The online business marketing guide for startups and small business
All startups need an online presence—it’s where you’ll find your customer base. According to the most recent figures, 1.66 billion people shop online each year, and the number is growing. With the vast majority of customers online, business marketing efforts have gone digital to capture them. Optimizing your digital presence is vital to promote your products and services, and build brand awareness.
This article will look at the crucial components every startup needs to build a business marketing strategy that will attract clients and help your company grow. Considering that 40% of U.S. businesses don’t have a website, simply reading this and taking small steps towards improving your online presence gives you an edge over nearly half of the market.
The core components of a successful small business marketing plan
A company with a solid online image has four essential elements. These components all work independently and in conjunction to deliver the brand’s message and value proposition to target potential customers. The four marketing channels are:
- Company website
- Brand blog
- Email marketing strategy
- Company social media accounts
Your startup probably has these elements in place already. Here are actionable tips on how to strategically analyze and optimize these four factors to improve your return on investment (ROI) and attract new clients.
It all starts with a website. A clean, distinctive website that accurately represents your company’s image is one of the top assets a small business can have. A company website is a prospect’s first impression of your brand, its message, what product and services you offer, and if done well, where the relationship builds. Here are ideas on how you can optimize your website.
Polish your brand's identity
A consistent identity is a strong selling point. You don’t want potential customers to get mixed messages from your website—outdated products advertised or varying brand identity messages could lead to mistrust or confusion. To polish your brand’s identity, perform a website audit.
Bring together key personnel and trusted partners to navigate through and analyze all of your company’s web pages, messages, and processes to look for opportunities to update and improve your brand’s public persona. Some areas that may need a closer look or possible updating include:
- The home page: Does the homepage load quickly? Can a customer tell in three seconds or less what the company is about? Is there an easy-to-navigate menu, links, or buttons so customers can find what they want? Does it load properly on different smartphones?
- Company logos and graphics: Does the visual theme of the website flow with the company’s “look”? Are the colors consistent and complementary? Do logos or other graphics need updating?
- Contact page: Is all the contact information correct? Are links working properly? Is there an opportunity to add online chat, or improve online chat with text, video, and screen-sharing capabilities?
- “About us” page and brand proposition: Is your company’s mission statement current and clear? Is any recent press about your startup featured on the site? Are all key personnel featured on your “about us” page?
- Products and services: Are your products and services up to date? Is your e-commerce section simple and easy to navigate?
Making small improvements or tweaks to clean up and upgrade your website could create a better impression on potential clients and convert more visitors into inquiring prospects.
Track your website with analytics tools
Successful online marketing is a two-part process of testing and measuring. To measure the performance of your website, you’ll need analytics tools. Implement Google Analytics. It’s free and will help you track who is looking at your website, what pages they are visiting, and what pages they leave from. You can collect invaluable information about your site visitors from the data provided by Google Analytics.
Boost your Google ranking with SEO
“Build it, and they will come” is no longer a valid axiom when it comes to digital business marketing. More than likely, your target audience searches for information and products using Google. But placing at the top positions of a Google search takes some work and a little knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO).
Google uses many factors to decide on which web pages rank high—and the company doesn’t share all its ranking secrets. But there are some steps you can take to help your company earn a higher Google ranking:
- Include relevant keywords in your website’s copy
- Have fast-loading web pages
- Blog regularly to provide useful information about relevant keywords
Google’s goal is to place the most relevant, highest-quality pieces of content on the first page of its search results. Keep this in mind when optimizing your site.
The Google and SEO discussion relates to your company’s blog and content marketing. One of the top ways to rank higher on Google and capture that portion of the target market share is by setting up a company blog and writing quality articles that include relevant keywords.
But a blog goes beyond attracting new customers. A quality blog keeps existing customers coming back to read more, whether it’s about your company or your overall industry. Consider these ideas:
- Research keywords: Tools like KWFinder can help you find keywords related to your business and target audience. When researching keywords, focus on those with a lower search range. A keyword with millions of monthly searches would be challenging to rank for because of the high competition. Add an extra word or two to make it more specific—this will drop the search volume and make it easier to rank.
- Write optimized blog posts: The more often your desired keywords appear in your quality content, the more likely it is to appear higher in the search results. Make sure you’re using the keywords naturally, without overdoing it. Include them in your H1 and H2 tags. Don’t forget to add them to other places on your website, such as on page titles and the company description.
- Embed video content: Add a fresh look to your blog by including informative video content. Videos may take a bit more effort to produce, but they can set you apart from the competition.
- Publish content consistently: Aim to publish a blog post at least once a week. It will improve your website's visibility and educate your audience about your company. Create a mix of topics that engage and challenge your readers. Industry trends, news, company announcements, and new product arrivals are just a few ideas.
- Add lead-generating calls to action: Ask your visitors to sign up for your company newsletter. Free opt-in plugins are available through most email marketing services, which you can customize and embed on your website.
Customers willing to give you their email address become your most valuable audience as they are open to learning more about your products and services.
Email marketing strategy
Email marketing could be your startup’s most valuable business marketing tool. On average, email marketing has a colossal 4400% ROI. That’s because an email business marketing strategy is free or low-cost and targets an audience willing to provide you with their email address. Here’s how to grow and capitalize on your email list:
- Sign up for an email marketing service: There are a variety of free or low-cost services that can automate your entire email marketing process. They capture leads, offer newsletter templates, schedule your email to be sent, and even provide analytics on the number of customers that opened your company email.
- Write engaging newsletters with short and enticing snippets: Keep your newsletter brief. Consider it more like a journal, featuring short headlines about new blog posts or products, and provide a link to your website or social media pages offering more details.
- Schedule your company emails: You don’t want to bombard your prospects with too many emails, but you want to engage them regularly to keep them informed. You’ll have to decide what the right number of emails is best for your audience through trial and error. As a general guideline, aim for a weekly email.
Company social media accounts
Social media has evolved from a personal platform for friends and family to a viable business marketing tool. Used in conjunction with a website, blog, and email marketing campaign, social media marketing can improve your search engine rank and grow your customer list. Here’s how to optimize your company’s social media strategy:
- Grow your local visibility using Yelp: If a local customer base is crucial to your small business, this user-generated review platform can increase your company’s visibility locally. You can claim your business on Yelp free of charge and customize your company’s profile to start receiving reviews.
- Go where your target audience hangs out: Facebook may be the largest social media platform, but others have their own audience. Perform some market research to determine who your primary customer is. If you have a large female customer base, Pinterest may be a worthwhile area of focus. Younger customers are hanging out these days on Snapchat and TikTok. Instagram or Twitter users respond to more frequent posts or images over copy.
- Use social media as a customer service tool: Encourage followers to direct message or comment questions or other customer service issues to your social media platforms. Your startup will publicly appear as more responsive and transparent. Be sure you have an employee tasked with monitoring and replying to all customer questions and requests promptly.
Small business marketing is an ongoing process
As business marketing changes and evolves, so should your digital marketing plan. Any steps you can make to improve your online presence and your users’ experience will return positive results for your startup.
Make gradual changes and give it time to build momentum. Measure the results along the way and adapt, keeping what works and building on your small successes. See your business marketing plan as a long-term strategy and ever-evolving process that needs regular attention. You’ll be top of mind with your customers and ahead of your competitors.