Marketing a Small Service Business Online – A Beginner’s Guide to Online Marketing

Is it possible to market a small service business online? Can a solo, side-hustle, or micro-agency succeed in today’s crowded digital landscape? Can an online marketer earn a living without an agency’s help?

The short answer is: yes, it’s possible, but it takes some serious strategy and savvy execution to be able to generate enough leads to make it worth your while.

What you need to do is define your target audience, figure out their pain points, and build a brand that they’ll trust. Even then, you’ll need to be strategic about how you deploy your marketing dollars and engage with your audience to ensure that you’re hitting the right nerve at the right time.

Define Your Audience

The very first step to market a small service business is to identify who you’re trying to reach. What is their pain point? What do they need or want?

For example, if you’re starting a freelance writing agency, you’ll want to identify your target audience based on their needs and goals. If you’re looking for clients, consider your ideal buyer: the person or company that is in need of your products and services but are not necessarily looking for online writers. Your goal is to get them to become your typical customer. You can find more information on customer personas in the Marketing segment of the eBook.

Build A Brand For Yourself

The second step is to build a brand for yourself. You’re starting from scratch so you have no brand equity to rely on. You’ll have to create a brand for yourself that is easily recognizable in the marketplace. To do this, consider what makes your products or services different from others in the industry. The better your answer, the better your brand. Create a few different versions of your brand identity, online and off-line, and test which one generates the most leads or business.

How To Measure The Effectiveness Of Your Online Marketing Efforts

The last step is to measure the effectiveness of your online marketing efforts. You can’t reasonably expect to determine the impact of your marketing strategy by jumping straight to the results. You need to set-up automated tasks to track the progress of your marketing campaign and analyze the results.

Luckily for you, we’ve got a tool that can help. Marketo makes it easy to track the performance of your ads and identify the campaigns that are driving the most leads to your business. Just launch the free trial and take a few minutes to set-up automated tasks to track the performance of your ads. You can also use HubSpot’s automation tools to track the progress of your marketing campaign.

Where To Begin Your Marketing Journey

Now that you have the basics of marketing a small service business down, you’ll need to decide where to begin your marketing journey. You have a couple of options:

  • You can begin with the easiest route and take advantage of the fact that you have no competitors in your local area. Word of mouth is the best and often the only form of advertising for small businesses. Start by engaging with customers on social media and listening to their feedback. It’s the perfect place to build credibility with your audience by acting responsibly and keeping an open channel of communication.
  • If you’d like to dive right into the thick of things, you can take a more traditional route with paid media. Make sure to budget for this as you will need to have an advertising budget in order to reap the benefits of this route. You can get started with paid search to find the right audience and then build up to more complex placements including banner ads, magazine articles, and paid social media campaigns. These are all proven methods of generating leads.

The Importance Of SEO

The first and most important step to successfully marketing a small service business is to ensure that your website sits at the top of the search results when potential customers are looking for services or products related to your niche. The better your SEO (Search Engine Optimization), the better. If your SEO is sub-par, it’ll be difficult for you to connect with your audience.

You’ll have to consider how you want customers to discover your business, what keywords you’re going to use to optimize your content, and why those keywords are important to your marketing strategy. Start by considering how you want potential customers to find your business online and then optimize your website to fit these keywords.


Now that you have the basics of marketing a small service business down, you’ll need to decide how you want to go about marketing your business. The best way to succeed as an independent, freelancing, or sole trader is to take the time to create a marketing strategy designed to achieve your business goals. Don’t expect to generate leads simply by posting on social media or by getting displayed in your local area. You need a solid plan to ensure that you’re reaching the right audience and that your efforts are creating the desired results.