Expert Interview Series: Susan Payton on Effective Marketing Practices For Small Business Owners And Entrepreneurs
Digital marketing for small businesses and entrepreneurs is a double-edged sword. On one hand, digital marketing has the potential to connect with a global audience using powerful tools to reach them. It also means that small businesses and entrepreneurs are competing against major corporations as well as countless other demands for a customer's time and attention.Digital marketing has become an ingrained part of the way we do business. It is essential that we market effectively on the internet to make the best of the resources at our disposal while avoiding the pitfalls.
We talked to Susan Payton, a marketing specialist for Egg Marketing & Communications, to learn some effective marketing practices for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
How might a business owner begin a digital marketing campaign if they're just starting out?
Do some research to see where your audience is spending time online and pick one tool that will pack the biggest punch. That might be writing guest blog posts for more established blogs or having a strong presence on Facebook. As that nets new customers, save the money to hire someone to help expand your marketing.
What are some benefits of formulating a digital marketing strategy before even launching a new business? How is this approach better than making it up as you go along?
Just like you'd develop your business plan before you launch, you also need to know how you'll market to find new customers. After all, you need customers to stay in business! There's a lot you can do for your marketing ahead of time, like setting up social media profiles and following the right people, writing blog content so people have lots to read, and getting your website designed. Then when you do launch, it's a lot easier to maintain.
If a small business or entrepreneur hasn't had the opportunity to conduct extensive marketing surveys, what are some ways they can get to know their intended audience? How can these insights affect future marketing strategies?
You can send your email list a survey through a tool like Survey Monkey or use Twitter to ask your target audience questions. The answers you get should guide you to smarter decisions about how you market, what your product looks like, and even what price point people are willing to pay. If you pay attention to what your audience wants, it's easier to deliver just that.
Automation is an essential part of digital marketing to be ultimately profitable and useful. What are some aspects of digital marketing that can - and should - be automated?
So much can be automated, but not everything should. Having a series of emails to go out when someone subscribes to your list is useful, and having some social media updates automated is helpful (check out Tweet Jukebox for that). Just make sure not all your social updates are automated. If you have your blog content set to automatically be shared on social, make sure you also handcraft other social media updates with that content so you can choose exactly what text will entice people to click to read it.
At what point in the sales cycle should a human take over? What are some things that require the human touch?
It depends on what you're selling. If you're selling $5 ebooks, you probably don't need any human touch to complete the sale. On the other hand, if you sell $10,000 software, people are going to take their sweet time to come to a decision on that purchase. Once they've gone through the process of researching solutions to their problem, that's where an intelligent salesperson can shine. Paired with informative emails (i.e. why our product beats the competition), a human can build that rapport that people need to build trust with a brand.
Digital marketing is becoming increasingly important in local search results. Why is this important? What are some potential uses of these localized searches?
If you're like me, you search for the best restaurants, shops, and services online. I don't buy into paid results, so I want to see who's on top. Also, customer reviews are a huge component of local search. Sometimes I just start my search on Yelp and see what people are saying about a brand.
What are some ways small businesses and entrepreneurs can accelerate the ROI of digital marketing to help them know their efforts are working?
Understand it's not an immediate return in the form of dollars. If you invest $10,000 a year for a social media consultant to manage your accounts and by the end of the year you haven't made $10,000 or more in sales as a result, the effort is not lost. So much of digital marketing is about branding and about getting your name out there in front of people who otherwise wouldn't have known about you. But if you absolutely want to track your marketing to results, pay attention to your analytics. Make one change to your marketing at a time, then see how it changes web traffic (and sales, if you sell online). Give it a few months to really work; if it doesn't, drop it and try something else.
How can digital marketing influence people's perception of a brand? How can this lead to business opportunities down the line due to things like word-of-mouth recommendations, social reviews, etc.?
I always say: if you had to choose between two identical brands that sold similar products, and the only difference was that you followed one on Facebook or read its blog, I'm willing to bet you'd buy from that one. Digital marketing is about building trust with customers. They may not meet any of your staff face-to-face, but if they have some sort of a connection to you digitally, that's often enough to make the sale. Also, when a friend asks for a recommendation, it's that brand with a social presence that you will recommend.