Small businesses have fewer number of employees and begin as local start-ups, with little capital. For these types of companies, print and digital marketing can be a luxury they can’t afford. Unlike established companies, smaller companies must manage branding, sales promotion, public relations and advertising on a budget.
This is what has given rise to the dominant use of online marketing solutions and the overall adoption of digital marketing tools. The process is affordable, digital strategies are easy to employ and the approach is targeted. From your own desk you can operate a business that can offer services nationally, or internationally. However, what has really turned the tables is the increasing awareness of digital media (and marketing) which has opened up the field for small and medium businesses.
Therefore, traditional digital marketing trends have dim chances of survival as social interaction in the digital world is quickly picking up pace. A website that allows visitors to connect, share, favorite, comment and tag their interests ends up engaging more visitors and turning them into customers and leads.
Some of the most popular social media platforms used by small businesses for company branding and online marketing are Facebook (of course), Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus. Others include Tumblr, Reddit, Pinterest, but these are only limited in their ability to reach a wide global audience (based on number of active subscribers).
When it comes to establishment of brand image and credibility, it seems that the digital world is doing a great job. More and more entrepreneurs are beginning to understand that setting up a business on the World Wide Web is as essential as it is to launch it in the real world (if there really is a tangible difference anymore). This literally means owning a website and generating traffic/attracting subscribers on it to spread the word. A typical owner of a small business is usually his own boss (otherwise where’s the fun in being an entrepreneur?), his own webmaster/site architect/website coordinator, and his own online marketing consultant. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Unless he misses some of the essential digital products to use for his business.
So are you really doing it right?
This key concept here is inbound marketing, with a plethora of marketing tools that can be explored. Most online marketing consultants will have listed these down for you (depending on your current stage of business). For the digital age, this is what the small business really needs in order to make its mark online.
Company branding in the online world (as opposed to print and broadcast media) is not as simple as posting an ad and expecting to generate sales. Ever more (small) business owners share that the reason they choose social networking platforms, blogs and webinars to establish the face of their brand, is because these allow you to build networks (of followers, friends, partners and future leads). Not only does this increase brand awareness, it forms a consolidated customer base, and the opportunity to maintain sustained customer relationships.
From picking a name to choosing suitable digital advertising, and from promotion to achievement of targets (business leads, sales etc.), brand marketing is one busy task online!
Some of the online marketing services that reputable branding companies will offer you to use are:
1. Social networking (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
2. Blogs/Infographics/Tagging (Website, WordPress, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit)
3. Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing
4. Content Marketing (custom content creation)
5. Pay per click campaigns
6. Webinars and shows
7. Document sharing/ crowdsourcing
9. Mobile Strategies
While these are the more ubiquitous strategy tools, some meticulously designed online marketing solutions work remarkably for small businesses. These include: eCommerce solutions, paid online ads (on search engines, mobile apps, mobile communication, Email and SMS marketing/promotion (to follow up on leads).
So, there is ample room for growing your marketing strategy into one that fully encapsulates digital markets. Over the past couple of years, the proportion of small/local businesses using social media for brand management and as their primary online marketing tool has grown to over 87% (in 2013). Even though the proportion may seem overwhelming, there can be a number of reasons that put Facebook and Twitter on top of all other social media fora (which are also free and as easy to access as the California based social networking giant).
With well over a billion active users, Facebook is pervasive. There is immense data on customers, leads and other businesses that allows entrepreneurs to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Twitter, the number one micro-blogging site, also allow promotional content for business generation.
But merely having access to social networks is of little use if it isn’t being used to generate sales. A social media profile makes no appreciable difference to your following unless it is being placed at the center of the market. An online marketing agency will tell you the tricks of the trade: how to use Facebook advertising services (promotional campaigns) that effectively promote your content/business page to the right end user, and how to create your brand image on Twitter.
Not only do online marketing consultants manage your brand well, they also protect your online business presence from being hurt. That’s right, in the digital world, you can never let your guard down. Scores of business pages online are hacked every now and then (Official accounts of Newsweek, Crayola, Taylor Swift, Delta Airlines serve as recent examples of hacked Facebook/Twitter accounts).
The objectives of a good online business are not limited to generation of sales, but inculcate customer engagement, identification of customer insights and exploration of new market segments to reach higher productivity levels. This is what separates one business from another, where both are using the same social media strategies we are all so used to. Online marketing success must be measured in terms of leads generated, network of followers, search engine ranking, and brand image, all of which is possible with a few smart clicks online!