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Written by Caroline Cox on Aug 14 , 2020

To make your small-to-midsize business stand out in the current marketing landscape, you’ve got to have a solid digital strategy set up to bring massive returns.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Marketing tips specific to small-and-midsize businesses
  • Ways to make an impact without a huge budget
  • How to leverage things like social media, videos, and influencers
  • Tips for standing out from competitors

When you’re managing this side of the business, you’re likely stretched pretty thin. Plus, rapid technology changes, the advent of new strategies, and sophisticated algorithms can make it increasingly difficult for small and mid-sized businesses to remain competitive.

If you’ve been barely keeping your head above water with your SMB’s digital marketing tasks, you’re in luck. We’ve gathered some tricks of the trade that can help boost your following and grow your business.

HawkSEM blog: SMB Digital Marketing: 8 Tricks of the Trade

Consider having more than one CTA button on your homepage — and make sure it pops on the page. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Research your competitors

A highly competitive business environment is among the leading reasons why growing businesses fail. That’s why 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, 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 offerings. Even if your products or services are similar, your brand journey and point of view are your own. 

2. Enhance your social media presence

With face-to-face meetings and communications still limited across the globe amid the pandemic, people are turning to social media more than ever for connection. As an SMB, you want to be where your customers are. Social media is a great way to reach them as seamlessly and directly as possible. 

Being active on social media helps more people discover your business, lets you show your brand’s personality, and can even attract leads through paid social ads. Not only that, but 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 an effective, cost-efficient marketing tool. 

Pro tip: To see and be seen by your target audience, you need to be where they are. Include relevant hashtags in your posts, follow customers and prospects, and seek out industry conversations and live chats that could benefit from your insight. 

3. Make calls-to-action (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 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:

  • Adding a call to action, an invitation to share, and a place to comment on your content
  • Considering pop-ups that invite a user to subscribe to your newsletter
  • Having more than one CTA button on your homepage — and making sure it pops on the page

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 company, for example, will likely perform better on Instagram than a niche software brand would. 

For ads, particularly paid search, we all know Google reigns supreme. But that doesn’t mean that other formats, like display, social, and remarketing ads aren’t worth a look. Moreover, alternative search engines like Bing may get you more bang for your buck if fewer competitors are also leveraging Microsoft Advertising. 

5. Leverage video content

Data shows that 85% of businesses use video as a marketing tool. However, the average attention span website visitors have is just 8 seconds. That means you’ve got a small window of time to make a worthwhile impression. 

Here are some things to consider when planning a video strategy:

  • Plan out your purpose: Concentrate on the purpose of the video and how it’ll be used. Are you using it as an educational tool? Building 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 audience and the location.
  • Find the human element: Unless it’s a commercial, the video shouldn’t simply be all about your brand. Video is a powerful medium and 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. With a solid strategy, 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. 
  • Don’t forget to optimize: We’ve talked before about the importance of optimizing your videos. A few ways to do that are by: 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. That means that if you’re releasing a new 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 product is officially unveiled and released.

HawkSEM blog: SMB Digital Marketing: 8 Tricks of the Trade

Save money and potentially find your biggest fans by partnering with a micro-influencers you come across in your niche. (Image via Unsplash)

7. Only publish high-quality, shareable content

High-quality content that speaks authentically to your target persona (or personas) is a critical part of your SMB marketing, no matter your industry. It can help promote your brand by attracting website visitors, building a strong relationship with your target 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 (yes, things are about to get meta). 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-promotional. Do what you can to offer useful tips and insights with tangible actions and an immediate value. When you have content that resonates with your customers and prospects, 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 with just a few clicks. 

8. Explore partnerships with micro-influencers

Did you know that micro-influencers reportedly have seven times the engagement rate on Instagram as influencers with larger audiences? These types of online influencers generally have 1,000 to 10,000 followers, and they’ll often partner with brands to showcase their offerings in exchange for goods or a fee. 

Save money and potentially find your biggest fans by partnering with micro-influencers you come across in your 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.

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.

HawkSEM blog: SMB Digital Marketing: 8 Tricks of the Trade

If you don’t have a strong foundation, your efforts may not pay off as well as they could. (Image via Unsplash)

10. Optimize your site 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. 

Because of this, users should be able to navigate across 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 your clients to write reviews

In marketing, as in many other business aspects, showing is better than telling. Having great customer reviews online is a great way to “show” rather than “tell” the value of your brand. 

As an SMB, you may have to do a little legwork to inspire people to take the time to review you. You can do this by creating an email campaign and offering an incentive to those who participate, such as a waved onboarding fee or an entry to win a gift card. 

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. 

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 could. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly but is also formatted attractively for desktop users. 

Optimize for page speed and traditional SEO. If you haven’t already implemented structured data, it can help increase click-through rates and result in featured snippets.

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.

The takeaway

When you’re in charge of SMB digital marketing, you’ve got a lot on your plate. 

By keeping these tips in mind, you can 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.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Feb 18 , 2020

Even the most seasoned marketing pros can fall victim to these common digital marketing fails

Here, you’ll find:

  • Ways to avoid website missteps
  • Best practices for approaching your marketing programs
  • How to set your efforts up for maximum success
  • Digital marketing tips for working smarter vs. harder

Those who have been online for a few decades now will remember the puzzle game Minesweeper. The goal of the game was to click as many squares as possible without detonating any of the “mine” squares with bombs underneath them. (Sure, it wasn’t the most sophisticated game, but it was the ‘90s and we worked with what we had.)

If you were good at this computer game, you’ll understand where this analogy is going: digital marketing is like Minesweeper in some ways: if you start clicking around with wild abandon and no strategy, you’re bound to land on a mine. 

Below, we’ve highlighted a handful of common digital marketing fails that can derail your efforts. And because we don’t like to focus too much on the negative, we’ve also got ways to avoid them. Consider us your cheat code.

HawkSEM: 7 Digital Marketing Fails — And How to Avoid Them

Accurate tracking helps you better report on your performance and offers visibility to your team as well. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Setting up tracking improperly

Tracking is, of course, a crucial element of any successful digital marketing program. When you don’t monitor and analyze what’s working and what’s not when it comes to your efforts, you’re basically flying blind. 

We’ve mentioned before that more than 70% of the PPC accounts we audit show incorrect or improper tracking. (This could mean anything from double-counting conversions to not testing tracking pixels.) And not tracking your PPC performance in particular is one of those digital marketing fails that can result in a serious waste of ad spend. Accurate tracking helps you better report on your performance and offers visibility to your team as well.

Accurate tracking means:

  • Your site has tracking pixels in place that are working properly
  • You’re not double-counting conversions
  • Your analytics tags are properly configured
  • You’re tracking goals in Google Analytics
  • You’ve implemented lead scoring
  • You’re measuring conversions as hard or soft (“hard” which would carry more weight, such as a bottom-of-the-funnel conversion) 

As G2 explains, “as long as customers and companies are online, digital marketing analytics will be crucial for businesses and marketing.”

2. Not using the right tone for your audience

Whether you’re writing ad copy or gauging if a joke is too edgy to tell in front of execs at the company happy hour, the rule is the same: know your audience. From blogs to social posts to ads, speaking to your audience in a voice and tone that mirrors their own will make your copy more authentic — and it’s likely to resonate better. 

Once you’ve fleshed out your personas, it’s a good idea to take the time to define your brand’s voice and tone. After all, these elements will be used throughout the copy on your website as well as what you publish. Because of this, the voice and tone should not only be consistent, but make your audience feel like you’re speaking directly to them.

A financial services brand will have a much different voice and tone than a clothing brand aimed at teens. No matter your audience, you want to connect with them in their language, while staying true to and consistent with your brand.

Quick fix: Interested in trying out remarketing? Make sure you have Remarketing and Advertising Reporting Features enabled in Google Analytics! As Google explains, e-commerce businesses can create remarketing audiences, such as “an audience of users who left items in their shopping carts but didn’t complete their purchases, and then share that audience with Google Ads so you can reengage those users with follow-up ads.”

3. Not having a mobile-friendly site

It should come as no surprise that, these days, mobile is where the majority of searching happens. And now that Google prioritizes mobile indexing over desktop, it’s more important than ever to have a site that looks (and works) great on a smartphone.

Think your site will render well on mobile automatically? Not exactly. While a good developer will ensure your site operates and appears just as streamlined on mobile as it does on a desktop, you can make sure things like images and navigation are showing up properly by using Mobile-Friendly Test Tool, or even pulling up pages on your own phone.

And while we know it used to be common to have a mobile state separate from your regular site (perhaps with an “m.” before the URL), that’s no longer the case. Rather, your site should be responsive and properly rendered, no matter the device or screen size.

4. Strategizing in a silo

Seasoned digital marketers know that you don’t focus your efforts on just one avenue. Rather, they recognize that the best strategies are overarching and encompass multiple channels that can enhance one another. 

For example, if you’re relying on a single marketing channel to drive all of your leads, you’re missing out on serious opportunities — and potential customers. Instead of only leveraging one tactic, like PPC, you should also be publishing quality content, considering paid social, and regularly maintaining strong SEO practices, if you have the bandwidth.

Quick fix: Before you invest in digital marketing options like paid social or PPC, make sure your website is up to snuff. You can have strong campaigns and a sizable budget, but if the site people are landing on is slow, clunky, and outdated, you’re likely to have a tougher time turning leads into closed business.

HawkSEM: 7 Digital Marketing Fails — And How to Avoid Them

Digital marketing fails in the migration process can cause broken links, a poor mobile experience, and loss of significant SEO you’ve worked to build. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Redesigning your website too often

It’s good to give your website a refresh every now and then. But if you find your brand with a new redesigned homepage every month, it may be time to stop and reflect.

A website redesign is a big (and often costly) undertaking. It’s a project that requires significant time and resources. The good news? If you do it right, you shouldn’t need to redesign your site more than once every 2–3 years

When you do decide to redesign your site:

  • take the time to be thoughtful about the changes you make
  • make sure you redirect any pages with different URLs
  • try not to do a total 180 from your old site — or else you risk visitors thinking they’re in the wrong place

Quick fix: Whether you’re planning a redesign or a full site migration, one of the first things we suggest is consulting an SEO professional. As we’ve said before, digital marketing fails in the migration process can cause broken links, a poor mobile experience, and loss of significant SEO you’ve worked to build.

6. Not using email marketing

If you think email is dead, think again! In fact, email generates $38 for every $1 spent (that’s a whopping 3,800% ROI), according to HubSpot. That’s a massive return, and it’s proof that you should at least consider leveraging email. You can use this medium to nurture your leads, turn current customers into evangelists, and remain top of mind with your audience.

Yes, most of us are constantly dealing with a deluge of emails. But effective emails will cut through the clutter, attract the readers’ attention, and make the case for why it deserves a place in your recipients’ inboxes. Some elements of effective email marketing include:

  • An eye-catching (but non-spammy) subject line
  • A clean, easy-to-read design
  • A call-to-action (CTA)
  • Educational or valuable content that is actionable and helpful to the reader
  • Personalization where possible
  • Mobile optimization

7. Cutting corners when it comes to development

It’s natural to hear “customization” and think it’s a good thing for your business. But when it comes to your website, this isn’t necessarily the case. Building your site from scratch or going custom with your site’s theme or applications can bring you headaches down the road.

The phrase “you get what you pay for” comes to mind. If you don’t invest in your site, you may run into ongoing maintenance and performance issues as time goes on. Some custom websites can’t use plugins properly, and they can make bugs harder to find and fix quickly. It’ll also be that much more difficult to make updates if the person who built your site no longer works for your company or the third-party vendor you hired. 

The takeaway

With so many factors making up digital marketing programs — not to mention a landscape that’s constantly evolving — mistakes happen. But when you know more about the common traps marketers can fall into, you can better avoid them before they become big issues.

Let this breakdown make you feel more confident when it comes to what’s worth investing time and resources in, what’s worth exploring, and what you can leave by the wayside.

Ready to grow your digital marketing further? That’s what we’re here for.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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