It wasn’t always necessary to use online marketing tools to run a thriving offline business. But it is now.
Today, over 56% of U.S. consumers prefer to shop online. Customers have more options now, and if you’re not reaching them online, you’re missing out on a ton of business.
These are the top essentials of online and digital marketing for a brick-and-mortar business.
You might already be familiar with or doing some of these things. If so, just skip to the next section.
How Do I Build a Business Website?
All online marketing revolves around your website. Focus on creating a simple one with the following pages and features:
- A clear homepage: Most visitors land on your homepage. They should be able to quickly understand what your store offers and navigate to other parts of your website.
- Products or services: Depending on the nature of your business, you should detail the services you offer or allow customers to order online.
- A blog (optional but important): Although a lot of digital marketing can be done without a blog, having one allows you to attract organic (free) traffic. Visitors to your blog can be turned into customers. More on that later.
- “About” page: An ‘about’ page gives visitors background information about your business.
Additionally, consider creating a contact form to help users/customers reach out directly to you.
If at this point you’re wondering how to get about creating a website in the first place, there are three main options:
- Hire a web developer to create a website from scratch: This is by far the most expensive option, but requires very little technical skill or involvement on your part. Tell your developer what you’d like your website to have and look like, and they’ll build it for you. This option may not be the best one for small brick-and-mortar businesses. Consider options two or three unless you need a lot of custom functionality.
- Install a content management system (CMS) and purchase hosting: WordPress and Joomla are popular CMS options that let you build and operate a website without having to code it. Once you’ve purchased a web hosting plan, you can set up a WordPress or Joomla website quickly. You can hire a web developer to do it for you, or you can do it yourself. If you need to create an e-commerce store, you can install WooCommerce. Want to chat with your visitors? There’s a plugin for that too.
- Use a website builder: If you don’t want to hire a developer or install a CMS, use a website builder. Just fill in a few blanks and provide information about your business. Website builders are more restrictive than a CMS, but are a cheap and effective alternative if you’re just looking for a basic site.
How Do I Get the Top Search Results?
There’s no point in having a website if your customers can’t find it online. That is where search engine marketing comes in.
You need your website to come up in the first few search results for your brand name to build awareness.
Your focus should be on Google, which is by far the largest search engine.
Google does a good job indexing new sites, but if you’d like to speed up the process, sign up for Google Search Console (it’s free). After you add your website to your account, you’ll be able to submit a URL to Google to request that it gets indexed.
Start with your homepage, but you can also add the other pages of your website. Remember that Google usually finds these pages automatically, but this is for extra peace of mind.
You can also submit your site’s URL on Bing, the second-largest search engine.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) made simple
The general idea behind SEO is to help your site rank higher on Google (and other search engines) for search terms that your potential customers would type in.
For example, if you’re a plumber in New York, showing up as the #1 result when someone searches “New York plumber” will bring you a lot of business.
The problem is that every other plumber also wants to have that same spot. There’s a lot of competition trying to convince Google that yours is the best search result to show.
SEO gets more complicated when you want to rank for competitive terms. If it’s something that you strongly desire, take the next steps by reading these guides:
- Beginner’s Guide to SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
- The Advanced Guide To SEO
- On-Page SEO: Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Page.
What Are the Essentials of Social Media?
Social networking offers a great opportunity to find targeted audiences and turn them into customers.
Many people use social networking platforms to learn about businesses and contact them. Many prefer to click a “contact” chat button rather than pick up the phone.
The mistake you can make here is making profiles on 50 different social media channels. Instead, pick two or three social media sites that are most popular among your customers and focus on them.
It’s easier to monitor conversations that way and you’ll save a lot of time.
Choose the Highest ROI Social Networking Platforms
According to WordStream, these are currently the most popular social networking platforms:
- Facebook (2.93 billion monthly active users)
- YouTube (2.6 billion)
- WhatsApp (2.2 billion)
- Instagram (1.4 billion)
- TikTok (1.39 billion)
- Facebook Messenger (999.8 million)
Create a basic profile on each of network that has your contact information and a link to your website.
Next, type in your business type into BuzzSumo.
You’ll see a list of the most popular content in your industry, with the social shares on each major network.
In this case, the most popular networks for plumbing topics are Facebook and LinkedIn.
Do the same for your business and find the most popular two or three networks.
After you select social networks, engage
If you just create a basic business page on a social network, only a few people will find it.
You need to engage with potential customers to get real exposure to them.
Building customer engagement essentially means two things:
- Creating or sharing content they will enjoy.
- Being active on the network (responding as soon as possible when someone leaves a comment or question about your business).
Here are some more advanced resources to help you get the best results:
- Social Media Marketing Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Welcome to The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media!
- The Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing
Where Does Paid Advertising Fit With Online Marketing?
If you’d like to generate customers immediately, paying for your advertisements is the way.
The downside is that it can be expensive. There’s a learning curve involved before you learn how to advertise online effectively.
Where should you advertise?
The best online advertising platforms are the ones we’ve already looked at: search engines and social networks. Facebook, Instagram, and Google ads are used extensively for online advertising.
These digital channels collect a lot of user information, allowing you to target specific audiences.
When you advertise on platforms like these, it’s best not to go for a direct sale. Instead, consider content advertising or advertising landing pages in order to collect emails (we’ll get to that in the next main section).
How do you prevent overspending?
Many business owners waste money on unprofitable online advertising campaigns. Most experts recommend setting a spending limit of under $5 per day. All major internet marketing channels allow you to set a maximum total spend.
Ideally, you want to start by creating multiple ads with small daily spends. Then, after a few days, disable the ones that aren’t working, and spend more on the profitable ads.
How Do I Use Email Marketing for My Business?
Email marketing has the highest return on investment (ROI) among all marketing channels, according to some estimates. However, it takes time to build up an effective campaign.
To be successful with email marketing and drive traffic to your website, you need to follow these steps:
- Create an internet marketing strategy to generate email leads (usually blogging, giveaways, advertising, etc.).
- Create an email sales funnel to send to those leads.
- Keep testing and tweaking your sales funnel to improve conversion rates.
Use these tools to collect email addresses and send emails to them in bulk:
MailChimp is famous for its free plan, and also for being extremely simple to use.
The site has an extensive library of email templates that you can customize.
This is a great option for new businesses just off the ground.
If you need more power than MailChimp, go with ConstantContact.
It has more features and functionality than MailChimp. One unique feature is the ability to sign people up for your email lists in many different ways:
For example, you can bring a tablet to events and use Constant Contact’s app to collect email contacts.
GetResponse has the steepest learning curve among the three tools. It can also be the most powerful, depending on how you choose to use it.
To start with, you can send emails based on custom triggers, like subscribers’ birthdays (if you have that information).
GetResponse has a landing page creator, which is valuable if you’re planning to pay for your advertisements. You can quickly create new landing pages tailored to each ad set or audience to improve your conversion rates.
Online marketing is an incredibly deep field, but you don’t need to know everything to get started with it and reap its benefits.
We’ve gone over the five main pillars of online marketing in simple terms. Pick the ones that are most relevant for your business and follow the steps outlined. Use the additional resources provided.
If you get overwhelmed at any point, take a step back. Break things down into simpler steps, and tackle them one-by-one.
Click here for help on how to start an online business, or read up more about e-commerce marketing.