With the Covid pandemic and lockdown, learning how to navigate the digital world has become less of a “nice-to-have” and more of a necessity.
As a small business owner, you may have personally dabbled in some digital marketing, tried your hand at social media and even set up a website. Whatever the stage you’re at, it’s likely you’re interested in learning about what really works in the small business online marketing space. If you’re an SME wanting to implement digital marketing for your business, these tactics will help get you on the right track (and work for 2021!).
This is the important tip of all: set up an online presence. You cannot enjoy the advantages of digital marketing if you don’t own your piece of real estate online. As a small business, this usually means a website. Contrary to what you may think, you don’t have to go all out and hire a programmer - with a menu system like Pomelo Pay’s online shop, you can build your own online menu with a website for free. This means you’ll have a website ready and can link to it wherever you want.
You can also have an online presence with a simple landing page or just a social media account such as a Facebook page or Instagram account. The most important is to have at least one result that turns up when someone Googles the name of your business.
The most important thing to understand with social media is that it essentially acts as a bridge between the offline and online world. With UK residents spending nearly 2 hours per day on social media, your customers are likely to look you up on Instagram on Facebook if they know you’re on social media. This is a fast and easy way to turn a physical customer into an online one.
Check out our guide to getting started with social media marketing to learn more.
Social media is a lot less work than you think it might be. If you’re selling products, you can set up an Instagram page to showcase your products and stories about day to day life at the company. If you sell services, a Facebook page is a great place to publish testimonials, offer advice and release company updates.
In the age of the internet, customers prefer to identify with a small brand rather than a large conglomerate. That’s because they now have the resources to educate themselves, learn more about a company and be more picky. They are much more likely to be loyal to your brand if they know and identify with your story.
Social media is something that is supposed to be fun and entertaining. You don’t need a high follower count or 20 hashtags in every post; just start with a bit of engagement and interaction. If you have some success with it and want to take it a bit further, you can also launch giveaways and competitions, as well as use it for customer service.
Another tip: don’t outsource social media. This is something that only you should do. If you hate the idea of managing a social media account, check out other marketing tips for small businesses… 👇
Emails are some of the best ways to directly communicate with customers. That’s because contrary to social media, you own the platform. You have direct access to your customers and no one can break that connection.
If you’re unsure what to do with people’s emails, that’s fine. Just start by capturing them. Add a section on your website to gather emails, or use a third party newsletter landing page such as Carrd. Eventually, you can start communicating with your customers. Whenever you want to announce something such as a new product, new opening times or promotions, you just need to email them. You can also set up a newsletter with updates about the industry to further build brand loyalty (although this will require more time commitment).
The good news is that you don’t need a huge budget to experiment with ads. With just £100, you can learn a lot about your potential and current customer interests. Try both Google and Facebook ads, and note the different metrics and traction. Before launching a new product, test it with ads to see how people react. Test your social media posts to boost your online reach. Test promotions and announcements to help plan for future launches. With some trial and error you can learn a lot about your industry and your customers - and it can even be fun!
If you don’t have the time or energy, there is always the option to outsource some of the digital marketing to a professional. A digital marketing freelancer who specialises in SMEs can help with content, ads and provide you with monthly reports. Over time, your freelancer will hopefully pay for itself from the additional customers you’re acquiring.
Ideally, you want to find a freelancer who is personally committed to your success and understands the goals of your business. The best place to find freelancers are usually in freelance Facebook groups or through a quick Google search. As we mentioned above: if you can, do the social media yourself.
One of the benefits of digital marketing for small businesses is you can easily collect feedback online. You can do this through email or through your website, and even in-store. Setting up a feedback system and learning why your customers are coming to your shop and buying your products is some of the best information you’ll come across. Most people won’t be bothered to complete the survey, so it usually works best when you offer an entry into a giveaway or a free product as an incentive.
Talk to your customers as much as you can so you can find out what they need, what their problems are and how you could help solve them. Some good questions to ask are:
Due to the continuous lockdowns in the UK, click and collect is now more popular than ever. It’s simple and straightforward: a customer orders online, schedules a time slot and then goes to your shop to pick up their order. It’s Covid-safe, gives you time to prepare your orders and is a lot more efficient than in-person. It’s also an excellent way to bridge the offline and online world: when your customer orders online, you can easily direct them to your social media and website.
With an online ordering system like Pomelo Pay,, click and collect is easy to set up and is also free. It’s a valuable piece of online real estate that also makes it easy to ask for feedback, offer discounts and build brand loyalty.
This tactic requires more time and effort and is therefore more appropriate if you’re looking for internet marketing ideas that can take your small business to another level. Content can be: blog articles, videos, booklets, a podcast and even social media.
Think about it: as a business owner, you have your own “earned secrets” that no one else knows about. Who might be interested in hearing more? If you manage a flower shop, customers may be interested in hearing the reproductive cycle of each flower. If you manage a coffee shop, you can share insights and tips for fellow coffee lovers. Produce content about the topic you’re passionate about; it’ll make your business a lot more unique, and further build a relationship with your customers.
Digital marketing is a long term strategy. Although it may seem like a lot of work upfront, it really pays off in the long term when properly implemented. With everyone moving to digital, implementing these tips won’t only differentiate you from your competitors, but also help you build loyal customers who are willing to support you throughout lockdown.