marketing channels to consider are your website, social media, email, SEO, and paid search. 

Best practices of a digital marketing strategy

As with any strategic exercise, it’s good to have some basic principles in mind. If you follow these best practice tips you’ll be in a good place. 

Know your audience

Whether you’re just starting out or already running a business, you need to have an idea of your target audience. A smart idea is to slice your target audience into different segments based on different demographic and behavioural considerations. For example, one segment might be university students under the age of 21 whereas another might be graduates aged 21+

Once you know this, it’ll help you form your strategy. You can even build customer profiles for each audience segment answering key questions that will help inform your targeting approach and messaging. 

  • What are their goals?
  • What are their pain points?
  • How does your product help?
  • Where do they hang out online?

Understand your competitors

As part of your digital marketing strategy, research your competitors to see what they’re doing well and not so well. How are they marketing their business? What channels are they using? What are customers saying about them? This can help to inform your unique selling proposition and position your business attractively to potential customers. 

Focus on your brand

Having a strong brand identity is a great way to mark your business out from the crowd. Once you know your target audience and your competitors, you’re in a good place to think about how you’re going to present your business to the world through your branding – whether that’s the visual identity or the way you talk. Those brand elements should be present across all your digital marketing activities. 

Test and experiment

One of the joys of digital marketing is you’re able to measure performance in real-time. That means you can run tests in lots of ways to make data-based decisions. That could be experimenting with content and design on your website or testing different messaging in ad campaigns. Embed the process of testing and refining into your digital marketing strategy. 

Website design

Your business website is one of the most important elements of your digital presence. There’s no point generating interest in your business and driving traffic to your website if it’s going to let the side down. 

The first step for small business website design is to define your goals. What do you want your website to do for your business? In most cases, this will be to sell more products/services – so think about the customer journey to reach this end goal. Go back to your customer profiles and put yourself in their shoes. What is the buyer journey likely to look like? Is it likely to be a straightforward decision to buy from you and you can offer new customer discounts to boost your conversion chances? Or, perhaps it’s a longer buyer journey and you need to offer some value upfront – content, proposals, product trials – to help you capture data and then convert. 

Whatever you decide, these end goals should inform your design and content decisions. Try and keep it simple with everything flowing towards your end goals. Throwing too much at your target audience will overwhelm them. 

Whilst you can go DIY and manage fine these days, if you have the budget consider using a specialist freelancer or web design agency. 

SEO in digital marketing

SEO stands for search engine optimisation. This means getting your business to rank higher in Google searches. When people are looking for something, they tend to click on one of the first three links. So businesses aim for the top. For smaller entities, this can be tricky, but not impossible. 

The most important exercise is identifying the search terms and phrases you want your business to appear in results for. Knowing these ‘keywords’ will determine how you structure content and write copy for your website. Very simply, if you decide ‘Small business marketing in Coventry’ is a keyword you want to rank for, you will want to create a page on your site that has this as a heading and features the keyword in the copy.

You can use tools like Google Keyword Planner to research the search market and identify which relevant keywords you want to focus on. It’s important to consider the volume and the competition for these keywords. In a perfect world, you want to find keywords that are highly relevant to your business and have a high volume and low competition. The reality for small businesses is you will likely struggle to attain strong rankings for high-competition keywords so you might choose to focus on very specific or niche keywords. 

SEO is complex and, once again, if you have the budget it’s always worth speaking with specialist freelancers or agencies. On the upside, however, many DIY web builders have built-in SEO features to help you fulfill the basic requirements. 

Content marketing

What will catch your audience’s attention? Putting different types of content out, like newsletters and blogs, are creative ways to bring in customers – this is what content marketing is all about. Let’s look at some examples.

  • Invest in photography
    Videos and photos

    Videos and photos are good for portraying your work or anything you think your audience might be interested in.

  • Digital communication lifestyle blog writer person using mobile smart device, or woman user typing on computer laptop working online via wireless internet technology

    These are informal pieces of writing where you can explore different areas of your business. They’re also great for SEO.

  • Newsletter notification

    If there’s any news, like discounts and new products, you can announce them in emails.

  • Webinars

    Webinars are live streams which can directly involve your audience and give you space to talk about what you do more deeply. 

  • Targeting customers
    Case studies

    If someone has had a positive experience with your business, a case study featuring their story is a great way to win the trust of potential customers.  

Email marketing in digital strategy

You may have considered newsletters as part of your digital strategy. Along with this, email lists can be used to send seasonal messages or start a loyalty programme. Having a sign-up option on your website is key – but make sure people know what they’re signing up for.

Tips for good email marketing:

Know your goals

You may want to build more engagement, update people on changes in your business, or target new subscribers. There are many goals your email marketing strategy could have, you just need to pick the best ones for you.

  • Promotional – If you aim to promote your service, you may want to include your latest discounts and offers.
  • Transactional – This includes order confirmations, updates about an order, or an email sign-up confirmation. These should be informative and simple
  • Relational – This is the option you should go with if you want to create a relationship with your consumers. These emails may link to digital content.

Don’t send too many emails

Having people on your mailing list is exciting, but if you email someone several times a week, bombarding them with promotions, you may risk people unsubscribing. Plan how often you want your newsletters to be sent out to avoid mishaps.

Optimise your timing

Think about what time you’re sending your emails. Consider your demographic and when they might find time to check their emails. For example, a businessperson might check their emails at 8 am as they’re on their way to work.

Segment your list

Split your data up into segmented groups based on your customer profiles. This allows you to send focused content to the relevant people. 

Think about what’s going to attract people

If your subject lines are punchy, people are more likely to open them. But the content within the email should be interesting too to keep people hooked. You have around three seconds to capture people’s attention – go!

Social media in digital marketing

Marketing on social media is a fantastic way to build your brand online and grow a community of followers to whom you can promote your business. It can be incredibly cost-effective too – which is why many small businesses see it as a key part of their digital marketing strategy. 

Here are some of the best practice tips for getting your social media activity right:

Know your goals

SMART objectives stand for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. These can be used to write out goals, an example of this could be:

“We want to increase our Instagram followers by 30% by the end of the year.”

This goal includes all the elements of SMART objectives and gives you a direct goal to work towards. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve will help you get there.

For example, if you want to increase your following, you may post competitions that people need to follow you to participate in. If you want to increase your engagement, you might analyse and optimise your posts to get more likes and comments. And if you want to increase your impressions, you might simply post more often.

Constantly improve

As well as knowing your aims and goals, you also must measure your outcomes. If you aren’t receiving as much engagement and follower increase as you would like, something then must change. If you monitor social media regularly, it’ll soon become apparent what’s working and what’s not.

Make sure your content is engaging

An obvious point – or is it? Many businesses fail to make their content engaging to the end user. One of the most common faults is to view it only as a sales-driving channel. Just like email, if you bombard people too much and make it all about you they’ll likely get bored and tune out – this will lead to your content getting less engagement and the algorithm punishing you by showing your content less in people’s feed. Think about the brands you enjoy following on social media, particularly smaller businesses, what types of posts do you typically respond to and how can you translate this to yours?

Engage with your audience 

Engaging directly with your audience through comments and DM’s is a big yes. This establishes a personal approach and breaks the barrier between the consumer and the business. Doing so builds trust. Encouraging your audience to comment on your posts will also help you with this. For example, asking your audience a question: ‘Which flavour ice cream would you like us to bring back?’

Know which social media platforms are best for your strategy

Each social media platform is good for different things. You need to know which one is going to work best for your strategy and where you’re most likely to reach your audience. You can also risk spreading yourself thin trying to be across them all, whereas it can be better to pick one or two and do them well. 

Consider advertising campaigns

Social media platforms want your money. That’s why often you’ll find you can only get limited visibility for your business when posting organically. ‘Pay to play’ is increasingly the name of the game. But that’s not the worst thing. Across Meta (Facebook and Instagram), TikTok, and LinkedIn, there are a wide range of advertising options. The best part is you can be very specific about who you target and align this with your customer profiles. 

  • LinkedIn

    LinkedIn’s a platform used to talk about careers and business. It’s great for building B2B connections and showing them your business updates. It’s not so good for finding B2C customers, however.

  • Instagram

    Built mainly around video and photographic content, Instagram is good at capturing your audience’s attention quickly. Instagram stories can also be used for quick updates and interactive content. It’s a platform you can be creative with, but one for targeting a younger demographic.

  • Facebook

    Facebook is good for both updates and visual content. Other features include posting event links and joining groups. Facebook Messenger is good for connecting directly with customers. One thing to think about is that Facebook’s demographic is of a slightly older generation compared to other platforms, like TikTok and Instagram.

  • X

    Previously called Twitter, this platform is good for customer service and answering any queries people may have. It’s also good for quick updates. Although the platform supports photos and videos, Instagram might be the option for you if you primarily plan to post visual content. Another thing to think about is that the X feed changes rapidly, meaning you’ll need to post at a much higher volume to stay current.

  • YouTube

    Slightly different from your typical social media, YouTube is great for posting landscape video content that’s longer than you’d see somewhere like TikTok. For example, a 3-minute how-to.

  • TikTok

    This platform is increasingly popular for short-form video content. From big to small, many brands are already using it to get their name out there. It’s an opportunity to express your business’s creative side and the algorithm is relatively simple

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