With new digital marketing tools and platforms emerging daily, staying ahead of the curve can feel like an impossible task
That’s why we’ve decided to put together a series of blog posts to help small businesses in Baltimore and other SMB towns around the country understand the ins and outs of digital marketing and how to use social media platforms to their benefit.
The Basics Of Online Marketing
To begin with, let’s discuss some of the basics. What is digital marketing, and why should small businesses care?
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes for a moment. Imagine that you’re searching for a product or service online and come across a business that seems reputable and has a lot of online engagement — chances are, they’re going to get my business.
When someone clicks on a business’ digital marketing content (e.g., a web page, social media profile, or email blast), they’re usually being directed to that specific content by a marketing tool such as Google or Bing.
This is known as a qualified lead, and it’s what most small businesses are looking for — people who are physically searching for a business but who could become a customer if they engage with the content.
The Evolution Of Digital Marketing
Now, let’s speak a little bit about the evolution of digital marketing.
With print media dying out and TV becoming less important, people have begun to rely more on the internet to learn about news and products.
According to HubSpot Blogs research, nearly three-quarters of consumers in the U.S. get most of their news from online sources. Additionally, the study found that 77% of consumers use social media to learn about products and news.
So, as you might imagine, when someone comes across a website or social media profile that seems relevant to their needs, they’re more likely to stay, read more, and eventually buy something.
Why SMBs Should Care About Digital Marketing
As we mentioned above, getting inbound traffic is now easy for any business, but doing something with that traffic is much more difficult. You see, when someone comes across your website or social media profile and lands on a page that seems relevant, they’re usually looking for something or someone, and you’ve got an opportunity to provide them with content that’s useful.
In other words, when someone visits your site, they haven’t come to waste your time — they’re probably looking for something valuable that you can provide. This is known as organic traffic, and it’s much more valuable than paid advertising because it’s free.
Organic traffic is made up of people who have found your site or social media profile by going directly to a search engine (i.e., Google, Bing, or Yahoo) and entering a key phrase or topic that their search engine found relevant to what they were looking for.
How To Properly Use Social Media To Grow Your Business
Although most people utilize social media for personal reasons, businesses can utilize these platforms to their advantage.
To keep people coming back for more, businesses need to constantly be posting content that’s relevant, interesting, and engaging. When someone likes or follows your social media accounts, you’ll notice that you’ll begin to see notifications pop up on your phone whenever they make a post. This is a notification to let you know that they’ve published something new — and it often comes with a call to action (e.g., a link to a product that they’ve mentioned or an offer that they’ve made).
If someone sees your post and clicks on it, they’ll be taken to a landing page where they can learn more about what you have to offer. From there, they might become a customer or lead.
On the other hand, if someone doesn’t click on a post or visit a website that you’ve featured in a prominent position on your social media accounts, then you can be sure that they’ve completely ignored your content.
Broadening Your Reach Via Affiliate Marketing
One of the things that helped catapult Buzzfeed to fame was their affiliate program. This program allows media companies to pay consumers to promote particular products or services on social media.
To be clear, Buzzfeed didn’t give advertisers money to promote their products — they gave publishers money to pay bloggers to write about and include affiliate links to products that they believe will be useful to their audience. When someone clicks on an affiliate link and buys a product that they’ve never heard of before, the affiliate receives a small commission — which they’ll then be able to use to fund further content creation.
This method of gaining new customers, without having to physically go out and find them, is commonly known as affiliate marketing. When someone clicks on a product that you’ve recommended and subsequently buys that product, you’ll earn a small commission. For example, if you’re an affiliate marketer for a diet pill company and you click on a product that promotes that diet pill and then buy that product, you’ll earn a commission when someone else buys that product as a result of your recommendation.
The Biggest Challenge Facing SMBs
Based on our research, the biggest challenge facing SMBs is increasing sales via online channels.
To better understand this challenge, let’s dive a little deeper into the digital marketing methods that SMBs use today.
Many small businesses, in an effort to increase sales, turn to paid advertising, which can be effective when used appropriately. However, as we’ve established above, organic traffic is far more valuable, and businesses should strive to get as much of it as possible.
Additionally, many small businesses use display ads (i.e., those ads that you see on social media channels such as YouTube or Instagram) because it works for them — they simply take out a banner ad on their website and then follow up with an engaging social media presence. When someone sees a display ad and clicks on it, they’re often directed to a landing page where they can learn more about a product or service.
If someone sees your ad and clicks on it, they’re usually directed to a landing page where they can learn more about what you have to offer. From there, they might become a customer or lead.
New Opportunities In Digital Marketing
Above, we discussed how the internet and social media have shifted the way marketing is done — and it’s opened up a lot of opportunities for marketers.
For instance, if someone is looking for a new mattress and happens upon a blog post that discusses the best types of mattresses and which one is right for them, they might learn a lot about sleep apnea, finding the right mattress support, or how to choose a memory foam mattress.
Similarly, if someone is searching for a new bike and comes across a product review blog that covers all types of biking topics, they’ll have a lot to choose from and might end up buying something. This type of scenario, where someone learns about a product or service simply by coming across relevant content, is known as inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing isn’t just about converting website visitors into customers, it’s about creating an experience that makes them want to return time and time again. To get inbound marketing right, you need to consider how everything on your site — from the typeface you use to the color palette — contributes to that goal. Then, you need to set yourself a meaningful goal for 2019 and start working toward it.