Being a small business owner myself I have a firm grasp on how what is important to business owners. Let’s face it – Any business is a challenge to grow. Small businesses I find often lack the bandwidth of necessary team members, budget and typically I find are less committed to long term marketing. Medium sized businesses have more budget and often a system in place but I find the challenge is optimizing and asking for additional budget to achieve a higher pace or return (which they too are seeking). Large businesses are great in terms of budget and typically have digital marketing experience but the trick is undoing old tactics associated with the campaign, realigning new objectives that are effective for 2016 and sometimes believe it or not just getting in touch with the decision makers at a timely pace. Nonetheless, I wanted to write a piece for smaller businesses as I find these are the category that tend to want to implement the most items themselves or at least educate themselves to learn the ropes in the hopes of one day taking over. The advice and tips written out can be used for a wide variety of niches, startups and even medium sized businesses that may be well versed in offline marketing but behind the curve online as well.
Know Your Budget. Okay, this is imperative for small businesses. Do not waste your time or any marketing companies time with could be’s, proposals or phone calls before you as a business owner decide the budget in place for online marketing. I get so many calls from leads that are not aware of their budget or quite possibly do not want to share. I strongly urge companies to find out and disclose their ideal budget. Here is why: Any marketing agency worth their salt will have set objectives to your budget. The budget dictates the bandwidth spent on campaign, hard costs and speed or intensity of results. Don’t get me wrong, I believe a great consultant or experienced marketer can help with clarity of what budget should be but it is a team effort. Looking at niche, competitor spend and existing marketing helps define. If you have a budget of $3k a month but your competitor is spending $10k then you need to have long-term commitment or a patient outlook on growth. On the flipside, if you are already doing well and have a budget of $3k a month with little competition it is realistic to think that you should be able to optimize your ROI and bring in new avenues of business and leads. It’s imperative for you as a business owner to understand your rough budget first. By qualifing your marketing firm you should have a logical set of deliverables to that budget and then work together to find the perfect harmony.
Understand The Arena. The key to being successful as a company working with an extension of your marketing team or outsourcing your digital efforts is to learn the language, environment and Influencers to follow and read blogs from. Digital Marketing is very unique, it changes frequently. Like most professions experience valuable and often what you as a business owner are trading your budget for. Begin at once by making a goal to read at least an hour a week from some thought leaders in the digital marketing sphere like: Avinash Kaushik, Neil Patel, Rand Fiskin, Matt Cutts (Google’s Direct Spokesman), and Search Engine Land are a good start. These will get you most likely up to speed with the latest algorithmic updates, search trends and techniques and general landscape of employing some form of digital marketing. Within a month or so of actively reading the right blogs you should know the basics of digital marketing and start putting together some of the vernacular so you can effectively communicate with your future team. Don’t get caught up in too much of the technicalities and jargon, that is what you have a team for – but do try to absorb the general articles theme.
Prioritize What Channels You Want to Employ. Being a smaller business you may be limited by your funding so it will be important to comprehend which main digital marketing channels are being utilized effectively in 2016. For the sake of researching these are the primary channels you should have a look at: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Content Marketing, Paid Search & Remarketing, Social Media Marketing, Conversion Rate Optimization & UX, & Email Marketing. Having all channels at play is ideal and what every business should strive for in the long term but that isn’t a reality for most small businesses. At the same time it isn’t ideal to have an inadequate budget carved out for a multitude of different channels, you are best to begin with adequate budget in a smaller number and eventually re-invest those dollars back into a wider net. Some good channels to start first are SEO & Content Marketing, Paid Search & Social. You will want to build some qualified traffic prior to testing and understanding how to best tweak your users to engage more with your content. Go into your proposals with a more clear vision of which channels you want to get a scope of work for without a marketing company decided. Of course, take suggestions but do not let an agency with a core competency in email marketing tell you to spend all of your advertising budget there if you only have a website that is broken or not growing it’ presence. Each niche or industry benefits from a different channel keep in mind. Finally, read how much each channel commitment takes to earn sustainable results this way you can financially and mentally prepare for the lulls or spikes in business. SEO for example will take much longer than Paid Search.
Start Now – Do It Yourself Or Have an In-house Member. Again, I hate to keep beating on a dead horse but I grew up with a small business owner and have experience with my own so I know budget is something to watch. Start today or set a goal for the following week to do some essential, very easy tasks that will help tremendously in the future. You do not need to pay a first months budget of $5k to an agency to have them do these basic tasks any college student could easily do. Below are some necessary tasks to getting your web presence on point for the future.
- Social Media Accounts – Claim all popular social media accounts and have a uniform address, phone number and niche category for all. Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google +, etc. are easy to claim and tie to your primary website (domain).
- Reviews – Begin the idea of how to and strategy of getting some local reviews on sites such as Yelp, BBB, Google, etc. – if you already have reviews email or contact these prior clients and direct them to where they can help spread the word online.
- Analytics or Tracking – This may be too difficult so I am speaking to small businesses that are fairly savvy with websites or have an in-house member with more skills. Sign up for Bing Webmaster Tools & Google Analytics/Webmaster Tools asap. You don’t need to necessarily tie this to your site if over your head but don’t pay an agency to do something so simple.
- Content – Even if you do not have a functioning website you can benefit from creating valuable, authentic content that speaks and offers solutions to your audience or potential clients online. If you need some help finding interesting content that is doing well check out buzzsumo.com. Creating great content is very time consuming, even if you start by saving content on word you can later go back and upload this easily in a CMS blog such as wordpress and save more than half the time.
If you are a small business and looking to get in touch for consulting feel free to contact me here.