Online marketing for small local businesses
You already know that online marketing, including social media marketing, is a must for your small local business. Heck, you’ve probably even taken a course or workshop on the topic. And let me guess what you learned: Post daily! Create and keep on top of a marketing content calendar! Content is king! Post on the platform where your customers are most active! And yes, of course you should keep your Google My Business up to date. Get on all that, will you??
Listen, it’s not that this online marketing stuff is wrong.
It’s all kinds of right. But if you’re anything like me, you’re thinking one thing: How?? How will I fit all this in? How can I get it all done? What will I NOT get done because I’m doing this?
Yeah, I know. After that course/webinar/YouTube tutorial, you were going great guns for about a month, am I right? Maybe you were even having fun, but as the days slipped by and the demands of running your business persisted, posting daily felt more and more unrealistic. It was hard to keep up with customer engagement. Or you just ran out of steam to churn out creative and exciting content.
There’s a good reason online marketing is hard. RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS IS HARD.
You really, really don’t have time to do it all. And you likely don’t have the resources to outsource your online marketing and content creation, either. Keeping your online marketing on point is a lot like producing a delicious and healthful evening meal every day: It requires planning, preparation, discipline, and quality ingredients. And sometimes the best you can do is order pizza.
So, a few things to file under “good news”:
- You. Are not. The only. One. In my experience as a professional writer who’s helped a lot of folks with content, if you’re struggling with your online marketing, you’re in excellent company. Pretty much everyone, unless they have “people” for that, is swimming against the online marketing tide. Me included. My business has grown almost exclusively by word of mouth, so I’ve been — frankly — lazy about my online marketing. (But you should still keep reading this blog, because we are going to learn together.)
- There is no one right way to do online marketing for your small local business. In fact, there’s no one right way to do anything, really.
- There are lots of ways to learn about your online audience and reach your ideal customer.
Now that we know we’re not alone, and that online marketing (or lack thereof) is keeping many, if not most, small business owners up at night, some good news: You can do this your own way, and vLife is here to help.
Define the purpose of your online marketing content.
First and foremost, identify what your business priorities are right now. Attracting new clients? Customer retention? Customer discovery? Establishing yourself as a thought leader in your space? Inviting new partnership opportunities? Getting your new product or service in front of a wider audience?
Now that you’ve figured that out, choose the most important priority, the one that’s really going to move the needle for your business. Yes, for now, JUST ONE. Once you’ve nailed down your most urgent business focus, you’ve got your online marketing content purpose. This is key for two reasons: You can produce laser-focused content that will engage the audience you’re trying to attract (more tips on this to follow!) AND you can craft a call to action (that’s CTA to the cool kids) that invites your ideal customers to engage even more with your online marketing content. Here are some handy CTA examples linked to targeted marketing purposes:
- Customer discovery CTA: Ask a relevant question and invite folks to reply in the thread or to your email with their thoughts or opinions. Make sure you respond thoughtfully to everyone and thank them for their time!
- Attracting new clients CTA: Invite your current ideal client audience to share your content with anyone in their networks they think may benefit.
- New partnership opportunities CTA: Invite your ideal client audience to thank their trusted partners and share why they appreciate them – tagging them if on social of course!
Get the idea? Purpose-driven content with engaging and focused calls to action are key starting points that will increase the effectiveness of your online marketing!
Keep your social media marketing manageable.
You know the drill: Post every day, plan your social media content calendar and stick to it, respond ASAP to queries and comments. All this is true. It’s also very difficult to maintain. Remember that the folks following you on social media already know you and get you — you’re preaching to the choir. They’ll forgive you your social media “trespasses” and won’t expect you to churn out content for the sake of content. Instead, they’ll love you for the quality content you do post.
Solution: Keep it simple!
Focus on the platforms where your ideal clients are. Post when you can. If that’s twice a week, great. Once? Also okay. Find the rhythm that works for you and stick to it. Engage with followers who reply and share your posts. Answer questions. Be a good social media neighbour.
Reach more ideal clients with #hashtags!
#hashtagsarefun, but a lot of us don’t really understand how they work and what they can do for us. They’re a powerful way to find your ideal customers and make sure you’re popping up in searches and getting noticed.
Solution: Grow your online marketing audience with hashtags.
Search Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn for hashtags relevant to your business and get a feel for what will work with your post content. Experiment! And for vLife providers, just cut and paste the hashtags we use in your promos. We’ve researched and compiled them just for you, after all! Because #vLifelovesyou.
Blog your way to success in online marketing.
I’m a professional writer and I don’t have a blog… so that should tell you something! Blogging can feel, well, burdensome. (Also, I love to guest blog — all the fun without the stress!) But it’s also a valuable way to grow your business and share high-quality content that positions you as the go-to person in your field. Remember that it matters more WHAT you post, not how often you post.
Solution 1: Quality evergreen blog content with strong keywords really works!
Pick a blogging schedule that’s realistic and works for you. Monthly or quarterly is fine! Evergreen content that gives your readers news they can use is key. In other words, blog content that stands the test of time will help buy-local customers find you, get to know you, and choose you. Thoughtful keywords will also help attract your ideal customer and generate more website visits. And don’t stress too much if you don’t “know” your keywords. You know what your audience is searching — leverage it! This Foundation article by Ross Simmonds is a good exploration of this and a great way to learn more and bust some myths about B2B marketing. And as Simmonds notes, many of these apply to B2C marketing too!
Solution 2: Use customer discovery to find keywords for your online marketing.
Having a hard time settling on a blog topic? The best way to find new clients is to talk to your existing happy clients. Ask them what they need and how they found you. “I needed help with my online marketing but I don’t have time to learn it all” might turn into your first blog post title: “Need help with online marketing but don’t have time?” Local customer discovery-focused marketing expert Katelyn Burgoin has tons of amazing (and free!) customer discovery advice on her socials and emails. You can sign up for her awesome email updates here.
Solution 3: Hire someone to help you with copywriting.
It doesn’t have to be me. 😉 Writing good content is an art form, so don’t torture yourself. Especially if you’re blogging monthly or quarterly, hiring a professional is a good investment that can help you generate copy you can deploy in multiple ways. And it frees up more of your time to focus on, you know, running your business!
Yes, email online marketing is still a good strategy.
This one can definitely feel like A LOT. And you might think… isn’t email a little old-fashioned? Trust me: Email is still relevant and very much a mainstay. Just think about how much time YOU spend on emails each day. If the idea of email marketing fills you with “ick”, take a breath! The trick is not to be one of those eye-roll delete emails, but to provide value and interest in your email content. Here’s a pro tip: You’ve come this far and you already have email lists (basically all of your business contacts). And, though you may not realize it, you probably already have tons of content you can repurpose from your socials and blogs… and vice versa! Also, much like blogging, you can set your own pace with email marketing — a pace that works for you!
Solution: Grow your email list with a Subscribe button or Hello Bar pop-up!
Don’t have a subscribe button on your website yet? Get one! It’s easy. Just ask your web support person. And make sure you ask for an engaging pop-up Hello! bar as a CTA for folks to subscribe while they’re browsing your website. These really do work, as long as they’re easy to close and don’t pop up too often — because that’s just super annoying. The good news is that both subscribe buttons and Hello! bar pop-ups are easy plug-ins on most websites — so you (or whoever maintains your website) can very quickly integrate them.
And like any communication with your ideal client, make sure your content is relevant, useful, and easy to engage with. Here’s another pro-tip: Invite your email subscribers to forward your valuable content! Nothing builds trust in your brand like receiving your biz email from a known and liked friend or colleague.
The Online Marketing Rule of Five
This is a great segue to one of my favourite pieces of online marketing advice: The Rule of Five. When you generate a marketing piece — like a blog — try to use it FIVE different ways in your online marketing.
Using the blog example:
- Deploy quotes from your blog in social media posts — and link back to it!*
- Create an online workshop, as a piece of educational content, outlining the content of your blog.
- Ask a friend to link back to the blog in THEIR online marketing.
- Use your researched hashtags to create posts that highlight specific parts of your blog across your social media platforms.
- Make a short video with highlights from your blog, and share it on social media.
*Remember to leverage hashtags to use across your social platforms to draw searches for your content each time you post it on socials.
Small business support is our jam at vLife.
Feeling a little queasy after reading all this? Don’t. Think low-hanging fruit. Pick one thing and try it, experiment with it, and learn from it. The next time, it’ll be a bit easier and more effective. I promise!
Remember: If you’re a business owner, vLife is here to help.
Check out our awesome marketing providers in vLife’s Business Services category, including SmartCat Marketing, Dandelion Digital, This is Marketing, and Social Spike Marketing Group. And if you’re struggling with a do-able plan to create, schedule, and post your social media marketing (or just keeping yourself on track and organized), check out personal executive assistant Vicki Bates at P.E.A.S. and online business manager Kate Sullivan at Virtually Connected Solutions.
vLife exists to help small business owners like you with online marketing!
How? By providing affordable marketing and promotional support with vLife services. Mel wants me to make sure you know all about what she and the team can do for you:
- Ongoing FREE promotions to a growing number of vLife email subscribers and followers on social (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn).
- Customized vStore setup and updates with ongoing promotional support from the vLife team.
- Just $30 per month. No strings. No additional fees. (There’s tax, but we can’t get around that one.)
Oh! And we’re really excited about new 20% off incentive pricing for Black-owned and Indigenous-owned businesses! Click here to find out more and connect.
Happy online marketing! And, YES, that IS possible! 🙂