12 effective digital marketing strategies for small businesses

Digital marketing is crucial in helping businesses of all sizes build a strong online presence. Yet many small businesses won’t have sufficient resources to initiate bold marketing campaigns. Instead, smaller businesses will require cost-effective methods that target achievable goals.

To help your business grow online, here are 12 effective digital marketing strategies for smaller businesses:

1) Create a website

A responsive web design shown on different devices

First and foremost, if a small business wants to grow its presence online, it will require a website. Your website will be the hub of all your later digital marketing strategies. It’s where you can show off your business and what makes you tick. It’s also where most of your online customers will land.

However, simply creating a website is not enough. You also need to make sure your website is:

  • Mobile optimised.
  • Encourages a positive user experience.
  • Easy to navigate.
  • Design matches your brand.
  • SEO optimised (more on that later).
  • Is quick to load.
  • Captures leads.

Many small businesses will invest in a professional web design company with the hope of fulfilling the points above. Choosing the right web design agency is crucial to ensure your website works best for your business and is a worthwhile long-term investment.

2) Understand your customers

Understanding your customers

Alongside creating a website, you also need to understand your customers. This is important for shaping your website’s design and developing effective digital marketing strategies. If you don’t know who your customers are, you’ll have a hard time effectively targeting them.

The best way to understand your customers is by developing buyer personas. These are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on research.

A range of information on your customers shapes a buyer persona, including:

  • Demographics, such as age, income, employment, etc.
  • Psychographics, such as lifestyle, habits, etc.
  • Behavioural, such as buying behaviour, benefits sought, etc.
  • Goals and challenges.
  • Online habits, such as social media platforms, how they consume content online, etc.

Check out our guide to creating effective buyer personas

3) Competitor research

Alongside researching and understanding your competitors, you should also conduct competitor research. Knowing who your competitors are, what they offer, and their current digital marketing strategy can help inform your digital marketing strategies.

This is especially true for new businesses that are just starting. You need to find a unique value proposition to stand out from your competitors. Conducting competitor research can help you identify any gaps or missing elements in your digital strategies.

You may also uncover weaknesses in their strategy. Identifying these areas helps you shape your digital marketing strategy for a better chance of success. When conducting a competitor analysis, consider looking at their website, social media, paid adverts, and reviews.

4) Social media

Social media content creators posing in a cutout Instagram post frame

Another effective digital marketing strategy for small businesses is to use social media. Social media is a fantastic marketing tool for generating interest and engagement with your business, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.

However, there’s more to social media marketing than just setting up a page and hoping for the best. You must carefully create a social media strategy that works best for your businesses and builds strong customer relationships.

One of the biggest mistakes is signing up for too many social media platforms, not posting engaging content, or not posting at all. A successful social media strategy will:

  • Set realistic and achievable goals.
  • Monitor and track the right KPIs.
  • Understand your customers.
  • Know the differences and features of each platform.
  • Monitor competitors.
  • Publish high-quality, valuable content.

Our guide to creating a winning social media strategy details these points more.

5) Local SEO

A map displayed on a smartphone with different pin locations

Alongside social media, small businesses should make use of local SEO. More searches are focusing on local and localised search results. HubSpot reports that search phrases such as” near me” have seen a 150% increase in recent years.

You need to use local SEO to target these local search results effectively. This includes setting up a Google Business profile, registering for online directories, ensuring consistent information across online sources, and building local links.

To get a better feel for how local searches display in Google and why a Business Profile is important, take a look at this example:

An example of an optimised Google Business Profile in search results

6) Paid advertising (PPC)

Paid advertising is another effective digital marketing strategy for small businesses. Anyone familiar with search engines will be aware of the sponsored results or ads that appear at the top of search results. These results are paid advertising on search engines or PPC.

Here’s an example of paid ads displaying at the top of search results:

Paid advertisements on Google search results for office supplies

PPC (or pay-per-click) is where a business will pay the ad host each time a user clicks your ad listing. Each ad uses an auction process to determine which ads show. Factors that affect ad costs include competition, keywords, quality score, and bidding strategy.

As these sponsored results appear above organic search results, PPC is an excellent way for small businesses to increase traffic. However, this method is only effective for generating short-term traffic due to the cost and campaign duration.

7) SEO

SEO is a much more effective method than paid advertising if you want your business to benefit in the long term and build a stronger online presence. Unlike PPC, SEO is a long-term process to grow organic search results for the search terms (or keywords) you want to rank for.

An effective SEO strategy is required to achieve higher rankings in search results. As most people never click beyond the first page of search results, you need a well-optimised SEO strategy that lands you at the top! Some SEO tactics to help achieve this include:

8) Content marketing

A content creator writing a blog article on a laptop

No SEO strategy will ever stand a chance of performing well without a solid content marketing strategy. High-quality content that delivers value to readers is one of the top-ranking factors used by Google to determine its search engine rankings.

To develop high-quality content, you need to effectively:

Even if you don’t have the resources to create fancy videos or graphics, you should, at the very least, start a blog on your site. Regularly publishing a blog can impact your SEO performance. But remember that it’s all about quality, not quantity.

9) Email marketing

Email marketing is another effective digital marketing strategy for small businesses to reach and engage customers. A successful email marketing strategy can help you increase site traffic, grow brand awareness, build relationships, and increase sales.

You can grow your email database by implementing lead capture forms on your site. Once you’ve built a strong database, you can decide on the email type (such as newsletter or promotion) and get creative with your design. Remember to keep in line with your buyer persona and brand.

10) Online reviews

Someone looking at reviews on a smartphone

Social proof is a fantastic way to influence customer’s decisions and actions. This psychology principle states that people will copy the actions of others in certain situations. In situations where people are unsure, social proof can make a massive difference in altering decisions.

Online reviews, ratings, and recommendations are the main social proof influences in a digital marketing strategy. Therefore, you should also develop a strong online review profile to help influence potential customers.

Facebook, Google, and online directories are good places to build a strong review profile. E-commerce sites should also add reviews to product pages. Start by asking loyal customers to leave reviews to get the ball rolling. Also, make sure you reply to all reviews, good and bad.

Here’s an example of how reviews display on Google for Hilltop Garden Centre, alongside how replies from the owner show:

An example of Google reviews

Discover more about the effectiveness of reviews in content marketing

11) Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is another effective digital marketing strategy for small businesses. You may be thinking, hold on, influencer marketing is too expensive, or only big brands use it. Well, there may be some truth in this, but influencer marketing can be just as effective for a small business. You can benefit from stronger brand awareness, quality lead generation, and increased sales when done effectively. Nano-influencers (with a following of less than 10,000) can be good for social media.

However, local influencers can be as effective as any influencer’s social media content. Someone who is well-known in your local area and matches your brand can be an excellent choice for influencer marketing. They don’t have to be an online celebrity for you to benefit.

12) Monitor and analyse performance

A person looking at data and analytics on a computer

Our last effective digital marketing strategy for small businesses is to monitor and analyse performance. But to monitor and analyse the performance effectively, you need clear and attainable goals. Every digital marketing strategy should set SMART goals.

This gives you a clear focus for your digital marketing strategy and provides a method to determine its effectiveness. Whether for an SEO, social media, or content strategy, you must determine the goals and KPIs to monitor the efficacy.

Utilise the data and analytics you have available to discover whether something worked. Whether it’s web traffic, social media engagement, or conversions, you should take the findings from your analysis to shape your future digital marketing campaigns.

There are many elements to incorporate into a digital marketing strategy. Effective strategies will utilise research and create clear goals that help shape a digital marketing strategy for maximum results.

With so many strategies outlined above, conducting suitable research and understanding your business will enable you to choose the best methods for your needs. If you are starting, start small and focus on one strategy before branching out to others.