Just before I started college, I had a dream to sell headphones online. I researched potential wholesaling opportunities, set up a Wix page, paid for online ads… and nothing happened. I ran with it for a couple of months, and waited and watched for some movement—any movement—and nothing happened. I finally decided to give up when I finally started college because I felt like I couldn’t keep pouring money down the drain. Not to mention, I was completely unaware of other marketing strategies I could’ve taken that could’ve boosted my advertising efforts. As a small business owner back then, I couldn’t make online marketing work because I didn’t realize that there’s so much more to it than having a nice website and buying ad space. Now, after having worked in the digital marketing industry for a few years, here is my advice for the best online marketing for small business.
Build A Community On Social Media
I started my career in digital marketing working for a local car dealership. The dealership had passed through three generations of family owners and was a staple of that small community. One of the former owners who still had a connection with several of his past clients would often pop in the store to visit customers and would even organize a yearly off-road trip for Jeep owners. When I asked him why he’d take such an active role in getting to know his clients and their families, he told me, “The sale doesn’t end once the customer drives off with the car.” He went on to explain that a dealership will often make more in servicing the vehicle for its lifetime than in the initial sale. Taking the time to build a bond with his clients helped them to feel like they were part of a community. It’s not always possible to manage face-to-face contact with your clients, but you can start building your community through a strong organic social media strategy.
Many clients take the first step in considering a purchase by looking online at your reviews and your social media feeds. This is a critical moment for small businesses to woo the customer and land the sale. A strong brand voice on your social media channels can stand out from the competition and act as a siren call to attract clients. But as this wise car dealer once told me, the sale doesn’t end there. The next step is to keep them engaged in your brand environment and become a lifelong fan. On your social media channels, you can create polls, give tips, ask questions, increase newsletter subscriptions, and other methods to get your audience involved. One real estate client of mine even uses their social media channels to promote an online scavenger hunt through their app! There are limitless possibilities to build your brand through a strong organic social strategy.
Create a Mobile-Friendly Site
Another one of our best online marketing tips for small businesses is to make sure that your audience has a good website to land on when using their mobile device. Have you ever clicked on a website link and backed off once you realize that you had to pinch in to see? What about when you had to flick the screen back and forth to be able to read the whole webpage? The mobile internet age is here, and website expectations are changing constantly. In the first quarter of 2020, over 51% of all worldwide web traffic came from mobile devices. It’s crucial to have a flexible website that delivers a good experience across different browsers and different devices. Your website needs to work for someone using Chrome on an iPad, on a smartphone using Brave, and for Grandma using Internet Explorer on her desktop.
Patience is a(n Annoying, but Important) Virtue
Listen—as fun as community building can be and as interesting it can be to build a mobile website, marvelous sales won’t come in overnight. This is a hard thing to hear, and it’s a hard thing to tell others, but it’s a reality check everyone needs. It’s important to temper expectations and allow your ad campaigns time to grow. It can take 2-3 months to turn impressions into add-to-carts and sales, and it can take even longer to develop a strong revenue flow.
One of my colleagues at Set Fire Creative recently wrote on the importance of patience, and I was inspired by one thing he said: “If you don’t have any sales in the first month, that doesn’t mean that you’ve been throwing your money away. The first month is often dedicated to ad testing, data collection, and to better understand your audience.” I was too quick to give up my dream of selling headphones because I didn’t understand how the marketing funnel worked, and I didn’t realize that I needed to up my game by collecting data and testing ads instead of blindly hoping that an ad would deliver sales.
As a marketing coordinator at Set Fire Creative who is always trying to make the most out of my small business clients’ budget, I try to stick to the best online marketing strategies for small businesses. As we look for opportunities to make their online marketing click with their target audience, I counsel all business owners to start by building an online community, staying mobile forward, and being patient as a foundation for success. If you need any help with online marketing for your small business, be sure to reach out to Set Fire Creative today for a free consultation.
Matthew is a Brand Strategist who has a passion for learning, and for improving the world around him. He does this by helping share the stories small businesses have to share and building bonds between businesses and communities. He’s currently working through a movie marathon of all the Academy Awards Best Picture winners.