It’s vital for any business to let potential customers know that it exists. You’ve worked hard to develop your business idea but you can only become successful when your product or service is in demand.
That’s where marketing comes in. Call it advertising, promotion or publicity, you need to create awareness about your business, a buzz about its offer and how you’re giving customers what they want. It’s important to choose the right platform to shout your message, attract customers and, ultimately, increase profits.
Small businesses may be tempted to stick to traditional methods – leafleting, ads in local papers etc. – but the modern world has moved on. In the UK, total advertising expenditure is forecast to increase by 3.2% in 2017 (according to the Advertising Association) with “internet related spend” accounting for almost 50% of that spend.
New technology is giving SMEs a chance to compete with the big boys to make your business more visible than ever before. However a 2015 survey of UK SMEs in the UK revealed that only 36% had a digital plan; 33% did digital marketing “when they have the time” and 31% didn’t do any at all.
Digital marketing is simply promoting your business through digital means:
- Email capture and campaigns promoting your latest offer, linking to a website or social media.
- Google My Business and PPC.
- An attractive and well-functioning website which is mobile friendly too.
- Using various social media platforms e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
- Blogging/Vlogging – creating great content to engage customers and boost search rankings.
- Possibly developing a handy smartphone app for customers that relates to your business.
Ambitious businesses should see digital marketing as an important part of their business plan. Digital marketing is important because that’s where many of your customers are now to be found…online. 80% of smartphone users use mobile phones for shopping research. (The Google Mobile Playbook). Not only that but mobiles and tablets (51.3%) now get more usage than desktop (48.7%) particularly for consumers (StatCounter) so it’s important that your website is adaptable for those platforms.
Businesses will find that digital marketing is an effective way of communicating your message because:
- It’s cost effective and has a far reach – regional, national and global. When combined with SEO (‘search engine optimisation’) you can target real potential customers who have been searching for your product/service.
- It can now reach potential customers ‘on the go’ due to the prevalence of web surfing on mobiles and other devices.
- Online marketing which incorporates e-commerce (i.e online purchasing and ordering) can immediately convert ‘browsers’ into ‘buyers’ without their having to visit a bricks-and-mortar store.
- It generates data (through ‘analytics’) about how your marketing and website is performing, giving you valuable insights into your customer habits and allowing you to plan ahead.
- It allows you to engage positively with customers, e.g. through social media.
Global research in 2015 by webhosting company GoDaddy revealed that of their small business respondents, 59% said their business grew once they had built their website. Facebook is still king of social media and the best way to connect with large audiences with the popular company claiming that 75% of brands use it for promotion.
It all demonstrates the power of digital marketing to boost your brand awareness, promote a new product/service and generate more leads for your business. It may seem daunting for a small business to get to grips with this area – lack of budget, expertise and time are often cited – but with the pervasiveness of online use, it may be time to seek out professional help to get you started. Digital marketing is not a business strategy to be ignored.
Alongside their digital marketing plan, businesses need to ensure that their systems and employees are geared up to deal with the response to specific marketing campaigns. Staff should be aware of offers, products and services and be ready to capitalise on enquiries while firms need to ensure they have sufficient staff on hand.