5 steps to successful digital marketing for SMEs

Considering that more than 60 per cent of small businesses fail within three years, catching the eye of your potential customer base with effective digital marketing is absolutely critical for your long-term success.

However, even if you recognise the value of digital marketing, running an entire campaign may seem daunting, complex and expensive. But what if I told you it’s possible to pull off digital marketing from the comfort of your own home, and without blowing your budget?

In fact, all it takes is five simple steps to establish a powerful online presence and start seeing results, without breaking the bank.

A digital marketing campaign is superior to traditional forms of advertising as it is:

• Highly measurable, with features like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights letting you track your campaign efficacy 

• Highly targeted, meaning your marketing efforts can be targeted at the exact type of customer you are trying to convert, unlike billboard or television advertisements, which only allow for a broad-spectrum approach

• A smart allocation of resources, as you decide exactly how much money you want to invest into your marketing efforts

The five steps to digital marketing success are: 

1 Start off with local SEO

Local SEO (search engine optimisation) lays the groundwork for all your future online activity, making it the essential first step to take. Put simply, local SEO provides search engine results that are relevant to the searcher based on their location.

Try Googling ‘best coffee’ and you’ll see Google immediately serves up results in your area. By optimising your business for local SEO, you are more likely to be seen by locals who are already interested in what you provide.

The best thing about local SEO is that it is free and easy. Simply register your business with Google as a business listing and make sure your profile is fully and accurately completed. Then, submit your business to all the relevant local directories, bearing in mind that there might be specialist directories for your industry. It is critical to use the same NAP information (name, address, phone number) on every listing, as this gives Google all the relevant information it needs to provide to customers. If your store has multiple locations, make sure to create a separate listing for each, as this will lead customers to the most convenient location for them. 

The power of local SEO should not be underestimated. Google found that 95 per cent of mobile phone users look up local information on their phones, with the primary purposes being to call or visit a business when they’re out and about. This means local SEO is guaranteed to bring your business new leads, maybe even resulting in customers walking into your store moments after finding you on Google!

There’s no debate about it, local SEO is the first step to take to promote your business digitally, with all of this being possible in just a few minutes, for free, right from your own computer.

2 Get social with organic Facebook

Social media is an essential part of your business’ digital presence, with Facebook still reigning supreme for business advertising. Social proof is a powerful thing, meaning a strong Facebook presence is critical for continued growth.

To do this, start by opening a Facebook business page. Remember that a Facebook profile is only for individuals, while a page is for businesses. Spread the word about your Facebook page by telling friends and customers in person, having a button to your Facebook page on your website, and a link in your email signature. Next, all you have to do is get social!

Start posting relevant content, from sharing useful articles to providing sneak previews of a new product or promoting special offers to garner interest among your audience. For a detailed understanding of organic (i.e. free) Facebook marketing, read through Facebook’s simple guide.

Facebook allows you to generate free traffic to your website, muster up engagement and track your progress with the Insights feature. Building a fanbase on Facebook puts powerful momentum behind any of your future marketing or promotion efforts, and keeps your business at the forefront of customers’ minds in a natural way.

Depending on your time constraints and comfort level with social media, you can conduct organic Facebook marketing yourself or hire a professional.

3 Show off your reviews

How many times have you bought a product or hired a contractor without reading reviews on them? Never? That’s what I thought. Ninety-seven per cent of customers read online reviews, meaning clever utilisation of reviews can help your business be seen by the majority of consumers looking for a particular product or service. 

Generating reviews on Google, Facebook or an industry directory is not easy, as some customers may not have the digital literacy to do this themselves, or may simply be too pressed for time. To make leaving a review as easy as clicking a button, consider using a generator that can provide a QR code or link that you can easily distribute to customers via email, your website or even at your counter, making it effortless for them to leave a review.

Social proof will always be more powerful than a marketing campaign, with 73 per cent of people saying positive reviews make them trust a local business more. Ensure potential customers can trust your business by encouraging previous customers to leave (hopefully) glowing reviews.

4 Tap into content marketing

There’s a reason why they say content is king. While ‘content marketing’ may seem like an intimidating phrase, it is actually very doable for SMEs. Content marketing describes the strategic use of blogs, infographics, e-books and other online content that suits the nature of your business.

Work with the format that works best for your business, be it visual, written or another form of media. A financial broker may be best off providing informative blog articles, while a homewares store will benefit from a gorgeous Instagram feed. Identify the problems or questions your customers might have, and find the most effective way of presenting solutions.

Effective content marketing shows off your expertise and builds trust among your customer base, making them more likely to turn to you for products or services. Content reigns supreme because it draws customers in, rather than bombarding them with unwanted ads. 

Depending on your resources and ability to create varied content, you can do this yourself or outsource the creative work.

5 Launch paid campaigns with great offers

Ready to take your digital marketing to the next level? Start investing in paid campaigns according to what you can afford and the platform that best suits you. While the term ‘paid campaign’ sounds complicated, every SME should conduct some degree of paid promotion.

If Facebook is where most of your audience is, try targeting the audiences of related industries or your competitors with smart utilisation of the ‘target audience’ feature on Facebook Ads. This means any advertising campaign or boosted post you activate on Facebook will reach an audience that is already likely to be interested in your company. A florist, for example, may want to target the fans of a popular wedding planner, as their customers will be looking for related services.

Another type of paid campaign that may work better for some is AdWords. Tradies, for example, will want to make sure their services rank highly on Google, for which AdWords is highly effective. Keep your expenditure low by only targeting suburbs that are 10km from where you are based, and lead customers to a powerful landing page.

Most SMEs can afford a small amount of paid campaigning, which allows you to gain leads in a targeted and cost-effective way. If running a paid campaign on your own seems too difficult, consider enlisting the help of a digital marketing agency that can provide a comprehensive, multi-faceted digital marketing strategy.

Don’t rely on outdated advertising methods like print and TV to promote your business. In the words of management coach Marshall Goldsmith, ‘What got you here won’t get you there!’ Businesses of all sizes can adopt the above five tips to increase leads, promote brand awareness and increase their likelihood of long-term success, all for a minimal cost.

Hardy Desai is the co-founder of Supple. www.supple.com.au