Digital marketing is vital to the success of many modern businesses. In addition to being a core communications channel, it is particularly beneficial to small businesses since it is largely free to use and cost-effective to leverage with marketing campaigns. An increasing number of customers also engage daily with social media channels that include Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. As a result, smart businesses are looking for ways in which to build their brand and customer engagement online.
So if you are developing your own digital marketing strategy, what five things should you prioritise? The Federation of Small Businesses has explored the behaviour of successful members and has found that the following are key to success:
1. Pick one or two channels and 'own' themSome businesses fall into the trap of setting up social media profiles across multiple platforms. New social media platforms seem to emerge every day, and there's no guarantee that today's fad will still be in use tomorrow (anyone remember MySpace?). Rather than worry about trying to keep up with the ever-changing digital world, focus on one or two social media platforms that work for you. Business to business marketing tends to benefit from LinkedIn and Twitter. Business to consumer can find that Facebook and Instagram work well, especially where products are visual and where an engaged community of buyers is likely to return for more. Spend time focusing on your chosen channel/s and really develop them.
2. Share informationOnce you have your channels in place, invest in their development. Consider your messaging and marketing strategies and share information with your followers and prospective customers. Talk about your products and get happy customers to do the same. Avoid heavy selling which puts people off in the social space, but gently position what you do in a broader context of sharing interesting and useful information. Added value content is key to online success.
3. Know who you are talking toThe online world is odd in its anonymity, but marketeers need to know with whom they are talking. Find opportunities to bounce your social media followers onto your website where you can carry out more detailed data capture and identify potential customers. Try running competitions to grow sign-ups.
4. Listen and learnThere are plenty of digital consultants who will charge a small fortune to create complex social media strategies for your business. But many small firms manage perfectly well by starting small, being consistent and learning as they go. An authentic voice is key, as is the sense that the brand is peopled by real personalities rather than a faceless corporation. Watch and learn from what is happening around you and don't be afraid of making mistakes. Stay open, honest and humble, demonstrating the values that you and your business embody offline - and your customers will respond.
5. Blog about your passionsBlogs are a great way to build an online following, but again, content is key. Don't simply create blogs to stuff SEO-friendly keywords into the content. Talk about things you care about, are excited about, and that you know about. These will naturally be aligned with your business offer and allow you to demonstrate true value to your followers. Over time, this is increasingly likely to enhance sales and customer retention.
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