“The Complete Guide for Small Businesses Getting Started with Digital Strategy”
Getting into digital marketing can feel like taking a dive into the unknown for a lot of small business owners, especially if you don’t spend all your time online yourself. But relax. Nobody starts at the deep end, nobody has all the answers before they begin and, even better, getting going is probably cheaper and quicker than you might think.
Speaking of budget, there’s plenty you can do in the realms of digital marketing without spending a penny – but when it comes to reaching new audiences, that’s when a little budget can go a long way. Every part of your digital marketing is a great opportunity to learn something – so it’s all about starting small, testing, learning, and growing over time.
In this guide, we’re going to take you through the easy – access ways to get started – from making the most of search engines to buying your first online ads. All the channels will be familiar to you – Facebook, Twitter, Google, email, and your own website – but we’ll give you the steps you need to feel confident you’re testing and investing in the way that’s right for you and the growth of your business.
“Nobody starts at the deep end, nobody has all the answers before they begin and, even better, getting going is probably cheaper and quicker than you might think”
What you’ll find in this guide has a lot to do with what we call inbound marketing – the tactics you can use to attract, convert, close and delight visitors to your website, social and blog.
Digital platforms are great for this because we now have more ways, places, and routes to attract people to visit our website where, we hope, they’ll become our customers. We can also be much more creative with this kind of marketing because it’s not just about what we think of as traditional outbound marketing activity. With all of these opportunities at your disposal, you need to consider what’s the impact on your target customer. This is because your audience expects a great experience with your brand at each digital touchpoint. If you can provide a great experience at every touchpoint, you’ll turn more visitors into leads, and more leads into customers. Though we have to admit, it’s easier said than done!
It’s your website, blog and social media channels that are at the heart of any digital marketing plan—so always keep in mind that you’re optimizing for these destinations when planning digital marketing tactics.
We hope this guide gives you what you need to get going, but if you’d like a little more of an in-depth introduction, check out Hubspot Academy’s Inbound Certification (completely free).
Let’s Begin with the Big Ideas and Clarify a Few Definitions:
This is an umbrella term for all of your online marketing efforts. Businesses leverage digital channels such as Google search, social media, email and their websites to connect with their current and prospective customers. From your website to your online assets like digital advertising, email marketing, online brochures and beyond, there’s a huge spectrum of tactics to consider. The best digital marketers know which channels their audience uses and they have a clear picture of how each asset supports their overarching goals.
This is about using marketing to bring potential customers to you, rather than having your marketing efforts fight for their attention. Sharing is caring and inbound marketing is about creating and sharing content with the world. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more.
This is a marketing program that centers on creating, publishing and distributing content for your target audience – usually online – the goal of which is to attract new customers. While inbound marketing can be looked at as a methodology, content marketing is a more specific inbound strategy of writing content that your audience will find valuable.
This is the process buyers go through to become aware of, evaluate and purchase a new product or service. The journey is a 3-step process:
- Awareness stage: the buyer realizes they have a problem.
- Consideration stage: the buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it.
- Decision stage: the buyer chooses a solution.
Plan Your Strategy
Strategy, in spite of being a word favored by the shiny suits of the world, really means thinking about why you’re doing something before you do it. So, starting your digital marketing strategy is as simple as starting with why you want to do it, deciding what you want to do, how you’re going to do it, what you expect to happen, and when and how you’ll measure your success.
Results—Reasons Why You’ll Want to Create a Digital Marketing Effort:
Do you want more people to know about your brand (or your products and services)?
Acquisition or Lead Generation
Do you want to reach people who’ve never bought from you before and bring them into your buyer’s journey?
Growth from Existing Customers
Do you want people who’ve already bought from you before to buy more frequently or buy a different kind of product?
If possible, set a specific goal
Your metrics should be tied to your goal and include a time limit. These might include:
- X Number of leads from a piece of downloadable content in 1 month
- % of old customers buying a secondary product within the year
- % of follower growth on social media within 2 weeks
5 Steps for Setting Your Strategy
Set a Measurable Goal
Looking at the types of goals we’ve set out, pick one to concentrate on. Really understanding the goal you’re trying to hit is the first step to reaching it.
Give Me an Example!
Misha is a photographer and recently, she’s started producing video for clients too. She wants to let all of her regular customers know that she offers this extra service so that her photography customers can purchase video production work. She writes the following strategy for this campaign:
“I want to make sure 100% of my current customers know I offer video services. I will run email and social promotions to share this message for 2 months. After 3 months from the start of the promotion, I want to have at least 1 video commission from 15% of my current customers.”
Learn more about digital marketing analytics.
“Really understanding the goal you’re trying to hit is the first step to reaching it.”
Know Your Audience
Get to know your audience. If you don’t understand enough about who you’re trying to reach, you’ll struggle to deliver a message that’s relevant enough that resonates with them. The good news is that you don’t need to hire a customer research agency to do this for you. The easiest way to make sure you don’t come up with a watery ‘general’ campaign is to make your own buyer personas — fictionalized, general descriptions of your key customer groups.
- Think about who your customers are and group them into 3 or 4 buckets.
- Take each of those and create a character from each.
- Give him or her a name, a photo, a personality, and a few favorite hobbies
Our biggest tip: rank your buyer personas! Before you start, be totally clear which of them is the most important.
GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE!
Misha will always be called on for weddings – that’s her bread and butter. While she’ll frequently deal with anyone from the groom to the bride’s sister on the actual day, it’s usually the bride-to-be she knows she needs to win over first to land the customer. So Misha’s first buyer persona is a nervous bride.
Next up for her is photography for small, local businesses — usually people who want some nice images for their website, catalogs or brochures. So her second persona is Jake, who’s run a coffee shop for 3 years and is about to redecorate his café and launch a new website.
Misha knows that her opportunity to grow her business will only come from reaching bigger clients with a regular requirement. She doesn’t have any customers like this yet, but it’s where she wants her business to go next. So her 3rd persona is the marketing manager for a big retail brand headquartered in her city. They launch new products every month, and every time they do, they need photography.
Know Your Brand
Your brand is how and why your customers choose you over your competitors. You can think of it as your company’s personality. So it’s something that’s worth defining clearly —what do you stand for? What are your strongest character traits? And how does that translate into your presence—from the images you use on your website to the language you use in your emails? The best way to answer these questions is by getting out and speaking directly with your customers. You could assume what your brand stands for, but the best way to check is by understanding how your ideal customers talk about your brand. Talk to your customers!
Brand Health Check — Do you really know what your brand stands for?
Who is your customer? Get your personas lined up, visualized and ranked—use them to help you answer the following questions.
- What problem do you solve? From your customer’s perspective, what challenges are you solving for them? Visualize your perceived value.
- What are your distinctive benefits? List three to five benefits your customer gets from choosing your product/service that customers don’t get from going somewhere else. These are called your value propositions (or value props for short). What’s your brand promise? This is like a pledge.
- What will you always do for your customers? This is the other key part of your proposition that separates you from the competition.
- How does it fit together? Take your answers so far and try to craft a single paragraph that covers them. It’s ok if things merge and overlap—the aim is to end up with a unique message.
- Can you make it shorter? Now, refine. Take your time, review again and again until you’ve distilled your value propositions to one clear line that captures everything you want to say.
Watch Your Competition
Your competitors aren’t just those who offer a like-for-like product or service. You can think of your competition in 3 ways:
- Direct competitors – those brands that offer the same products or services as you.
- Indirect competitors – brands that may offer different products but compete for the same space or budget as you.
- Comparators – these might have a similar look and feel like your brand or be other brands that your target customers use frequently too.
You want to know what you’re up against, and you can learn vicariously from both triumphs and mistakes Get inspired by your competitors’ wins, and use your differences to highlight what’s unique about what you’re offering.
Not Sure Where to Gather Intel? Here’s How to Get Started:
- Start with your customers! The best place to see where you rank up against your competitors, or to find which competitive alternatives are most relevant for you, is in the mind of your customers. Ask them about which other competitive alternatives that they’ve tried, and dig in by asking “why” so that you can learn from real stories.
- Search for a few key terms related to your industry, and note where each brand ranks on the results page.
- Try out your competitors – you don’t need to buy their products if it’s costly, but you can read their reviews, explore their website and sign up for their newsletter.
- Note where and when you see your competitors’ ads and screenshot them.
- Follow lots of other brands’ social channels.
- Use paid-for online tools like Alexa for analysis on how well your competitors’ sites do in search rankings and web traffic.
Get Ready to Measure
Having brilliant ideas for how you’ll drive traffic, build brand awareness, and grow your customer base is just the beginning, it’s crucial you know how you’ll track progress, so you can adjust your plan based on what gets the best reaction. There are lots of different things you can measure (metrics)—but a benchmark of what a ‘good’ score is (KPI), will depend entirely on you.
GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE!
If you posted a new blog post that included some video content on the page, look at how many:
- Views you get
- Views of the video
- Engagement with the video (likes, comments, shares)
- Clicks to your blog CTA
- Leads from the post
- Increase in leads from the post vs. posts without videos
Before you start any campaign, familiarize yourself with important metrics associated with your goals, like those examples we’ve listed above. There are plenty of different things you might want to measure depending on your goals – so bear in mind things like geographic or demographic information that you’re interested in tracking as well. Track the performance of these metrics over time and you’ll start to get a benchmark number for how your content is performing.
“Pick the metrics that will provide the best insight as to whether or not you’ll hit your goal.”
Digital Marketing Techniques
So, you’ve got your plan. You know who and what you’re going after, you know what you’re going to measure, and you know what you’re trying to achieve. It’s time to get going.
The good news is that it’s easy to experiment with different ideas to reach your audience on social media, search engines, and your own website. You can try different types and formats of content to find the best results.
The great thing about most digital marketing campaigns is you can begin to track reactions soon after they’re launched. That means you can soon work out which campaigns are delivering the best return on investment (ROI) and which techniques are most efficient for your brand.
Here are the digital marketing techniques that we’ll cover in-depth:
- On-page SEO Audit
- User Experience
- Paid Search Ads
- Display Advertising
- Sponsored Social Posts
- Email Marketing
- Native Advertising
- Customer Advocacy Marketing
But first, meet the Flywheel
The flywheel model is a comprehensive, unified way of representing the forces affecting your company’s growth. It focuses you on delivering a better customer experience at every digital touchpoint with your customers by considering how you’re attracting, engaging, and delighting people and turning them into promoters for your brand.
If you leave with one main lesson from this guide, it’s this: today, trust is at an all-time low. Think about it. People don’t have the same trust that they had with businesses back in the day. But one thing that remains truer than ever is that people trust their peers—their friends, coworkers, family members, and partners.
So, when you think about digital marketing, you’ll want to consider how you’re turning strangers into people who will advocate for your business and products.
They’ll then provide you with new customers down the road, and your flywheel will spin faster. And you’ll do this by delivering a relevant, helpful, and great customer experience.
Earn your people’s attention, don’t force it. Attract visitors with useful content and eliminate barriers as they try to learn about your company.
- On-page SEO Audit
- Social Publishing
- Paid Search Ads
- Display Advertising
Form good relationships with your prospects. Don’t just treat them as deals. Enable buyers to engage with you on their preferred timeline and channels.
- User experience
- Email marketing
- Native advertising
- Sponsored social posts
Tie your success to your customers. Shift resources to be more effectively distributed throughout the entire customer experience.
- User experience
- Customer advocacy marketing
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION (SEO)
One of the best ways to reach new customers is to make sure your site’s appearing when your customers are searching for answers to their problems or questions You do this through search engine optimization (SEO)— optimizing your site in the right way to improve the rank of your results when people search for terms related to your market.
Google accounts for nearly 90% of the searches on desktop, so if you want to go direct to the source, read their SEO guide to help the indexing of your site. This will happen automatically — Google’s ‘spiders’ continuously crawl, categorize, and rank all web content against a huge number of measurements.
Then, to deliver the right information to users, search engines analyze two factors:
- Relevancy between the search query and the content on a page. Search engines assess it by various factors like topic or keywords. Work to improve relevancy is called on page SEO.
- Authority is measured by a website’s popularity on the Internet. Google assumes that the more popular a page or resource is, the more valuable it is to readers. How does a website become more popular?
- You can tell if a website is popular if other websites link to it. For example, if you have 10 websites that link to your website, your website will be more popular than a website that has 5 websites linking to it. Work to improve authority is called off-page SEO.
- An example of off-page SEO is building backlinks from other pages to your page.
When you’re looking at your site’s content, make sure it’s:
- Relevant — update it regularly, and use the same words people are searching to find your product or service.
- Easy to Read — don’t use images as headlines, and make sure description tags for pictures or videos are accurate.
- Credible — if another site links to yours, that’s a vote in your site’s favor. So if other people have recognized this expertise by linking back, that will help
- Honest — similarly, if you try to load up your site with keywords or links on hidden pages that are intended to be seen by crawlers but not customers, that counts as deception and can incur a ranking penalty.
- Well-built — if it’s easy for people to navigate, Google will probably like it. Make sure the links to your sub-pages are logically named, and minimize add-ons like auto-playing videos or pop-ups asking for email addresses. You’ll also want to make sure that your site loads quickly.
- Accurate — like most people, Google doesn’t like spelling mistakes or broken links. They can count more than you might expect
- Optimized for Mobile — more people now search on mobile over desktop, so sites which are more mobile-friendly are rewarded over those which are not.