Whether you’re launching a new business or already have one, having a small business marketing strategy that includes a strong online presence for your brand is essential.
Consumers learn about local businesses online more than anywhere else, with Statista predicting the number of ecommerce users to grow to nearly 290 million by 2027.
If you’re a small business owner with little experience in online marketing, creating a strategy to boost your online presence may feel overwhelming. Have no fear — we’ve got you covered.
In this post, we’ll help you build and optimize your small business marketing strategy using inbound marketing, setting you up to attract new clients and ultimately grow your business.
Small Business Marketing
Marketing is meant to raise brand awareness and build a pipeline of qualified leads that turn into sales. With a small business, getting the word out can be challenging due to less visibility and lack of resources (like budget or time).
However, there are key strategies that can help you scale your small business’s marketing efforts.
Whether you’re struggling with a limited budget, the time restraints caused by a smaller team, or even a lack of direction, a marketing plan appropriate for your business can guide you as you scale.
These strategies are fundamental as you generate awareness and revenue for your organization:
1. Know your audience.
A key mistake is thinking that “anyone” is your buyer. Larger companies may be able to appeal to a wide market, but they say “the riches are in the niches” for a reason.
You’ll have the most leverage as a small business in a niche. And to develop a niche and appeal to buyers within it, you must understand their pains, problems, triggering events, and priorities.
What is pushing them to make a purchasing decision? What does it look like if they succeed? Knowing these things will help you craft messaging that resonates and makes a compelling case for your solution.
Start by thinking about your existing customers and who you’d like to work with. Then, create a buyer persona to get into your ideal client’s head.
Download Free Buyer Persona Templates
2. Emphasize your value proposition.
If there’s no difference between you and your competition, there’s no reason why a buyer would be compelled to work with you.
Your value proposition is what will differentiate you from others in your space and make up your prospects’ minds that you’re the provider to go with.
What do you do better than anyone in the industry? Conveying this makes a compelling argument.
3. Stay focused on singular goals and objectives.
If you’re exploring the world of marketing, you may have noticed that there are a gazillion directions you can go in. It’s tempting to do it all at once and craft a complicated machine in hopes that you covered all your bases.
However, this strategy makes it easy to take on too much.
Instead, identify where the biggest impact will be. Where is the biggest blind spot in your marketing prohibiting your growth?
Set a performance goal around that one key area and focus your resources on the activities and tactics that will achieve that one performance goal.
You can expand your efforts or pivot to other initiatives when you’ve made more progress toward that singular goal.
4. Capitalize on short-term plays.
Start scrappy. As you scale, it’s critical to see ROI sooner. This will give you the momentum and cash flow to put toward larger projects, long-term plays, and more sustainable growth models.
Tactics that take time to build (such as SEO) are poor fits for your primary initiatives because you won’t see a return soon enough for your liking. If you have enough resources to start there, great. However, don’t put all your eggs in that basket.
If you have evidence that people are taking to Google with purchasing intent for your particular solution, you may find that paid ads will give you that short-term ROI.
5. Double down on what works.
Once you have your initiatives running and you’ve experimented with a few things, pay attention to the data. This can inform you of what’s working. As you scale, it’s a good idea to double down on proven methods of generating revenue.
6. Understand the power of existing customers.
On average, acquiring a new customer costs five times more than closing an existing one. This means you shouldn’t stop marketing once they’ve made a purchase.
Identify your opportunities for repeat purchasing, upselling, and cross-selling. Because your existing customers have already made a purchase, they already know, like, and trust you.
If you’ve provided a good experience, you’ve given them a reason to do business with you again should the need ever arise.
Even if the need doesn’t arise (in cases where it’s a one-and-done purchase with no upsell opportunities), you should still delight your customers. Word of mouth is a powerful (and free) promotional tool.
7. Use free promotional tools.
Speaking of free promotional tools, it’s important to note that since you’ve committed to a limited goal and scope, there’s no need to inflate your overhead with gadgets.
Use free promotional tools where possible, and only commit to paid tools if you know they will drastically improve existing operations or performance. Here’s a helpful list of marketing tools (some free, some paid).
8. Create a website to own your online presence.
A professional-looking website is one of the most important assets you will create for your small business. This is where you will show who you are, what you offer, where you are, and how a potential customer can contact you.
It is a channel you will always own, and it has the capability of generating organic traffic in addition to being a place to send traffic from advertising and other marketing initiatives.
Your website isn’t just a simple brochure, either. You can turn it into a 24/7 salesperson by understanding how to convert traffic and turn them into leads (more on that later).
For one of the best website tools, check out HubSpot’s CMS.
9. Consider blogging to attract prospects for your website.
Blogging is a great way to generate organic traffic, particularly for those prospects who have not reached a purchasing decision yet. In addition, it can establish credibility in your space and position you as a thought leader.
To start a blog, you can use an inexpensive or free website tool to make a free site and use one of their templates.
Even if you only publish once a week, it will improve your website’s visibility online and help educate your potential customers on why they should trust your company.
If you plan to write your posts yourself, check out this beginner’s guide to writing.
Once you start writing, you can add a call-to-action (CTAs) on your posts for visitors to subscribe to your blog and receive emails.
This is a great way to start collecting leads and offering potential customers a way to get information if they aren’t ready to buy anything from you yet.
Download Free Blog Post Templates
10. Promote yourself on social media.
With billions of potential customers using various platforms daily, social media is a powerful business tool. Social media marketing can help you engage with potential customers, build brand awareness, and promote your products.
Why wouldn’t you want to be seen where your potential customers spend their time?
Download the Free Social Media Content Calendar Template
11. Collaborate with influencers to create brand awareness.
Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook are top of the list when it comes to social media platforms. But, if your small business is not yet well known on these outlets, consider collaborating with well-established influencers in your niche.
Influencer marketing is currently the top marketing trend. Collaborating with influencers is a surefire way to get your business in front of the eyes of your audience. Influencers understand their (and your!) niche.
Not only do they understand the niche, but influencers have a knack for storytelling — meaning, they’ll be able to effectively tell your business’s story and sell your brand to the appropriate audience.
Consider reaching out to influencers in your niche to add to your small business marketing strategy.
12. Create short-form video content.
Marketers know that a good marketing strategy for your small business should include more than just written content. In fact, in 2022, 44% of social media marketers focused their efforts on creating video content for TikTok.
Adding short-form video content to your marketing strategy is a great idea, as platforms like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook make connecting and engaging with your audience convenient.
Short-form video content is easily shared, meaning you can quickly get your product or service in front of the right audience — and their friends.
13. Stick to a social media posting schedule.
You shouldn’t just post to your social media platforms hoping that something will become a viral post. Instead, you must focus on intentional content creation and posting.
After you find the social media platform that works best for your business, create a social media content calendar and stick to a regular posting schedule.
But, don’t just post every day for the sake of posting. 83% of social media marketers say it’s better to post at a lower frequency with high-quality content than daily posting.
You’ll likely post irrelevant, low-quality content when you post daily.
Take the time to create engaging, thoughtful content and schedule it for the appropriate times to stand out from the competition.
14. Invest in ads.
Organic traffic takes a while to build, and as a small business, you want to invest in short-term plays. Pay-to-play tactics that target buyers with high intent are great for short-term wins to jump-start other objectives.
80% of brands use some form of paid advertisement. Google Ads are perfect if you know that your target audience is searching the web for your product or solution. If they aren’t, you might consider social media ads instead.
Individuals on social media have less buying intent, but with highly targeted ads and enough impressions, you’ll gain the interest of your audience.
Download the Free Advertising Planning Kit
15. Make sure you’re capturing web prospects’ information.
We’ve been talking a lot about visibility and traffic but haven’t really covered how these will help drive revenue yet. One simple way to start generating leads or customers from your website is to implement a conversion tool.
A simple, free option is HubSpot Marketing Free. By using this tool to add a pop-up widget to your website, you can start collecting the email addresses of potential customers.
From there, you can send out promotions and offers and convert them into paying customers. You can also implement any of these 24 conversion tools to help you optimize your website and use it to drive leads.
16. Use email marketing to nurture leads.
Just because you’ve converted website traffic into leads doesn’t mean those leads are ready to buy yet. It’s important to stay top of mind and move them closer to a purchasing decision.
Email marketing is a critical part of your marketing toolkit, and it is the most effective method of marketing. In fact, 73% of millennials prefer communications from businesses to come via email.
This strategy is an easy, free, and scalable way to communicate with both new and existing customers.
Once you have an email marketing tool in place (many are inexpensive or even free), experiment with emailing out newsletters (with your sleek new blog posts) and other promotions to your database.
We know small business owners don’t have tons of free time to devote to digital marketing, so consider using marketing automation to make this process even easier for yourself.
To get started planning your email marketing strategy, check out this guide and template from HubSpot.
17. Manage relationships with a CRM.
Email marketing works best when you’re sending personalized, targeted emails. This begins with a customer database or customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Your CRM stores information about your leads, prospects, and customers so that you can keep track of customer interactions and identify sales opportunities more effectively.
HubSpot has one of the best CRMs (and, best of all, it’s totally free).
18. Lean into word of mouth as a promotion channel.
As mentioned previously, delighting customers can have a big impact on your business, primarily in repeat purchases and word of mouth.
If you provide a great experience, your customers will be more inclined to leave reviews, give testimonials, and tell their friends about you.
That’s why measuring customer satisfaction and encouraging customers to spread the word is a good idea.
19. Connect with other local businesses.
Take your business to the local community and connect with other local business owners in your area. Consider partnering with local businesses to create discounts, deals, or coupons for customers.
Start a live stream with local business owners during a promotional event or coordinate a giveaway.
Connecting with other small businesses is both great for word of mouth and collaboration. If you collaborate with other local businesses, advertise the promotion or sale on your social media outlets.
Online Marketing Tips for Small Businesses
Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are tips for improving whichever marketing strategies you choose.
1. Determine your brand’s identity.
A consistent brand identity to promote your business will make you look more professional and help you attract new customers. According to a 2020 study, nearly 9 out of 10 people are brand loyal.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has described a company’s branding as “what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
In other words, your brand is people’s feelings and emotions when hearing your company name. It combines your brand name, logo, aesthetic, and the design of all your assets, plus the values you support, which is becoming more important to consumers.
2. Identify your buyer persona.
When you imagine a customer searching for your product or service, what are they like? What are their pain points? What is their job? Creating a buyer persona that tells the story of your ideal customer can help you optimize a website for them.
By learning more about your target customer through creating a buyer persona, you can better figure out what types of things they may be searching for so you can include those terms on your website.
3. Design a logo and other assets.
To start getting the creative juices flowing, consider your color scheme and peruse palettes with Adobe Color or Coolors. You can create your own or look through pre-made or customized color palettes.
To create a logo, I’d recommend checking out Upwork or Freelancer.
There are free and less expensive options for designing your own logo online, although using a freelancer or agency can give you a higher quality product and connect you with a designer who can change and update your brand assets as your company grows.
4. Build your website with a CMS template.
If you’re a tech-savvy small business owner, you’ll probably want to build your own website. A content management system (CMS) makes the process simple.
Most CMSs offer customizable templates for your site that you can get for free or for a small fee. There are templates for various skill levels — from beginner all the way to advanced.
Once you’ve created your website, most CMS platforms offer plugins to help you optimize your content for search (look for SEO plugins). This will help you rank better in Google — which we’ll discuss more in-depth in a bit.
5. Draw up a go-to-market strategy.
Once you’ve activated all the tools you need to promote your product or service, you’ll need to create a promotional plan that aligns with the customer journey.
Consider which content will attract, engage, and delight your prospects and how you will convert them into a customer.
To help you plan out this process, use this template.
6. Hire a freelancer to help you scale your content.
If you need help creating regular blogs or promotional content, consider hiring a freelancer over investing in a full-timer. Try Upwork for a freelance blogger, videographer, or photographer.
You could also consider hiring a marketing agency for a larger project.
7. Consult agencies or freelancers for web design help.
If you aren’t technical and want a website built for your small business, you can use a freelancer or a marketing agency specializing in web design.
This is a great option for businesses with an existing website that needs to be updated and revamped for SEO to help improve your Google ranking.
To find a freelancer or marketing consultant in your area, you can use Upwork (filtering by design/creative), Codeable (for WordPress experts), or Freelancer.
8. Track your site with analytics tools.
If you’ve never made a website and aren’t entirely comfortable with the technical elements, many free tools and services can help you get started.
When you create your website, implement Google Analytics or HubSpot Marketing Free (both of which are free products) so you can easily track who’s looking at your site.
9. Boost your Google ranking with SEO.
If you already have a business, have you ever searched for yourself or your product/service online? If so, did you think, “Why isn’t my website showing up on Google?”
If so, you probably thought, “How do I rank on Google?” or “How can I improve my Google ranking?”
There are a lot of factors that play into why a certain site or page appears in the top spots on the Google (or another search engine) search engine results page (SERP).
Backlinko reports some of Google’s top factors, which include having relevant keywords (and their placement on your site), the length of your content, having high-quality content, how fast your page loads, how often you post content, and more.
When it all boils down, Google tries to find the best content to present to the person searching.
For example, if I’m searching for the best salon in Newport, Rhode Island, it wouldn’t be helpful for me to find a web page of a salon that has closed down and is located in Newport, Kentucky.
It would, however, be helpful for me to find a salon in my area with great Yelp reviews, an easy-to-navigate website, and contact information readily available.
Google always wants to surface the most relevant, highest-quality piece of content.
To rank higher on Google, you can leverage the power of SEO. To start learning everything there is to know about this powerhouse marketing tactic, check out The Ultimate Guide to SEO.
HubSpot explains SEO as “techniques that help your website rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).
This makes your website more visible to people looking for solutions that your brand, product, or service can provide via search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing.”
In other words, it’s the basic concept of structuring your website and blog posts to be in the best shape for appearing first on search engines.
SEO strategy usually consists of a few things. These include buyer persona research, keyword research, and on-page SEO research.
These three areas can help you learn how your target market is searching online and position your business to get discovered by the right people.
10. Research keywords opportunities.
Keyword research is an extension of buyer persona research. You can use the personas you’ve created to search for the best keywords for your brand, then use a tool like KW Finder to find related keywords for your target audience.
Then, you can do some on-page SEO research and optimization. This is where you put those keywords in the correct places on your website — like in the meta description, page titles, and H1 tags.
11. Optimize your website for mobile devices.
Most Google searches are done on mobile devices, so it’s important to have a site that looks clean and is easy to navigate when someone enters it on their smartphone.
A mobile site can also be beneficial for SEO, with search engines like Google, which reward you with a higher ranking if you have a mobile site.
You don’t have to be a tech expert to build a site that looks good on mobile. In fact, most CMS platforms like HubSpot already offer mobile-optimized templates.
12. Write optimized blog posts.
Content and blogging are extremely important for your search engine ranking. The more often your desired keywords appear in your high-quality and helpful content, the more likely you are to appear in search results.
A great way to become an authority on your topic, product, or service is to blog.
Make sure you’re writing with SEO in mind — use these SEO tips for bloggers or leverage a WordPress plugin like Yoast.
13. Experiment with photo and video content.
According to HubSpot Research, more than 50% of consumers want to see videos from brands. Additionally, most social media apps, like Facebook and Instagram, are embracing more visual layouts.
To keep up with these trends, it’s a good idea to make a few marketing videos. If you use these tips, producing a few can be quite inexpensive.
14. Launch business pages on Facebook and Yelp.
If your business is focused on a local area, the most important accounts for you are Facebook, Yelp, and Google’s business feature.
Having high Yelp reviews improves your authority online and helps your search ranking. You can claim your business on Yelp for free, customize your profile, add pictures, and ask for reviews.
The same thing goes for registering your Google business page. You can register your business with Google (for free) and add pictures.
If you’ve ever searched for your business in Google Maps and been disappointed not to see it, it’s because you haven’t claimed it yet!
On Facebook, you can create a Facebook business page so that people can find your location and hours.
For any business, having up-to-date social media accounts will help you be found and engage with prospects.
Create a Twitter account, Facebook page, learn how to use Instagram, create a Pinterest page (if relevant), and use them to discover new clients.
15. Build out your social media strategy.
While Facebook and Yelp will be great tools for local searches and reviews, platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter will offer you even more opportunities to share your posts, content, and promotions.
If your customers can purchase your products or services online, these platforms will also give them another way to find you.
Be sure not to spread yourself too thin by joining too many platforms at once. To make strategizing easier, here’s a guide to the five types of social media platforms and the pros and cons of each.
16. Use social media for customer service.
Once you’re on your chosen platforms, be sure to answer customer or follower questions when they ask them through post comments or direct messages. This will make your company look responsive and credible.
Here are some great examples of how brands have used Twitter for customer service.
If you have the means, consider hiring a social media manager with community management experience.
On top of posting content on a regular schedule, community managers are charged with responding to questions or concerns of followers.
Interested? We published a guide on what it takes to be a great social media community manager.
17. Build interesting landing pages.
A landing page offers your potential customers a free resource in exchange for filling out a short contact information form.
When they receive the resource, they might be even more pleased by your company and more interested in buying the full product.
Because landing pages raise your chances of customer conversion, you want yours to look enticing. To get started, read this landing page guide to learn more about what makes this strategy successful.
Then check out these free and professionally designed templates.
18. Plan an email marketing strategy.
Once you start creating regular content and building out landing pages, you’ll want to share them with the prospects who seem most interested in learning more about your product.
For this reason, we suggest building an email marketing strategy.
While you want to be careful not to bombard those who sign up for your email list with too many emails, you want to send just enough to keep your prospects informed and engaged.
Here’s how our metrics improved when we streamlined our email marketing strategy.
If you’ve never sent regular newsletters before, you can use HubSpot or a number of other affordable tools to create and send an email with a professionally designed template.
Many email tools also offer basic analytics that allow you to track open and click rates.
19. Offer coupons in newsletters or on landing pages.
Placing a coupon in your marketing emails can engage and delight your audience. After buying a product or service at a discounted rate, they might also be more willing to pay full price.
If you have a subscription service, offering prospects a code for a free trial can also be helpful so they can test it out.
20. Share your distribution channels on your website.
Once you have a few social media accounts and a newsletter, connect them to your website so your visitors can follow you.
One way companies do this is to display all of their linked social icons and a newsletter sign-up CTA on all pages of your website. A good place to include these is on the top right corner or the footer of each page.
This way, they’re visible but aren’t distracting from any content.
21. Offer a free webinar.
A webinar allows potential customers to sign up for a short online course hosted by you. These courses are usually between 30 minutes to an hour and allow you to give tips and answer questions related to a topic your brand is familiar with.
While this strategy can help you boost your credibility in your field, it can also offer you potential leads and sales opportunities.
22. Try co-marketing.
Is there a local business in your area that isn’t a direct competitor but offers a product or service to a similar target audience?
Consider working with them on a cobranded campaign where you promote each other on social media, via email, or in your blog.
While you’ll give your partnering company added promotion, it will also allow their fanbase to learn more about you.
23. Encourage happy customers to share their experiences.
When a happy customer talks about how great your company is on social media or a review site, your product or service looks like a good investment.
Even on social media, word of mouth is still a huge factor in someone’s purchasing decision.
If a prospect sees a friend raving about your business on Facebook or if they post a photo of a meal from your restaurant on Instagram, they might be more likely to go.
After all, 71% of consumers are more likely to purchase based on social media referrals.
If customers tell you they love your product, encourage them to share the experience on Yelp, Google, or social.
If you have a physical business, you should place signs up with your account handles so customers know who to tag if they post a picture of your product.
24. Try out marketing experiments.
If you’re interested in a new social platform or a new marketing trend, don’t be afraid to experiment. If an experiment goes well, you could be ahead of the game, and it never hurts to be a thought leader in your industry.
When you experiment with a new marketing strategy, have a solid hypothesis or question in mind. This will keep you focused on the end goal and reduce the desire to chase the next big thing as it comes along.
Also, prepare for your next steps if you get good or bad results. Here’s a quick guide to leading a successful marketing experiment.
Small Business Advertising Ideas
Now that we’ve covered some marketing strategy basics, let’s look into how you can put your advertising dollars to work. Below are some ways to tackle advertising for small businesses.
1. Set up Google My Business.
Creating a free Google My Business profile is a simple first step to helping potential customers find your business. It only takes a few minutes to add your business contact information, business hours, photos, and a list of your services.
Another perk of having a Google business profile is that you don’t need a storefront to create one. Your profile also comes with analytics that can help you better understand how customers are connecting with your business.
Additionally, you can check out and respond to customer reviews and learn what keywords brought them to your business page.
2. Consider PPC ads with Google & Bing.
Using pay-per-click (PPC) ad programs like Google Adwords or Microsoft Advertising can also help drive customers to your business. If you’re working hard on SEO, but are still looking for an extra boost, consider PPC advertising.
With this search engine marketing technique, you use Google AdWords or Microsoft Ads to show up as an advertised listing in search results.
Before you dive into PPC, you’ll want to make sure your landing page is as optimized as possible. If you are paying by the click and those who click on the page don’t convert, you will lose advertising dollars.
To help you get started, read this Ultimate Guide to PPC. Then, use this PPC planning template to create an optimized campaign. You can also use a few handy tools and software to edit, track, and report on your campaigns.
3. Run social media ads.
Most major social media platforms offer affordable advertising options that can help you target your posts to a specific audience.
While many small businesses have been advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for years, Instagram now allows brands to advertise through its Shoppable tool.
Pinterest is also an excellent option for small businesses to advertise. In fact, Pinterest users say the platform has more influence on their purchasing journey than other platforms.
Shopping ads on Pinterst drive three times the conversion of other competing platforms.
4. Sponsor products on Etsy & Amazon.
If you’ve already set up shop on Amazon, you can boost your products by participating in their sponsored products program.
This cost-per-click ad program generates ads from your product listings and automatically targets your ads, making it a great option if you’ve never created a campaign before.
If you’re a maker and sell your wares on Etsy, consider using Etsy Ads to advertise your products. Similar to Amazon, this is a cost-per-click model with a default minimum daily budget of one dollar.
With Etsy Ads, your products will stand out in Etsy Search, category pages, and marketing pages.
5. Leverage user-generated content.
Some of the best advertising you can get is from existing customers. Happy customers can vouch for your brand and add social proof to your marketing campaigns.
Ask your customers to leave reviews, or if they’ve already created content on social media involving your brand, ask permission to share it.
6. Develop a referral program.
Speaking of enlisting the help of your existing customers, you can incentivize them by using a referral program. Offer a discount, free gift, or other perk in exchange for them bringing in new customers.
Referred customers are 18% more loyal than those who aren’t and spend 13% more on purchases. Since these new customers will have been referred to you by someone they know, they’re more likely to have a positive customer experience.
7. Advertise with your local chamber of commerce.
If you have a storefront, advertise with your local chamber of commerce.
Each city is different, but you can typically be featured on their website, promoted on their social media channels, and included in their email newsletter for an annual fee.
It’s a great way to get your brand out there and an excellent opportunity to network with fellow small business owners.
Start Marketing Your Business Today
Small business owners looking for a way to track ROI and brand awareness need digital marketing.
Not only is digital marketing a must-have for promoting your products or services, but optimizing your online assets is also critical to your business’ overall success.
You may have a long road ahead to build your online presence, but any steps you can make will have a huge impact on your business.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
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