With a digital marketing strategy tailored to your business size, you can set yourself up to stand out — and see massive returns.
Here, you’ll find:
- Mid-size and small business marketing tips
- Ways to make an impact without a huge budget
- How to leverage things like social media, video marketing, and influencers
- Tips for standing out from competitors
I’ve been in marketing long enough to know that, when you’re in this department, you’re likely stretched pretty thin — particularly if you’re part of a small or medium-size business.
Add on rapid technology changes, the advent of new strategies, and sophisticated algorithms, and it can feel increasingly difficult to remain competitive.
If you’ve been barely keeping your head above water with your SMB’s digital marketing plan, you’re in luck. We’ve gathered some tricks of the trade that can help boost your following and grow your business.
1. Research the competition
A highly competitive business environment is among the leading reasons why growing businesses fail, especially a small business. Because of this, conducting competitor research is key to getting ahead of the curve and standing out.
If you’re in a particularly saturated industry or are stumped on where to begin as a marketing pro or small business owner, you can start with a simple location-specific Google search. See how your rivals position themselves and design their ads.
Next, pinpoint the differentiators that you can capitalize on to show the unique value of your SMB offerings. Even if your products or services are similar, your brand journey and point of view are your own.
Pro tip: If you have the time and bandwidth, you can go the extra mile and conduct a full-on competitor analysis for a better look at how others in your field are tackling search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click ads (PPC), and social media.
2. Enhance your social media presence
As an SMB, you want to be where your potential customers are. Social media is an effective marketing tactic to reach them as seamlessly and directly as possible.
Use social media marketing to help more people discover your business, show your brand’s personality, and even attract leads through paid social ads.
Plus, you could attract user-generated content (UGC) such as positive reviews and product photos that you can then ask permission to republish on your own platforms as a cost-efficient marketing tool.
Pro tip: To see and be seen by your target audience, you need to keep the “social” in social media. Include relevant hashtags in your posts, follow current customers and prospects, and seek out industry conversations and live chats that could benefit from your insight.
3. Make CTAs clear
When you’re an SMB, every lead could be a potentially game-changing sale. Because of this, it’s crucial to nail your calls to action (CTAs).
A big part of that is ensuring your visitors understand what you want them to do. You can do that in a few ways, such as:
- Add a CTA, an invitation to share, and a place to comment on your content
- Consider pop-ups or footer boxes that invite a user to subscribe to your newsletter
- Have more than one CTA button on your homepage — and make sure it pops
- Add a CTA to your email marketing that directs readers to your website
4. Choose the right channels for your brand
For SMBs, choosing the organic and paid channels you invest time and money into generally begins as an experimental process of trial and error.
Creating social media profiles is free, but you may want to test out a few paid social platforms at a time, then dedicate more effort towards the ones that garner the most engagement.
Different industries excel on different platforms. A clothing and accessories e-commerce company, for example, will likely perform better on Instagram, while a niche software brand might have better luck on LinkedIn.
Moreover, alternative search engines like Bing may get you more bang for your buck if fewer competitors are also leveraging Microsoft Advertising.
5. Explore video content
Data shows 86% of businesses use video as a marketing tool. However, you generally have less than 15 seconds to hook a website visitor before they decide to bounce. That means you’ve got a small window of time to make a worthwhile impression.
Here are some things to consider when building a video strategy:
- Plan out your purpose: Concentrate on the purpose of the video and how it’ll be used. Will it be an educational tool? Aid in brand awareness? Your goal can help determine where you want consumers to view the video, whether it’s on your website, YouTube channel, or another platform. Customize it to fit both your target market and the location.
- Find the human element: Unless it’s a commercial, the video shouldn’t simply be all about your brand. Video is most effective when focused on the human part of the narrative. Create stories with a clear idea, passionate message, or practical how-to that shows what makes your brand unique.
- High-quality, not perfection: You don’t need a big-business budget or high-end production equipment. Quality content created with a smartphone can have the desired effect. A well-edited DIY video can come across as more authentic than a scripted TV spot when its purpose is clear.
- Consider the platform: A video meant for Instagram Reels will likely have a different approach than one meant to live on your YouTube channel. It’s also worth keeping in mind that social media platforms have specific specs (like video length and size) to adhere to for the best viewer experience.
- Don’t forget to optimize: We’ve talked before about the importance of optimizing your videos. A few ways to do that including captions, optimizing the page the video is hosted on, and investing in paid ads for promotion.
6. Go behind the scenes
One of the benefits of being an SMB: less red tape and fewer hoops to jump through to put plans in motion.
That means that if you’re releasing a product or launching a new service, you can share behind-the-scenes glimpses and stories without having to wait for approval from half-a-dozen execs.
(Though, depending on your role, you should pass the content by your manager to ensure what you’re sharing is not embargoed or not ready to be public.)
Showing and talking about what you’re working on as a company humanizes your brand and offers a level of transparency you don’t often get from bigger brands.
This also lets you showcase your passion for the product or services you offer, and invites people to join your journey. Lastly, it gives them an incentive to follow along and see when your offering is officially unveiled and released.
7. Publish high-quality, shareable content
Creating valuable content that speaks authentically to your target persona (or personas) is a critical part of your SMB marketing, no matter your industry.
Content can help promote your brand by attracting website visitors, building a strong relationship with your specific audience, and even boosting revenue.
Plus, creating a strong resource library helps make your SMB stand out from the competition as a trusted thought leader. These are just a few ways you can make content shareable:
Make it easy to find (and read) – When publishing content, use bullet points and headers so visitors can scan the content quickly. It’s also wise to ensure your website and blog are search engine-friendly through tactics such as:
- H1 and H2 tags for headers and subheaders
- Metadata for categories, titles, and descriptions
- Alt tags for images and video
- Both internal (linking elsewhere on your site) and external links in the copy
- Short, easy-to-digest paragraphs
Focus on educating and helping your audience – Shareable content is often about solving a problem, answering a question, or evoking emotion. The best content is helpful and empathetic, not merely self-promotion. Offer useful tips and insights with tangible actions and immediate value. When you have content that resonates, sharing can skyrocket.
Include share buttons – This may seem obvious, but one of the quickest ways to make your content more shareable is by adding share buttons. These are tools you can embed into your posts that allow the reader to share the content on social media channels or via email with just a few clicks.
8. Look into partnerships with micro-influencers
Did you know micro-influencers reportedly have up to 60% better engagement rates than influencers with larger audiences? These types of online influencers generally have 1,000 to 10,000 followers, and they’ll often partner with brands for marketing campaigns to showcase their offerings in exchange for goods or a fee.
Save money and potentially find your biggest fans by leveraging influencer marketing and partnering with micro-influencers you come across in your SMB niche, if they exist.
These online personalities can target specific communities more effectively, bringing your brand to the attention of the precise customers you want. Just make sure you’re aligned on goals, time frame, payment, and metrics you’ll use to gauge performance.
9. Choose thoughtful visuals
You don’t need the budget of a Fortune 500 company to have sleek imagery on your website, landing pages, and social media profiles.
Visitors don’t always read every word — they often scan the page. Images that are relevant and eye-catching typically perform better than text alone.
Inserting well-designed infographics and high-quality images into your content not only makes it more easily digestible, but it also looks more authoritative, cohesive, and professional.
Pro tip: Need a simple infographic or logo designed but don’t have the funds for a full-time designer? Websites like Fiverr and Upwork offer a global network of freelancers, so you can connect with someone who can work with your timeline and SMB budget.
10. Optimize for mobile
We’ve previously touched on the growing trend of people favoring mobile searching over desktop. That’s because more and more people surf and shop right from their tablets or smartphones.
As a result, most people expect to use various devices and still have the same fast, easy-to-navigate experience on your website. Making sure your SMB website is mobile-friendly will benefit your SEO and ensure you’re not causing users to bounce.
11. Encourage clients to write reviews
In marketing, as in many other business aspects, showing is better than telling. Having positive customer reviews online is a great way to “show” rather than “tell” the value of your brand.
Online reviews aren’t just great marketing tools. They can also offer valuable insights that could help you improve your brand and help you make accurate, informed decisions that are rooted in customer satisfaction.
You can request reviews and testimonials via email from your satisfied customer base, and even offer an incentive, such as entry to win a gift card. (Just make sure the offer doesn’t veer into “bribery” territory — that’s not a good look and could land you in hot water.)
Pro tip: Highlighting or showcasing customers also helps with social proof. This psychology concept uses real-life customer experiences to reinforce your company’s credibility and serves as a type of trusted third-party endorsement.
12. Go back to basics
No matter how many tips and tricks you use or how relevant your strategy, if you don’t have a strong foundation, your efforts may not pay off as well as they otherwise could.
A big part of creating a solid marketing foundation lies in search engine optimization. If you haven’t already implemented structured data, it can help increase click-through rates and result in featured snippets. It’s also worth taking the time to optimize for page speed and traditional SEO.
SMB digital marketing is continuously evolving. If you haven’t looked at your content in a while, it may be time to dust it off and update it.
Rejuvenate your SEO strategy by adding a few new tactics and revisiting older content. It can be a game-changer when it comes to attracting more visitors to your site and increasing brand awareness.
When you’re in charge of SMB digital marketing, you’ve got a lot on your plate.
For what it’s worth, HawkSEM started out as a small business back in 2006. Now, after years of hard work and implementing the tips above, we manage more than $80 million in ad spend as one of Google’s top 3% of agencies in the world.
All that is to say, keeping these tips in mind can help you add a little method to the madness, stay relevant in your industry, and beat your competitors to come out on top.
This article has been updated and was originally published in October 2019.