Updated: Apr 16, 2021
When small businesses get started, their focus is often on how to get their first group of customers through the door. They may rely on traditional forms of advertising, such as print ads and coupon mailers or even big signs on the side of the road. They may trust that since they know they offer a good product or service, it’s only a matter of time until customers will find their way to them.
While this strategy may bring in a trickle of business, there is a better and easier way. Small businesses should consider the huge marketplace of prospects online. No small business, no matter how new, should overlook this vast marketplace.
Benefits of Online Marketing
The group of potential customers that are found online is a much larger group of people than you are likely to be able to attract locally. Using digital marketing, you can reach an enormous audience in a way that is both cost-effective and measurable.
Other benefits of online marketing include:
The ability to interact with your prospects and learn exactly what they are looking for
The ability to reach a global marketplace
You can save money and reach more customers for less money than traditional marketing methods
Get to know your audience and allow them to know you personally which can help to create brand loyalty
You can track responses to your marketing efforts immediately
Are You Postponing Digital Marketing?
Why would you choose to postpone putting time and effort into digital marketing? Different small business owners may come up with a variety of reasons to avoid this form of marketing, but in the end, procrastination is still procrastination.
Small businesses sometimes believe that they don’t have the time or the money to be competitive online. They think they can only face so many challenges all at once and they are still learning the ins and outs of business in general. Many of them may prefer to take things slowly and to stick with one or two basic forms of advertising, assuming that their business will evolve as time passes.
They may even think the best strategy is simply to wait for customers to show up. Since they are a small business, they may think they only need a small number of customers.
This is not an effective approach. There is never a guarantee that your business will attract customers just by existing and even if it does, you may not attract as many customers as you need to make your business become profitable.
Your Customers Are Online
If you have been avoiding digital marketing, is it because you think you are simply not ready? Do you think you just need some time to get established and then you will figure out the digital marketing angle?
The problem with this approach is that your customers and potential customers are already online. Right now. Today. There’s a good chance they might already be looking for a business like yours, but if they can’t find you easily, they are probably going to choose someone else.
This is how people do business today. When someone has an interest in your business, whether it is in your niche in general or if they are curious about your brand, the first thing they are going to do is research online and see what they can find out about you.
They expect to find you there with a website and a social media presence. They may be looking for reviews so they can learn what other people are saying about your company and whether it is a good place to do business.
If a potential customer can’t find you online, they may conclude that your business doesn’t appear to be legitimate. There is a very good chance that a lot of these prospects may decide not to take your business seriously and they will quickly head somewhere else.
Once they have made that decision, they probably won’t be back.
Your Competitors Are Online
For your business to be successful, you need to pay attention to what your competitors are doing and learn from it.Think of your competitors not just as someone that you are planning to beat, but as people who have something to teach you.
When you look at what your competitors are doing, you will get some idea of what is working and what isn’t working. Most likely, whatever type of business you are in, your competitors have established a web presence. What kind of content are they using? Are they blogging, or are they using a lot of graphics and videos?
How do they communicate their brand and what makes them unique? How well do they engage with the audience? Do you think you can do better? You can’t if you don’t participate in competing in the digital world.
If your prospects begin to search for a business similar to yours and are able to find your competitors’ website but not yours, your business is not even in the running. Your prospects can’t choose you if they don’t know about you. In this scenario, your competitors have just raced ahead of you regardless of whether they have an effective website or a clear message.
Be Accessible to Your Customers
It’s clear that in today’s digital world, the first place the average consumer looks for what they want is online. Whatever product or service they are looking for, they will most likely start their search with Google. If you have no online presence at all, you won’t be found, and you can’t compete.
If you have an online presence but your competitors are easier to find and are found first, you still might not be found at all. Besides creating a website, learning search engine optimization is a strategy that can help you move ahead of your competitors just by being the first name that a prospect finds in a Google search with keywords that can lead them to your business.
Simple questions that your prospects may want quick answers to should be easily discoverable online, such as where you are located, what your hours are and what you specialize in. By looking at your website and your competitors’ websites side by side, your prospects should be able to compare hours, prices, special offers and more.
This is why it’s imperative for you to know what your competitors are up to. Your prospects are already checking both you and your competitors out. They are already comparing you against each other. What are they finding out?
Let Customers Come to You
Think of digital marketing as a way to make yourself accessible to the people you are trying to reach in order to offer your products and services. The scope of your business can reach well beyond your walls. You are able to attract a much larger audience than you possibly could by just catering to local prospects.
By creating a web presence, your business is open for business even when it’s closed. You can create an atmosphere in which your customers can come to you anytime day or night.
At their convenience, customers and prospects can send you emails with questions, make purchases and browse your inventory.Potential customers who have no way to physically come to you can still do business with you, whether they are limited by disability, transportation or simply living too far away.
Get to Know Your Target Audience
Digital marketing allows you to engage with your prospects. You can gradually get to know them and what they are hoping to find.On social media or on a blog you can start a conversation. Run a survey or try to get to know them. Pay attention to their comments or their responses to surveys.
By interacting with people digitally, you can start to get to know what they are looking for. Where is their pain? What is keeping them up at night? What solutions can you offer to them? Instead of trying to guess, digital marketing allows you tools and methods for finding out who your customers really are.
In this way, you start to build a relationship with your customers. You become much more than a business. You become a trusted partner. People are much more likely to buy from businesses that they have already bought from.
Few forms of advertising are as cost-effective as digital marketing. Small businesses frequently try to get as much as possible done on a small budget. Many forms of digital marketing allow you to communicate your brand and reach a wide target audience even when your budget is very tight.
Compared to advertising on TV, radio or through direct mail, digital marketing costs considerably less and reaches a much wider audience at the same time. Using digital marketing to promote your small business will help you to have a much better chance of business success.