In the right hands, the internet can be a powerful marketing tool.
Although big businesses may have large marketing budgets to pay for content creation, expert consultants, and ad spending, in many ways online marketing has leveled the playing field when it comes to grabbing potential customers’ attention.
Never before has it been so easy for small, ambitious businesses to be seen by countless people on a daily basis. In fact, for those who take the time to understand how to grow their online presence with little or no budget — the opportunities are practically endless.
In this article, we are going to walk you through 7 of the very best ways a small business can grow its online presence.
1. Understand Your Target Audience
Although it can be easy to get caught up in the exciting tools and tactics of online marketing, starting with the basics will pay dividends as you continue on your journey towards business growth. With this in mind, there is one thing you need to do before you start any marketing activity — understand your target audience.
Having a clear understanding of your target customer will help you in several ways.
For example, when you understand your target audience you will be able to make business decisions based on what is best or preferred by that group of individuals. It will also allow you to accurately research their habits, such as what they buy and where they hang out online. This will make it easier to accurately target potential customers rather than taking a ‘scatter gun’ approach.
Ultimately, knowing your audience will ensure that you do not waste time, money, and resources driving your business in a direction that will not increase sales.
It is simple to understand your target audience by taking the time to look at who already buys from you. Gather as much information as you can such as average age, location, professions, hobbies, and habits.
When you have a clear idea of who you are targeting, you can create buyer personas to help you apply your research to day-to-day business decisions.
2. Act With Purpose
Once you know ‘who’ you are selling to online, you can then start to work out ‘how’ you are going to sell to them.
Creating an online marketing strategy will provide you with a clear plan to follow when seeking to grow online. You can think of a strategy as a road map that will guide you. It will also help you pave your way to achieving your business goals.
Following your strategy will help you stay focused on the bigger picture. Your strategy should include:
- Your business goals
- Details on your target audience
- What skills and knowledge you will need to achieve your goals
- The stages and milestones you need to achieve on your route to growth
- Any tools and tactics you will apply
3. Create Outstanding Content
Unlike massive businesses that can pour seemingly endless budgets into advertising on platforms such as Google and Facebook, small businesses need to find smart, low-cost ways to generate a buzz around their offering.
One of the best ways to do this is to create outstanding content — pay particular attention to the ‘outstanding’.
Unfortunately, the internet is packed full of content on every topic from every business, influencer and keen amateur out there. Much of this content is low-quality and only serves to confuser those who digest it.
To really benefit from content production you need to ensure that you are delivering real value to your target audience. This value may be educational, but could also be entertaining. The type of content you decide to create will depend on your niche.
When you create real value, you will be able to position yourself as a leader in your space, often giving you more selling power than those who simply pay to advertise to their customers.
4. Deliver a Seamless Website Experience
Growing online is all about serving your customers in the best way possible. One way to do this is to create outstanding content, another is to deliver a website that offers a seamless experience and reduces the friction a customer feels when they come to buy.
Developing a better User Experience (UX) can be done in countless ways. Some of these include:
- Improving the speed of your website
- Offering a mobile-friendly website
- Using a clean design that is easy to navigate
- Using website analytics to identify problem areas and fix them
- Talking to website users to get their real-life feedback on your site
- Using best practices to highlight site safety and develop user trust
Rand Fishkin from Sparktoro.com, says:
“Test your site with your customers, potential customers, and their influencers. Make sure that what you’ve designed is easy and pleasurable to use. Watch people complete tasks on the site and see whether it’s a simple, frustration-free process. Be sure to test desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile. UX influences everything else — SEO, loyalty, conversion rate, sharing, etc. It is the most important thing you need to get right with a new site.”
Although this can seem a lot, many of the tools you need to execute these improvements are built into popular website builders such as Shopify, Wix, and Square Online.
5. Extend Reach with Social Media
Social media is a powerful tool for small businesses that want to grow online, but have little budget to do so. With social media platforms hosting vast audiences, when your business is active on these platforms it makes it easy to get in front of your target audience in areas where they are already focused.
Here are some stats on active users to put this into perspective:
To be successful on social media, you must engage with your followers and community. Simply broadcasting messages is often seen as advertising and can put people off.
6. Use Automation
Automation can be a great way for small businesses. With just a few resources it helps to drastically increase the volume of their marketing activity and benefit from growth.
There are countless automation tools out there, some of the most useful for small businesses looking to grow online include:
- Email automation — such as automatically sending sequences of emails to new subscribers leading them through the lead nurturing process.
- Social media automation — such as automating the publishing of social posts on Facebook and Instagram.
- Reporting automation — such as automating report creation on anything from online sales to website visits.
Not only are automation tools incredibly useful for small businesses, but they are also often built into website platforms — meaning you are probably already paying for them.
7. Be Human
Small businesses have one major benefit over their larger competitors — they can interact with their customers on a human level. Where big businesses can struggle to drop the corporate tone of voice, smaller businesses are able to remain ‘human’, allowing them to better appeal to the customers they serve.
Use this to your benefit when seeking to grow online by using more casual language and content (whilst keeping it professional). This will help make your business more relevant and personal, making it easier for customers to trust and buy from you.
Growing Small Busines Presence Online: Summary
Growing online is a smart move for practically every business. Doing so can drastically increase your reach and help you develop a larger, more engaged customer base. Use the tips we have highlighted in this guide to help you grow your business online.