Online marketing. Targeting the right customers, bringing in lots of website hits, going viral, spending over $70 billion marketing dollars online just last year.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? There’s just one problem: you’re not participating in any of it.
You have a small business that seems to have maxed out. It’s efficient, but without enough customers, there won’t be any room to grow. That means bringing in more customers through the ancient art of marketing in its latest incarnation: the Internet.
If it all sounds like too much to handle, let’s break it down into smaller steps with a checklist for getting started with marketing online.
Getting Started: Build Your List of Accounts
If the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, then the easiest thing you can do right now is sign up for the online marketing accounts you’ll need.
Don’t worry — there are no financial commitments at this point yet. Just a heck of a lot of usernames and passwords to manage.
Sign up for a password manager like LastPass. Writing your account information down on paper makes identity theft far too easy.
If you haven’t already, sign up for Google Analytics and start collecting data on your website as soon as possible. We’ve already put together a handy guide for this step.
Sign up for Google AdWords to gain access to one of the most powerful ways to target customers: identifying them by key phrase. And if you want to expand your audience, don’t forget Bing ads.
Sign up for a social media advertising account of your choice: Twitter Ads, Facebook Ads, and any other social media site you think your potential customers might enjoy.
Hold on tight to that LastPass file. In addition to the accounts just listed, you might find yourself signing up for more tools and online marketing outlets throughout your professional life. Don’t worry — you’re making progress.
Social Media: Start the Buzz
Today’s online marketing is about more than finding the right customer and putting your product in front of them. It’s often about finding a friend of the right customer and getting them to share your link. That’s the power of social media.
But social media marketing can be tricky, and you’ll need to pick your battles. Here’s your checklist for creating a social media marketing plan:
Decide where you want to advertise. Facebook and Twitter are obvious. But what about Instagram, where fitness products do well? Or Pinterest, where home and garden shine? LinkedIn, Snapchat — the list goes on, and there are always new avenues to consider.
Do your research. Go as far as calling up social media sites for information about their demographics. You want to know that your potential customers are already there — otherwise, you’re just spinning your wheels.
Draft a plan and have someone review it. Preferably you’ll have an online marketing mentor — if not, you might even post some vague details in online marketing communities and ask for feedback.
Start with tests. Test everything, from the title and picture of your ad to the content. Remember: if you’re paying for the ads, the least you can get out of it is new information about what people will and won’t click.
Hootsuite put together a detailed guide on the basics of social media advertising. Be sure to read through it before you spend your hard-earned money just hoping for the best — it will be time well spent.
Build a Search Engine Presence
We already had you sign up for Google and Bing ads. But there’s plenty you can do to optimize your search engine presence before you spend a dime:
Get your business listed on the aptly-titled Google Business. This is particularly important for small businesses with a local brick-and-mortar presence.
If you haven’t already, buy and set up your website. Search engines tend to trust older sites with an established presence. As the old saying goes, the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago — but the second-best time is now.
Get hooked into the Google Ads Display Network to keep accurate tabs on how your future online marketing efforts are faring. As you learn more, you should continue to tweak your search engine ads to increase your conversion rates. Make Sure Your Site is Ready Finally, you have to plan for success. What if your online marketing efforts are a huge hit?
Call up your web hosting provider and ask them what kind of traffic you can handle with your current plan. You’d be surprised at how even a small influx of traffic can shut you down temporarily. If you succeed with your online marketing, you don’t want the fruits of your labor to go down with the site.
Capture leads on your website. Maybe your online store won’t make a sale right away, but with a newsletter signup link that includes promotions and discounts, you can capture some of the mojo of a quick traffic boost and turn it into future sales.
Outside-the-Box Marketing: Where to Start?
There are other forms of marketing out there, and they don’t all walk the most conventional paths. Instagram celebrities regularly sell their audience to sponsors — a bit like selling TV air time. Wherever there is an audience, there is an opportunity to advertise.
Look for free publicity. Our recent post on using Help A Reporter Out is your bible here.
Start offline. Will a local billboard that generates buzz and links to your website make a bigger splash than a social media post? It depends on what you’re advertising — but don’t be afraid to go old-school.
Test your market. Do you have an email marketing list you can ask for feedback? Surveys you can publish online? Use any free tools you have at your disposal to make the transition to paid advertising as seamless as possible.
Get Started with Online Marketing
Put it all together and you should feel like you’re at the start of a race. Your shoes are tied, your hands are in the dirt, and you’re just waiting to hear the buzzer kick things off. It sounds like a lot, but when you’ve done everything you can to prepare your small business for online marketing, you’ll be rewarded in confidence and excitement for the track ahead.