Small Business Marketing's Greatest Hits
Marketing is a hot topic for small business owners, which is why we spend a lot of time thinking and writing about it over at Small Business Computing. While marketing comes easily to some small business owners, others show more enthusiasm for scheduling a root canal.
Whether you love small business marketing or loathe it, we can all agree on one point; If you own a small business—no matter its size, industry, or niche—marketing is essential if you want to grow your customer base and improve your bottom line.
The Best Small Business Marketing Tips
Since "small business marketing" covers a wide range of activities, we'll break out our tips into several categories: content, email, mobile, SEO, and social media. We'll also list several tools that can make your marketing efforts easier, if not effortless. The following compilation of small business marketing tips is just some of what we publish.
You want potential customers to find your website, and one of the best ways you can help them do that is by providing relevant, helpful content on your website. That content needs to draw two very different audiences: actual human beings and the computerized search engine bots that scan and index websites.
So what's the trick? Focus on being useful. The content you post on your website should solve—or at least address—your customers' problems. Ask your customer-facing employees—your telephone support staff or your sales force—what questions customers typically ask. Check to see whether your website clearly answers those questions.
Google tends to change its algorithms frequently and without much, if any, notice. The best way to protect your site from Google penalties is to keep providing useful content. People tend to link to useful content, and those backlinks help make your website less vulnerable to future Google algorithm changes.
Email Marketing Tips
Social media's a powerful platform, but don't underestimate the power of email marketing. It's still your best direct line of customer communication. Incorporate these tips to improve the quality of your newsletters.
Link readers to more content on your website, blog, or social media networks. Be sure to link them to the most direct path of information.
Images break up text, add visual interest, and make your email easy-to-read.
Add Alt Text
This is text that appears when a recipient's email program blocks images. It gives readers more information about the image, even though they can't see the picture.
Call-to-action buttons in your emails increase click-through, engagement, and sales.
Add Social Media Icons
Link them to any social networks your business uses to make it easy for your readers to find you on social media.
Mobile Marketing: Go Local
In a world where nearly everyone owns a mobile device, it just makes sense to roll mobile marketing into your overall small business marketing strategy. Still not a believer? According to a study by the Web.com Group, 84 percent of small business owners that embraced mobile marketing have seen increased new business activity as a result.
If your customers carry mobile phones (and believe us, they do), mobile search can help prospective customers find you. Local online marketing platforms—like Yodle—and mobile optimization services—like Duda—make it easy and affordable for small businesses to have mobile-friendly websites, listings on Google, Yahoo and Bing maps, and paid-search services across multiple desktop and mobile outlets.
The social media giant ranks as one of the top-three smartphone activities, which means it offers huge growth potential for your business. The average person checks Facebook more than 10 times a day and spends nearly two and a half minutes posting for each visit. If your business could use an influx of customers, then consider adding Facebook's Nearby—a feature that serves as a neighborhood guide—to your marketing arsenal. Create a location for your business (if it doesn't already exist). Then simply get social, start posting, and encourage your customers to check-in, share likes, and tag away.
SEO Tips for Small Businesses
Search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing go hand-in-hand. In addition to consistently publishing quality content on your site, these SEO tips will help Google's search engines find and index your site, and they may even help you rank higher in search results.
Be Careful with Keywords
SEO experts disagree about just how important keywords are in SEO. In the past, adding relevant keywords to your content in strategic locations (such as HTML title tags) was vital if you wanted your website found in search queries. Today, some experts believe that optimizing your site for a specific meaning is more important than using one or more specific keyword phrases.
Vary Your Content
People prefer sites that offer a variety of content, and so does Google. Videos, pictures, news, tips—varied content keeps visitors engaged and on your site longer, which lowers your site's bounce rate. Google interprets lingering visitors exploring multiple pages as an indicator of quality content.
Optimize for Mobile
Mobile optimized websites let visitors view and navigate easily no matter what type of device they use. If you haven't already optimized your website, get it done NOW. Websites that aren't optimized for mobile get pushed down in search results. And, as more people search on mobile devices rather than PCs, you will lose customers every day.
Fix Technical Errors
If your site doesn’t work properly, search engine bots will have trouble indexing it. Google Webmaster Tools can help identify problems.
Think Like Your Customers
What concerns and challenges do your customers face? And what keywords do you think they use to help them find content, products, and services that solve them? Hit that target and your website will become a veritable customer pipeline.
Social Media Marketing
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram help you stay connected and engaged with your customers—and to gain new customers by word-of-mouth. But many small business owners find social media marketing a daunting prospect, or they worry that it's a huge time-suck with no clearly defined ROI.
Bobby Owsinski, author of "Social Media Promotion for Small Business and Entrepreneurs," recently shared some of his social media marketing advice with us:
Your Website Comes First
"I think the very center of your online universe has to be your small business website, only because you have the most control over it." Bottom line: don’t neglect your small business website. "Cultivate your website as your main focus. Everything should drive towards that."
Rethink Your Online Strategy
Take a close look at how social media fits into your online marketing plan. Some social media sites restrict the number of followers that your postings actually reach. Facebook is a prime example. "It decreased the average reach of posts to somewhere between 12 and 15 percent [of followers]." To reach more people, you'll have to pay to play.
Posting online on a blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter doesn’t have to happen daily or even weekly. But it does have to happen consistently. "Really, you could post once a month and be very effective if everyone who follows your blog knows that it's going to be posted at 2:00 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month—and that happens without fail," says Owsinski.
Small Business Marketing Tool Box
Here are a couple examples of the many small business marketing tools and platforms you can use to grow your business.
- Dasheroo: Track all your social media dashboards from one central screen. For free.
- Launchpad Marketing Cloud: Launch marketing campaigns across various channels, engage with current customers and find new ones.
Be sure to check out Small Business Computing for more marketing strategy, business technology advice, and growth-oriented small business tips.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com. Simonds has more than 18 years of experience covering the technology industry. In 2014, she was named one of the Top 100 Small Business Influencers in North America.
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