Running a small business isn't easy. You already have plenty to do, but you still need a digital marketing strategy so you can stay ahead of the competition (or even survive today). So, how can you market your local business and stay competitive in today's digital world?
We think everyone could take a few tips from big brands and put them into practice.
Even if you're on a small business marketing budget, you can steal a few digital marketing tactics from the biggest brands, including brand consistency, content marketing, mobile optimization and hiring a marketing agency.
1. Branding Consistency
Brand consistency is important. Think about it - have you ever walked into a Starbucks you've never been to. It looks and smells exactly like your hometown Starbucks, doesn't it? That's no accident.
Starbucks knows the importance of brand consistency. Baristas aren't even allowed to wear perfume or cologne, so that every Starbucks you walk into smells exactly the same. If you've ever been inside a Starbucks café, you know that delicious coffee smell I'm talking about (even if it isn't exactly the same as your local Starbucks, the storefront and logo are immediately recognizable as a Starbucks coffee shop.)
So, maybe your small business doesn't have thousands of stores worldwide (that you can fill with the delightful scent of coffee beans), but you don't need coffee beans to be consistent with your brand.
Here are a few ways to ensure online brand consistency for your small business:
1. Keep colors and logo consistent across all digital platforms (and offline as well, while you're at it). This includes your website, online directories, signs, stickers, flyers, menus, brochures, t-shirts, company-wide tattoos. (Okay, maybe don't do that. Go zip lining or something if you really need to do some team-building.)
2. Keep your brand voice consistent across social media platforms and blog posts. What does that even mean? Your business has a way of interacting with customers, right? Are you serious, straightforward, efficient, humorous or a combination of some/all of those? However you deal with and talk to customers, make sure to keep the tone similar across your blog, social media accounts and anywhere else you might interact with customers.
3. Be consistent with blog posts and social media. Don't let your blog or social media accounts become a ghost town - otherwise, customers might find your Facebook page and wonder if your business is still open, since the last thing you posted was a heart-shaped pizza deal on Valentine's Day 2010.
2. Content Marketing
Speaking of consistently posting to social media and your blog, you know what the big brands do well? Content marketing. Content marketing isn't just blogging, but using various forms of content (video, podcasts, infographics, etc.) to persuade consumers they need your product or service.
Just think about Red Bull's content marketing strategy. Red Bull TV has been hugely popular. When the company sponsored Felix Baumgartner's free-fall from 128 thousand feet, it was an instant sensation - at the time of writing this post, the video has been viewed more than 40 million times.
And now, Red Bull earns three times as much revenue as Monster. It's pretty clear Red Bull's doing something right.
But content marketing isn't just for the biggest brands out there. Content marketing and local search marketing can work together to put your business on the map. Content marketing can also be a way for you to showcase your expertise or show customers how to use your product (think video tutorials or a how-to blog post).
And the best part about content marketing is that it's really easy to tailor it to your local search efforts. All you have to do is create local blog posts about events, best restaurants and attractions or local news.
3. Go Mobile
Your customers are mobile, so optimizing for mobile devices is really no longer optional. If you haven't already, it's time to start optimizing for mobile devices - and big brands understand the importance of mobile optimization.
Think of the amount of brands that have their own app. Taco Bell recently launched its app, which enables customers to place orders and pick-up in store. The fast food chain has gone a step further with their mobile marketing, though, using mobile ad targeting to drive breakfast sales.
Taco Bell targets customers (on their smartphones) with breakfast ads when the customers open the apps they use first thing in the morning. This gives Taco Bell the best chance to show customers breakfast ads early in the morning before they've eaten.
You don't need your own app to go mobile, though. There are other mobile-optimization tactics you can put into practice.
Here are a few quick things you can do to optimize your website for mobile:
- Create mobile-optimized landing pages for ads
- Add enough space between links and buttons that users don't accidentally click the wrong thing
- Test your site for loading speed with Google's new website testing tool
- Test your site's performance and appearance on a variety of mobile devices and screen sizes - make sure text and images are large enough and that your site loads quickly
Bonus: A recent study found that 68% of emails were opened on mobile devices, so make sure every single email you send (even if it's just a confirmation or a "thank you" email) looks good on mobile devices.
4. Hire Someone to Handle Your Digital Marketing for You
You can't do it all yourself. You've got a business to run, and that's not easy.
Here's what Google looks for in local businesses when determining whether or not your business should show up in a search:
Relevance refers to how well your business's services and products match a particular search. This means you need to keep on top of your local citation information, because incorrect or incomplete information in your citations can cause search engines to lower your local search ranking.
Prominence is how well-known you are. Think number of reviews and social media followers. And proximity simply refers to how close your business is to the searcher. But those aren't the only factors search engines take into account when ranking your business in local searches.
And even though these three factors aren't the only thing your business should worry about, optimizing for those three alone can make for a complicated digital marketing strategy.
Do you really have time to make sure your citations are consistent, maintain social media profiles, and write a blog post a week? Probably not. And what about your Google My Business and Yelp business pages? Do you have time to consistently ask consumers for reviews?
Even the big brands hire someone to do it for them, whether that means bringing a person (or entire agency) in-house or outsourcing their digital marketing.
Cisco knows the importance of hiring someone to do their marketing. The company is hiring more than 200 content marketers to join their marketing department - and that's just content marketers.
And while it's no doubt not an option for your small business to hire 200 people to just work on content marketing, and it may even be a stretching it to hire your own marketing manager (the median salary for a marketing manager is about $93k at the time of writing this article), you can find an agency to help you with digital marketing.
And hey, not to toot our own horn, but we'll set you up with a Digital Marketing Strategist who actually cares about whether or not your business succeeds and will talk to you about life, the universe, and even how your local search marketing is going from month to month.