The Potential of Online Marketing for Small Businesses
When it comes to digital marketing, deciding where to start can be overwhelming, stressful and time consuming. The goal of this blog is to offer you guidance in jumpstarting your online advertising objectives. We will help you streamline this process so you can gain confidence in achieving the marketing goals that are unique to your business!
READY TO DIVE IN?
First off, some of you may be wondering what online marketing actually entails. Online marketing includes everything from targeted social media ads on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Pinterest, all the way to search engine marketing on bing, yahoo or the beast that is Google. As we say in the marketing realm, “It’s a Google world and we’re just livin’ in it!”, so why not make it work for your small business?
There are approximately 3.5 billion internet searches happening every day (40,000 a second). Without the right marketing strategy, it is easy to become lost in the noise. With that being said, you may be wondering how you stand firmly in front of those you want to serve? This is where a comprehensive understanding of your audience becomes crucial!
Let’s use Facebook as an example. Facebook has 1.62 billion users! The largest audience on this platform is women aged 25-34. If this is an audience you need to attract to your business, then it is crucial to understand this demographic’s online behavior as a first step to finding out how to best reach those potential customers.
Now that you have an understanding of what digital marketing is, let’s get into some of the details!
IDENTIFYING TARGET MARKETS
As mentioned above, It is easier than ever to get lost in the online world. So where do you start? Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram? Should you go with only 1 or 2 platforms, or try to stay active on as many as possible? These are common questions, with an answer that actually begins in the process itself.
Let’s start by identifying your unique target market(s). This may take some time to refine! First, try and gain an understanding of where your audience is and how they interact online. Are they more likely to frequent Facebook, or do they tend to network on LinkedIn? Putting yourself in their shoes is crucial, as it will begin to illuminate deeper motivations, behaviors and trends. Afterall, you need to be crystal clear as to why they need, or could benefit from, your product or service. Once you have a clear understanding of these target audiences, it becomes much easier to effectively allocate marketing dollars, as well as what platforms you should be focusing on.
Okay, so now you’ve got a good grasp on your audience and know what platforms you should be active on.
THE MEDIUM MATTERS
Let’s say you want to start a campaign on Google and Facebook. Targeted ads on both of these platforms work very differently. For example, Google is a resource people use daily for quick results and intentional searches. Facebook on the other hand, is a platform centred around scrolling and connecting with those in your network. For your business, you may want to advertise on Google to appear next to relevant search results. Conversely, you may want to use Facebook to highlight an awesome video explaining your product or service. With a working knowledge of the platforms, and because you’ve identified your target audiences, you will be well-equipped to know which direction to go!
Next, let’s move on to some key considerations before finalizing a formal marketing plan.
‘HOW MUCH SHOULD I SPEND?’
This is a subjective question based on your unique business. While it is difficult to give a “one size fits all” approach, we can point you in the right direction when planning your budget.
The first thing to consider with regards to your budget is how many distinct audiences you have. If you have six different distinct audiences, for example, you will likely need a higher budget than another business who only has two audiences. The reason behind this lies in the amount of money allocated to each audience and whether or not your budget will allow for efficient auctions on platforms such as Google Ads and Facebook.
Another important budget consideration is the geographic reach of your marketing. If you are a small business looking to target people in a small town (40,000 population or less) your budget will likely be in the range of $200 – $400 per month, per platform. However, if you want to target a larger area like an entire province or several towns, your budget would be closer to $700 – $1000 per month per platform and it goes up from there.
Determining a digital marketing budget also depends greatly on the competitiveness of the industry in your targeted area. For example, a niche clothing business in Vernon will have a much lower budget than a well-known clothing company in Vancouver. What makes this all fun (and why the Sproingers love their job) is that it never stays the same!
Pro-Tip: Online marketing is almost never static. The competitiveness of your business online can change markedly in a week, day, or even an hour, so your budget should be continuously reviewed and adjusted accordingly.
Bottom line: If you spread your budget too thin across too many sources, you will miss key opportunities to influence consideration or drive sales. Always align your budget with your goals, cross reference these goals with the needs of your audience, and consider the amount of money allocated for each in order to spend most effectively.
DIGITAL MARKETING AND YOUR WEBSITE
There is immense benefit to aligning your marketing efforts with the content and functionality of your website. This is because a well-designed website is generally at the crux of any effective marketing campaign.
Let’s say you own a business selling mountain bikes, and you’re looking to implement an online sales component to your business. When marketing your products, you set up a campaign in Google Ads that includes a website link to your online sales platform. There are myriad considerations that come into play next, including:
- Can my website handle future anticipated traffic resulting from my digital marketing efforts?
- Is the web page mobile friendly, so that mobile users have a seamless purchasing experience?
- How do my customers interact with the web page, with consideration to it’s design and functionality?
If you send customers to, or promote a website that forms a fundamental component in your sales cycle, adequate attention needs to be given to these above considerations. Without doing so, you risk hindering the effectiveness of your entire digital marketing campaign. Consumer behavior needs to drive the decision making process, so be sure that your website is optimized to function seamlessly and in tandem with your digital marketing campaigns.
TO LEARN, OR TO HIRE?
Most businesses will eventually get to a point where they need to evaluate their marketing needs in greater depth, as other activities that generate leads and sales begin to take up more and more time. It is an unfortunate reality that marketing is often deprioritized right as sales start to rise. It is enticing to ease spending when sales increase, which can greatly backfire. As Brian Buffini says, “Sales is your job… marketing is your business!”.
As a business owner, it is important to be honest about where your skills lie as you scale. If your time is better spent on face-to-face networking and the rest of your time is occupied by daily operations, then it may be wise to hire for marketing expertise. We know you are busy and your time is spread thin. By focusing on what you do best and outsourcing the rest, it frees up your time to accomplish those valuable objectives that are central for your business.
SO, WHAT’S NEXT?!
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