The Ultimate Small Business Digital Marketing Guide [2024]

digital marketing standards 2017

Did you know that about 1 in 5 U.S. businesses fail within their first year of operation? Starting a small business is a daunting endeavor, fraught with risks and uncertainties. This is where this small business digital marketing guide comes in.

Yet, amidst this challenging landscape, a transformative force has revolutionized the way businesses connect with their audience, generate leads, and drive sales — digital marketing. 

This ultimate small business digital marketing guide will provide the bedrock for your company’s growth.

In today’s fast-paced, digitally-driven world, mastering the art of digital marketing is not just a luxury but a necessity for small businesses. 

In this article, we will uncover proven tactics and actionable insights to help your small business not only survive but thrive in the digital age.

First, let’s look at the two main types of businesses that exist.

Established vs Non-Established Businesses

After a decade and a half in marketing, we’ve noticed the following things about our customers: they basically fall into one of these two categories:

Established Businesses: On one hand, we have established businesses that have been growing constantly and need a marketing partner that handles most of their needs (except for media buying, which is highly specialized and best left to agencies that do just that).

Startups and Businesses that Have Plateaued: On the other hand, we have the startups, plus some established businesses that have plateaued and need a “fix”. They need specific jobs – such as a logo, a website, or a marketing brochure.

This small business digital marketing guide mainly covers the needs of startups and non-established businesses.

Why Do So Many Small Businesses Fail?

Why is it that so many startups are thriving, and some are just spinning their wheels? There are patterns to notice. All these businesses for which marketing just “isn’t working” have quite a few things in common:

  • they were all small businesses, owner-operated
  • these owners wear many hats
  • they are short on time and tight on budget
  • they’ve built their business through networking and referrals, but
  • they realized they were having a hard time scaling up, at which point
  • they start implementing whatever marketing trick they think they know would work
  • or they don’t do any marketing at all
  • they often try DIY marketing, which is the equivalent of spending time to save money
  • not realizing that time is the only resource they can’t make more of and is already scarce due to the many hats
  • and that all these marketing tactics they had been implementing were the equivalent of shooting darts in the dark: sure, some will hit the target, but can they really afford to waste any?

What do the successful businesses do that the struggling ones don’t?

The Small Business Digital Marketing Plan

Successful businesses have a marketing plan with a goal and a strategy that targets that goal, and then they implement tactics that follow their strategy.

Many small business owners think of this as something abstract – and they never create one. They just use the little time or budget they have for marketing to throw darts in the dark and hope they hit the target. They try to mimic what big brands do or they try to go with whatever the newest trend is.

Importance of Having a Marketing Plan

The reality is that the marketing plan is the difference between successful marketing and guesswork marketing. It makes such an impact, that here, at Bright Pink Agency, our clients first go through a process that identifies: marketing tactics they need to invest in, how they will benefit them and – if turns out that it won’t benefit them – what to do instead.

Who Needs a Small Business Digital Marketing Plan?

Before we continue, let’s establish who needs marketing and who doesn’t. If you’re satisfied with how your business runs now, you have a steady flow of clients, that come via word-of-mouth and networking, and don’t want to scale up, then you probably don’t need marketing. There’s nothing wrong with that.

However, if any of the below applies to you, a small business digital marketing plan is a must:

  • you want to grow your client base
  • you want better clients (bigger projects, higher value services, wealthier, less troublemakers and time wasters)
  • you want to scale your business – add more people, more services or products etc.
  • you want to keep making money when you sleep, go on vacation or are sick with the flu
  • you want to keep your business running if anything were to happen to you – if you become temporarily disabled
  • you want to one day sell your business

If you decide you want to market and don’t have a marketing plan, then please start creating one before you spend another dime on marketing – of any kind, be it SEO, Facebook ads, or just an ad in the PTO’s newsletter.

If you already have a marketing plan, or if you have no interest in scaling up, or if you work for a company that already does marketing for you – please share this with a small business client/friend/acquaintance that wants to grow and scale up too.

Small Business Digital Marketing Strategies

Here are some really important questions that will help you create your marketing plan.

1. What are you selling? 

Ask yourself:

  • Out of all the services you provide, which one is your favorite?
  • If you had the option to do just one aspect of your work, what would that be?
  • What part of your work do you dislike the most or absolutely hate?
  • What is the most profitable service that you sell? Note that the most profitable service might not be your favorite service. Nor the most expensive.

You’ve probably heard of the Pareto principle, also called the 80-20 rule: at any given time, 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers (or types of customers), 80% of results come from 20% of efforts, and so on. 

What if you were going to work with more of your most profitable customers? What if you were going to concentrate your efforts on getting those jobs rather than any project or customer that comes your way? How would that feel?

2. Who are you selling to?

Everyone is not your customer. If you market to everyone, your message is diluted and gets lost. We are constantly bombarded with information and offers, and solicitations everywhere we look. And we’ve all gotten pretty good at ignoring them. When you see an ad with a laundry list of services, it goes over our heads – who’s got time to read all that?

The secret is relevancy: focus your marketing message on the group of people who are going to say – “hey, I need that!” With every marketing message you put out there, think deeply and narrowly. Say, I’m looking to get new headshots for myself and my team for our new website.

Who am I most likely to pay attention to an ad that lists photography services in a long list – events, weddings, babies, maternity, family shots, product photography, headshots, and more… Or an ad that says: “headshots for busy entrepreneurs and their teams”?

The more you know about your customers, the better you can craft your message to reach them.

3. Define your client persona

Considering the service you defined in the previous step, define your typical ideal customer as a real person. Go in great detail:

  • Give him a face (stock photo), name, age, education, occupation, income and family status. 
  • What is his background (in relation to your services; i.e. if you are a realtor, where is he living? why does he want to move?)
  • What publications is he reading? (online and offline). 
  • Does he have any hobbies? How does he spend his free time?
  • How did he find you?
  • What are his challenges?
  • What are his pain points?
  • His biggest fears?
  • Why did he choose you as his service provider?

If you want to see how other companies defined their client personas, there are numerous examples online, just Google “client persona”. Some companies will need more than one client persona – it’s not unusual to have 2 or 3 for the different categories of clients.

If you’re having a hard time identifying this, you may find it useful to list all your “ideal clients” from the past 1-2 years and try to find common character traits. You may find out that most of your clients are between 35-45, married with school-aged children, have a household income of $150k, spend their free time doing outdoor activities, read the Huffington Post, etc. It’s ok to take guesses to fill in the blanks, it’s not an exact science.

The more you can make your client persona feel like a “real person”, the easier it is to “talk to him” every time you produce a marketing message. Pay special attention to the challenges, pain points, and biggest fears – they help drive the message home.

4. Define your brand – this is where your “why” comes through

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the “one thing” you want people to remember about what you do? 
  • What do you “stand against” in your industry? (what do you hate about your industry that you think you can do better?)
  • What is your “voice” and your brand personality? 
  • Based on what you decided on above, how will you be speaking to your customers? 
  • What will draw their attention? 
  • What will set you apart from other businesses offering the same service?

Also, be unique, and don’t mimic big brands – You can always find inspiration in established brands but try to distinguish yourself. Things such as your company name, logo, colors, tagline, etc., should be original and authentic. Otherwise, you won’t be remembered in the long run.

In addition, try to stand for something. Connecting with your audience emotionally is key to earning their trust. A great way to achieve that is to stand for something they believe in. When customers like your values expressed in your style and marketing materials, they’ll connect more with your brand. You won’t attract everyone, but it’s better to appeal to a group of people than to no one.

5. Assess your brand 

Now, take a good look at your brand today and see how it fits with the findings in the previous three sheets. What would your client persona, Mark or Sally whatever name you gave them, think about your marketing message? Do they relate to it? How can you tweak it to fit better to your brand personality?

Within your arsenal of content, discounts, ads, emails, and specials, you have the main message to deliver to your target audience: are you solving a problem? Are you addressing your customers’ pain points? Your marketing message should never be about touting your product or services but about the value they bring to your customers’ life. Why should they do business with you? What’s so special about your product? Spell this out in your small business digital marketing plan.

6. Implement Tactics

Now that you figured out what needs to be done for your marketing to be effective, you can decide on the exact marketing tactics to use. Here are the most important ones:

  • Get a professional website – Your website is likely the first thing prospects will check before doing business with you. And you want to make a good first impression, right? Get it done professionally if you’re serious about your business. Remember also to update your website regularly – a website designed 5 years ago doesn’t look good on you.
  • Choose a suitable logo – A great logo is essential to small business branding. You don’t need to spend a fortune on it, but it’s best to hire a professional logo designer. Your logo is, after all, the face of your business. It inspires trust and provides a way to express your brand’s voice. Check out more logo creation tips.
  • Maintain a blog – Blogs can help you provide valuable content that’s useful for your target audience. Posting well-written articles regularly may help you establish yourself as an expert in your field. You can also enable comments on your blog posts so you can connect with your audience. Blog posts also elevate your website’s search ranking results as long as you make your articles SEO-friendly.
  • Social Media Marketing: Utilize platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest to engage with your audience, share content, and build relationships. Tailor your content to each platform and maintain a consistent posting schedule.
  • Email Marketing: One of the ‘seasoned’ digital marketing standards, email marketing is still an effective way to reach people who have expressed interest in your product or site. When implemented properly, email marketing can be a great channel to help you increase sales. To achieve this, you will need email capture forms synced with your email marketing system.
  • On-page SEO: Every website requires search engine optimization (SEO) to be relevant in search engine results. On-page SEO involves tweaking your site in a way that helps search engines know what your site is exactly about. Optimizations may include title tags, page hierarchy, using the right keywords, and more. If you meet these SEO factors, you’ll rank higher in search engine result pages and potentially improve your conversion rate.
  • Off-Page SEO: Refers to optimization efforts that take place outside of your website to improve its search engine rankings and visibility. Some off-page SEO tactics that small businesses can employ include link building, brand mentions, guest posting, PR and outreach, and more.
  • Paid Advertising: The traditional way of reaching your audience that you should leverage. Most ad platforms today come with powerful audience-targeting features.
  • Conversion Tools: Creating compelling landing pages is one of the best ways to convert visitors into clients. For this, you need tools to create campaign landing pages with conversion in mind. Such tools allow you to make your own landing pages or use ready-made ones. Landing pages offer you a great opportunity to improve your conversion rate, so don’t miss out on this option.
  • Participate in local events – Getting your brand known is both a digital and physical endeavor. Participating in local events, such as committees, is an excellent way to spread the word about your brand. Attending, speaking or hosting conferences is also a great opportunity to increase brand awareness.
  • Write press releases – Another ‘traditional’ way to build your brand is to write press releases. They can help you improve your brand’s image through newsworthy information. Has your business been busy recently? Send the news to the media, the web and on your website.
  • Create a lead capturing system: This is the process of pointing prospects in the right direction to get more information on what they are looking for, often referred to as your sales funnel. The steps involved in a lead capture system include creating an irresistible offer, formulating a traffic strategy, designing creative material and media, as well as developing landing pages, calls-to-action and a way to make contact (phone or e-mail).
  • Create a lead nurturing system: This is the process of building relationships with buyers at every stage of the sales funnel and through every step of a buyer’s journey. Lead nurturing focuses on the needs of prospects in terms of providing the information and answers they seek. This is mostly automated through special messages that are sent to your leads regularly. But remember – the purpose of lead nurturing is not to pester your leads into buying but to offer useful information that adds value to their lives in some way.
  • Establish a sales conversion strategy: This strategy refers to increasing your online conversion rates, i.e. the percentage of prospective customers who take a specific action you want. Proven methods to increase conversion rates include social proof (testimonials, case studies, etc.), clear contact information, “trust” seals (awards, professional affiliations, media mentions) and strong guarantees.
  • Deliver the best customer experience: A major value that a company should have is delivering excellent customer service. Speed and availability are big factors in good customer service. Taking responsibility for mistakes is also a great way to maintain and improve your reputation. When you keep your customers happy, they are loyal and will further your marketing efforts through word of mouth.
  • Find strategies to increase Customer Lifetime Value: While finding new customers is essential, maintaining those who you already have is equally important. Customer Lifetime Value focuses on retaining customers through several strategies: building a long-term relationship, creating brand loyalty, upselling and cross-selling and offering exclusive products or value-added services. By implementing these strategies, customers who already like you will stay loyal to your brand.
  • Increase your customer referrals: As one of the most valuable marketing strategies, customer referrals may boost your client base considerably. The key is to entice your customers to make those referrals on different platforms (app stores, social media, e-commerce sites, your website, etc.). Methods include adding a “Like Us on Facebook” option on your site, adding a “Tell a Friend” link on your website, as well as rewarding referrals through gifts or discounts. Don’t forget your social reviews – on websites like Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.
  • Be consistent – Once you have your business established, use your brand identity uniformly across all marketing channels: social media, stationery, your website, at events, etc. Don’t change your voice and style based on your audience – be the same for everyone. This reduces confusion among prospects and helps you build a strong brand.

Tips for a Better Business Website

Your small business digital marketing plan should also include these pointers for a better business site.

  • CMS: A Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress provides a simple interface for managing the content on your website without coding knowledge. Any business needs to update its site with new information, and a CMS is perfect for that. All reputable web design agencies build websites based on a CMS nowadays, but don’t forget to ask questions about it if you’re starting fresh. Having your website based on a CMS can also improve your online branding and customer service and facilitate extensibility.
  • Website Tracking: A website tracking system provides statistical data about your visitor traffic and aggregates the data into meaningful reports. The goal is to help you make website management decisions to improve conversions (placing an order, signing up for a newsletter, etc.). For example, you can check the places on your website where visitors leave before completing the desired action.
  • Fundamental Security: Web security breaches occur more often if a website doesn’t meet the current web standards. Your site should at least implement privacy protocols such as basic security checks. In case your site is based on WordPress, it’s best to have some additional security features installed, and regular updates of the WordPress version are critical.
  • Fast Loading Times: Having your site optimized for speed, even with slow Internet connections, is critical in today’s search engine optimization (SEO) best practices. Site speed is one of Google’s signals used by its algorithm to rank pages. Unsurprisingly, pages with slow load time have higher bounce rates and lower average time on page. In other words, visitors will quickly leave a slow-loading site and probably won’t return soon.
  • Compatibility Across All Devices: Globally, the number of mobile Internet users surpassed the number of desktop Internet users in 2016. Moreover, 91.8% of U.S. Internet users access the Internet via mobile. Needless to say, the numbers are still growing in favor of mobile Internet usage. This is why it’s essential to make your website compatible with mobile, tablet, and desktop devices. Responsive web design is what you’ll need.

The Takeaways

So, when it comes to small business digital marketing, don’t throw darts in the dark. Marketing is not an expense; it’s an investment. And it’s measurable. Whatever you put into it, comes back in as new customers, new sales, new deals.

At Bright Pink Agency, we’ve been helping businesses (including franchises) grow through marketing since 2008. We will personally sit down with you or your executive team, face-to-face or via Skype if you are not local, and spend a few hours (anywhere from two to six!) going through every step of the way.

We’ll help you identify your hero service, define your ideal client, brand voice, and personality, analyze your existing materials, their strengths and weaknesses, and come up with a plan for implementation, complete with pricing. The cost of this service is listed on our website

So, if you know someone who is starting a business or someone with an established business that wants to grow, or if you want this for yourself – please contact us.

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By Bright Pink Agency

At Bright Pink Agency, we specialize in designing, developing, and optimizing franchise websites with no long-term contracts. Say hello to improved organic value, ongoing national and local support, and franchisee happiness!