Whether you run an ecommerce business or traditional brick-and-mortar store, digital marketing has become essential for any and all businesses. With the constant growth and popularity of different technologies, social media platforms, and online-based communication, it’s more important than ever that business owners invest in the right digital marketing strategies to promote their brands and remain competitive in the marketplace.
As a busy entrepreneur, however, you may be wondering where to start with this form of small business marketing. Luckily, we’re here to help. We’ve compiled 12 of the best digital marketing tips—with advice from professionals experienced in the industry.
Trying to craft a digital marketing strategy can be difficult—after all, digital marketing encompasses so many different facets of the online world. It’s important to remember, however, that your business doesn’t need to try to cover all of the areas of digital marketing. On the other hand, it’s very likely you’ll be more successful focusing on a few strategies (especially when you’re just starting out) and seeing how they work for your business.
With this in mind, whether you’re a startup, established business, or simply a digital marketing beginner, you can refer to the following digital marketing tips to help promote your business online.
There’s no doubt about it, mobile marketing has become more relevant than ever—with more and more consumers browsing and making purchases using their smartphones or tablets. Although investing in mobile-specific marketing can require a significant investment, especially if you’re just starting out in digital marketing, you can take the first step by ensuring that your business’s website is optimized for mobile.
Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com sums up this tip succinctly, saying:
“Make sure you have an updated, mobile-friendly website that is easy for users to navigate across all devices and has a modern, clean design.”
Luckily, most website builders, like Squarespace or Wix, as well as dedicated ecommerce platforms, like Shopify and BigCommerce, have done the hard work for you. These tools typically offer themes and templates that are already mobile-friendly. Therefore, all you have to do is ensure that you’re using one of these templates and as you add or change your website, check to see how things look and function on a mobile device.
Moreover, if you’ve already paid for a website builder or ecommerce platform, this will be an extremely low-cost digital marketing tip. You’ll only need to spend additional money if you want to invest in a paid theme or utilize other non-included tools.
One of the simplest (and free) digital marketing tips we can share is to create a “Google My Business” listing. If you’re unfamiliar with this listing, simply perform a Google search of a business (as we’ve done in the example below). As you can see, on the right-hand side, there’s a listing with basic information about the business, including the address, hours, phone number, link to the website, and more.
This listing, called a Google My Business listing, is an extremely useful way to provide potential or current customers with essential information about your business. To edit the listing, all you have to do is claim your listing (if one already exists) or create one for your business.
Once you’ve completed your listing, you have a lasting digital marketing strategy at work through Google—don’t forget, though, if any of this information about your business changes, you’ll want to update your listing to reflect those changes.
In fact, you can refer to our guide to learn more about how to optimize your Google My Business listing.
As you likely know, a key to marketing, in general, is understanding your customers: Who are they? What are their likes, dislikes, preferences? What do they respond to?
This same principle applies to digital marketing. In order to have a successful digital marketing strategy, you not only need to understand your customers, but also who your customers are online. To this point, your target audience for digital marketing might be a little different than your target audience for word of mouth or direct mail marketing.
As an example, if you run a local brewery that also ships and distributes around the country, your digital marketing efforts might be more focused on the audience you don’t normally reach with your brick-and-mortar location. In this case, you’ll want to understand your non-local target audience and what strategies will be more likely to reach them and encourage them to interact and purchase from your business.
Of course, your audiences might overlap, depending on your individual business, but it’s important to remember that different customers are more active on different platforms as well—the audience you’re trying to reach on Instagram might not necessarily be the same one you’re marketing to through email—so you’ll want to research and implement your tactics accordingly.
Jumping off our last tip, if your business operates in a local market, you’ll want to take advantage of the digital marketing strategies that specifically appeal and relate to that audience.
In addition to creating a Google My Business listing, you can also claim and edit your business listing on other local search directories, like Yelp or Bing places for business. Similarly, you can consider other local marketing strategies, such as:
Although some of these strategies fall a little outside the realm of digital marketing, you can easily tie them in by including your business’s website and social media handles on any materials or information you give out around your local community.
Content marketing is just one facet of digital marketing as a whole—but if done right, it can make a huge impact on your ability to attract customers and drive sales. This being said, one of the simplest ways to get involved in content marketing is to create a blog on your business’s website.
On your blog, you can write about topics related to your business, showing your expertise and providing helpful information—both of which will drive people to your website, as well as help your search rankings.
As Nellie Akalp, CEO of CorpNet.com, told us:
“Our digital marketing efforts took a turn for the best when we implemented strong content marketing efforts across the board. If you’re looking to boost your online efforts, try starting with a blog for your business. Play with your keywords to optimize for SEO, and even tap into industry influencers to contribute posts and share with their communities.”
Moreover, this is one of the best free digital marketing tips—as you don’t necessarily have to spend money to promote your content. If the content you develop is good, it will naturally rank in the search engines—plus, you always have the option to share it organically on social media for wider circulation.
Just like content marketing, social media marketing is another offshoot of the larger realm of digital marketing—and an important one at that. After all, small business marketing statistics show that 74% of consumers rely on social media to guide purchasing decisions.
This being said, however, social media is complicated, always changing, and can require much more effort than you might think. Therefore, instead of trying to excel on all social media platforms, you might try this low-cost digital marketing tip: Determine the social media channel that’s best for your business and focus your energy there.
As an example, if you’re starting an online boutique, you might find that Instagram (with an emphasis on images) is the social media platform that’s most likely to be successful for your digital marketing strategies, as opposed to Facebook or LinkedIn. All in all, this doesn’t mean you should exclude other channels, but especially when you’re starting out, you might decide to focus on a single platform that appeals to your ideal customer and test different tactics.
Plus, by zeroing in on a single channel, it’s much easier to use social media marketing as a way to connect and interact with customers, instead of simply overwhelming them with ads and promotional content. As Evan M. Cobb, Director of Digital Strategy at Digital Peak Management, points out:
“Most small businesses make the mistake of using social media to blast their followers with promotions. Research shows this may actually turn consumers off and make them tune out your posts. However, if you put the ‘social’ aspect in your digital marketing and provide valuable content to your target audience, they will be much more likely to pay close attention to the few promotions that you mix in there.”
One of the best and completely free digital marketing tips? Encourage customers to leave online reviews and moderate your business’s profile on review sites.
Similar to claiming your business listing on Google or another local site, you can claim your business profile on review sites, including Yelp, TrustPilot, and others. You can use signage in your location and links on your website or in your emails to encourage your customers to write reviews of your business.
Then, you’ll want to monitor your reviews and quickly respond to any reviews that are negative. Ideally, you’ll want to try and maintain a rating of four stars or above.
All of this being said, ultimately, the wins you can gain from this tactic are twofold. First, you can continue to build a rapport and interact with existing customers, and second, you can use their reviews to attract and influence other potential customers to visiting or purchasing from your business.
Email is one of the most effective digital marketing tactics out there. Whether they’re consumers or business buyers, and no matter what their age, just about everyone checks their email.
Therefore, to take advantage of the possibilities of email, the first thing you’ll want to do is build a reliable email list. Email marketing is great, but isn’t worth nearly as much if you don’t have the right people to email. If you don’t currently have an email list, there are a variety of lead generation strategies that you can employ to start collecting information (including email addresses) about existing and potential customers.
After you have a solid email list, then you can start using it to your advantage. You might begin by creating a monthly email newsletter or sending out regular messages with special offers, news, and discounts.
Depending on the way you gather your email list and the platform you use to send emails, this is another extremely low-cost digital marketing tip—and one that will continue to be useful as you build on it.
Consult our guide to learn more about building an effective email marketing strategy.
Although some of the digital marketing tips we’ve reviewed thus far involve organic SEO and social media strategies, it’s important to remember that these tactics have limits. Most notably, the competition and influx of promotions and posts can make standing out in the digital sphere difficult, especially for startups or beginners.
Therefore, if you’re willing to spend a little money, it’s worth looking into digital advertising—whether on social media, on Google, or on other websites—to ensure that your business is getting in front of the right audience. With any of these digital advertising options, you’ll have the ability to choose the right keywords, target your specific audience, and hone in on those prospective customers who are most likely to want what you sell.
Along these lines, you can use digital advertising to target customers in your local area, in a specific age range, in a niche market, and more. As an example, if you decide to advertise on Facebook, you’ll be able to use the Facebook Ads platform—which allows you to get very granular about where you place your ads and who sees them.
Plus, after you get started advertising through different digital channels, you’ll then be able to take advantage of the retargeting tools offered by many of these platforms. With retargeting tools, you’ll be able to show your ads specifically to consumers who have already interacted with or purchased from your business—as well as increase the personalization that’s involved with your digital marketing and advertising strategies.
As we’ve mentioned throughout this guide, it can be useful to invest in low-cost and free digital marketing tips, especially when you’re just starting out. To this point, although marketing is essential to drawing in and attracting customers, it can be difficult to devote a large budget to these efforts.
Therefore, creating a marketing and advertising budget is essential—and as you draft this budget, you’ll want to think carefully about where you devote your funds. For example, as we mentioned above, digital advertising can be a great way to reach your target audience, however, this type of small business advertising costs money and it can easily become expensive, especially if you don’t go about it in the right way.
This being said, as you try to decide where to allot spend for your digital marketing efforts, it may be helpful to start with the basics and go from there. The “basics” might include things like launching and optimizing your business website, setting up your social media profiles, and building an email list.
Once you’ve completed the necessary tasks to establish your digital presence—and spent money (if necessary) to do so—then you can start branching out and investigating other tactics that might require more budget.
When you’re operating in the digital world, it can be easy to feel disconnected from others and forget the customer service practices that you would adhere to if you were interacting with consumers in-person. Customer service, however, is a crucial part of digital marketing—and can be a determining factor in attracting (and perhaps more importantly) retaining customers.
So, if you’re looking to implement excellent customer service through your digital platforms, you might start by creating a contact page on your website where customers can find out how to contact you. Then, you’ll want to be sure to respond thoroughly and promptly to any requests, questions, or comments you receive from customers.
Additionally, you might decide to invest in a chatbot service, which can be a particularly useful customer service tool for ecommerce businesses, as well as larger established businesses.
Moreover, once you’ve determined how you’re going to implement customer service digitally, then you can include these offerings as part of your value proposition. When you market your company online, you can provide information about your customer service—making your business more approachable and desirable for potential customers.
Finally, the last of our top digital marketing tips is perhaps one of the most significant: Don’t be afraid of trial and error—monitor your digital marketing strategies and change or adapt them as necessary. It’s important to remember that not all of your tactics will be successful, but that doesn’t mean you’ve failed—it simply means you’ve discovered what doesn’t work.
A large part of your online marketing efforts will involve testing and trying new things in order to determine what works for your business.
As an example, you might launch a Facebook ads campaign for a new product you’re launching and find that it doesn’t do nearly as well as you hoped. With these learnings, you can decide how you can edit or change the campaign next time, or, you might find that Facebook isn’t the best platform for that type of campaign.
As Matt Rissell, CEO of TSheets, told us:
“The best way to grow your small business is to never become complacent and always be testing. Identify your customers’ needs, test your hypothesis in paid ads, iterate, and test again.”
At the end of the day, these digital marketing tips should give you a place to start when it comes to promoting your business online.
This being said, don’t forget that not all strategies will work for all businesses, so you shouldn’t be afraid to think outside the box and test out something that you think will be successful for your business. Similarly, remember our final tip—and don’t be afraid to try something and scrap it if it doesn’t work.
Digital marketing, and the digital landscape in general, are always changing, so your strategies are apt to change too.
Rieva Lesonsky is a contributing writer for Fundera.
Rieva has over 30 years of experience covering, consulting and speaking to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs. She covers small business trends, employment, and leadership advice for the Fundera Ledger. She’s the CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company specializing in small business and entrepreneurship. Before GrowBiz Media, Rieva was the editorial director at Entrepreneur Magazine.