Business management

Seven steps to cost-effective digital marketing

Using the right digital methods, you can reach a huge audience online without spending the big bucks demanded by traditional advertising channels.

Not sure where to start? Below are some tried-and-tested tips, tricks and techniques to help you squeeze the most out of your budget.

1. Tell your story on a blog

Not all of your marketing efforts need to be directly sales driven. A blog will give you the chance to tell your company’s story first-hand, show your personality and be of use to your customer.

“My blog has really helped me channel my relevant thoughts and business progress,” says Melita Latham, founder of luxury travel accessories brand Melita Latham London. “People buy from people – they have a keen interest in people’s lives and background stories, so blog posts are great for engaging with your audience and an alternative platform to promote your business subtly and organically.”

2. Be social with your audience

With so much selling and advertising going on, it’s easy to forget why social media exists. As a business, it’s good to use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to connect with your audience directly, rather than just to push your products.

“Use it to talk to interested parties and find out as much as possible about them through natural conversation,” advises Alice Elliot, founder of WordPress training provider Fairy Blog Mother. “Read people’s posts and conversations, then contribute sensibly and constructively in return.”

You’ll soon build a reputation for providing relevant and worthy responses and ideas – and that reputation will translate into trust.

3. Jump on those ‘journo’ requests

You and your customers aren’t the only ones using social media; it’s a hotbed of journalists and PR people who can get your brand in front of huge audiences.

“Backlinks [links to your site from other credible sites] will help your website rank higher on the search engine results pages, and the #journorequest hashtag on Twitter will help you find relevant opportunities to get them,” says Karolina Cala, digital marketing manager for footwear brand Calla. “All you’re investing is your time, and it doesn’t take hours to scroll through and reply to a few.”

It’s not just about links either: mentions in online publications with much larger audiences than your own will help you build brand awareness faster, putting your company on the radars of prospective customers.

4. Meet other business owners online

Digital networking is another cheap and easy way to build brand awareness. It’s a tactic Ellen Cole, MD of marketing consultancy Little Seed Group, uses regularly. “I’ve found online networking a great way to meet other business owners and gain referrals. I often network on local and regional levels, attending all kinds of web-based events. I can see the results, too: networking alone increased my income by nearly 30% in 2019.”

As well as increasing your search visibility, publishing high-quality content helps deliver a better on-site user experience, ensuring visitors are more likely to convert

Rachel Handley, head of content, Glass Digital

You’ll find plenty of industry-specific groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, but look beyond social media for the best results. Ask other business owners for their recommendations or do a little digging on Google for relevant webinars and video conferences.

5. Get ahead with great content

High-quality search engine optimisation (SEO) – getting your business on the big search engines’ front pages – is an extremely effective ways of finding new customers. And according to Rachel Handley, head of content at marketing agency Glass Digital, it doesn’t have to cost a penny.

“One of the most cost-effective techniques – especially if your audience is predominantly local – is to pursue long-tail keywords: detailed search queries that fewer people make and therefore fewer sites compete for,” she says.

“Consider the types of questions your customers might be asking in the pre-purchase stage of their buying journey, then publish a blog post or guide that solves their problem. As well as increasing your search visibility, publishing high-quality content helps deliver a better on-site user experience, ensuring visitors are more likely to convert. It can also help you generate social shares and external links, both of which drive valuable traffic to your site.”

6. Learn how to target your efforts

According to Marie Brown, owner of web design firm Beyond the Kitchen Table, effective targeting is the best way to keep your digital marketing costs down.

“Think carefully about who your product or service can really help,” she suggests. ”Take the time to find those people, work out what their problems are, and then use ‘their’ language in your marketing efforts to show you have the solution.

“We build websites for small businesses and always use the kind of language they understand – not the kind of jargon you might use with someone technical. We talk about how our services will help with the kinds of issues they face. It takes more effort to target but is certainly the most effective way of spending budget.”

7. Pay attention to the results

What good is digital marketing if you don’t know how well it’s working? Results, and what you learn from them, should play a key part in your marketing strategy.

“It’s all well and good having a big marketing budget, but if you don’t understand how to spend it as a result of data insights, your firm won’t benefit.” says Ben Michaelis, MD of marketing agency ThinkEngine.

“My first piece of advice for an SME owner would be to read up on and watch videos about SEO so they understand how to optimise their content. With the high frequency of changes to search engine algorithms, you should be up to speed on how you can get the most from website SEO.

“Second, make informed decisions from historical data rather than just guess work. Use the free analytics platforms available to you and learn how you should understand and interpret the data they present – you don’t have to be a digital marketing expert to make this work.”

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