Tips for Marketing a Small Business Online

Whether you own your own business and want to promote it, or you’re aspiring towards a career in marketing, these tips will assist you in creating a successful online business presence.

The internet is a tool with endless limits. With the pervasiveness of internet usage in recent years, it’s more important than ever to establish a successful online presence. It builds customer loyalty, trust, and shows you’re dedicated to your company.

Because the web is saturated with so much information, it can be challenging to get your brand to stand out in such a crowded market. Times are tough — many start-up companies have a small budget when it comes to marketing, so have to do their best with the resources they have.

Here are my personal tips for establishing a successful online marketing strategy on a low-budget. These tips will allow you to begin marketing your business, even with little previous experience.

Branding

First thing’s first: branding. Before anything else, it is vital that your company has effective and recognisable branding. In my opinion, the most important aspects of branding are as follows:

Logo: A memorable logo is imperative. It reveals your company’s identity, allows new customers to get to know your brand, and distinguishes you from other businesses.

A logo can also create brand loyalty: if a customer is happy with a product/service purchased from you, they are likely to re-purchase if they recognise your logo and thus remember your company. Without a logo, it’s difficult for potential customers to distinguish you from other similar businesses.

Slogan/Company Description: A short slogan or company description allows potential customers to instantly understand what your company is about. This can be a sentence or small paragraph explaining the premise of your business, which is vital for use on public platforms such as social media sites.

Design Scheme: Consistency is key when it comes to branding, so a consistent design scheme ensures that your branding is recognisable. An example of this is the colour scheme — if your logo is red, all other aspects of your branding (such as social media posts) should include the same shade of red as well as other colours that compliment red. This adds consistency and means that your company will stand out amongst others due to recognisability.

These elements will get your business started and allow you to begin marketing a brand identity which people will become familiar with.

Research Competitors

Researching competitors will help you with marketing, whether your company is well established or a small start-up. Keeping up-to-date with what similar companies are doing allows you to understand what kind of prices and offers others provide, so that you can use this as inspiration for your own business.

Looking at competitors’ social media pages will also inform you of what kind of posts gain popularity, which will be informative for when you’re working on your own pages.

Targeting Your Audience

Once your branding and research is completed, you should define your target audience. Having a clearly defined audience means you can target them more specifically.

For example, if your business targets 18–25 year olds, it’s important to make the most of social media pages because this age range is very active online. Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat would be the perfect platforms to focus advertising on because they are primarily used by a younger audience. I will go into further detail regarding social media later in this article.

Following this initial branding and research, the next important thing to do is to create a website.

Website

If you don’t already have a website for your business, create one if possible. A website is essential as it establishes your company as professional, organised, and is the perfect platform to showcase your business.

An online presence reinforces your brand identity and demonstrates what you offer to your target market. It also helps to attract customers even if they haven’t heard of you before — a professional aesthetic creates trust and interest in your brand.

It is imperative to set yourself apart from the competition. There are so many companies online, so you need to make yourself unforgettable. To do this, your website’s domain name should be the name of your company if possible. Of course, acquiring a domain name can be expensive, but it allows potential customers to easily find your website. If you’re a recent start-up and can’t afford this, you can acquire a website at a later date if needed.

Despite seeming like an obvious point, a website is essential for containing the fundamental information that both existing and potential customers need. Without this information you could put off customers. An example of this is restaurant websites — I have experienced several restaurant sites which don’t have menus or opening times, which then puts me off visiting. Having accurate and up-to-date information is essential to gain customers.

If you’re unsure how to create a website, a great way to create one for beginners is to use applications such as WordPress. It’s free unless you pay for upgrades such as premium themes, so you can spend as much or as little money as you like on this. There’s plenty of online guides regarding WordPress if this was a tool you’d choose to use. To create a more unique website you can also create one from scratch, however this will cost a lot of money if you don’t possess the skills to do so yourself.

Once your website is sorted, you can then move on to using social media in order to promote your website & business further.

Getting Started with Social Media

Once you have your branding and website sorted, you need to get set-up on social media. Start by creating pages for your company on the main platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In, YouTube etc.

Ensure your aesthetic presence is consistent on each platform. This includes using a profile picture of your logo, and incorporating a similar aesthetic on each site so that your business can be recognised across all platforms. This will reinforce your brand identity and will spread the word about your business.

Social media’s popularity means it is one of the most effective ways to present your business to a large amount of people. It improves your chance of generating additional revenue, as well as builds customer loyalty. Your social media pages allows current and potential customers to easily engage with you, using a medium that they’re likely to be familiar with.

Ensure the social media platforms you are utilising compliment your business. Instagram is a platform primarily focused on photo-sharing, so this is the perfect network to focus on if your business is promoting products such as jewellery or clothing. However, if your business offers a service such as insurance, a text-based platform will be more appropriate, so something such as Facebook or Twitter could be a better option. If you’re focusing on a photography-based platform, remember to use eye-catching and professional-looking images which present your products and services in a positive light.

As well as professional photography, it’s important to upload engaging content. The more engaging the content you upload, the more people will become interested and get involved. An example of this is creating a ‘giveaway’ competition on social media, where you give people the chance to a win a free item from your site if they like and share your post. This is an amazing way to get your business noticed and it really works — I’ve tried it myself, with great results.

Another important thing with regard to social media is #hashtags. Use hashtags which relate to whatever you’re posting about, as this will help people to find your posts when searching in saturated social media platforms.

Search Engine Optimisation

What is SEO? In simple terms, Search Engine Optimisation means you are making your website more appealing to search engines. This is done by using keywords that are relevant to your business, and linking to your site address.

Because search engines are used so commonly, people trust them. If your business comes up near the top of an online search, it will result in your website receiving more traffic.

SEO is an ongoing process, so it’s important to ensure your website is up to date with accurate information, ready for when potential customers discover you online. Adding new content to your website and then promoting it via social media along with a link to your website is the perfect way to improve your search engine ranking. Blogging is a great way to introduce lots of new and interesting content to your website, which will be discussed further in the following section.

Blogging

The more content you upload to your website, the more likely it is to be picked up by a search engine — search engines aren’t interested in old websites which haven’t been updated in years, they love new websites with lots of interesting content.

Writing blog posts on your website is a fantastic (and free!) way of generating more interest in your website. But don’t just write blog posts for the sake of it — make them interesting, high-quality and relevant to your business so that they will engage readers and keep potential customers interested.

Google Business Pages

Another great way of generating more traffic to your website is by using Google business pages. They’re simple to set up, and means you can inform people of your most important details instantly —  for example, your opening hours, business address and phone number. This information will come up at the very top of a Google search if someone searches specifically for your company’s name online.

The link below gives you all the details about setting up a Google business page, and how this will improve your local ranking on the site.

Improve your local ranking on Google - Google My Business Help
_Local results appear for people who search for businesses and places near their location. They’re shown in a number of…_support.google.com

Scheduling

Trying to manage many social media platforms can be a struggle.

A perfect way to overcome this is by using a social media management platform such as Hootsuite or Buffer. These are amazing platforms, as not only do they let you create a singular post which can be posted on multiple platforms, but they also allow you to choose the time of which these posts will be uploaded.

A lot of people check social media in the evenings, as this is usually a time when people are relaxing after finishing work. However, who wants to be setting up business posts in the evenings when they’re busy? Social media management platforms allow you to create posts at any time, but they will go live online at a time of your choosing. This means your posts will target your audience at a time when they’re likely to be online, which will give you a greater chance of it being seen by many people.

Testimonials

Testimonials are a great way of creating trust with potential clients. Sharing positive comments and reviews about your business on social media will create a more positive and trustworthy view of your company, and this is likely to result in gaining more business.

Conclusion

These tips should set you on your way to growing your business in a saturated market. You don’t need to be an expert in marketing to make your business stand out from the crowd.

Remember to update your social media platforms regularly, to always keep interest in your business. Do as much as you can to get your business noticed and inform people of your product or service, and have fun along the way!