What digital tools do I need for small business marketing?
So you want to set up your own small business. Or maybe you have. Seriously, well done for taking the plunge. It’s intimidating and can feel like standing on a cliff edge. Trust me – I know.
You’ve got your amazing business idea. You’ve got a website. You’ve got a product or service that will create a storm and everyone you’ve spoken to loves it. However, you know that your fabulous offering simply existing is not going to get you very far. You have to market it. If you’re not familiar with marketing, this can be the bigger part of the challenge than coming up with the idea in the first place.
Online research isn’t always immediately helpful if you aren’t 100% sure what you are looking for. So many people are offering tools, advice and marketing services – but what does it all mean and do you actually need all these things?
Everybody has to start somewhere, so I’ve put together a toolkit containing the material that you, as a brand-new small business, will need in order to start building an online presence. Please note that this is simply for building your presence organically and doesn’t include any advertising.
SEO simply stands for Search Engine Optimisation and it is exactly that. It means optimising your website for maximum visibility on search engines. If you want your potential customers to find your website and you can’t yet afford an SEO agency, you need to learn some of the basics or have a tool to do it for you.
If you have a WordPress website, Yoast is a really great free tool that guides you through the basics when creating pages or posts on your website. It ensures that your content adheres to best SEO practice by presenting you with a nice happy face when your content is good or a red angry one for content that needs changing. Don’t worry – it will tell you exactly what to do.
There are equivalent apps for Shopify but most require a small monthly fee. Make sure you read the reviews before installing any app on Shopify – there are many that just aren’t that great.
If you’re not in a position to pay for any tools yet and can’t find any suitable free ones, go to Moz and check out their beginners guide to SEO. This includes all the best practices that Yoast or any other software would guide you through but it does take a bit of reading.
Google Analytics is a fantastic free tool from Google that can tell you an enormous amount about visitors to your website and their behaviour on your site. At a basic level, you can find out how many people came to the site, where they came from (search engines, social media, etc.), which were the most clicked on pages and how long people spent on those pages. You can also see visitor demographics and, if you have a retail site, GA will record purchases.
GA can seem massively intimidating but the information it will gives you is incredibly valuable and it isn’t hard to get that information. There are tons of free videos on how to set up Analytics; I haven’t included a link to one because the process can vary depending on what platform your website is built on.
Do remember, though, to set up Audience Demographics, as that isn’t automatically switched on. Also, if you are selling online, remember to switch on E-commerce. Again, there’s loads of free information about how to do this.
In a nutshell, the data you get from GA will tell you what works on your site and what doesn’t, what people like and what they don’t like. Keep checking it and you’ll learn a huge amount about your audience.
Google Search Console
GSC is a powerful partner tool to Analytics and will give you further information about your website. Yoast has some handy instructions on how to set it up and link it to Google Analytics. This is where you submit your website to Google for indexing. The most vital information you will get from GSC is whether your site and its pages are being indexed in Google or not. If they are not, the pages won’t be found. If individual pages are not indexed, you can troubleshoot the problem and submit them to Google.
You can also see really useful information such as how often people clicked on your website in the search results of Google. It can also tell you how often a specific page is shown in the search results. Crucially, it also tells you your clickthrough rate, or CTR. This means what percentage of the people that have seen your website in the search results also clicked through to your website.
Once again, you can scout around YouTube for great videos on anything related to Search Console.
Mailchimp and Constant Contact are the best email programmes out there. However, Mailchimp allows you 2,000 contacts for free whereas Constant Contact only gives you a month’s trial. However, if you get to the point where you need to upgrade to a paid version, Constant Contact is cheaper.
Do collect email addresses. People coming to your website may not be ready to part with their money straight away but they may be willing to hear from you until they decide. It’s your job to keep them interested with good content and incentives to buy your product or service. Don’t make all your emails sales emails. I’m a big believer in being useful and I use the hashtag #beuseful in a lot of my professional social media activity. Offer your audience free information, case studies or exclusive discounts. That will encourage loyalty to you and your brand. So after your email recipients have purchased from you, they will hopefully come back and purchase again.
You may need to offer an incentive to encourage people to give you their personal contact details. The most common way is by offering people a discount on their first order. Here’s a handy hint – if you offer that discount anywhere else on your website, your website visitors are not going to offer up their details for something they can have anyway. Also, the most common offering of 10% tends not to work. Unless your product is very high value, 10% is generally very little money and doesn’t encourage people. If you can afford to, raise that to 20%. You can test different amounts to see what works best. If you find that you get plenty of sign-ups by offering 15%, then you don’t need to offer 20%.
Keep your emails concise and tell your audience exactly what you want them to do – visit your summer sale, sign up for a course, watch a video, etc. Use big buttons to guide them.
OK, we all use social media and you don’t need me to tell you what it’s for, nor how much time people spend on it. You just need to remember that all the people on Facebook, Instagram, etc. are a potential audience for your small business.
What you do need to think about is where your target market hangs out and which platforms are appropriate. Social media is generally female-dominated, with the exception of Twitter and LinkedIn. Facebook tends to attract a slightly older audience and Twitter is very much about news and sharing information. Tik Tok is brand new, very visual and requires a lot of video content. It is great for businesses with a very visual element, like some fashion brands.
Many people ask me if their business should be on Facebook or Instagram – or any of the platforms. The best way to know is to talk to the type of people you want to sell to – find out what they use. Also, read up on demographics and usage and see if those demographics match that of your audience. And think about it logically – if you’re a will writer, an Instagram account will be of little use to you. But you can share lots of engaging information on Twitter. If you teach fitness or yoga, go for the visual approach. Share videos on Facebook and Instagram and create a loyal following.
All business to business companies should be on LinkedIn. You can learn a lot about your industry and make a lot of contacts. However, be prepared to bat off daily sales pitches.
Hootsuite is a really useful social media management tool. It allows you to post across all social media platforms from one place. It also allows you to schedule posts. The paid version also has a social listening utility so you can see what people are about your business on Social Media. If you intend to build your brand and have a large social media presence, you should definitely have a social listening app. It is a key way to properly manage your reputation.
A word of caution – just because you are able to quickly post the same content across all platforms, that doesn’t mean you should. As I’ve shown, all social media platforms are different, with different content and different audiences. What your Twitter audience finds interesting is not necessarily what your Instagram audience finds interesting. Also, some of your followers may follow you on several channels – when that happens, they can get bored seeing the same content on each. Different platforms also have different specifications for posting images.
Keyword research tools
This section could fall under SEO but there are so many approaches that it really needs its own section.
Put simply, keywords are the words that you expect your potential customers to type into search engines to find your website. You need to find these words and related words and make sure you include them in your content. They should be included in your natural content (product pages, information pages, etc.). Also, a lot of businesses also use blogs as a way to get additional searchable keywords onto their website.
I wrote a blog about blogging which goes into detail about keyword research and some excellent tools to use. In this article, I’m going to show you just one tool which is called Ubersuggest. This has most things you will need for your keyword research and is a game-changer because it’s free. Type in one of your products or a service that you expect people to look for – in this example, I have used ‘Yoga gear’ – and choose your country.
You’ll see something like this:
This is a list of alternative keywords suggested by Ubersuggest that you can use in your content. What’s really powerful here is that it tells you how difficult it is to compete for each keyword. A high difficulty score basically means that there are a lot of websites using that keyword and your website is unlikely to be found when searching for those keywords. In the columns on this table, ‘PD’ means the difficulty for paid ads. Unless you are going to use Google paid ads, ignore this. What is really useful is ‘SD’. This means the difficulty in organic search.
The trick is to use keywords that have a relatively low difficulty (meaning less competition) but that still get a reasonable amount of search volume. You should try and use some keywords that have a difficulty rating of under 20. These are words that are less frequently used but that people still search for. There are other handy features in this tool so have a look around. To get more than 10 keywords, you’ll have to log in with a Gmail account but it’s still free.
I really hope that this article answers some of the questions related to “what digital tools do I need for my new business?”. This list of tools will have you covered for helping your website be more visible, for understanding your audience and for reaching out in the most effective and rewarding ways. Once you fully understand your toolkit and its benefits, you should find that you have more time to invest in doing what you do best – making your fabulous products or services.
Get in touch if you’d like to chat about any of what you’ve read. Or anything else!