In this day and age, anyone who owns a business should know the importance of growing their brand online. Without good web design, SEO, sales strategy, and social media platforms, it becomes hard to keep up with all of the competitive businesses out there.
This is because digital marketing is now a vital part of any small business that wants to become and remain successful. When you’re limited on time and budget, it’s hard to know if the most important small business website best practices are worth it.
So, what’s a busy entrepreneur to do?
We know it can be difficult to be able to discern what’s worth your time and money and what’s not.
Below, we’re providing our 20 top tips when growing your business online in 2020.
Social Media Specific:
1. Be Flexible
It’s crucial to be flexible when you’re running a social media strategy. While it’s certainly easier to stick to a rigid schedule of creating and scheduling content automatically, there must be an element of flexibility for it to perform its best.
By switching things like post frequency, targeting options, and content type, you’ll be able to find what elicits the best response and engagement among your audience. You should also be able to react when relevant news stories break and events occur. You don’t need to spend every waking moment on ‘the Gram’ waiting to pounce on something relevant, but you should stay in the loop and have a team that can handle last-minute priorities.
Being involved in what’s happening in the here-and-now is a great way to relate your brand to the world.
2. Engage, Engage, Engage
It’s incredibly important for businesses today to connect with their audience authentically. We live in an age where we can Instagram message our favorite brands for customer service support. If you’re not responsive and engaging with your market, you’re already losing.
We’re not saying you should transfer your entire customer support staff onto Instagram. This is just another way you can engage with your audience. By interacting online with your potential buyers and current customers, you’ll maximize your social presence and improve brand trust. While your team interacts with the audience online, it can slowly gather qualitative and quantitative information about your audience.
You can even conduct surveys through “polls” and “quizzes” on Instagram and Facebook for hard numbers within a short amount of time. These pieces of data will provide valuable insights about who you’re speaking to and who buys your products.
If you’re not already running fan contests on your social media platforms, it’s time to catch up with the times. This is a great way to build up your audience, create interest in your brand, and increase your channel’s overall engagement. Running a contest is something all small businesses should do regularly – the cost is extremely low (it can even be free!), and it will give you a grand slam of online engagement.
For example, you could give away a 1-hour educational consultation about any topic relating to your business. This won’t cost you anything but a little bit of time, and you’ll get new followers and lots of likes and comments. It’s been proven that online contests and giveaways create better engagement than the other alternative tactics out there. Use your time here – not there.
4. Put UX First
It’s easy to think about yourself and your brand as you put together your small business’ website. It’s much more important to go into the process head first thinking about your user’s experience on their end. Start with the navigation and user experience design (UX), and you’ll be sure to create a solid platform that will attract and convert leads into customers. This is what all online businesses want.
While we all have a great brand story we’re dying to share with our potential customers, a website by itself won’t do your brand justice. You have to make every millisecond of your visitor’s time spent on your site worthwhile. Think about how you can keep them enticed and engaged long enough so you can tell your whole story from start to finish.
5. Make Contact Easy
Don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be to contact you. If a customer wants to get a hold of you, that is typically a good sign. Make it as obstruction-free and straightforward as possible. Include your contact information in several places on your website, and ensure they’re in high-visibility locations.
Keep in mind that your credibility is at stake when they go to contact you from the site. If they dial the number you have posted into their phone and get a busy signal in return, they won’t be too happy. It’s crucial to have up-to-date, accurate information that reflects the best way to reach you.
Just because it’s your office phone number doesn’t mean it needs to be the one you list. We say use the method of contact you’re most likely to respond too. After all, you want your users to be satisfied with prompt responses, whether it be through email or phone.
6. Don’t Forget About Good Design
Never underestimate the value of good, catchy designs. Customers love a trendy coffee shop. They go nuts for a hair salon with beautiful aesthetics. They will choose a restaurant with a beautiful Instagram feed over one without a website. Having good design ingrained into your small business’s online presence is a great way to attract new clients and grow your audience base.
Just like the sign on a door makes the first impression for a brick-and-mortar store or office, your website does the same for your site visitors. You want the first impression to be a good one. Even if they don’t decide to become customers immediately, they’re more likely to remember you and return when they’re ready to buy.
General Digital Marketing Practices for Small Business:
7. Know Your Customer
Knowing your customer might be the most cliche practice on this list. Yet, it’s true. Marketing teams used to be able to perform research once, come up with insights on their audience, and use those guiding points for years. Not anymore.
Today, your customers are changing every day – maybe even more frequently! You need to be able to offer a social media strategy that can improve with the ebb and flow of your community. The moment you start serving audiences other than your own is the moment you’ll start to lose engagement and followers. By truly understanding your customers and the changing they do, you’ll be better equipped to connect with them online and on social media.
Knowing your customer will also help you design your website’s user experience. By keeping them in mind every step of the way, you’ll build something that serves them, not you.
8. Learn From the Competition
Studying and learning from your competition is one of the best ways to see what works, what doesn’t work, and what you’re up against. Again, this is another digital marketing cliche – but it’s so true. Small businesses tend to ignore this advice and put blinders on while they focus on themselves. In following this strategy, they’re missing out on learning lessons vicariously through others and improving their strategy as a result.
You should study all the things about them. Follow them on social media and schedule regular sessions to check-in and see what’s new. Look through their website and note their sitemap, copy, and keywords that stand out. Peruse their online retail listings and see what past customers have said through reviews. Check out their brand assets and identify what they’re doing right in their design.
9. Repurpose Like You Mean It
Repurposing your content is one of the best and most efficient ways to fill your social media and digital marketing editorial calendars. It works both in the short-term and in the long run (best of both worlds).
By focusing on your best content and then finding new ways to change its type, offer a fresh perspective, improve upon the education, or reframe it for the timeliness, you’ll never run out of ideas. You’ll also have a much larger content bank to work from to place content on different channels in slightly different ways to boost reach and traffic.
To get start repurposing your content, go through social media and blog content. Don’t have any? Start making it. Find something that hasn’t been shared in a while, and spruce it up a bit. Maybe you turn a blog concept into a short video or use an Instagram post from an event last year to use on this year’s event flyer. Things like this can become evergreen if you just improve them slightly.
10. Test, Then Test Some More
Testing is never really over when you’re a business owner. If it is, that might be a sign you’re getting complacent.
To consistently identify your customers’ needs, you’ll need to test whatever your hypotheses are through things like paid ads, email marketing, and social media scheduling. Once you get your performance analytics from one version, re-iterate or change other aspects (timing, caps/no caps), let it run, and review the analytics again. You want to be performing at your optimum level, and this is an excellent way always to challenge that.
11. Share Knowledge
Talking about and sharing what you know is one of the best ways to position yourself as an authority, create a community, and build trust from your audience. You can do this on your website through blog posts and on social media through regular posting.
Regardless of what you do or what you sell, there’s always something that you can offer to your audience knowledge-wise. A great way to begin creating original content is by asking yourself the prompt of “What are the most common business-related questions you are asked daily?” Break down the answers to these questions through content, and your audience will thank you!
12. Rely on Analytics
If you’re not relying on analytics to tell you how your business is doing, then you’re pretty much flying by the seat of your pants. It’s crucial to stay up-to-date on the current analytics of both your website and your social media channels. Make it easy on yourself by installing analytics (like Google Analytics) or using the programs already integrated into your social media apps to check in on things like follower count, engagement (comments, likes, and saves), visits, etc. You can either create these into monthly reports or simply base your monthly strategy around the past month’s data.
13. Invest in SEO
Search engine optimization has gone from that new kid on the block to the meat and cheese of digital marketing. As far as your website is concerned, you need top-tier SEO help if you want to be found through search engines. Don’t believe us? Results found on the second page of Google’s results are 75% less likely to be clicked than results on the first page. Even more, 18% of the people searching will click the top result shown to them.
An algorithm leads to the ranking of the results, and SEO is a way to work this algorithm in your favor. If you don’t have the time or energy to understand SEO deeply and regularly optimize your site pages for it, it might be a good idea to consider hiring an expert.
We wrote another great article on simple ways to increase traffic, read it here.
14. Use Video
Video is the new text online. Video thumbnails get the privilege of showing up directly on the SERP (search engine results page), which offers a bit of imagery that helps it stand out from the rest. Video is also much more engaging for visitors, so they’re more likely to watch it all the way through. You can use the power of video in things like tutorials or FAQ interviews. By taking it a step further and optimizing the videos you make for SEO with things like keywords and meta descriptions, you’re more likely to be clicked and shared.
15. Keep Consistent (with all materials – brand cohesion)
If you want to create a recognizable brand among your followers or community, you need to stay consistent with your brand assets and promotional materials. This means you want your business card, your online ads, your social media, and your website to all be recognizable as your brand. No one should be confused about what business they’re dealing with. Inconsistency will confuse potential customers and make them unsure they’ve got the right place.
Having a cohesive brand will also create a mood and a culture around your brand. Think carefully about the culture or mood you want to promote and develop your content and branding around that.
16. Be Realistic (about how much social/digital marketing work you can handle)
If you create large, incredible marketing plans – that’s great. If you can’t follow through will all the steps of your large, incredible marketing plans – that’s not so great. Be sure the plans you’re taking are realistic ones. For example, if you plan to start posting 5 times a week on social media, but you can only keep up with 3 times a week, change your plan. Choose something you can stick with consistently. By showing up more regularly for your audience, the algorithms will reward you. Your audience will also look forward to those points of contact with you throughout the week.
17. Go Outbound (with your sales – approach possible good fits)
While going off leads for your sales strategy can result in a steady stream of interested customers, it doesn’t always look outside of the lead generation software. Just because someone hasn’t found your website, clicked a few links, or signed up for emails, it doesn’t mean they might not be a good fit for what your business offers. While it might be a bit uncomfortable at first, start reaching out for sales. Going outbound with your sales strategy opens a whole world of possibility, and you aim to grow your reach.
First, create a customer avatar. This avatar has your ideal client’s qualities, habits, and behaviors. Ask yourself where you might find that avatar. Where are they hanging out online? Where are they spending time in-person? Start targeting your strategy to these places and try to reach out and make an impact organically.
18. Think Locally (local place listings, maps)
Are you a local business? Get your name out there! The easiest way to do this is by registering your business listing through sites like Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor. When people search for something “near me” online, your results will show up if you offer what they want and are local. It’s a great way to get extra space on the SERP and improve the chances of clicking.
19. Play It Slow (content marketing)
It can be easy to get ahead of yourself and want to check off all the boxes on the marketing list. Sometimes, playing it slow is the better choice. With content marketing, that’s the case.
?Content marketing involves a long series of content (usually short and long-form blogs) that utilizes SEO keywords and sharing knowledge to boost any marketing strategy. Over time, these pieces of content get picked up by search engine spiders and can improve your ranking. These helpful pieces of content can also share valuable knowledge with customers on relevant matters.
20. Encourage Reviews Online (make a good impression)
We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again – you want to make a good impression on potential customers. With so many people checking sites like Yelp and Google Reviews before deciding on where to spend their money, you can’t afford to miss out on online reviews as a business. Whenever a happy customer reaches out – encourage them to share their satisfaction via a review! That’s the best thank-you a company can get, after all.
2020: The Year Of Your Small Business Growth
By following the best practices above on how to grow your small business online, you’ll begin to see both your sales and your profits begin to soar. These are just a few ideas to help you get started – depending on your unique business and market; there may be additional steps required to reach ultimate success. Start leveling up your digital marketing today – request a free consultation.