Digital marketing strategy for small business is a big deal
It’s time for small businesses to embrace the concept of the ‘digital strategy’ to propel their businesses.
For larger organisations, digital strategies have been a focus for the last 15 years, seen as a critical method of engaging and transacting with customers within a digital context. However, for smaller businesses, the importance of a digital strategy is only just being realised.
This is most likely due to lack of budget, little time to plan and minimal human resources to implement strategies. I believe that small businesses that embrace digital technology will have far greater success and growth prospects than those that don’t.
The term ‘digital strategy’ covers many areas for small businesses. It can be something seemingly simple such as becoming a paperless office, a sales- or marketing-based strategy, an alternative way for your customers to communicate or engage with you, or the implementation of effective methods to backup and secure your data. It depends entirely on the needs, goals and priorities of the business in question.
Businesses at different stages of their development will have differing priorities for their digital strategies.
Start-up businesses will generally focus on the fundamentals of a digital strategy:
- development of a basic website including a Google Places listing
- establishment of a social-media presence (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn)
- incorporating digital solutions to assist in the everyday management of the business (EFTPOS, product scanning, bookkeeping software)
Established businesses generally take a more targeted approach to specific areas they have identified through experience and previous strategies. Their digital strategies often include the following:
- targeted online marketing, sales funnels and access to export markets
- use of digital technology to increase productivity such as online ordering systems, project and task management systems, customer relationship management systems
- evolution of business practices through digital technology to become more environmentally sustainable
- provision of efficient internal and external digital communication tools to support employees working from home
Developing a digital strategy can be a daunting process, particularly for small-business owners who are focusing on the everyday operation of their accounts, traditional forms of marketing, employee issues and the pressures of competitive markets in often difficult economic climates.
The perceived cost has been prohibitive to most small businesses developing a multifaceted digital strategy. However, the scale of the strategy can be tailored to suit individual needs.
In addition, the cost of technology, access to vast resources and the assistance of Australian Government small-business programs make developing and implementing digital strategies more attainable. Check out the Department of Communications’ Digital Enterprise Program, Digital Business Toolkit and Digital Business website.
Developing your own digital strategy
1. Identify a significant aim or mission for your business and ensure that this aligns with your business’s strategic plan – e.g. a retail business wanting to sell online.
2. Research the tools and technology available to achieve that goal. You may be surprised at the number of free or low-cost resources available for small businesses, such as Open Office (www.openoffice.org), Facebook Business Pages, open source website platforms (WordPress, Drupal, Magento Community, Joomla!) and free digital communication tools including Viber, Skype and Google Hangouts.
3. Identify relevant professional service providers that may assist you with the set-up, implementation and testing of your digital strategy. Investing funds at this stage may save a number of significant headaches later on.
4. Finally, review and revisit your digital strategies regularly to ensure that they continue to align with your small business’s strategic plan and provide benefits to the organisation.
Tips for your digital strategy
- A Facebook page does not and should never replace a business website. You can have complete control over the content, functionality and interaction of your own website.
- Ensure websites are frequently updated. Not only will this improve your search engine rankings, but it will also increase repeat visitor rates.
- Research your competitors. Where do they have a presence? What is working for them? How can you utilise and emphasise your point of difference?
- Don’t underestimate the benefits of engaging a relevant digital business mentor; they will likely have practical ideas and a fresh perspective.
- Analyse and measure your success. Utilise tools such as Google and Facebook Analytics to measure the impact of your strategy. Use this information to invest in more profitable strategies. Likewise, analyse your traditional sales and marketing strategies: you may be able to allocate budget to more effective digital alternatives.
- Ensure that your existing services and systems can cope with sudden spikes in demand.
- Be highly involved in implementation processes to ensure knowledge and understanding of the new technology/systems.
The Australian Government’s Digital Business website is a comprehensive resource for business owners looking to establish a digital strategy.
David Williamson, CEO