TikTok recently launched Follow Me, a free program to help small business owners learn how to market themselves on the platform. Follow Me provides step-by-step guidance from TikTok itself, the opportunity to connect with other small business owners, and “exclusive” learning opportunities. But for small businesses, paid media and social content are just two parts of a bigger puzzle when it comes to building an online presence. And one social giant’s resources will not exhaust the resources that a small business owner needs to approach digital marketing. So, how can small business owners kick-start their own digital marketing education?
Three steps small business owners can take to start winning with digital marketing are studying the fundamentals of online visibility, defining target audiences and the most important channels for reaching them, and creating bottom-of-funnel content to convert highly interested prospects.
Here’s how small business owners can tackle each of those tasks and learn about the principles behind them.
Learn the fundamentals of online visibility
Social media platforms are just one dimension of the digital ecosystem. A balanced approach to building online visibility also takes into account other digital routes that could lead prospective customers to your business: like paid advertising, curating your Google business profile, and building a website that is optimized for search engine discoverability with relevant keywords.
Understanding how keywords drive online search results is an especially essential skill for small business owners aiming to strengthen their digital presence. Business owners should do some research into the ins and outs of SEO, identifying the keywords relevant to their niche and how they can use them to draw traffic from potential customers.
Free tools available online can help entrepreneurs find keywords to strike an optimal balance between search frequency and competitiveness. For instance, a hair salon in Cleveland, Ohio, is unlikely to rank high in a Google search for “hair salon.” But by optimizing their site for longer, more specific keywords — like “hair salon in Cleveland,” “wedding hair stylist in Cleveland,” or “where to get box braids in Cleveland” — a business can boost their position and gain valuable ground in searchability. Understanding SEO best practices and integrating high-value keywords into your online content is important for any small business owner aiming to build the kind of online visibility that counts — traffic from users who want what you sell.
Defining target audiences and top channels
Effective digital marketing — especially critical on a small business budget — is all about specificity. To get the most value out of marketing investment, businesses should tailor messaging to the audience and channels that have the highest potential to drive conversions. Identifying your current customer base is a good place to begin. But the optimal digital channels for delivering your messaging will depend on the type of product or service that your business provides.
For example, the jewelry maker who operates solely out of an online storefront might see an image-centric social platform like Instagram as the best channel for reaching her prospective customers: Gen Z and millennial shoppers with disposable income and the expectation of nationwide shipping. On the other hand, a children’s bookstore might find that its target customer base — local suburban parents — is less interested in daily social content than a biweekly email. For a community-focused brick-and-mortar enterprise, an engaging digital newsletter highlighting local events, news, and upcoming promotions all in one place could be a more effective route to build a base of returning customers.
Another tactic to pin down your target audience and the channels where you should reach them is competitive research. The more you know about your competitors (and whom they’re targeting with their SEO strategy), the better you can determine your target audience. Pay attention to the keywords for which you and your rivals are ranking, and compare how their top pages and products stack up to yours. These insights shine a light on what’s working for others in your space and what might work for you, too.
The internet is a big place; thankfully, you don’t have to share viral daily content across all platforms to make the most of digital marketing. You just have to focus on identifying whom you want to speak to and how to make sure your message reaches them.
Create bottom-of-funnel content to harvest low-hanging fruit
For an effective way to win customers and revenue in the short term, small businesses should invest in developing content that’s aimed at audiences with a high intent to purchase.
Audiences at the bottom of the purchase funnel are at a critical point: they know that they want to buy; they even might know what they want. But they’re still searching for some final information as to whom they’ll buy from before they pull the trigger. Helpful content that aims to guide individuals through their decision-making process can make this moment of high intent a mutually beneficial one: the customer has a chance to have their questions answered, while the business makes a sale.
Take, for instance, a series of blog posts published by a home goods retailer, targeted at customers looking to purchase scented candles that they stock. A post could review newly released scents from popular brands, or offer a comparison of two different brands, weighing the pros and cons of each offering — and directing searchers to their online store, where either option can be easily purchased.
From a marketing standpoint, content that is crafted with ready-to-buy searches in mind does double duty work: it supports your long-term strategy of growing brand visibility with SEO; at the same time, it earns revenue by giving audiences who are ready to make a purchase the opportunity to do so.
Diving into the world of digital marketing can seem intimidating to small businesses operating on modest budgets and limited staff. But with a little research and a strategic mindset, businesses of any size can reap the benefits of digital marketing by boosting their online visibility. By taking their messaging to meet audiences where they’re most receptive and capturing the attention of ready-to-buy searchers, independent entrepreneurs can maximize the value of digital marketing and grow revenue, not just follower counts.
Fernando Angulo is Senior Market Research Manager at Semrush. He has been with Semrush for 10 years now and has built its all-star marketing team. Being one of the most recognized faces of the brand, Fernando is speaking at 50+ top conferences worldwide each year. Fernando specializes in B2B search marketing, e-commerce, influence marketing and trained marketing teams of companies such as Expedia, T-mobile, Henry Schein and Bing.