Small business marketing

Small business digital marketing got you in a tangle? We introduce the six steps to business marketing success, plus marketing ideas, strategies and methods.

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Robyn Summers-Emler Grow Online Editor

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What are the best ideas for marketing your business digitally in 2024? For small businesses, we'd say: think social media, think email, and think any web-based platforms.

Digital marketing is relatively easy to break into. Compared to traditional marketing like print, it's cheaper and has more reach. It also continues to go on different transformations, with the most resident episode bringing AI into the mix.

So whether you already have a marketing strategy you're happy with, or you're starting one from scratch – Startups is here to help. We've put together this helpful guide on the best marketing ideas small businesses should try in 2024. Plus, you can also use our quick and free digital marketing quote finder to help connect you with the best providers that can meet your business needs.

Marketing ideas for small businesses

As a business owner, you might not be a marketing master. If that's true for you, you’re really not alone.

Many small business owners highlight marketing as one of the top pain points when identifying the challenges that starting a business brings.

We know marketing your business can be an overwhelming prospect, which is why we’ve put together this step-by-step list of marketing ideas for small businesses.

Step 1. Market and competitor research.

Assess what your customers want, and pinpoint what your business does to fulfil that need. This is what you should use as your marketing hook.

Take a long hard look at what your competitors are doing to market themselves digitally, and see how you could do it better. Do they use social media? Perhaps they’re keen on email marketing, or maybe they rely on display ads. Whatever it is, pick up on the digital marketing trends within your industry, and learn how to become a big player in your field.

Step 2. Make your website sing.

If you haven’t already got a business website, now’s as good a time as any to get one. To help you find the perfect website builder, take a browse of the best website builders for small businesses.

If you have a website, show it some love. Refresh the content, jazz up the homepage, or even consider creating an online shop to compliment your current sales statistics.

A website is what you make of it, and can really boost your sales as well as your presence – both locally and globally.

Step 3. Improve your Google ‘My Business’ listing and your customer reviews.

This’ll help give you a good rep in your industry, and is an easy way to build trust amongst your client base. Google My Business provides a relative level of control when it comes to the external perception of your business.

30% of customers see reviews as key when judging a business, so making sure your review representation is positive is also key. This means listening to your customers and actioning any improvements. Also, take the time to reply to your reviews, positive or negative, as this really shows that you care about your customers and how they interact with your brand.

Step 4. Dive into AI marketing

Over 25% of small businesses are using AI tools to support their digital marketing campaigns and sales automation efforts, and more than 90% of those surveyed say AI tools help cut costs. Therefore, jumping on the AI bandwagon could be a brilliant idea for your small business.

You can implement a set of software to integrate AI into your marketing strategy. For instance, you can use Copy.ai to write copy for website pages, blog posts, or social media posts. Although you should still check everything, this can help save you lots of time.

You could also turn to HubSpot to help with marketing automation, sales CRM, customer service, content management, and operation services. It basically helps keep your databases clean and up to date, as well as offering chat services and automatic transcription of calls which is essential to strengthening your customer service muscle.

What aspects of your business's marketing could you use professional help with?

Save on Digital Marketing by comparing quotes

Step 5. Create killer content.

Interesting and worthwhile blog posts work well here, as they will help drive traffic to your site and encourage people to stay once they get there.

You might be thinking, how do I make killer content? Well, keep these four things in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to an enviable blog:

  • Put the audience first– Always consider the user intent. Write what the people want to know, not what you think they should be interested in.
  • Make it Search Engine Optimised (SEO targeted)– Find high volume keywords that are relevant to your audience, then use them judiciously across your site
  • Tone and style– Yes, grammar is important – so dot your I’s and cross your T’s – but being friendly and approachable communication is also key. Avoid overly complex sentence structures and too much jargon – after all, it’s a blog post, not an essay.
  • Build trust with your readers– Tell the truth. Don’t create wild statistics, and don’t use your website as a platform to slander competitors – that’s not going to win you any favours. Readable and relevant content is the best way to build trust, as it shows that you’re attuned to the wants and needs of your target market. Also, don’t be too sales focused in your copy – be human, be relatable, and be believable. When it comes to building trust, authenticity is the best policy.

Still need to set up your business's website? We'd suggest doing this with one of our top recommended web builder products below. All three of them offer free trials, so you can try them out risk-free.

1 of 3 Best Overall Web Builder

Wix

4.8
2 of 3 Best for Design and Templates

Squarespace

4.6
3 of 3 Best for Selling Online

Shopify

4

Step 6. Work on your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Building your SEO presence can lead to a big bump in sales. Google My Business is a huge part of this, as it allows you to put your exact location into Google – literally putting you on the map. Check it out – it’s completely free!

You should build up a database of relevant keywords that you can use in your marketing. A keyword research plug-in, such as Keywords Everywhere or SEO Minion, can help you find high-volume words and phrases that your audience are typing into search engines. Using these throughout your website copy will help you rank in search engine results.

Did you know?

63% of businesses have increased their digital marketing budgets just this past year.

Step 7. Email your way to marketing success.

Despite all this technical innovation, don’t forget the humble email – even today, a well-targeted email campaign is worth its virtual weight in gold. We’ve created a comprehensive guide to email marketing, which will show you how to drive sales from the inbox up.

A three-point email campaign is an effective way to communicate with your customers, taking a more ‘softly softly' approach to marketing a product or service as opposed to the hard sell.

Here’s the format:

  • Your first email should focus on the ‘what’ – it should introduce the product or service, and create excitement.Exclusive discounts work well– they can help build a personal relationship with the customer, making them feel special, and provide an incentive to buy.
  • Your second emailshould focus on the ‘why’ – it should build on the excitement generated by your first email.Use a more imperative tone, and really explain why the customer needs this product or service. You can state a reminder that an introductory offer from the first email ends soon.
  • Your third emailshould focus on the ‘now’ – it should round up the what, the why, and the how much, but place emphasis on how little time the customer has left.

Remember that exclusive discount you introduced in the first email? The third email should be sent a few days before the discount ends. It’s a final, final reminder to make the most of the offer, and to check out your fantastic product/service.

Step 8. Partner with other small businesses

This is a fantastic option if you have a tight budget. If you collaborate with other small businesses, you automatically cut costs and are also gaining more exposure by using another business’s network. You can do things like co-hosting an online class, giving discounts to people in both of your mailing lists, and tagging each other on social media.

This is a great way of creating a stronger community amongst small business owners. In some ways, it also works like influencing marketing but the great part is both of you can do it for free.

Step 9. Put your energies into one social media channel.

The social media landscape is an ever-shifting sphere. With constant system updates, changing public opinion, and having to fight to be heard amongst the biggest players in the business world, it can be hard to know what to post, and where to post it.

It’s best practice to put your focus on the social media platform that best fits your business outlook, as well as your customer habits.

For B2B business marketing, hone in on your LinkedIn and Twitter campaigns.

For B2C marketing, Facebook and Instagram are your best bets.

Step 10. Set up a referral program

One of the most compelling ways of gaining customers is by word of mouth. Therefore, setting up a referral scheme is a persuasive way to get your existing customers talking to their friends about your business. Just make sure that you can actually provide for the discounts and benefits in your budget!

Different types of digital marketing

There are many types of digital marketing, meaning there are a variety of channels you can use to promote your business. However, we recommend focusing on these three to have a focused digital marketing strategy:

✔️ Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising: the advertiser pays a fee every time a customer clicks on an ad. In simpler terms, you're buying visits to your website. With search engines like Google Ads and Bing Ads, advertisers bid on a keyword that's relevant to their market. You can also find this on Facebook and Twitter

✔️ Social Media Marketing (SMM): pretty self-explanatory – you use social media as a promotional tool for a product or service. The aim is to make content that customers can engage with and share with their network. This increases your exposure and widens your outreach.

✔️ Display advertising: this is advertising on a website, app, or social media platform that appears in a banner form. Your display ad can be part of your PPC marketing so that each time someone clicks on your ad, you'll pay a fee to whichever platform is displaying the ad for you.

Small business digital marketing: A summary

Small business digital marketing involves planning, strategy, and a variety of digital platforms. It’s essential to streamline any marketing approach, and ensure that the message you communicate is both clear and consistent.

Branding, website functionality, and social media visibility are key aspects of any successful digital marketing strategy. It’s also crucial to create content that’s engaging, informative, and shareable.

A successful digital marketing campaign will transform your small business into a household name – sometimes even overnight.

Would you like more personalised digital marketing support to really give your business the edge over the competition? Fill out our quick digital marketing form to tell us exactly what you need, and we’ll send you pricing quotes from specialists that can help – the best (and easiest) way to get your small business to make a big splash on social media.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is small business marketing?
    Small business marketing is the process of getting your products or services in front of consumers either through online or offline strategies. Regardless of whether you do it through Instagram or through an in-person event, the aim is to make more sales and grow your small business.
  • Does a small business need a marketing plan?
    You absolutely do! Having a marketing plan will help you better manage your marketing resources and ensure you're optimizing the effectiveness of your customer outreach. It doesn't have to be super intricate but it should be detailed enough that you have a clear idea of where your marketing is headed.
  • How do I create a marketing plan for my small business?
    Your marketing plan might look different from that of another business but they will all generally cover these steps: having measurable goals, understanding your target market and their needs, selling your product based on your market, analysing the competition, understand what your unique selling point is, set your budget, create and manage your marketing campaigns, track results and adapt accordingly.
  • What are the 4 types of marketing strategies?
    The 4 types of marketing strategies are the 4Ps – product, price, place, and promotion. These are also known as a 'marketing mix' and they should hopefully sound familiar to your marketing team if you have one.

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Written by:
Fernanda is a Mexican-born Startups Writer. Specialising in the Marketing & Finding Customers pillar, she’s always on the lookout for how startups can leverage tools, software, and insights to help solidify their brand, retain clients, and find new areas for growth. Having grown up in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, Fernanda is passionate about how businesses can adapt to new challenges in different economic environments to grow and find creative ways to engage with new and existing customers. With a background in journalism, politics, and international relations, Fernanda has written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to how businesses can retain staff during a recession. She is currently strengthening her journalistic muscle by studying for a part-time multimedia journalism degree from the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).
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