How can digital marketing grow your small business?

Digital marketing is vitally important for your small business because it provides you with the opportunity to establish significantly more engaged communication channels with your consumers for a significantly reduced budget.

Digital marketing & especially social driven marketing strategies allow for the small business owner to compete with large corporates, something that has not been possible for decades due to the limitations of the traditional broadcasting system.

Traditional methods of marketing created significant barriers to entry for small businesses, with huge budgets required to get your messages out there to the viewing and consuming public. In the past small businesses have been forced to make do with little to no real marketing or communications presence in their target audiences.

Today all of this has changed.

Small businesses are finding major benefits to modern marketing, especially in the digital and socially driven marketing fields where the potential to conceive of and implement a successful marketing strategy is high.

So what are these huge benefits for small businesses? I have put together a short list of the biggest and most effective benefits digital marketing can provide your small business.

  1. Digital Marketing enables a direct communication pathway between your business and your consumer, enabling you to build your own audience of loyal fans.
  2. Digital marketing generates better intel on consumers and can provide significantly improved ROI
  3. Digital marketing can save you a bunch of money. Read How can small business save money in marketing? by Business2Community.
  4. Digital marketing enables realtime customer service
  5. Digital marketing enables multi-device contact with consumers based on the consumers choice of device, time, place and need.
  6. Digital marketing provides significant measurement and analysis of consumer behaviour and engagement.
  7. Digital marketing prepares you for the Internet of Things

Remember that all of these tools and methods are completely useless if the quality of the inputs are poor. This means that your ability to be strategic, creative and relevant in building your digital strategy is what is going to make it or break it. Do you have the level of talent required to enable top drawer creative and strategic thinking?

Thankfully the old agency model is crumbling which means that it doesn’t cost nearly as much to procure strategic or creative services these days, especially if you are happy to engage with specialists via crowdsourcing or creative hubs online. Again it is your own sweat and effort that will find these people but they can be found if you know how to look for them.

I personally have found the availability of great learning content on digital marketing to be immense and significant. You would be surprised at what is achievable with not much cash and a lot of motivation. As a small business owner you need to make the most of inexpensive and effective methods that can be put to work without too much cost involved.

In todays tech enabled world you can pretty much teach yourself anything. If you have a little self direction and some good search skills you can find the best ‘how to’ guides on almost anything – today we are awash with so much available learning content that many small business owners or entrepreneurs are making use of this mostly free and available instructional content to teach ourselves new skills and subjects. If you have this mindset and you are already actively self educating on these topics you will know how much difference this makes to your business marketing strategy.

So there are two key aspects to getting this right and they are as follows;

Firstly, you as the small business owner and visionary need to understand the new world in which we live and work. If you are operating from some outdated or bogus assumptions about how the internet works and does what it does then i would suggest you change this for a start. here is a great TIME article from the CEO of Chartbeat called What you think you know about the web is wrong .

Take the time to get to grips with the fundamentals of digital strategy too with this completely brilliant presentation by Bud Caddell called Digital Strategy 101 . Take the time to go through this thoroughly because he has done a masterful job of making potentially highly confusing and complicate-able content clear and straight forward to the layman. Liquid gold! this will establish a high-level foundation of the system you are working within and with.

It is easy to get highly excited about many of the glossy mega brand case study examples like CocaCola CS or Redbull; each detailing how content marketing has changed the game for these brands, and for their consumers experience of the brand and its services; fundamentally changing communication strategy from ‘push’ to one of ‘pull’. Attract, engage, convince & covert!

I was chatting to a small business owner yesterday who was telling me how much he thought that content marketing, and the clear driving philosophies behind, are the best shot we have at actually creating transactional and relationship driven networks that matter to both the brands and consumers alike. They all need to get something out of it and not feel cheated. They need to feel like definitely coming back again. Oh ye baby keep them coming!

Basically my friends argument came down to the following

Its great that there is all of this amazing information out there about the great opportunities of content marketing! Case studies pop up from every blog and RSSFeed but often the feeling I get as a small business owner is ‘I am never going to be able to….

a) afford content marketing at a scale that is suitable to me and my business needs

&

b) apply it usefully so that i get results that make a clear difference to the growth of my small business.

It is true that you can get seriously lost in the halls of content marketing expertise but it isn’t true that it has to cost you an arm and a leg. There are many aspects to a content marketing campaign that remain the same no matter what.

So I thought I would put together what i think are the core content marketing strategies that any business owner can start doing from tomorrow which don’t really cost anything (or much) except your motivated, and hopefully technologically enabled, self! Or if you do have some spare cash to pay some freelancers to help you then that’s great! But it is important that you have a deep understanding yourself about what you need done otherwise you will have problems! When  choosing a freelance creative or technologist or marketer it is a good idea that you have already worked through some key aspects of your business strategy, ensuring that you highlight answers the following most important questions:

What specific business results you want to drive via your content marketing strategy?

One of the primary reasons many marketing plans fail is because the specific goals of the campaign or project have not been clearly set. In order for digital marketing to work well it is crucial that you can highlight at least 3 specific goals for the project. The better this mandate is thought through the better your chances of success with your content marketing.

Who are the targeted buyers for my products or services and how do they engage with / transact with my brand currently?

This is a very good question, and one that has not been adequately defined for a long time. Until now that is. Again we are working with a medium here that thrives on specific detail and instruction. The more semantic information you can use to build your target buyer profiles the better. The more convincing and thorough your work is here the easier it will be to target buyers with very specify needs or interests. It will also be much easier to define your marketing plan to a far more powerful level of specific detail. Have a look at this free instruction manual from Hubspot called Creating buyer personas .

How am I going to create compelling knowledge driven content that will engage my target audience in a dialogue that will attract them to my brand?

This question is probably at the core of what content marketing, or rather the philosophy of content marketing, aims to impart to both brands, creative agencies and publishers alike; What do you know about, care about or aim to achieve that is also a clear desire or interest (or want or need) in the heart and mind of the consumer? I can tell you that is definitely isn’t your product or service. Not yet anyway. Before your brand and your product become relevant your insight and advise, which is generally published via blogs, social media or other media channels, needs to attract a loyal following based on the quality of your content. How is quality content measured? Well it is actually quite a simple set of rules.

Have you considered the consumers need / challenge or interest that you will be addressing through your content?

Does your content have a clear ‘call to action’ which drives consumers to the next step in the engagement journey

Do you regularly dialogue with your consumers to find out what their thoughts and feelings are about their choices?

How does the data you measure drive your future content production efforts?

Who are the key influencers in my field and how am I going to leverage these influencers to drive traffic my way?

If you aren’t organically engaging key influencers in your field you are missing a huge opportunity to build a wider audience, as well as to create a powerful endorsement strategy driven by content marketing. With todays marketing technologies you can get down to detail in defining exactly who you should be connecting with and who to go about doing so. There are a range of great technology platforms designed to assist you in finding the perfect influencer circle. Some of the ones i have tried are:

Klear.com

Inkybee.com

Buzzsumo.com

Some of these services offer a free plan which can still help a lot. Others do require payment but depending on your experience of the free trials you try this might make you feel that the money is worth it. Check these out because they are powerful tools.

Once you have established your core goals, strategic inputs and your influencer circle then you can begin to think about your actual content strategy. By this stage you should be ready to begin putting together a test content calendar, a content guide that allows you to establish your compete content publishing plan in advance. This content plan becomes the blueprint through which you manage your brands narrative across a diverse range of chosen platforms and channels. In your case these are unlikely to include TV or Radio broadcast due to limited cash or as the article stated – no cash! To be honest I think it would be impossible to do this with no cash at all but you definitely can spend small and wisely to achieve a great impact.

I suppose it all comes down to how much you are willing to learn to do yourself? For example I write my own articles for my blog. I am also learning how to analyse my own data from google analytics and to be able to run my own tests and experiments using modern SEO techniques. All of these self-directed efforts make you suitably aware, knowledgeable and skilled enough to be able to drive your own cost-effective and powerful content marketing strategies.

You may not be able to put together the most powerful content marketing plan ever but you can definitely gain significant strategic advantage over your competitors by getting to know your consumers better, through engaging on topics and issues that matter to your consumers more , and through establishing a cause and effect driven marketing system that allows for you to intelligently develop your brand path to growth. The journey to becoming a great content marketing driven business is a long one but the journey definitely starts here and now.

There are so many sources of free knowledge and instruction on content marketing on the internet, or on any other subject for that matter! Use these sources and begin to decide on a few specific aspects of the digital marketing philosophy that resonate most with you, and those which are practically applicable to a small business like yours in the short-term, medium-term and long-term.

Conclusion

The benefits of digital marketing seem unavoidably huge for small businesses and I would definitely recommend establishing a digital strategy as soon as possible. It doesn’t have to cost you a lot and it can be highly effective in acquiring new customers, making sales and servicing customers in real time. It is also clear that without the requisite awareness, knowledge and skill in digital marketing there isn’t a hope in hell you will achieve success. If you think that relying on a marketing agencies knowledge or skill will give you what you need you are dead in the water.

As a small business owner you need to be prepared to do the thinking and learning work yourself so you don’t get led astray or become disillusioned with suppliers or specialists that don’t know what they are doing.

Make clear learning goals and never stop experimenting!

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