The Digital Marketing Every Small Business Needs

Small business marketing used to be simple. Choose a name and logo, print up some business cards and post cards to mail out and place an ad in a newspaper. But, before you long for yesteryear, consider this: today’s digital marketing is far more complex, but it comes with far more opportunity. Your small business with a small budget can reach your exact target market instantly.

What businesses used to spend in dollars to reach their target market, you can today spend on time reaching your target market.

Time and money, of course, are limited for small business owners, so make sure the time and money you invest in digital marketing is well spent.

The problem you’re more likely to face today is not the cost of marketing, it’s figuring out a formula for your digital marketing and conquering the technology to get it done. Making sure you have a strong online presence is a basic element of doing business today. It’s the equivalent of an “OPEN” sign on the door of a storefront. Your job is to find out where your customers spend time online and make sure you’re spending time there with them.

How to get started with digital marketing

Here’s the basics of what every business needs to get started with online marketing.

  1. A functional website
  2. Weekly content updates on your website
  3. Daily social media content
  4. Email marketing

Now, let’s break that down.

Website basics

A functional website means that your website is only 3-4 years old at most. Unless you work in e-commerce, most small business websites can be simple and cost effective. Keeping your site up to date with current digital marketing best practices will not only make your business look professional, but it will also save you time. The older your site is, the harder you will have to work in the backend to get the most out of it.

You’ll also need an SEO (search engine optimization) audit and optimization. This is work you need to do on the backend of your site to make sure that your target market in your area finds you online when they are searching. It’s the technical side of how websites improve their ranking on sites like Google.

Digital marketing content basics

Once you have your website set up, it’s a working asset. You’ll need to regularly post new content to your site so that you drive traffic to your website, stay top of mind for your target marketing and continue to improve your search engine ranking. Content can come in the form of a blog, a podcast or videos. All of them work well, so the choice is yours. It will depend on what is easiest for you and how your audience tends to consume content. For example, if you’re trying to reach young men, videos on YouTube and then embedded on your site might make the most sense. Or if you love giving advice and chatting, a podcast might be really doable for you. What’s important is that you choose your medium and be consistent.

Daily social media content

Social media is the next layer of a robust digital marketing plan because this is how you can promote your content, your website and your brand story. Social media is the public marketplace of today, and like it or not, every seller needs to show up. You don’t have to focus on every channel, but figure out what your audience prefers and make sure you are there joining the conversation. Better yet, create great content to drive the conversation. Posts on each social media channel have a different lifespan and you’ll need to post regularly to stay relevant in that space. We’ll talk about each channel separately here in future blog posts.

Email marketing

What’s that you say? You day email marketing is dead? Think again. Consider these stats from Wordstream:

  • 80% of retail professionals indicate that email marketing is their greatest driver of customer retention
  • Email is the third most influential source of information for B2B audiences, behind only colleague recommendations and industry-specific thought leaders.

It’s true that no one wants your email newsletter, unless you’re sending out awesome deals and great buys to customers who want it. But there are better ways to do email marketing, and we’ll talk about them in an upcoming blog post.

Be patient

The most important part of your digital marketing plan is to be patient. Your online presence is built brick by brick, and it’s not all or nothing. What’s great about digital marketing is that it’s easy to make changes later on as you adjust your plan or gain more wisdom. Start at the beginning and keep pushing forward. And when you have a question, send it our way. We always write back.

Join our digital marketing group on Facebook for digital marketing tips, tricks and to find answers to all your qs.

How to Get More Reviews for Your Business

how to get more reviews

Think of the last time you looked up a new business or service and decided you would use their service or product. Whether it was a pizza place, plumber or podiatrist, most likely you spent all of 10 seconds absorbing information on a site like Google, Yelp or Facebook and then knew which one you liked. 

As businesses, this means we are left to perfect that 10 second moment or we’ve already lost so many opportunities. While word of mouth still remains the most dependable source of new business for most of us, gaining new customers by creating an excellent digital introduction to our business is essential. Key to that success is reviews. 

No matter your industry, positive reviews typically don’t come naturally. It’s human nature to react when we’re annoyed but move on – albeit pleasantly surprised – when we are feeling appreciative. Rare is the customer who feels delighted and then proactively leaves you a review. 

This is why you need to ask. 

How to Ask for Reviews

If you leave your review pages up to the hands of fate, you’ll end up with a lower rating. True, this could be because your business stinks. But most of us toil in what we do because we care, and our ratings should reflect that.

Set Yourself Up for Good Reviews

If you want to receive more positive reviews, the first step you’ll have to take is ensure your review pages are set up and you’re actively monitoring them. 

If you have a brick and mortar location for your business, you’ll want to claim your page in Google. This is essential to making sure the correct address is listed for your business and that no one else claims your business for you. Once you do that, you’ll receive emails when there is a new review, and you should respond to these within 24-hours. If it’s positive, thank them! And reshare that information as a testimonial in other places. If it’s negative, acknowledge the feedback without going into too much detail or getting defense and let them know you’re addressing their concerns. Then, go ahead and fix the problem. You can even go back to the reviewer and let them know how you handled the issue, which shows the whole world that you take feedback seriously and are committed to your customers. Next stop for you, my friend, is surely tackling world peace.

When it comes to social media, don’t ignore that space. If a lot of your word of mouth business happens on Facebook or Twitter, be sure to actively check your reviews on these channels and respond. Thank them if it’s positive and publicly acknowledge them if it’s negative. Then, take the conversation over to the private messages so that you can help them sort out their issue. Once you fix the problem, you can publicly respond and let the world know. 

Does this sound like a pain? Perhaps. But consider this: customer relations has ALWAYS been a part of business. Meeting your customer where they are – which is online in increasing numbers – is an integral component of customer service today.

Following are three ways to proactively get more reviews from your clients. 

  1. Add a link to your email signature: Once you’ve claimed your Google Business page and are on top of your social media reviews and comments, go ahead and add links to these pages in your email signature. Here are instructions to find your direct link on Google. Find it on Facebook (at right) by going to your page and clicking on “Reviews” in the left bar. 
  2. Make a habit of reaching out to customers when they leave your business: Once a client leaves your business, you can follow up with an email or a text thanking them for their business and asking them to take a minute to leave an HONEST review. If you’re going to do this, don’t ask them directly for a 5-star review because that’s not authentic. You also don’t want to ask them for a review while they are still on your premises because Google can see where your reviewers are, and this will be suspicious. (Creepy, I know.) Google has been known to remove suspicious reviews. 
  3. Use a service like Get More Reviews: There are a lot of companies that will automate the process above for you at a reasonable price. You will need to add emails and cell phone numbers into the dashboard, and then the review service will reach out to them on your behalf. What I like about this service is that you’re more likely to keep up with the reviews because it’s simpler and you’re more committed by paying for it. It also offers recipients the option to write their ANGRY ALL CAPS RANT to you in a private message rather than on a public review. Many times, they will actually choose this because the goal of a negative reviewer is often just to get the owners’ attention. You’ll also be able to track a lot of reviews in one place if you own multiple locations of your business. 

Most importantly, keep doing the good business practices you started out to accomplish, and let the 5-star reviews pour in. 

Want to talk strategy for your business? Be in touch! Let’s talk.

Creating Mindful Moments Every Day

how to stay mindful

Everyone is talking about being mindful and intentional lately. In new release books, on NPR and in every other podcast, staying mindful is on everyone’s mind in our distracting digital age.

Now, there are those who naturally find quiet by being alone, who enjoy time and space to think and find their zen in yoga. And then there are those who get high on being busy, who can’t sit still for a formal dinner and are more likely to find their rhythm on a run than in downward dog.

Entrepreneurs typically fall in the latter category. Driven by passion for an idea that is our own, it’s hard to stop and take stock. But thinking is what got us here in the first place, and it’s also what ensures we keep moving in the right direction – in both our careers and in life.

How I Hope to Stay Focused

This is why on the same day that I launched Sparkr Marketing, I began my own plan to stay intentional throughout the busy days. I start in the morning by writing BE MINDFUL at the top of a page in my journal, followed by my 3-5 most important tasks for that day. Typically, this is a mix of work and family life. Then, I schedule those tasks into my calendar as if they are a meeting. And then for that one hour, I attempt to focus solely on that one task.

So far, it’s working. By the end of the day, I can look at the list, and on most days I’ve done what I set out to do. I feel less harried while I’m doing it too. I also feel less of a pull to work when I’m focused on my family and less guilty working when my kids are around.

Tell me what keeps you focused and intentional throughout your day? Share this post with a tip on what works for you.

Build Your LinkedIn Tribe

How many times have you created a GREAT post in LinkedIn only to see it go…exactly nowhere?

I’m betting that pretty much everyone has this experience on LinkedIn pretty frequently, and it’s bound to happen even more as LinkedIn continues to gain popularity. LinkedIn has over 575+ million users, with more than 260 million monthly active users. It’s also the social channel that’s enjoyed the most longevity.

But, back to you. Let’s assume you’ve created an original post or article. I’m not talking about just sharing an article that someone else wrote. This time, you’ve thought hard about what you want to share with your network and crafted something clever, relatable, funny, educational or inspiring. It’s a message you would want to read if you saw it in your own feed.

How do increase impressions and engagement for your great content?

Here’s a trick that works on LinkedIn and really on any social channel, for that matter. It’s true for your personal profile, and it works for your organization’s page as well.

Get More Engagement on Your LinkedIn Content with 3 Easy Steps

  1. In LinkedIn messages, reach out to a few friends and colleagues, who are sharing content you think would be interesting for your network. Invite them as a group to be a part of your content sharing tribe.
  2. Then, when you or a member of your group post new content, let the group know. Obviously, this only works if you are sharing quality content your group will find relevant.
  3. Any member of the group who finds the content useful can then go to one another’s profile page to proactively share that content or comment.

It’s that simple! This shortcut ensures that a few targeted people will see your content sooner than it would have shown up in their feeds. Once a few people engage with your content, LinkedIn will recognize its significance.

That’s it!

If you’re creating great content on LinkedIn and want to join my existing group, send me a message on LinkedIn.

Moving on after 12 years

Like every graduation season, we’re preparing to send off the senior class of Ida Crown Jewish Academy. As communications director there, it’s my job to salute the seniors and their accomplishments across all our digital and print media.

Except this year, I’m graduating too.

After 12 years working part time in the private high school, this year will be my last. I’ve pursued my marketing business over the past eight years, joining many workers today in the “gig economy.” The balance has worked for the most part—offering me both part time job stability and the freedom to pursue my business. It’s time to move on.

Like anyone graduating this season, I’m excited and hopeful for the future while reflecting on the past. I couldn’t be more grateful for my colleagues and for all that I learned at ICJA.

I joined the administration fresh out of JUF News, eager to diversify my work beyond writing and editing and ready to work closer to home. Like everyone working in communications in 2007, I had no idea just how diversified my work would become.

At the time:

  • Marketing was almost exclusively print
  • Ads were in newspapers and magazines
  • Facebook was in its infancy
  • Websites were virtual phonebooks
  • Organizational email campaigns were unsophisticated

I started my job at the cusp of the digital marketing revolution (or at least it felt like a revolution to those of us in the trenches). I couldn’t have been in a better position to sort it all out.

Backed by a boss with high expectations and a willingness to support my professional growth, my job in communications co-evolved with the ever-changing digital marketing landscape.

Over the last 12 years of marketing in admissions, development and even a capital campaign, I:

  • Created the school logo and style guide
  • Launched two websites, maintained on WordPress
  • Launched a weekly e-newletter with targeted emails campaigns
  • Launched a Facebook page back when it was easy build followers (and reach them) just by slapping up a photo, followed by Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram pages.
  • Produced videos as the most potent form of our digital communication strategy

I’m leaving ICJA in a good position to continue forward in the fast-paced, ever-changing digital marketing age. I have no doubt they’ll continue to forge ahead as a leader in private school marketing. As a parent in the school and no longer an employee, I plan to be among their biggest cheerleaders.

Beginning this summer I’ll be working at Sparkr Marketing full time.