Long before the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the virtues of online marketing has been touted as a significant method for businesses generally to connect with existing clients and find new ones, increase business visibility to new and existing audiences, engage with customers in real-time and positively affect the business bottom line.
For those small businesses that were online pre-COVID-19, the transition to serve clients during the crisis would have been much more seamless allowing some small businesses to experience unprecedented growth during the lockdowns across the globe.
For others though, the transition may have been so difficult that in some cases it caused a complete slowdown or closure of the business. Now that the imperatives of online is there for everyone to see, small businesses in particular are encouraged to get online NOW!
So, what exactly is online marketing? Online marketing is the process of advertising or bringing awareness of a company’s products, services or brands to existing and potential customers through the internet. Online marketing, done right, drives traffic to the company’s online platforms, boosts visibility and build brand awareness.
Among the more popular methods of online marketing are; the use of social media platforms, hosting a website, content marketing, email marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
The following outlines each method…
- Social Media – According to a survey conducted by smallbiztrends.com, approximately 73% of small businesses use social media marketing. Put that in the context of the following information:
- As of June 2018, Instagram reached 1 billion monthly active users
- In the first quarter of 2020, Facebook had over 2.6 billion monthly active users
- As of the first quarter of 2019, Twitter averaged 330 million monthly active users
- Linkedin has over 575 million users, with more than 260 million monthly active users (Apr. 2020)
- At the end of 2019, Pinterest reported having 322 million monthly active users
Have you digested those numbers yet? Okay, let’s look at it logically. There is no way that all these persons will be your target audience but certainly, there will be a significant percentage of your target audience on one or more of these platforms. Depending on the type of business you operate, select the platform, set-up a business account and begin customer engagement.
The key to success on social media is engagement, useful, attractive and practical content and a following of loyal customers that will evangelize your business. Social media also offers and unique quality in that you can target your business advertising to your specially selected audience.
- Website – A website provides your clients with 24-hour access to your business. It is your storefront (in the case of a commercial business) or front of office (in the case of a service-based business). Your website should articulate in clear language what the business does, who it does it for, what qualifies the company to do this kind of business and more importantly, why a customer should trust your company to conduct business with you. If the website is properly done, the last question will be answered through client testimonials and other facts that can back up your integrity.
For commercial businesses, ecommerce allows the business to operate on autopilot. Imagine, your business is making money while you sleep, or while you are negotiating the next big distribution contract. Regardless of size, having an online interface is critical for businesses.
- Content Marketing/Blogging – One of my absolute favourites, maybe because I am a Content Writer. Blogging is one of the cheapest, most effective ways to get the message about your business in front of your target audience is to produce and share practical, useful content. If you do not have a website, no problem. Sites such as Blogger and WordPress will host your blog for free, providing free templates that accommodate both text and images and allows for building your audience. Use your blog to share information about each of your products and/or services and target the blog to your ideal customer audience. A blog is always best if supported by social media platforms that drive traffic to the blog.
- Email Marketing – Email marketing is one of the best methods to increase your business’s return on investment (ROI). However, with so many messages being sent by so many different businesses, using this same method, it is important to increase your odds with a killer online campaign which helps your message to stand out. Make your email messages stand out by:
- keeping your messages short and simple
- giving your message an appropriate subject line,
- consistently provide useful information
- give the client the option to ‘opt-out’
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – SEO is especially important for small businesses because of the many challenges they face with digital marketing. SBOs have smaller budgets, fewer resources and weaker brand recognition… SEO levels the playing field so that small businesses have an equal opportunity to get found online just as much as their bigger counterparts. SEO is a tactic used by businesses to make their web pages visible to search engines like Google. A webpage with a stronger SEO will appear higher on search engine results. SEO is important for small businesses as most customers now use their mobile phones and search engines to find solutions.