A website is a good start. But to get the most out of it, small businesses must use smart marketing strategies.
Most small business owners understand they need a website if they’re going to be competitive. In fact, 51% of small businesses report having one.1
But it takes more than just establishing a homepage to drive business. Without a thoughtful online marketing strategy, small businesses may miss out on the website traffic and sales that could lift them above their competition.
There's a gap between this reality and the typical small business mindset, however. According to a recent survey commissioned by Bank of America Merchant Services, many small business owners don’t see the importance of marketing their products and services online. For example, only 20% of small businesses said the ability to market on social media was important, and only 21% said search engine optimization (SEO).
And no wonder: Online marketing can seem intimidating for small business owners with overflowing to-do lists. But it doesn't have to be. Monica Kozak, senior vice president, digital strategy and execution at Bank of America Merchant Services, sees online marketing as a conversation between businesses and their customers.
"Consumers want to engage and be engaged," she says. "Authentic, personal engagement from businesses drives customers to respond with engagement of their own."
Let's take a closer look at each of these objectives.
The best online marketing strategy begins with creating fresh content on your website and social media. Engaging, useful content that relates to your overall business drives visitors to your website—and keeps them coming back.
These return visits are crucial in establishing a relationship with customers, says Kozak. "It can take up to 30 interactions with a brand before a consumer is ready to engage with you. That's why it's so important to create new content to help reach people in all the places you can."
This content can take many forms, including:
Creating fresh content can help make your website more visible to people who are searching for products or services on the web. This tactic is part of what’s known as search engine optimization, or SEO. In general, the fresher and more relevant your content, the higher your site’s SEO rating will be—and the more likely it will be to appear toward the top of search results.
Many consumers will be drawn to your website as they peruse social media or the internet on their phones. And after they arrive, they're more likely than ever to make a purchase without waiting to return to their computers.
In fact, 44% of consumers under 29 say they have been using their mobile device more often for shopping over the past five years—and that figure is likely to keep rising as more consumers become comfortable shopping on their phones..1 That's why it's so important to set up your website so that it's easy to navigate on both computers and mobile devices. In addition, having a good mobile experience can help give you an edge over competitors that don’t, further improving your SEO rankings.
There are some simple steps you can take to create user-friendly mobile experience. Start by:
If you follow the pointers above, you don't need to create a different mobile experience. Just focus on simplifying the design and highlighting the most important information, like how to buy, how to contact the business and information on deals.
Converting a website visitor into a customer is a big win for businesses, but the marketing process doesn't end there. Retaining customers is just as important, because it can lead to repeat purchases and long-term relationships that drive sales well into the future.
To that end, email marketing is an easy way to convert a one-time customer to a long-time customer. Businesses should encourage buyers to share their email addresses, either by offering them a one-time promotion for subscribing to marketing emails or by asking them to subscribe during the checkout process. These emails can advertise new product arrivals or draw attention to sales and promotions.
If all of this sounds like a lot to take on, Kozak advises small businesses to start with things they already know, like social media. "We all consume social media, so we're familiar with how to use it," she says. Once you've taken that first step in online marketing, you can supplement with other tactics at your own pace.”