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Small Business Marketing Guide

This Webopedia Small Business Marketing Guide will help you manage online, Web-based marketing campaigns that will expand your customer base.

small business marketing guide

Small business marketing requires strategic planning and setting realistic goals to help you expand your customer base and sell more products and services. Investing in online marketing strategies can help a small business achieve those goals, but as is the case with many small businesses owners, we often find ourselves with limited marketing budgets and knowledgeable staff to work with.

Small business marketing is easier when you have a nice cash-flow backing it, but if that isn't your situation, don't give up. There are many online small business marketing campaigns you can take advantage of without breaking the bank.

1. Small Business Email Marketing

ManagementEmail marketing (or e-mail marketing) is a popular form of small business marketing. It offers one of the best advertising returns for any small business. According to research by the Direct Marketing Association, in 2008, email marketing returned $45.06 for every dollar spent on it -- but industry experts say that small businesses are slow to adopt email marketing practices. One contributing factor to low adoption rates by small businesses is due to time constraints. Small business owners are swamped and it can be a challenge to fit email marketing into an already full schedule. Another factor is that small business owners can be intimidated by the phrase "email marketing," and they mistakenly believe they need to be a marketing expert to run e-mail campaigns.

2. Small Business Marketing with Social Media

Social media is the new buzzword that is used to describe a variety of Web-based platforms, applications and technologies that enable people to socially interact with one another via the Web. Some examples of social media sites and applications include Facebook, YouTube, Del.icio.us, Twitter, Digg, blogs and other sites that have content largely contributed based on user participation — that is, sites that organize and deliver user-generated content (UGC). Unlike traditional PR and advertising, which can be costly, the main cost associated with social media is time, not cash. And any business willing to spend some time on social media and networking sites, building a community or fan base can benefit.

3. Small Business Marketing Strategy: Brand Advocates

The big and famous brands use brand advocates — people who talk favorably about the brand and pass on positive word-of-mouth (WOM) messages to other people. One things a small business owner should know is that brand advocates are just as important to a small business as they are to the bigger corporations out there. People like to buy from companies or people that they know and trust, and they tend not to buy from those they don't. But how do you build that trust, particularly online? How do you get customers to come to you without spending a lot of money on advertising? With word-of-mouth marketing — it's free, and it works.

Related Webopedia Definitions: brand advocate, co-branding

4. Small Business SEO Tips

SEO, or search engine optimization is the process of increasing the amount of visitors to a Web site by ranking high in the natural, organic search results of a search engine. Following best practice advice for small business SEO can helps to ensure that your small business website is accessible to a search engine and improves the chances that the site will be found by the search engine. Some small business owners may choose to invest in hiring an SEO expert, but if you have a small budget to work with, there are many things you can do on your own to boost your rank and visibility in search engine results page (SERP) listings.

Related Webopedia Definitions: SEO, link building, backlink, quality backlink, keyword density, SERP

6. Free Small Business Marketing with Blogs

A blog is different from a website in that it is more like an online journal where the blog owner (the blogger) posts short messages on a regular basis. These updates, called blog posts, are usually organized chronologically with the most recent post showing at the top of the page. Unlike most websites, blogs are indexed regularly by search engines, like Google. For small business marketing this is important because the text and images you post could be indexed within days and appear in search engine results more quickly than changes to your website pages. By posting details of new products and any changes you make to your store to your blog and adding links back to your e-commerce site, you can feed customers to new Web site content well before the new content has been indexed.

Related Webopedia Definitions: blog, business blog, blogosphere, social media

Based in Nova Scotia, Vangie Beal is has been writing about technology for more than a decade. She is a frequent contributor to EcommerceGuide and managing editor at Webopedia. You can tweet her online @AuroraGG.

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