By Ryan Ayers

In today’s world, online marketing and advertising is a necessity. Even small businesses without big budgets need to be putting some time and resources into attracting new customers with digital marketing.

70-80% of your potential customers are researching your business online before they buy or come in. If you have little to no online presence (or worse, a negative online presence), they may pass you over. Creating brand awareness with a solid marketing strategy can help you increase sales and new customers.

If you’ve ever thought about digital marketing and felt overwhelmed at the thought of yet another task on your plate, that’s understandable. With digital marketing, however, consistency is the most important element. Yes, you’ll need to dedicate yourself to the task, but you don’t have to spend all your time on it. With these 5 tips, you can start to focus on the activities that matter the most.

1. Build Brand Awareness

Your brand awareness is simply the number and degree of people who are aware of your brand, what you offer, and your values. Building your brand awareness isn’t something you do all at once—it’s a process.

To build brand awareness, you need to go where your customers are. Get on social media. Find out which platforms are most popular with your ideal customers.

When you interact with customers, it’s important to keep your brand message and voice consistent—that will build your brand over time.

2. Create Great Content

Content marketing isn’t just for big brands. Small businesses need to create great content people want to consume too.

So how can a small business compete and stand out? Storytelling is one of the best ways to create compelling content. Think about your company values and incorporate them into your content.

As with your brand awareness efforts, your content should maintain your brand voice. You’d be surprised how much something as simple as this helps to build trust.

3. Educate Your Audience

No matter what industry you’re in, there are lots of different topics you can use to educate your audience. Do you build custom birdcages? Use your content to teach your customers about bird care!

Not only will educating your audience help you to gain their trust and establish authority, you’ll come to mind when they need to buy a new birdcage, hammer, or choose a contractor.

4. Develop Your Customer Service

Many people separate marketing and customer service, but today, they’re more intertwined than ever. Lots of customers will reach out on social media or through email for issues or questions. It’s so important to ensure those messages are getting to you, and that you and your staff are equipped to respond right away.

You may need to do some training, but the importance of stellar customer service cannot be overstated. 78% of people have not made a purchase they were planning on because of bad customer service. It’s the service that matters the most, not the experience as a whole. Even if a customer has a bad experience, addressing the problem appropriately and right away can turn the whole situation around and make the customer MORE likely to recommend your business.

5. Optimize for Search

It’s not enough to just have a website these days—it’s too easy to get buried in the search results. As daunting as you may find SEO, it’s important to use these tactics to optimize your site. Local listings and keywords will help you get noticed in the search results. If other sites start to share your resources, that will help you rise in the search rankings as well.

If you feel overwhelmed by the idea of SEO, start with learning the basics. Invest in your business and get a site audit. You can always outsource the work if you don’t feel comfortable or don’t have the time. Marketing is an investment that pays off handsomely if done properly.

Getting Started

Today, it’s easier than ever to create an effective marketing strategy online.

With so many DIY options, you don’t need to hire an expensive agency. You can outsource to your employees and independent contractors, and you can even automate some tasks, like social media posting. Another advantage of not doing everything yourself? You’ll get diverse viewpoints that will enhance your marketing, and find new resources.

When it comes to getting started or taking your marketing up a notch, just focus on one thing at a time. Prioritize your activities and start with something small—it all helps.

Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of Fortune 500 companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs, with a keen focus on data collection and analysis. You can find more from Ryan on Twitter at @TheBizTechGuru.

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