Digital Marketing on a Budget for Small Businesses

Mobile devices are utility platforms. Connected devices (nearly) continuously collect data about our lives. And consumers use social media throughout the buying process.

Being online matters. And, the ability to be found online easily is even more important, especially for small businesses seeking to boost brand recognition and compete with larger companies in their market space.

But, more than half of small businesses (56%) do not engage in digital marketing. Those that do, focus on social media the most, according to a survey on small business digital marketing habits.

Small business survey

Anthony Gaenzle, Owner of AG Integrated Marketing Blog, sat down with research firm Clutch to reflect on these survey findings.

He explains why small businesses shy away from digital marketing, suggests how to develop a simple, low-cost strategy, and urges them to explore more than just social media.

Why Small Businesses Say ‘No’ To Digital Marketing

Being found online is key to business success.

Let’s say you’re on a family vacation and want to grab some pizza for dinner. What do you do? You pull out your smartphone and search, “pizza places near me.”

A local pizza restaurant that does not have a website or social media presence and is not optimized for local search is impossible to find if you only rely on the Internet.

“Local businesses don’t understand that digital marketing can lead to their business being found over the competition. A pizza joint may have the best pizza in town, but if their website and other digital touches aren’t optimized for search, the competition will get its business every time.” — Anthony Gaenzle

If the advantage of going digital is clear, what’s stopping small businesses?

1.) Cost

Small businesses have limited budgets. In fact, 69 percent dedicated less than $10,000 to advertising and marketing in 2015. Only 22 percent plan to increase their spending in 2016.

Advertising budget

From this perspective, the greatest challenge is implementing an effective strategy that fits within your budget.

2.) Tracking Value

Business owners that do not know how or what to measure to track the effectiveness of their digital marketing activities underestimate the value they are receiving or miss important clues about how to improve their strategy.

“Small business owners often are unaware of the benefits of going digital. SEO, content marketing, and other digital tactics are often overlooked completely because of a lack of understanding of their value.” — Anthony Gaenzle

Focus On Digital Marketing Channels That Give You the Most Visibility

Digital marketing includes search engine optimization (SEO), website and mobile app use, email marketing, content marketing, and social media marketing. This list of tactics is lengthy and intimidating for small businesses operation on a tight budget.

But, to see good results, you do not need to use all the tactics at once. Rather, it is important to focus on the digital strategies that will get you the most visibility.

“Know your audience and understand where they are. It’s important to produce content that your audience actually wants to see and distribute. This is important for any size business but especially for small businesses that cannot afford to waste their marketing budget.” — Anthony Gaenzle

For example, small businesses that want to grow their audience, improve their brand’s reputation, and drive traffic to their website would benefit from having a social media presence.

Benefits and Deterrents in Social Media Marketing

The priority digital marketing channel for 2016 is social media.

digital marketing priority

Why do small businesses favor social media? How effective is it for being found online.

The main benefit of social media marketing is its targeting capabilities. This means you can identify and home in on the customers that you want to engage with your content.

“Understand which channels members of your target market are using. … Don’t overextend your reach. Having less pages with better content is far more effective than being on every single channel but not having the resources to keep up with posting and engaging with followers.” — Anthony Gaenzle

To select your target audience, consider,

  • Which social media channels they use,
  • When they go online,
  • What characteristics would make them seek out your brand, and
  • Where they live.

Social media also provides a more personal way to engage with customers.

For example, Hootsuite Founder and CEO Ryan Holmes used social media to purchase an iRobot Roomba vacuum.

Holmes’ social media-driven buyer’s journey

  • He learned about Roomba from a YouTube video.
  • He crowd sourced reviews on Twitter before selecting which version of the Roomba to purchase.
  • He posted a celebratory picture of his purchase on Facebook when it arrived.
  • He tweeted a playful, slightly negative review on Twitter after the new Roomba ate his Christmas lights in the process of vacuuming the living room.
  • iRobot responded to the review by sending a new version of the Roomba

The story shows how social media can be an effective way to communicate with customers and maintain a positive image for your company.

But, social media works best in the context of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that combines SEO and social media or content marketing and social media.

“Social media needs to be approached with caution. It should be used to enhance your website and other content, not as a standalone marketing tool. … If you don’t have high quality content to share, it’s not valuable.” — Anthony Gaenzle

Sarah Patrick
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2 thoughts on “Digital Marketing on a Budget for Small Businesses”

  1. Hello! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I genuinely enjoy reading your blog posts. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same topics? Thank you so much!

    • Hello! I certainly can. Check out Content Marketing Institute. Ann Handley and Pam Didner have great blogs. Ryan Biddulph offers great blogging advice at Blogging From Paradise. Just to name a few. Enjoy!


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