While an optimized ecommerce store is essential for selling your products, you still need a good marketing plan to get your online business off the ground.
Marketing helps increase your brand awareness, attract your target customers to your website, and ultimately grow your online business. However, getting the word out can be challenging for a small business due to a lack of resources. Whether you have a limited budget or time constraints, a marketing strategy that's right for your small business can help you generate awareness and revenue.
Outline your marketing objectives
First, you need to assess the current situation of your business. Perhaps you're just starting a new business, or you have been in business for a few years and are transitioning to ecommerce for the first time. These factors will help determine the types of marketing activities that will be part of your strategy.
If you already have an established business that you're taking online for the first time, you may want to focus on activities that leverage your existing customer base instead. You also may have enough cash flow to invest in advertising on social media and Google to find new customers and grow your business. On the other hand, if you're just getting started, you may need to invest more time in some lower-cost marketing techniques.
Regardless of your situation, you should develop a reasonable marketing objective that is measurable, actionable and realistic. It may be tempting to do everything to cover all of your bases. Instead, you should identify an area that will have the biggest impact on your business and focus on that singular objective. Set a performance goal around that objective, and then concentrate your resources on the activities and tactics that will help you achieve it.
Know your audience
As a small business owner, you need to identify the people who want or need what you're offering. A critical mistake is to assume that anyone can be your customer. To find your target audience, you must create a buyer's persona that digs deeper to understand their pains, problems, triggering events and priorities.
Understand some important metrics
Before you begin to put together your plan, it's important to understand key performance indicators that help you measure your online success.
- Reach is the total number of people who have seen your ad, content or marketing message. Your product could be the best in the market, but if only a few people ever hear about it, then you're not likely to see many new customers. On the other hand, if your content has a larger reach, it's making its way to potential new customers who are likely to share and engage with your business.
- Engagement measures the quality of your content and its effectiveness in connecting with your audience. If your content is reaching people, but you do not see any engagement, you should revise it to ensure it's relevant to your audience. Measuring engagement is straightforward on social media based on likes, comments, and shares. For your website, the average time spent on the page and the bounce rate will indicate if you're connecting with your audience.
- A conversion occurs when your engaged audience completes a desired action on your website, such as a purchase, booking an appointment or filling out a form.
Determine your budget and timelines
Regardless of the stage of your business, you must set a budget for both time and money. Write down the amount of money per month and the number of hours per week you can invest in marketing your business. When you're starting, you may not have the budget, so you'll have to rely on tactics that won't cost money but will require more of your time.
Choosing the right social media marketing channels
With so many social media platforms available to you for free, it can be tempting to use all of them. While it’s a good idea to have an account on every platform to protect your brand name, you really should focus your efforts on one or two platforms that work for you.Here's an overview of different social media channels and considerations for selecting the most suitable one for your online business:
1. FacebookFacebook might not have the same charm among younger audiences that it once did, but it undeniably maintains its status as the largest social networking site. Facebook remains a powerhouse in digital marketing, offering a diverse range of tools and features for businesses to connect with their audience, build brand awareness, and drive conversions.
Demographics: Diverse user base across age groups
Content: Varied content types including text, images, videos, and links
Use Case: Effective for brand awareness, community building, and targeted advertising
Consideration: Ideal for businesses with broad consumer bases
Hot tip for small business owners: Optimize your FB page with a CTA at the top of your page and on your posts. Take advantage of engaging in FB groups to foster a community and find customers who may be interested in your business.
Instagram has become one of the most-loved social media platforms over the years for users and marketers alike. With plenty of features like Instagram Stories, Reels, Instagram Live, and others, the social networking site is a hotspot for brands to market their products.
Demographics: Skewed towards a younger audience
Content: Visual-centric content like photos and short videos
Use Case: Great for visually appealing products, brand aesthetics, and influencer marketing
Consideration: Well-suited for lifestyle, fashion, beauty, and creative industries
Hot tip for small business owners: Having a similar template or colour scheme on your posts will build up brand recognition on the platform and treat users coming to your profile to a visually appealing view of all your content.
3. Twitter or XNow known as X, Twitter has been a platform for brands to ‘humanize’ themselves. Whether it’s sharing updates, news, or memes, brands have used X to show their personality while engaging with users.
Demographics: Wide age range with a focus on real-time updates
Content: Short text-based posts, links, images, and videos
Use Case: Excellent for real-time engagement, updates, and customer interaction
Consideration: Suitable for businesses with frequent updates or those involved in news and trends
Hot tip for small business owners: Establish a clear brand voice and use this channel as a customer service support channel for inquiries and announcements.
4. LinkedInLinkedIn is a professional networking platform, making it an ideal space for businesses to connect with other professionals, industry leaders, and potential clients. LinkedIn allows businesses to share various types of content, including articles, blog posts, videos, and presentations. This facilitates sharing industry insights, thought leadership and valuable content showcasing your expertise.
Demographics: Professionals, B2B audience
Content: Professional updates, articles, and industry-related content
Use Case: Ideal for B2B marketing, professional networking, and thought leadership
Consideration: Best for businesses in professional services, consulting, or with a focus on industry expertise
Hot tip for small business owners: LinkedIn Company Pages is a great way to showcase your products, services, and company culture. Optimize your Company Page to help establish credibility and professionalism.
5. PinterestPinterest is an excellent platform for marketing, especially for businesses that rely on visual content and want to reach an audience seeking inspiration and ideas. Unlike other social media platforms where posts may have a short lifespan, Pinterest pins can have a longer shelf life. Well-optimized and engaging pins can continue to be discovered and shared over an extended period.
Demographics: Predominantly users looking for visual inspiration
Content: Visual content like images and infographics
Use Case: Perfect for lifestyle, home décor, fashion, and DIY products
Consideration: Effective for businesses with visually appealing and shareable products
Hot tip for small business owners: Focus on incorporating trends into your Pins and use of text overlays on your Pins to act as SEO keywords that maximize your reach and engagement.
YouTube is a powerhouse for marketing, offering businesses a dynamic platform to engage with their audience through video content. Video content continues to dominate online consumption, and YouTube is the go-to platform for video-sharing. YouTube is a globally recognized platform with over two billion logged-in monthly users. This extensive reach allows businesses to connect with diverse audiences worldwide.
Demographics: Broad user base, trendy among younger generations
Content: Video content ranging from tutorials to entertainment
Use Case: Powerful for video marketing, tutorials, and showcasing products in action
Consideration: Suitable for businesses with the capacity to create engaging video content
Hot tip for small business owners: Make sure you find and align your videos to your niche and use YT like an SEO tool by adding proper keywords and structure in your videos.
7. TikTokTikTok has rapidly emerged as a powerful platform for marketing, especially for businesses aiming to connect with a younger, dynamic audience. While TikTok is extremely popular among Gen Z and millennials, it’s a platform that has content for all ages. TikTok's algorithm is designed to promote content that engages users. This increases the potential for content to go viral, providing businesses with the opportunity to reach a wider audience organically. TikTok encourages creativity and authenticity. Businesses can showcase their personality, participate in trends, and create content that feels genuine, fostering a relatable brand image.
Demographics: A predominantly younger audience
Content: Short-form videos with music and creative effects
Use Case: Trend-driven content, brand challenges, and influencer collaboration
Consideration: Trendy products or services that resonate with a youthful audience Hot tip for small business owners: Interact with creators and familiarize yourself with the ever-changing trends.
Other marketing channels to consider:
- Snapchat, like WhatsApp, is a private messaging app that allows users to create and edit short videos and photos using filters, captions and drawings. These messages—known as snaps—are shared among users. As a brand, you can create a business account to produce engaging content for your followers. Snapchat could be an ideal platform for your business if most of your customers are under 25 years old.
- Reddit is an online community where users can submit content such as links, text posts, and images, which are then discussed and voted up or down by other users. You can join conversations related to your business and engage with your target audience. However, make sure you understand the culture of this online community before you start using it.
- Like Reddit, Quora is an online community where questions are asked, answered, followed, and edited by users, either factually or in the form of opinions. There is an opportunity for you to find your niche audience and answer their questions, helping you generate awareness and becoming an industry thought-leader.
Capitalize on short-term marketing tactics
Instead of putting your time and money towards tactics that may take too long to work for your business, start with initiatives that are quick and easy. There is no need to inflate your overhead costs with tools. Use free marketing tools where possible and only commit to paid tactics if you know they will help improve your existing operations.
We'll explore different ways to drive traffic to your website, but you can start by revisiting some of your unused marketing assets:
- List your small business in online directories such as Not Amazon and Make It! to get more exposure in your local city.
- If you're a Black-owned business, register your business on websites such as Black Owned Toronto. You can also be featured on Black-Owned Ottawa – an Instagram channel dedicated to featuring BIPOC businesses in Ottawa. It's easy to find a community that's local to you.
- Perhaps you already have your social media channels set-up, but never really got it off the ground. Start posting regularly on channels that are popular with your target audience to reach new people.
- To magnify your online presence, start engaging with your community. Regularly posting and engaging with your target audience on channels, such as Reddit and Quora, can help you gain popularity without the need to dip into your pockets.
Put together an action plan and double-down on what works
Now that you have all the pieces together, the next step is to write down the tasks you want to accomplish. Ensure that you prioritize them so that you can reference your to-do list any time you have a moment to work on marketing.
Once you have your tactics running and you've experimented with a few things, pay attention to the metrics we discussed before. The data can inform you of what's working, so you can allocate your time and budget accordingly.
The information in this article is provided solely for informational purposes and is not intended to be legal, business or other professional advice or an endorsement of any of the websites or services listed.
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