30 Digital Marketing Experts Share Their Top Tips for Marketing A Small Business

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With an estimated 100 million small businesses in the world today, competition in the online marketing place will only become more fierce. This means that new, or prospective entrepreneurs must work harder to make their brands stand out in front of a target audience.

Without a proper online marketing strategy, small businesses risk losing their relevancy in the marketplace and miss out on the opportunity of building long-lasting relationships with their customers.

There are many things to consider before attempting to design a strong digital marketing plan and because we know how challenging this process can be, we decided to ask 30 online strategists to share with us their top tips for marketing a small business. This is what they had to say:

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: There are no shortcuts. Online marketing is very complicated today, so time invested looking for shortcuts is time wasted. Be prepared to spend both time and money investing in your knowledge if you want any repeatable success.

This investment may be in your own staff or in partnerships with a trusted consultant or agency. Without investing the time to learn or selecting a good knowledgeable partner, you’ll waste a lot more time and money, while achieving limited results. Budget a minimum of an hour a day to learn on your own so you can protect your investments here.

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: As an SEO practitioner, the #1 tip I give to clients and small business owners is this: learn SEO yourself. Some folks think it’s dumb for an SEO consultant to advise folks to learn how to do their own SEO, but I find the opposite is true. When a business owner actually takes the time to learn SEO themselves, several amazing things happen:

  1. They come to understand the power and true potential of SEO for their business
  2. They make better decisions across all marketing channels now that they better understand how it impacts their online visibility.
  3. They are more likely to hire and retain seasoned professionals, once they begin to appreciate the expertise and specialization involved. Generally, I point business owners and/or clients to DistilledU or the learning resources at Moz (biased here because I wrote some of those resources).

My greatest pleasure comes not when someone pays an invoice, but when someone says “I read that SEO article you wrote, and it helped me with a problem.” Problems = solved.

Question: If you only had 2 hours to market a small business, what would be your main priority and why?

Answer: Only two hours, I would talk to as many customers as possible to understand three things:

  1. Why have they chosen to walk into my store or come to my website, while there are so many choices out there?
  2. How can we make your life better, what problem can we solve?
  3. How can we improve the service or product offering?

Too many businesses don’t know their most valuable customers and how to make their life better. A happy customer will likely talk about the great service or products they bought at your store, which makes for better marketing than you can ever do in just 2 hours. An increased understanding of your customers will allow you to make small and large improvements in your day-to-day operations which will feed into the word of mouth marketing of every customer you serve. This way, your 2 hours will be put to work every day, through every customer.

Question: If you only had 2 hours to market a small business, what would be your main priority and why?

Answer: If I only had 2 hours to make a difference for a small business, in order to help market them in the longer term, I would sit down and talk to the business owners and employees. This discussion, getting to know the business, their employees, their customers & target audience, would be invaluable creating rich and unique website copy, to help target customers in their local area.

We do a lot of work with locally focused businesses and have seen plenty of poor locally focused landing pages, and with Google’s commitment to providing relevant and local results to their users, it’s critical that a business’ website content is locally targeted. I’d spend the last 10 minutes ensuring they have a correctly optimized Google My Business page!

Question: If you could offer one piece of advice for a small business on what not to do to market their business, what would it be?

Answer: My answer is quite simple, but very fundamental. Look on the long-term picture on your marketing strategies. Especially with digital marketing. There are multiple quick fixes, but they easily die off. Unless your product or service is a fad, always implement marketing strategies that have long-term benefits. They are more difficult to achieve, but they pay off more than a hundred fold.

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: Normally I have to think about “top tip” questions, but this was easy. “Connect the dots” immediately came to mind. I can’t tell you how many people have come to us, trying to figure out what went wrong, and they just didn’t take the extra step of connecting the dots.

Look at your site right now. Is there a way to communicate with your potential customers beyond the few pages of “this is what we do”? In other words, do you have a blog, or offer whitepapers, or guides or anything? Is there a way beyond a contact form for them to contact you? Do you have a Twitter or Facebook or other social platform?

This is part of connecting the dots, but then there’s follow through. So many have a blog, but don’t link to their blog anywhere on the rest of their website. So if somebody comes to their website, they may not ever know the company has a blog.

So many have a social account but don’t use it. And those that use it, so many forget to put them on their website. All this means is that the visitors don’t know you have social accounts, so they can’t follow you and become more engaged.

You have to fill in the spaces and make the final connections. You can get started right now by creating a list of actions you expect a visitor to do. Go to your home page and look at it with fresh eyes. Do the same with other pages, as if you’ve come in to the page from a search engine.

Pretending you’re the visitor, go through that list of actions. Is it as easy as you thought it’d be? Better yet, have someone else go through the actions. Put somebody in front of your website and ask them to make a purchase, contact you, follow you on a social platform, etc. You may be surprised at how connected you AREN’T.

Question: If you only had 2 hours to market a small business, what would be your main priority and why?

Answer: I would work on their homepage. It’s the biggest impact you can make in two hours, since it’s the page most people will look at over a long period of time. I would be sure it clearly states their product/services features and benefits. That it has a clear and compelling call to action. That it has testimonials from happy customers, and links to further case studies or success stories. I remove any “stocky” looking imagery and use a site like Unsplash or Compfight to find and whip up more images, or better yet, leverage any imagery they might have.

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer:
How much traffic you’ll get depends mostly on your success in Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Email. One of those sources of traffic is different than the others. It’s email.
Email is not a company. If you can build a successful email program, you’ll rely less on those big, public businesses that ultimately aren’t obligated to help you at all. You don’t own your rankings or your social followings. But you do own your email list.
Email is a way to create a long-term, durable competitive advantage. Start by building a high-converting email signup form: https://www.orbitmedia.com/blog/email-signup-forms. It should include the three P’s:

  • Prominence: It should visually stand out. It doesn’t have to be a popup window, but it should at least use strong color contrast and be available throughout your site.
  • Promise: A good email sign up form tells people what their content will be and how often they’ll get it. You’re trying to make an appointment with your audience. Put the topic and frequency in your sign up box.
  • Proof: Let visitors know that it’s good by adding a third party endorsement. This might be number of subscribers, or just a quote from someone who loves your content.
  • The day we added these three P’s to our form, we saw a huge jump in our conversion rates. So grow your list! It’s one of the best ways to create long term security for your marketing and your brand.

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: My top tip for a small business managing their own online marketing would be to consult with known expert in the space to draft a comprehensive 12-month roadmap broken out by role.

For example, we provide our clients with a technical SEO roadmap for their webmaster (one time and ongoing tasks), a content roadmap for persuasive and marketing copy, and a visibility roadmap for social and outreach teams. If it’s in the budget, keep those consultants on retainer and hold them accountable to performance goals.

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: Conversion-oriented content distribution

If you are aiming to growth hack your small business site, one way to massively increase traffic is to distribute exclusive content for other blogs with relevant audiences as yours.

This content should be providing value to other’s blog audience. Your contributed content or guest post should also help convert blog readers to email subscribers.
See example below of one of my guest posts that added 52 new subscribers to my email list.

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Here’s how you can do it.

STEP 1: Find blogs with high-engagement rate (with built-in community of active readers). You can find them using Google searches for related:yourdomain.com or top [your industry] blogs. Use Ahrefs or SEMRush to qualify these blogs based on their estimated organic search traffic. Tip: Go only for blogs with 1,000 estimated organic traffic per month, which means that they rank for several long tail keywords and head terms.

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STEP 2: Pitch your target blog with customized list of topics for their audiences. I’d start by looking at their top pages, using Ahrefs or seeing their recent pages that got some huge attention for content ideation.
STEP 3: Once you have received a response and the blog owner approved your request to a write a post about your suggested topic, your next step is to create a 10x content.

This 10x content or content pillar is a type of content piece that provides higher value than what they have published. This increase the chances of your content to acquire new followers, readers and primarily, email subscribers.
One way to add more value to your post is to provide customized graphic designs, videos, slide presentations or link to any useful resources relevant to your topic.

STEP 4: Add a bonus or a package of bonuses at the end of the post to acquire new email subscribers for your online marketing campaign. See this preview of bonus package in my guest post for a SEO blog.

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STEP 5. Create a dedicated landing page on your blog. This page is aimed to capture emails from your referred visitors. Make sure you add a link to this page from your contributed post.

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STEP 6. Once they’ve subscribed to your email list, they’ll be redirected to a bonus area page – you should also create this one.

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You can check out these guides on blogger outreach and off-page SEO for more actionable online marketing strategies.

Question: If you only had 2 hours to market a small business, what would be your main priority and why?

Answer: My main priority with a limited amount time would be long lasting results. To that end I would spend time writing great content for publication as guest posts. Guest posting is a fantastic strategy to acquire links, but more importantly to get your name and abilities in front of your potential customers.

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: Your website is the epicentre of all of your online marketing efforts. Everything else you do online should attract visitors into your website.

Once there, visitors should be presented with clear calls to action.

Question: If you only had 2 hours to market a small business, what would be your main priority and why?

Answer: If I only had two hours (per day) to market a business or online brand, I would focus my efforts on creating multiple expert roundups to promote the site. The benefit to expert roundups is two-fold. You get to create great content for your site and audience, while also getting exposure from everyone you interview and feature as well. Here’s an example of how the process works.

  1. Come up with a unique question to ask your experts
  2. Make a list of various experts in your niche (name, email, site)
  3. Send out your question to all of the experts through email
  4. Compile a list of all of their response and link back to their sites
  5. Go live with the expert roundup on your site and share it everywhere
  6. Follow up with each expert, letting them know its live and to also share it
  7. Repeat the process with different niche topics and questions related to your niche

After following this process, any site or business should see massive search rankings, social shares and new traffic flowing to their sites.

Question: If you only had 2 hours to market a small business, what would be your main priority and why?

Answer: First of all, I would learn as much as I could about current customers. What they care about, how they were acquired, what makes them mad, happy, etc. This would give me a good idea about who they are and where more of them might be. I would spend about 30 minutes on that step.

Second, I would take about an hour to do a light weight SEO audit on the website to ensure major problems don’t exist with indexation, and to make sure the existing pages on the site are targeting the right terms and aren’t competing with each other.

The last 30 minutes I would set up some type of outbound marketing campaign which would extend beyond the 2 hours, either Facebook ads or SEM campaigns depending on what I learned about the audience in step 1.

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: Being small or early stage gives you a key advantage – agility and you must use it to your advantage. It is hard for larger businesses to change things and you can get ahead by ensuring you move quickly. Don’t get overly picky about finishing content campaigns, new tools or apps etc., so they are 110% finished.

Instead ship them and learn from the data they give you. This, combined with an understanding of your audience, should mean you get traction if you stick to it, incessantly and without let up. It takes time but by sticking close to those you want to help you will add value and with it, build a business.

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: My tip is partnerships. Partnerships with affiliates, influencers, businesses, resellers. If you can partner with someone who has a large audience and they are willing to promote your product/service, it can drive your business forward in a big way.

For example, we partnered in November with AppSumo which has a newsletter of 750k. The announced our product and we sold over 4k units. We also partnered with affiliates for Black Friday, and although this was much smaller we also netted thousands of dollars. The quickest way to take your business forward it to latch on to someone who has already built up a sizable audience – it should make perfect sense.

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: Here are Three Key Marketing 101 Lessons that never go out of style and all Small Business Owners need to remember:

    1. You are NOT Your Customer—Do Your Research: One of the most important lessons every marketer should remember is to market to your target audience—not yourself. Yet how many times does your inner voice tell you “They’ll never buy that…?” Don’t spout information YOU THINK your market wants to hear. Listen to your prospects first—and social is just about the greatest listening tool ever invented. It’s focus groups on steroids! Use social media to listen to who your ideal customer is and what she wants before you start messaging.
    2. Frequency Isn’t a Bad Thing: Social reach and frequency are tangential to good marketing, as long as your content is relevant to your market. How many times does a potential customer or partner need to see your message before they convert? You might as well ask how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop (remember that old TV commercial?). Some will bite after a dozen licks; for others, it’s three—depends on where your audience is in a given moment when they see your message. And remember, you’re not just talking to one person here—you’re getting in front of your audience’s friends and their friends as well. The more the merrier. So do not forget about good ole “reach and frequency.”
    3. Story Is Important: Remember the power of storytelling, and use it in your communications. People can’t resist a good story. It’s an emotional connection bridge that is built into our human DNA. Social enhances it by allowing more consumers to share more stories about more of the products they see, buy and use. Another thing to remember about stories is that people are already having conversation about your brand, and you can’t necessarily control that. Companies who try to stem the tide of a bad story by trying to control the message find this out the hard way. However, you can INFLUENCE the kind of stories that are told about you by being involved in the conversation, transparent in your use of social media, and responsive to the needs of your customers, both online and offline.

Businesses that use social successfully reap the rewards of customer satisfaction, deeper employee loyalty, more effective knowledge sharing, improved brand reputation, lowered costs, and importantly, increased revenues.

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  • Ron Sela

    Full Stack Marketer, having held roles at Dapulse, Klear, and Pagewiz. His writing is often featured in leading media outlets. He was recently named one of the Top 100 Influencers in Social Media Marketing by Onalytica,

    @ronsela

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?
Answer: The first and most important step when doing your marketing is
to know your audience. This isn’t a figurative idea. It is quite literal, you must know to the highest possible degree, who your audience is. The simplest way of understanding the bigger picture is knowing who they are, what they want and of equal importance, what they don’t want. The more you can get in the mind of your audience, the better. Knowing their thought process will allow you to be one step ahead of their habits, which puts you a leg above your competition.

If you are unsure of who you are reaching, a few proven strategies to identify your audience include:

      • Customer Reviews: These give you clues as to what your customers love, and what should be improved upon, as well as letting you know the basic ideas of who they are.
      • Social Media: Knowing who is sharing your information and interacting on your social media profiles speaks volumes as to who your audience is. Pay close attention to their activity and to what platforms a majority of your customers are on.
      • Surveys: Simple surveys are asking for general information, suggestions and even a rating, are a tried and true way to gather statistics while also asking your customers for their opinion.

The second most important step when handling your online marketing is to test your various digital marketing strategies. This tip follows the first tip for a reason, once you know your audience you can better conduct your marketing strategies for testing. Marketing strategies are always evolving and changing, to focus on just a few that you believe will work, can hinder your ability to grow with the trends. You don’t have to blindly test marketing techniques; you can pinpoint your objectives, identify your target, and know your best platforms.

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: As a business owner, you need to make your money stretch farther. And the easiest way to do this is by making sure you are tracking your online activities. You need to be able to allocate your efforts towards measurable goals in order to do more of what is working and less of what isn’t. Luckily, you can do this with a little bit of conscience effort and the right tools.
In this case, I recommend Google Analytics paired with utilizing UTM tracking parameters on all your efforts. It’s important to note that you will need to set up your goals in Google Analytics to properly tie back your efforts to the results. If you are not familiar with UTM parameters, it’s just a string added to your URLs that will pass through additional data to your Analytics account.

For example, interested in knowing if social media is driving newsletter subscribers? Here’s how to measure social media efforts with Google Analytics: http://chrismakara.com/social-media/social-media-analytics/. This is just one example. You can use UTM parameters for everything that has a link. Links in emails, paid ad links, and more. When you meticulously track your efforts, you won’t leave any doubt on what is (or isn’t) working when it comes to your online marketing efforts.

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: My top tip would be to get customers involved in any way you can. Get their testimonials. Get them to make videos. Get them involved in your Facebook page and Twitter accounts. If you are daring enough, make room for user generated content on your website. Make quizzes on your website or provide interactive tools.

Any way you can, get customers involved. The more engaged they are, the more likely they will be to:

      • Buy again
      • Refer customers
      • Sing your praises
      • Share your website on social media

What you do will depend on the nature of your business. If you can make your website a destination, so that people keep coming back over and over, you’ll have them where you want them when they are ready to buy.

  • James Brockbank
  • James Brockbank

    Managing Director of Digitaloft, a UK-based digital marketing agency focused upon high-performing inbound campaigns which deliver results in the form of targeted leads and sales,

    @brockbankjames

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: My top tip for any small business doing their own online marketing would be to take the time to properly understand their audiences. That is, understanding who these people are and how they behave online.
Whilst it can be a difficult concept for small businesses to get their heads round, persona mapping (https://www.ph-creative.com/media/243786/3-Persona-Empathy-Mapping.pdf) is ultimately all about developing fictional characters based upon their core customer base.

In doing so, they’ll ultimately take themselves on the journey that customers take to not only find but engage with a brand and having this knowledge means they’ll perform far better when it comes to marketing either products or services.
The process of persona mapping is one which should come right at the very start of marketing a business online, however if a strategy is already in place, there’s still a lot of gains to be had from going back and carrying out this task.
In understanding core customer bases, marketers can put themselves in the shoes of their audiences and ultimately deliver the right messaging to the right people at the right time!

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: Make sure that you have something interesting to say, or an interesting way to say it. You’ll know because people share you. If they don’t like or share you, then you are not saying anything interesting.

Or don’t bother. Just be the best designed, most impressive, prettiest, fastest XYZ sales website you can be, with 60%+ conversions (yes, this is attainable if you do it right) – you don’t NEED a blog, an about us page, or any superfluous pages on your site to distract or try to rank in Google. It just doesn’t work that way anymore. This tip will save or sink your business alone.

  • Will Blunt
  • Will Blunt

    Founder of Blogger Sidekick, a company that helps digital marketers build authority with one-of-a-kind content. He is also privileged to be the content editor for several leading digital marketing publications, including JeffBullas.com,

    @BloggerSideKick

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: The most important thing to do when you are looking to use online marketing to grow a small business is to find the biggest return for the least effort. The 20% of effort that will result in 80% of your results.

In my experience I have found this to be effective content marketing. By spending the time to develop a structured and deliberate content strategy from day one, you set yourself up to reap the rewards in the long-term. Sure the short-term gains won’t be as fast as running ad campaigns, but if you invest your resources in content it will continue to deliver returns 6, 12 or 18 months down the track without you putting in any additional effort.

If I was kickstarting a content strategy for a small business today I would use what I call the SEO Spider’s Web: http://www.bloggersidekick.com/seo-strategy/. It’s a visual representation of what an effective content architecture looks like for a website.

The basic idea starts with content anchors. These are the pillars of your SEO strategy.

Content anchors are definitive resources that dominate a specific topic and are optimized for an important (and opportunistic) keyword term. The rest of your content strategy and blog topics stem from these content anchors. All of your internal linking and external link building revolves around these pillar articles. Over time you build a deliberately spun Spider’s Web of internal and external links that support themselves using these anchor points.

The SEO Spider’s Web influences the three most important search engine ranking factors:

      • Inbound links from authoritative sites
      • Content and lots of it
      • User experience on your site

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: For small businesses doing their own online marketing, my top tip is to focus on organic promotions: SEO, organic social, and PR. Traffic from these channels is free, and while it takes time to manage them, the risk is lower than in, say, paid search, which is complex and risky for novices. If you do choose to go the paid route, make sure to use budget caps and geotargeting to ensure you’re reaching your target audience.

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: My top tip for SMBs doing their own online marketing is to read as much as they can to learn the channels they want to use, then test them themselves and learn as they go. If they need help, they should find an expert on Clarity.fm to help them with quick advice!

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: I would focus as much of my marketing as possible on my current customers, and deliver a customer experience that is definitively better than my competition. For small business, the best way to gain new customers is to turn current customers into volunteer marketers.

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: Educate and inform instead of interrupt and sell.

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: Focus on creating keyword-targeted content assets. When done well, content assets will attract social share and backlinks. Over time, this will send your site organic search traffic. But to be successful, you need to focus on creating content around specific keywords.

The best way to find these keywords are by scanning through forums, using SEMRush to analyze your competitor’s keywords, and to use the Google Keyword Planner. If your site lacks authority, then you should focus on long-tail keyword phrases that have three or more words. The most important part of this strategy is your content. Develop it like it’s an asset for your business.

Question: What would be your top tip for a small business doing their own online marketing?

Answer: My number one advice for virtually every small business is to focus on the creation of content for their own website. Everything else that you might do will pale in comparison for effectiveness.

The fact is, as a small business, we have very limited time and resources, and cannot spend hundreds of hours a month chasing every marketing trick and strategy there is. We have to keep ourselves tuned into our business and keep the marketing and sales happening as efficiently and continuously as possible.

Businesses that create one new piece of content per week (page, blog post, article, ebook, etc.) set themselves up for incredible long-term and sustained success. They’re able to extend the usefulness of their site by providing more information that helps visitors get to know, like and trust them.

They’re creating more search engine-friendly content. And they’re also creating wonderful pieces of activity for social media by way of shares of that content. And the best part is that content can be used over and over again.

Question: If you could offer one piece of advice for a small business on what not to do to market their business, what would it be?

Answer: Do not sign a contract with any SEO, advertising agency, internet marketer, business coach or business consultant without first getting their credentials and asking for proof those credentials are authentic. The trend this year for hiring me is based on the failure to do this. Marketers are desperate for clients.

Small businesses are on very limited budgets and don’t know what they don’t know. In every instance where a small business has approached me for help, their website is poorly built, not maintained, and not designed to conduct business online or come up in search engine results. It doesn’t matter how much money is invested in marketing.

If the website isn’t designed for people to use when they arrive, from all devices and browsers, and they leave, that is a lost conversion and referral. My top advice is to invest in a usability, SEO and conversions site audit before marketing your business.

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