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Digital Marketing: a Beginners Guide for Small Business

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There’s something really special about owning your own business. Few things in life will give you quite the thrill and pride of making your own way in this world. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy, by any stretch of the imagination.

It takes a lot of grit and hard work, but starting a small business can be incredibly rewarding. Most of you already have an idea, know your skills, and are looking for the next pieces. So, let’s say that you’ve decided to pull the trigger on starting a small construction company or landscaping business. You might already be offering your services within your own individual network, but how do you get yourself in front of more paying customers?

If you’re like many entrepreneurs, you might have a small business plan already, but the marketing section is likely a little bit thin. But this isn’t anything to worry about. We’re diving into the subject of digital marketing today, and you will likely be able to add this guide to your box of small business tools that can really help get your business off the ground.


Basic Digital Marketing for Beginners

Marketing, at its most basic level, is the act of making the public aware of your products or services. It can take many different forms, each one important for its own purposes. Think of something like a rubber mallet. A rubber mallet is a type of hammer, but you likely wouldn’t use one for a day of hammering regular nails into lumber — you would use a metal hammer, better known as a “claw hammer.”

In this same way, the type of marketing you choose to do really should reflect your own business. But regardless, there is a type of marketing that most companies should be leveraging to maximize their reach. Called “digital marketing,” this is one of the lowest-cost approaches to really grow your business into a long-term powerhouse. Digital marketing for small businesses basically consists of your company’s online footprint. From a website to social media, email marketing, pay-per-click advertising, and a lot more, this is how you will be able to attract the right clientele in the shortest amount of time, with the lowest possible budget.


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Determining Your Goals

When putting together a strategy for digital marketing for beginners, you want to have specific and measurable goals. This might seem like the most obvious step in forming your ultimate strategy, but you would be shocked at how many entrepreneurs overlook this step. They take the generic advice, for instance, that you have to be on every new channel social media platform or medium that comes out, without regard to whether or not anyone who would buy from you is even on that platform.

It all starts with your end goals. The more specific these end goals are, the better. For instance, ask your average entrepreneur who their customers are, and they will say something like “everyone.” Whereas we would all like to think that our products and services are, legitimately, available to everyone who wants to pay us money, in reality, there is going to be a specific group of people, or target demographic, that are going to be the easiest to sell to at first.

For instance, when talking about social media strategy for small business, something like Twitter likely wouldn’t deliver the most results for a janitorial services company, and until you’re a much larger company, something like Twitter would likely be an unproductive waste of your time.

Early on, you want your goals to be “to the point.” For instance, you should set goals for how many calls a month your business gets, or how much traffic you want your website to have — and specify the source of that traffic.

Each business will have its own unique goals. Even two construction companies might be focused on different types of clients. So keep this in mind when formulating your goals.


Where Are Your Customers?

In the beginning, you’re going to need to upload a lot of your own knowledge of your business and industry into your plan. For instance, a Fortune 500 company can spend millions of dollars trying to figure out where their ideal customers are. For you, though, a million dollar budget is likely out of reach. So what can you do?

You know where you have been successful in the past. That’s a great place to start. Think about the common elements of your current paying customers. What do they all have in common? Do they live in a particular area of town? Are they active in their church groups for word of mouth advertising? Maybe some have children in the same school as yours?

Try to think through this as much as you can. When you find the critical factors that are most common in your paying customers now, you have a much better idea of who might purchase your products or services in the future. Then, you can reverse engineer your marketing from there.

For instance, if you see that several jobs have come from a few couples at a particular church in town, you might consider offering a special on your Facebook page to their members. Or, if you’ve had a few remodeling construction jobs in a tennis club, you can then determine the best start point for finding more people who are similar to your current paying customers, and start figuring out how to get your message to those people.

On a side note, there are a lot of small business tools available for digital marketing. Make sure that they’re applicable to your goals as well as to where your customers are before you decide to use them.


Many Roads Available

Once you’ve determined who your ideal customers are, it’s prudent to make a “customer persona” of this individual.

Think of a customer persona as a Facebook profile — you will include their average age, whether or not they’re married, if they have children, their likes and dislikes, and if possible, household income. There can be other factors as well, but these are the basics you start with.

Then, it’s time to create what’s called a “journey map.” Just like a regular map is what you use to physically find your way from Point A to Point B, a customer journey map starts with the possible places a customer could find your digital marketing materials and the contact points necessary to get them to purchase your products or services.

For instance, if a customer persona for a landscaping business might be working professionals aged 40–55, have children, and are very busy, living in residential suburban neighborhoods.

From here, you could then put together their journey map. This person might respond to a Facebook post or article about how outsourcing their yard maintenance could save them a lot of time and stress. This ad or post would direct them to call a number or fill out a contact form. Then, they are in your sales cycle.

You will need to construct several journey maps for each customer persona, so, for the example above, you would then want to create their journey map starting with a Google search. This might seem a bit tedious, but it really pays off. It helps you to cut out the marketing channels that likely will not perform for your business and concentrate your resources on what will deliver paying customers.


Getting Started

Most new entrepreneurs are aware that they need a small business plan. They’re great about putting in the finances, the basics of the company’s products and services, and the other elements that they’re already experts in.

Unfortunately, many of those plans don’t really get into the level of detail needed for success when it comes to digital marketing for small businesses. Just remember that the biggest part of putting together your strategy is to begin with where your customers are located and to find ways to get your message to those people.



Author: Blake Hoffmeyer

Blake is a corporate communications consultant working in the Greater Atlanta area. His specialties are in messaging strategy and tactical implementation of marketing and advertising plans that will work for small businesses. His goal is to spread his knowledge and expertise to help other business owners solve problems without all of the headaches.

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