So where do you begin? There is a lot of advice out there, good and bad, and many people who will promise you big returns for large sums of money that you likely don’t have at the moment.
Well, since you’re reading this article, it's likely you are looking for free advice on how to go it alone. AllBusiness.com is one of the first websites where I learned the ins and outs of marketing, and now that I write for it, I thought I would put together a little free advice to help get you started (or hopefully at least motivated).
The state of digital marketing
Marketing in the digital age has taken on a decidedly new form than the marketing tactics of the past. A competent and effective online marketing strategy is now a major component of success for many businesses. But it’s also true that you may have put less energy into those digital strategies because your business was moving along just fine. Coronavirus and the advent of mass “stay at home” orders, however, might have you rethinking your internet marketing plans.
Of course, the importance of online marketing in the age of coronavirus cannot be overstated. Many of us have found ourselves relegated to home offices, trying to conduct business in an unusual method. We can no longer rely on the traditional marketing tactics that got us where we are.
You may also simply want to cultivate a new skill so that you will be able to cast a wider net and bring in more customers. Digital marketing strategies are the same, regardless of the presence of a global pandemic. So if you’re just starting out, let’s take a look at some of the basics of digital marketing to provide a solid framework.
Find out what your customers like and who they are
If you run an even moderately successful business, then you must be doing something right. There’s a reason you attract new customers and keep existing ones around, even if you don’t have much of a web presence.
A great place to start your foray into digital marketing is by finding out exactly what keeps those customers coming back to you. Is it your products and services? Your location? Your level of customer service? Or a combination of all that and more?
"More important, you should try to understand exactly how your company fills the needs of your clients. What are they looking for when they call you up or enter your storefront? Understanding who your customers are and what they want out of your business can help you build a profile of a “target customer.”
Once you know who your target customer is, you will want to zero in on that demographic with your digital marketing strategy. After all, if you simply decide to wing it in regard to online marketing, you’re less likely to get a good return on your investment.
Focus on creating good content
Content marketing is one of the best and least expensive ways to start your digital marketing strategy. It’s possible you already have an existing website or social media profile where you can start creating and disseminating content. But you may also have to start from scratch.
If you have a website or plan on building one, it’s always a good idea to have it packed full of helpful and informative content. Blogs are a common content-delivery method, and they can prove effective for bringing in new leads and clients.
In fact, according to HubSpot, small businesses that operate an active blog generate 126% more leads than small businesses without one. Of course, it’s not enough to simply have a blog on your website on which you upload a few paragraphs every week. The content has to provide value to the reader. Let them in on some of your expertise or identify how to mitigate problems associated with your industry.
Blogs aren’t the only methods for launching a digital content marketing campaign. Although they are great places to start, there are a few other options to consider, including:
Ebooks, white papers, and case studies: Ebooks and the like are great options for delivering a large quantity of knowledge about a particular subject or subjects to interested parties. More than that, they are great for creating leads. Many businesses offer ebooks in exchange for a visitor’s contact information, giving you inroads into making conversions over time.
Guest posts: Guest posts are similar to standard blog posts except that the content appears on another website or blog and simply links back to yours. It’s a good strategy, because it takes advantage of built-in audiences that are likely already interested in the topics and issues addressed by your business.
Videos: Video content has become popular as more and more people flock to video platforms like YouTube. While creating videos might be out of your range of expertise right now, it’s important to keep it in mind as your business and content marketing strategies grow.
For the most part, you want to avoid actively selling to people through your content. The goal is always to create a community that brings people back and keeps people interested in what you have to say.
Sites with well-written, informative content that make use of common search engine optimization (SEO) tactics often rank high in relevant Google searches. With the right keywords and topics, you can help drive traffic to your website, building a database of leads and ultimately conversions.
Don’t neglect paid advertising
While it may be enticing to just build your brand on your own website or social media profile, you can’t rule out other forms of digital marketing that cost money. One of the more common forms of paid advertising is Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords). These ads often appear at the top of any relevant Google searches, and they are paid for by the businesses themselves.
Google’s platform works on a pay-per-click (PPC) model that only charges you when an individual actually clicks the ad link. This is, again, a great way to drive traffic to your website while also providing you with much needed data and analytics about how many people are clicking your ad links, who they are, and where they’re coming from.
Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others also have similar advertising models. But, if you’re just starting out, you might want to give Google’s platform a try first.
Email marketing serves as a great reminder to customers
Email is a relatively old concept at this point, but it is still an important marketing channel. With email, you can offer deals, announce upcoming products or services, include calls-to-action, and generally keep your brand fresh in the minds of your customers. Email marketing platforms provide all the marketing tools you could want. Obviously, you also need to collect email addresses from clients or prospective customers, which can be done either through in-person sign-ups or online prompts.
Of course, you still want to ensure that any content in your emails is of high quality and that you’re not sending too many emails that might cause potential customers to unsubscribe. The most effective method for getting customers to engage with your emails is message personalization. So, if you decide to use email marketing, make sure that you address clients personally without coming across as an automaton.
Get started now
A quality digital marketing strategy can be an important cog in the success of any business. If you’ve found yourself with a little more time on your hands, then now is the perfect time to dabble in online marketing.
It should be noted, though, that online marketing is a skill that you’ll want to cultivate. You won’t immediately be a master at it, and you should not stop just because you’re not seeing instant results.