Starting a business is never easy, especially if it’s your first time doing so. Even once you’ve figured out the basics — taxes, supply chain logistics, and staffing — there’s still the matter of business growth. What can you do to stand out in a hypercompetitive market where everyone’s attention is constantly divided?
It’s not like that’s a question you can afford to ignore, either. Unless you have a clear marketing strategy, your chances of business success are about the same as your hopes of winning the lottery. With that in mind, here are twelve essential digital marketing tips for new business owners.
Know Your Audience
It may seem counterintuitive, but your business is not the most important part of your marketing. That honor goes to your customers. Particularly in the wake of the pandemic, most people are sick and tired of dealing with brands that treat them as little more than walking wallets.
Modern buyers want businesses that understand who they are, what they value, and the problems they need to solve. They want personalization and transparency. They want to work with brands that actually seem to care.
Audience research is, therefore, the first step in any successful marketing venture. You need to know who your customers are and what they want, lest your marketing messages fall flat. To that end, there are a few places you can look:
- Competitor’s social media channels. Look for common traits shared by the most active users.
- Industry research. Publications from analysts and agencies such as Pew Research, Mckinsey, and Brandwatch may prove invaluable in learning more about your audience.
- Your metrics. Social and website analytics provide at least basic information about your most engaged users.
- Customer surveys. The most valuable insights come directly from your customers — provided you can incentivize them to answer honestly and enthusiastically.
Establish a Clear Brand Identity
Once you know your customers, you must determine who you are. You need a consistent brand identity that resonates with your target demographic. This is the foundation of every marketing campaign you will ever run and every piece of content you will ever create.
A brand’s identity consists of the following:
- Mission. Why did you start your business? What problems did you want to solve?
- Values. If your brand’s mission is what you want to solve, its values comprise the why and how. They’re your guiding principles and ideals.
- Personality. If your brand were a human being, what would it be like? How would it behave?
- Tone. How you speak is every bit as important as what you say — do you want to be consistently irreverent or reserved and professional?
- Language. This includes common sayings, buzzwords, and phrases. Make sure you use language that aligns with how your audience typically speaks.
- Imagery. This includes colors, logo, font, and any other visual elements associated with your brand. Think carefully about your values, mission, and unique selling points, then consider how you want customers to feel when interacting with you.
Build a Google Business Profile
Your Google My Business Page is one of the most important sources of information about your business on the web. It tells people using the search engine who you are, what you do, and where to find you. More importantly, it gives satisfied customers a public forum to post reviews of your organization and its products.
Fill this out as thoroughly as possible. Include high-quality brand imagery and, if relevant, photos of your head office. Approach this as if you’re a job seeker building a resume or portfolio — because in a way, that’s precisely what you’re doing.
Pick One Social Network to Start With
We’ve all heard that social media is the most powerful marketing tool in any business owner’s arsenal. What a lot of people leave out is that you don’t need to establish a presence on every single social network right away. Doing so could actually be an act of self-sabotage, stretching you so thin that it’s impossible to keep up.
Choose one social network to start with. Don’t just default to Facebook, either. Figure out which social network your customers are likeliest to frequent, and go there.
This is information you should have learned as part of your audience research — and if you didn’t, you need to go back and do that step again.
Don’t Be Afraid to Outsource
If you’re reading this, there’s a greater than zero chance that you’re not a marketing expert. And that’s okay. Most marketing professionals probably have no idea how to do what you do, either.
Too many business owners think they can do everything themselves. But there’s no shame in acknowledging the gaps in your skillset. By acknowledging your shortcomings and hiring digital marketing experts to help, you’re free to focus on doing what you do best as your business continues to grow.
Optimize Your Website
For most customers, your business’s website is the first impression they will ever have of you. Don’t let it be their last. In addition to understanding the basics of search engine optimization (SEO), you must optimize your site for speed, performance, and ease of use. Visitors should effortlessly find everything they’re looking for, no matter what device they’re on.
Brush up on Google’s Core Web Vitals — the key metrics by which Google evaluates site performance.
Study the Competition
Good entrepreneurs learn from their mistakes. Great entrepreneurs learn from the mistakes of others. With that in mind, look at your competitors. Examine their branding, marketing, social media presence, and website.
Then, ask yourself the following questions:
- What are they doing right?
- What are they doing wrong?
- What do they have that I don’t?
- What do I have that they don’t?
- Are there any gaps in their marketing materials or product portfolio that I could leverage?
- What are the core elements of their brand identity?
Plan Out a Content Calendar
Content is king. You’ve probably heard that saying so frequently that it’s lost all meaning. Thing is, there’s a reason people repeat it so often, though.
Because it’s true. Strategic and properly-targeted content is invaluable. A well-executed inbound marketing campaign can have an enormous impact on exposure, awareness, and website traffic.
Think carefully about the kind of content you want to publish, and consider how and where you’ll promote that content. Focus on what your audience wants and what will resonate with them based on what you know of their needs. Brainstorm a few core subjects — three to five should be enough to start with.
For each of those subjects, brainstorm as many topics as possible. Next, use a keyword research tool – Try Google’s Keyword Planner or Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest to assess the viability of each topic. You’re looking for content that will let you place reasonably high on the search engine results page while also generating a decent amount of traffic.
Finally, plan your content calendar, focusing on the days and times your audience is most active. Remember that consistency is key for inbound marketing. Quality content will show returns as long as you publish at the same time and on the same days each week.
Find Partners and Influencers
Not everyone in your industry is a competitor. There are many organizations with which you could form a mutually-beneficial business partnership. Similarly, there’s no shortage of thought leaders and influencers on social media who might be willing to work with you and promote your products and services.
The best advice we can give here is to do your homework. Figure out the most trusted names in your field, and look for businesses that serve the same demographic as you. When proposing a partnership of any kind, focus on what you can do for your partner rather than the other way around.
About 15 years ago I reached out to Tom Reynolds with The Reynolds Group via email to see if he’d like to connect and told him that I offered a service he didn’t offer. We’d never met before. That relationship has turned into more than a quarter of a million dollars in revenue for Emarketed.
Measure, Assess, Iterate
No matter what tools you’re using to build your website and what social network you’ve chosen for your marketing efforts, you’ve several powerful analytics tools at your disposal. Use them. Figure out your key performance indicators, and measure them over time, course correcting as necessary.
Note that your KPIs will vary based on your objective.
Do you want to generate awareness? Increase site traffic? Improve sales? Measuring progress towards each of these goals requires a different set of metrics.
Invest in Paid Ads
While growing your business entirely through organic marketing is possible, that doesn’t mean it’s your only option. From sponsored content on Facebook to PPC ads on Google, investing in a few properly targeted advertising spots can generate an enormous return. The key phrase there, of course, is properly targeted.
If the wrong people see an advertisement, then its quality doesn’t matter, nor does it matter how much time and effort you put into its creation. The ad won’t catch their attention, and you might as well flush your advertising dollars down the drain.
Build an Email List to Keep Your Customers Engaged
Plenty of people take a dim view of email marketing, viewing the format as a means of business communication at best and a delivery vessel for spam at worst. Thing is, that assessment is neither fair nor accurate. Leveraged effectively, email is an incredibly valuable tool for audience engagement.
Abandoned cart emails can help you recapture lost leads. An email newsletter can keep your most loyal customers apprised of industry news. Seasonal marketing emails can bring in extra sales during special offers and promotional periods, while email surveys can give you even more information about your customers.
What we’re saying here is simple. Never underestimate the value of a curated mailing list. We’ll review how you can build, manage, and maintain one next time. For now, you’ve enough advice to give you a decent starting point.
It’s time to see for yourself what you can do.