Content marketing, social media, affiliate marketing, video marketing, SEO, webinars, teleseminars, podcasting, pay-per-click (PPC), social advertising, and the list goes on and on and on… No wonder small businesses are overwhelmed.
Wait, there’s more…
Let’s not forget to add all the offline marketing methods to the above and of course, everything that revolves around developing products & services, managing employees, increasing cash flow, maximizing profits AND building long-term client relationships that yield to a higher retention rate.
Who’s overwhelmed just by reading the above without having done anything?
Well, welcome to the fascinating world of a small business owner.
Giving Small Businesses a Boost
Now, if you’re already a savvy member of the small business community, the following statements and questions will give you a broader perspective into the alien lifestyle of those desperately trying to keep up with technology and all the Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram craziness going on.
- I stayed away from online marketing because I don’t get it. I don’t see the value in posting on Facebook and all those other channels. It’s just a waste of time and I don’t have much of it to waste.
- Where do I start? What should I do first? So many online gurus… and all of them preach different things.
- I have a limited budget to spend on marketing. Should I shift all of that from offline to online?
- How can I measure my marketing efforts online?
- How can I generate sales? Or is it just for branding, awareness and what not?
Common questions, right?
Every time I talk to a small business owner that shies away from online marketing, I hear some, or all of the above…
Instead of dissecting the anatomy of strategic brand-building and online sales generation, I decided to pull out the common elements and organize them into three groups. Not to worry — I’m going to avoid the nitty gritty details and focus on the big picture.
It’s time to dig into those patterns…
1. Social Media Exhaustion
Overwhelm and exhaustion — two words that are often associated with social media.
With more than 200 social networks fighting for our attention and big players insisting on downloading several of their apps (see Facebook’s latest app strategy), there’s little to no escape for us.
==> Share a quick update and let your friends know what you’re up to.
==> Snap an image and engage with your followers.
==> Record a live video and share some quick tips with your customers.
All this translates to spend your time on social media; spend your money on social media; and ultimately, become social media.
No wonder, some people already started ditching social media. Even celebrities.
In an interview with the Associated Press, rapper Izzy Azalea who quit her Twitter and Instagram accounts in February 2015 said the following:
“Yeah, so nice not to be on social media so I’m kind of going to continue that until, maybe forever. I think it’s disgusting. I don’t think it’s nice to stick your camera through somebody’s fence and hedge and take a picture of them in their yard and think that’s OK at all.”
[Source: International Business Times, UK]
OK, back to the small business space…
Let’s say you have no clue where to start, or you have set up a couple of social media profiles but you haven’t done much so far — What to do next?
SUGGESTION: Pick one or two social channels and become really good at them. Once you gain a level of mastery, add the next one to your marketing portfolio.
How to choose the appropriate channels?
Based on your target audience. If they like to hang out on Facebook and Pinterest, go with those two. If you target a younger audience, go with Snapchat. If your audience prefers images, check out Instagram and Pinterest.
And if you decide to run ads (which I highly suggest you do), definitely give Facebook advertising a go. It has the most powerful targeting on the planet and although the platform has matured, the prices are still cheap.
This of course might as well change in the next 12 to 24 months, but for now, Facebook ads are a terrific marketing vehicle for small businesses. Deploy it to your advantage.
2. Content Marketing Overload
Content shock. Information overload. You will seldom hear somebody say, “More, I want more content”. On the contrary, the sentence will more likely go like this: “Just give me a break…”
Here’s a great recipe for content marketing we all heard about by now:
Write awesome, informative and educational content, and share it online. Turn that piece of content into an audio and / or video version to reach more people. You need the right message for the right audience, and you need to ensure that you pick the right media for it. Oh, and of course, make sure you do it at the right time.
Fantastic advice, right?
And if you have an army of great people on board, absolutely doable.
But what if you’re alone? What if there’s only three or four people on the team and you need to tackle everything mentioned in the beginning plus put out content on a regular basis?
Yes, I understand. It’s online marketing can be overwhelming. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Not if you approach the whole thing strategically and put some systems into place from the get go.
SUGGESTION: Written content, audio, video, live recording — What are you best at? If you love to write and you’re good at it, put up a blog. Set a couple of hours aside and start by publishing one article say every two weeks. If you’re not camera shy, do videos and upload them to YouTube, Facebook and other platforms. Extract the audio version of the very same video and set up a podcast.
Create a content calendar. Nothing fancy, just a simple editorial calendar where you manage and schedule your articles, videos and audios. BTW you can always hire or outsource content creation. You don’t have to do everything yourself.
3. The Offline-Online Cocktail
This is a biggy…
There are small businesses out there who do a bunch of offline marketing stuff – some strategies and tactics work great, others not so much.
And here’s the trick question:
How to transfer what works offline to the online world? How to adapt those things to get the most out of your efforts?
This is one of those questions that pops up every time I meet with entrepreneurs and business owners from all walks of life.
Here’s the deal:
No matter what industry or market you’re in, the marketing principles that apply to the offline world, are very much the same in the online world.
Whether you market online or offline, you have to know your target audience. That’s one principle.
Here’s another one: you gotta have a strong value proposition, also known as USP.
Please understand, that online is nothing more than a distribution channel. Yes, the internet is free (or should I say, still free) and everyone can jump on it.
Yes, you can set up a profile on LinkedIn or Facebook and start sharing your content for free.
Yes, you can create a YouTube account and upload your latest videos for free.
And yes, the word *free* seems to dominate the online world — however, if you take a closer look, the same principles apply: Nothing is for free. Nothing. Unless of course, you put a zero value on your time…
SUGGESTION: Take the marketing messages that have proven to work offline (say in magazines) and test them out online, for example by running highly-targeted Facebook ads. Try different creatives. Test different call-to-action buttons.
Of course, you could create eBooks, checklists to give away in exchange for an email address, or set up your own eCommerce store.
And I’m not going to lie to you: it takes time to do it. You have to put in the work and more importantly, you have to learn how to use online media to your advantage.
Wrapping It Up
We covered just a small fraction of the online marketing challenges facing entrepreneurs and small business owners worldwide.
Obviously, as technology evolves and we get exposed to new innovative concepts such as virtual reality, or artificial intelligence (AI), new problems and challenges arise. It’s always been that way, and it will most certainly stay that way in the years to come.
Those of us who refuse to learn, improve and acquire new skills are going to be left behind. No matter how big or small your company is, it is critical to adapt to the rapidly changing social, commercial and economic realities.
What’s your biggest online marketing challenge? How can we help small businesses to thrive online?