Nick is a freelance marketer and tech nerd who loves all things digital sales and marketing, business development, and project management
The Future Is Here
These days, there is no longer a question of “does my business need an online presence to succeed?”
Rather, it is a question of “how much do I need to spend initially to establish my online presence?” If you own a small business and it doesn't have an online presence you’re at a major competitive disadvantage.
Once you have the infrastructure that you need (e.g., a Facebook Business Page, a Website, Keywords Optimized on your Website and Socials, etc.) then it is a matter of collecting data about your buyers and creating personas for potential future buyers. Creating amazing content is a huge piece of the puzzle but anyone can do that with a little bit of training and guidance. The true trick of digital marketing is identifying the audience who your ad message resonates with. If you aren’t getting the right viewers, then you spent money and time creating content that really doesn't add any value. Luckily there are a plethora of tools out there that allow marketers and small business owners alike to identify and target their desired audience in a much easier way than ever before. Many of these tools are built into social media advertising platforms, which makes it easy to target the right people.
There are also amazing free tools that you can use to assess the overall state of your online presence. These tools span from everything to website ranking, to tracking customer insights through analytics, to staying up to date about the latest trends in your industry with Google alerts, and beyond.
From Traditional to Digital
Just because you're going to start advertising online, doesn't mean that you have to lay your other marketing efforts to rest. However, it is extremely cost-effective to spend more time focusing on SEO and social media presence than it is to hire an ad agency or a graphic designer for a print ad, or pay for a spot on your local radio or TV station. You can do it from home if you take the time to research it, or you can generally hire freelancers to manage your social media and optimize your SEO for a relatively affordable rate.
There is definitely room for synthesis between traditional advertising and digital marketing, and many times that entails funneling people to your website through traditional ads. This part is really up to you as the person who signs the checks.
Your Audience Is Readily Awaiting Your Ads
In the world of digital echo chambers, the necessity of creating highly niche audiences has become increasingly crucial and increasingly easier. It's amazing how much the internet knows about people.. and how much we are willing to enter on websites such as Facebook, or a Google search.
The shift from selling to offering (where the customer is in control behind their keyboard, rather than the advertiser having all of the control in traditional advertising) is the major paradigm shift in 21st-century marketing. This changes the entire atmosphere and structure of how marketing used to come into play for a business. Small businesses used to have to choose which channel to advertise through based on educated guesses about where their target audience was paying the most attention. Today, rather than having to guess based on demographic data and vague psychographic profiling alone, we have much more information about each potential customer and we can hone in even farther than just segmenting certain parts of our market. We've shifted from psycho-graphic profiles to personas.
With this ability to target individuals rather than groups we can make a point to expose a specific consumer to an advertisement enough times to at least peak their interest enough to click the link. Research says that people have to be exposed to your brand between seven and ten times before it will start to stick in their brains. This means you need to look at people who have interests in things that are similar to what you are offering, then once you have their contact information the name of the game is re-marketing. You need to impulse them to visit your site each time you send an email blast and eventually the repeated exposure to your brand or product will turn into sales. That is, if your if sales funnel is constructed correctly and if your website is optimized for e-commerce.
Making Sense of It All and Making Sales
There are many ways you can slice your internet marketing efforts . . . and everyone has limited ad spend. How do you choose where that budget gets allocated? You can go based on industry standards or data collected by social media marketing publications and the like. However, the main thing to remember is that marketing is the same as it ever was in the sense that you need to go through a process of constant trial and error, and frankly, just like old school marketing, you WILL lose money in the process of targeting your customers correctly. Subsequently, you will indeed make money after you find the sweet spot and create a repeatable sales process. Whether that entails using social media advertising, pay-per-click advertising, optimizing your organic content through keywords and blogs, or some combination of all of it, internet marketing has a place in every business.
So, you may be asking "where do I begin the journey of honing in on my audience?" and you may be surprised at how much you already know about who to target. You can easily do a quick-and-dirty analysis of your customer base, based on the demographics and interests of previous and current clients. Then, start broad with finding commonalities between customers, continue learning about your customers on a deeper level which will give you clarity regarding which personas to target.
For example, if you own a landscaping company you may inherently think to target men, since landscaping is part of the construction industry, which is primarily a "man's arena". You've found that men are generally the ones making the call and communicating with you over the phone. It is important to make the distinction of, who's interest may be peaked through online ads vs who is actually picking up the phone and calling. Couples young and old all know that the wife is the ultimate decision-maker. Since their wives are the brains behind the operation (and also use Facebook more heavily than their husbands) it makes sense to target a Facebook ad towards women, even though this would inherently seem like a business that targeted towards selling to men.
To get a baseline on your advertising engagement, and to try to verify your hypothesis that the wife is who you want to target, run the same ad copy with two different target markets (one that is exclusively women, and another which includes men and women). Concurrently run the ads and cross-reference the results. Once, you've got confirmation that women are in fact the right audience for you, you can go deeper by telling Facebook to target the ad towards "women between the ages of 30 and 65, within 20 miles of my business who like the page 'HGTV'" and test the results to see if you're heading in the right direction of your optimal targeting.
This idea of A/B testing ads while they run concurrently, is an industry-standard and is the most efficient way to figure out what works and what doesn't. There are some instances where you can lose money by highly targeting the wrong group, but there is also the opportunity to not be detailed enough and have the same effect.
In fact, the entire process of implementing a digital marketing strategy in your small business is an iterative process and requires continual A/B testing to make the necessary tweaks to find your groove and make sales. Even once you've found something that works, you will need to progress at the rate of the technology available . . . and that my friends is the hard part.
Small Business Owners: Check out These Resources
- Lynda.com: Online Marketing Foundations
- Social Media: The Free Beginner's Guide from Moz
- Coursera: Introduction to Search Engine Optimization
- 18+ Great Resources to Learn How to Use Wordpress Like a PRO
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.