I work with small businesses in marketing. I can tell when my suggestions aren’t registering. For some, it starts early when I mention increasing their social media presence. For others, it takes more technology talk like when I bring up an email list. Some of these small business owners simply nod at my suggestions. The more direct of them ask, “Do I really need these things?” Maybe you share their feelings. I get it. Who has time for all these things, right? But you would never ask who has time to answer the phone at your business. When it rings, you simply pick it up; no thoughts of what you could be doing instead.
Today, digital marketing tools are the phone for some people. They might not call. Maybe they prefer to contact you through social media. In which case, you need to be there to “pick up.” But I understand your time is precious so let’s talk about what are the true needs in today’s business climate and what is just a nice to have. This article is divided into “musts,” “maybes,” and “skips.” But keep in mind, your demographic is what matters. Even a “skip” for most businesses could be a “must” for you if your demographic responds to it. Plus, just because it is a “skip” today doesn’t mean it will be forever. That tool might just need some time before more people in your target market adopt it.
Even just a few years ago some people were still claiming that their target market was not on social media. That’s becoming increasingly difficult. If your target demographic is human with an internet connection, they’re likely on in some fashion. A social media presence is critical to your brand and business.
Maybe: Instagram (if you’re reaching an under 35 crowd or have a very visual product, this platform is becoming more essential).
Skip: Snapchat. Skip this one unless you are trying to reach the youngest Gen Yers and Gen Z.
Content and Content Platforms
Search engines eat content and if you’re not serving fresh content up, you’re getting bypassed. But what exactly are your content needs?
Must: a professional website. You need a spot that you own. Social media is nice but it could disappear tomorrow or your profile could be reported and frozen. Then all your content and interaction history is gone.
Maybe: a blog. In my mind, this is a must. But if you’re out there refreshing the content on your website and posting to social media, getting personal and interacting, you could forgo a blog if SEO doesn’t matter to you. You also need to be able to commit to it and publish on a regular basis. If you can’t, you might want to wait until you can. However, I strongly suggest having one. Really, really, strongly.
Skip: case studies. Case studies are becoming replaced by reviews and customer quotes. Most people don’t take the time to read through a long, formal case study.
Lead Generation Tools
Some small businesses don’t use the phrase “lead generation” so let’s be clear about what that means. For this use, it’s any tool employed to get customers more interested in your business.
Must: email list. You absolutely need to start building a list even if it’s just on paper in front of your cash register.
Maybe: asking for reviews on your website. Some businesses are made for reviews (hotels, restaurants) but others take a little coaxing. Whenever someone gives you a compliment, ask if they wouldn’t mind writing a review or if they would be willing to send that to you in an email so you can post it to your website. Word of mouth marketing is the most effective out there. The only reason asking for reviews on your site is a “maybe” is not because it isn’t a good idea but because there are some businesses where asking for reviews can be awkward, like in the case of a funeral home. In those situations, you can make it seem a little less self-serving by using a phrase like “Please tell us how we can serve you (or meet your needs) better.”
Skip: Google retargeting. This can get expensive fast and if you’re not in e-commerce, you’re likely only interested in people in your area. Instead, use the Facebook Pixel or Facebook advertising to drill down to your target market. It’s less expensive.
You can’t do everything. While most of the points on this list are good practice, if you have to make cuts, the skip sections are the place to do it. However, even if you don’t have time to do these things yourself, know that in the near future these digital tools will continue to grow. At that time, you may want to consider working with a virtual assistant or someone who can do the job for a feasible price. This list was compiled for those who are challenged with time and money. But if you have both, you should consider the benefit to your business before deciding not to do any of them.