How To Promote Your Local Business
As a hardworking business owner, you have spent tons of resources and time bootstrapping your business to where it is today. You've experienced successes and failures, having taken huge risks, and hopefully, you've seen some growth.
In today's business landscape, digital marketing is one of the best mechanisms to create more growth. However, navigating this domain can be daunting, especially if you don't know where and how to start. This comprehensive guide serves to introduce and make digital marketing manageable for the business owner lacking in-depth education and experience on the subject.
What is Digital Marketing, and Why Does it Matter?
Digital marketing is basically advertising or marketing that is delivered via digital channels (electronic devices) such as search engines, websites, web applications, social media, mobile applications, email, or any new forms of digital channels. You can conduct digital marketing, both online and offline.
Today, the bulk of digital marketing occurs online. Digital advertising brings together mass distribution and customization to accomplish marketing and business goals. Multiplication of devices and technological convergence has pushed the boundaries towards a new concept of marketing and opens up limitless possibilities for all types of businesses.
For these reasons, it's recommendable to outsource this crucial aspect of your business operations to a reputable advertising agency. Advertising agencies have the expertise, resources, experience, and tools to make the best out of online platforms for the benefit of your business.
Below are some of the benefits digital marketing can provide for your business.
- Branding - digital platforms offer great opportunities to develop your brand image on the internet due to their proliferation, presence, scope, and constant updates.
- Interactivity - today, it is essential for your business to foster long-term relationships with your target audience. Digital marketing provides the possibility of having conversations with your audience and creating positive experiences with your brand.
- Relevant Advertising - digital channels offer easy customization and segmentation that allows you to maximize marketing output. Digital marketing is free from the limitations of traditional media, thus allowing for attractive advertising.
- Measuring Output - unlike traditional media, online platforms have the availability of means to assess output and follow up options. These aspects allow you to optimize your marketing strategy accordingly for maximum ROI.
- Community Connections - digital marketing provides a unique opportunity to connect with your audience and your audience among themselves. This connectivity improves user experience and enhances their relationship with your brand, products/services, or organization.
How to Get Started
Develop a Digital Marketing Plan
A digital marketing plan is a document that notes the current situation of your business to develop business marketing goals and to determine the means and strategy to accomplish those goals. The document also defines the time frame, responsibilities, and tools with which to monitor progress.
Formulating a strategic digital marketing plan is the first and most important step towards starting digital advertising. It will act as the roadmap to manage your marketing strategies so that you allocate resources properly. It also helps you evaluate and control the marketing output and handle your expected outcomes' potential deviations.
It's worth noting that a digital marketing plan should not be a rigid document. It has to be flexible such that you can adapt it to your business situation. While there's no one specific way to structure your digital marketing plan, an effective plan generally consists of four key phases. These are situation analysis, goal definition, strategy, and action/control.
A situational analysis defines the baseline situation of your business and its environment. It is one of the most relevant components of any digital advertising plan. The situational analysis enables you to develop a realistic action plan and minimize risks while developing a strategy.
Your starting point here should be to define the values, vision, and mission of your organization. Business values are those principles that guide your business and organization culture. Your vision describes your future business goals clearly and concisely.
The goals have to be realistic and achievable within set timelines to motivate all stakeholders. Your mission defines the core of our organization. It answers questions such as who am I? What do I do? What's my field of operation? Whom do I address? and what's my competitive edge?
Once you have defined these aspects from a strategic and communicational perspective, your next step is to analyze your online presence and position. This analysis will help define your strategy and act as a reference point to compare the results of your marketing efforts.
In this sense, you must monitor your business's competition, keywords, and sector/niche. You should also assess the web positing of your business and its platforms. You should also conduct a social network assessment that includes activity, presence, and influence. The final task is to conduct competition benchmarking and determine the main digital influencers in your sector.
Goal setting is an important part of any marketing plan. It provides you with a definitive idea of where your business is heading. It also allows you to make the necessary adjustment to your digital marketing strategy.
Your marketing goals should be specific, measurable (quantitatively and qualitatively), assignable (you can assign them to an advertising agency or member of your organization), realistic, and time-related. In the digital marketing landscape, your goals must be flexible and adaptable to any changes in your business and the Internet.
In digital marketing, the main types of goals are scope goals, activity goals, conversion goals, and loyalty goals. Once you set your goals, you must implement them through key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs allow for monitoring and measurement.
You must define a specific strategy to accomplish the marketing goals you set. In this sense, you must define your means and actions. In digital marketing, there are three main types of media that you can utilize to accomplish your business goals. These are owned media, paid media, and earned media.
- Owned Media -owned media are your organizational channels, including business websites, mobile apps, social networking profiles, and emails. These digital channels are unique, and you have absolute control over the content (of course, within the limits of the platforms). Owned media provides the avenues for most of the content your organization distributes. As such, it's the backbone of any digital marketing strategy.
- Paid Media - paid media includes the content or spaces that you have to pay for. You can use paid media to increase the reach of your initiatives or message. Earned media includes PPC, social media advertisement, advertisement display, retargeting, paid reviews, and influencer recommendations. Proper management of paid media, including enlisting the services of professional advertising and PPC agencies, helps increase traffic in owned and earned media.
- Earned Media - this is content about your business that external users generate for free. Earned media is the equivalent of online word of mouth. It includes shares, reviews, mentions, product reviews, and peer recommendations. A good digital marketing strategy for earned media is to combine great content strategy with good organic positioning on search engines (SEO).
Note that, each type of digital media has its own scenarios and advantages. As such, a great strategy is to use them complementary to achieve your set goals. As a business owner (with the help of a reputable marketer), you must analyze all mediums and determine which is most appropriate and relevant for a specific set of goals.
Action and Control
Constant feedback and regular optimization is a very important part of a digital marketing strategy. Fortunately, there are numerous online and offline tools that you can use for this purpose. In this phase, you must consider the relevance, efficiency, and cost of utilizing these tools to monitor and assess your output.
It is important to set dates where you assess your marketing actions. You can do this quarterly, monthly, or even weekly, depending on your chosen marketing medium. Social media can be weekly, business websites and PPC can be monthly, and SEO/SEM can be quarterly. You can review and correct these actions depending on the outcomes.
Digital Marketing Channels and Platforms for Your Local Business
1. Social Media Marketing
Social media offers great opportunities to foster audience relationships and develop means of social interactions that are defined through exchanges between members. Social media is one of the best digital marketing channels due to the number and variety of users and platforms.
There are audiovisual platforms including YouTube, SoundCloud, and Vimeo; image platforms including Instagram, Pinterest, Picasa, and Flickr; general social networks including Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and specialized platforms such as LinkedIn, Wikis and aggregators. Social media platforms provide features through which you can create a community of connected users who can discuss, interact, and offer insight.
As a business, you should be part of social conversation and utilize these interactive platforms to listen to your audience and create value by developing relevant content. In this regard, you must formulate a social media plan. This is an essential document that will guide your business's social media presence.
It should cover the steps of setting up and maintaining social networks in your overall digital marketing strategy. As such, your social media plan must align with your marketing plan. A social media plan can have a basic structure that includes goal-setting, audience types, platforms/channels, strategy/tools, and output measurement.
- Goals - aside from the usual criteria when defining goals, your social media marketing goals should target three key areas. These are visibility, sales, and loyalty. Visibility entails brand awareness and making your brand popular (an example is more Facebook hits/shares or more Twitter mentions). Sales entail generating leads specific platforms that convert into paying customers (an example is increasing sales through Twitter links to an e-shop or products). Loyalty entails preserving your audience that you've already attracted (an example is to improve customer support on social media platforms).
- Audience - You should target your social media marketing objectives to a specific audience. When you know your target audience, you are better placed at encouraging communication and fostering a significant relationship. In terms of social media, the user themselves will provide this data based on the profiles they create. You can further define this data by analyzing users' interactions and actions on different social media platforms. You can also utilize statistics platforms to select specific audiences.
- Channels - Once you define your goals and target audience, you get insights into the social media platforms that will be more useful in the realization of your business goals. You should analyze all the suggested platforms and decide which are best for your business based on your product/services. When deciding on the channels to focus on, you should consider user types, topics of interest, digital formats, and segmentation.
Social Media Strategy
You have to define the specific actions for your social media strategy based on the factors mentioned above. This part entails the actions you will take, the content type you want to disseminate on social media, and the content planning calendar. The main parts of any social media strategy include content marketing, content curation, and customer support.
Content marketing involves the creation and dissemination of useful and relevant content. It serves to pique your audience's interest and attract them, rather than interrupt them to purchase products or services.
Through your own media, you can put out valuable and quality content to retain qualified traffic. Note that the content you disseminate should have your brand personality. You should also segment your content and ensure it's in multiple formats. You can create content in multiple forms, including e-books, white papers, blog posts, videos, podcasts, and infographics.
Many digital marketers underestimate the importance of content curation today. Content curation involves collecting, selecting, and organizing relevant information on specific topics and publishing in an attractive and significant manner. This allows you to be updated regularly and discover new web features.
It also saves you a lot of time in content creation. A content curator can help your business design its content strategy and determine developing lines based on your audience's topics. To help you select topics of interest, you can use tools such as Google Trends, Google Alerts, Mentions, and RSS readers (Feedly).
Customer support through social media platforms is an effective marketing strategy in itself. Your customers come to you through social media in search of quick, direct, and useful contact. As such, managing customer support through social media improves the customer experience with your business.
Social media platforms enable instant and direct contact with your business, fulfilling your customer base's pressing needs. This is a critical contact point today. If you handle it correctly, you earn loyalty from the customers. Fail to manage this aspect of social media marketing, and you can easily undo a conversion. In either case, a user can comment online about the experience with your business.
Assessing the actions you take on social media is important as a success measure. It is also important for checking if you have accomplished your set goals. There is a wide variety of items you can measure from social media.
As such, you must describe your key performance indicators concretely. You can use your KPIs to cross-check various metrics. For instance, to measure growth in online presence on Facebook, you can use the number of hits/interactions with your business in a certain period, compared to a previous period or even a competitor. Generally, social media metric often involves the following factors:
- Audience - this is a basic metric that accounts for community volume. It can include Facebook fans or Twitter followers. It's indicative of community evolution(it does not offer qualitative data, however)
- Scope - this is related to community size but is a measure of direct amplification. You can measure it on Facebook as a number of shares or on Twitter as retweets and on Instagram as mentions.
- Engagement - engagement is among the highly valued metrics. It is a measure of the interactions between your audience and your business.
- Interaction - this complex metric encompasses brand perception and engagement. On Facebook, for instance, it's measured through "people talking about this." This metric includes the users that interact with your brand in some way.
2. Paid Search Advertising
Paid advertisement involves all the online spaces and advertising tools that you pay for. One of the most effective and widely used marketing forms is Pay per Click (PPC) advertising or paid search advertising. You can use PPC advertising effectively to drive more user traffic to your business website. The most widely used PPC advertising channels are Google Ads and Facebook Ads.
The Google search engine receives over 40,000 search queries each second. Simply put, there is no other digital advertising platform that can get your business before that many eyes. Google Ads is divided into two Google networks; Search Network and Display Network.
Note that each of these networks features different advertising options to fit your PPC advertising goals. The search network encompasses advertising locations, including Google search results, Google Maps, Google Shopping, and Google partner sites, which display text ads.
On the other hand, the display network involves advertising methods and platforms that are not based on text. It includes platforms like YouTube, Gmail, and thousands of Google partner sites. With Google Ads, you can run ads based on target audiences and keywords and then use compelling ad copies and landing pages to get users to take a particular action (purchase or subscribe).
To improve your ROI when advertising on Google Ads, it is vital that you improve the Quality Score of your ads. The Quality Score is a metric Google uses to determine how well your ad is doing. It is made up of expected click-through rate (CTR), ad relevance, and landing page experience.
Your quality score is important because it determines your cost per click and final acquisition costs (cost of advertising on Google Ads). Google Ads is a highly symbiotic channel. You can pair it up with other strategies to maximize your output. It also allows you to get immediate results and scale as per your budget.
Facebook leads when it comes to segmentation. Facebook Ads enable you to target your audience for each ad based on location, interests, behaviors, sex, age, and languages. Millions of businesses advertise on Facebook.
Facebook Ads is an effective and inexpensive way you can market your business to virtually any audience. It is relatively easy to create Facebook Ads. You only need a solid headline, a relevant descriptive copy, great images, and a link.
Facebook Ads has numerous useful features and tools that can complement your overall digital marketing strategy. Hiring a PPC advertising agency to manage your PPC account is advisable if you seek to get the best out of the advertising platform.
3. Web Positioning Through Search Engines
Users access information on the Internet through search engines. This means that most of your customers will come across your products/services through a search engine. As such, you have to properly position your business on the Internet to reach large audiences.
This makes the basis of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Management (SEM). SEO is the set of techniques you can apply to your website to improve your positioning in the organic search engine result pages(SERPs). SEM is the publicity system that search engines use to display relevant ads to users based on search items.
Google is the most widely used search engine with the highest market share. For this reason, you have to adapt to Google's search engine algorithms to rank well in SERPs and increase online visibility. When it comes to the web positioning, SEO tactics and SEM tactics are crucial.
You can improve your SEO positioning by working on internal and external aspects of your business website. Internal SEO involves actions that improve the content and accessibility of your website. Regarding this, you must adapt your keywords to your website. This involves including them in your title tag, meta tags, links, and content.
High-quality, relevant content is also an important aspect of SEO. External SEO focuses on less controllable aspects for your business, such as external links from other websites. It involves link building that you can implement by exchanging links between websites with similar content and themes, links from social networking sites, and link baiting.
SEM entails being familiar with the keywords and phrases that are related to your business. SEM involves the aforementioned paid search advertising on platforms including Google Ads, Yahoo Ads, and Bing Ads.
4. Email Marketing
Email marketing is among the earliest forms of digital marketing. When you perfect email marketing, you can attract new qualified customers and make existing customers loyal to your brand. In the ever-changing digital marketing world, email marketing has adapted best to changes, both in penetration and scope.
One of the best practices of email marketing today is to connect with your audience. Once you have created your email list, segment it into targeted groups. You can segment your readers based on location, age, gender, etc. Doing this ensures that you're sending the right message to the right users. You will achieve better open rates and lower opt-out rates.
Also, ensure that you customize your email blasts. Your emails should speak directly to specific readers. Customizing your email content is the best way to go about this. Get to know your recipients better after segmenting them. What appeals to them? What made them visit your website and subscribe?
It's easier to customize your emails and reminders when you are familiar with your audience. For instance, if you have recipients on the young side, they will likely prefer information via concise messages with images. You can appeal to them through infographics, which they can share within their circles. Below are some great tips that you can use to bolster your email marketing efforts:
- Get the readers' attention and keep them interested
- Have a clear and concise call-to-action
- Limit the number of emails you send
- Formulate catchy headlines and subject lines
- Ensure you create mobile-friendly emails
There are other channels and platforms that you can use to conduct digital marketing for your business. They include affiliate marketing, Google My Business, coupon deal sites, and webinars. The online domain offers a whole host of marketing opportunities that every business type can benefit from regardless of the size. It is a great idea to partner with a dedicated and experienced digital marketing agency to help you navigate these channels and get the most out of your marketing resources.