ask the expert | What is the 'bare minimum' for a little biz online marketing plan?

Martina Iring 150.jpg

Today we have a post from our expert partner in online marketing: Martina Iring from Small Business Bliss. She is answering a question I get asked often...

What is the 'bare minimum' that I should be doing to market my business online? 

This is one of the most common questions that I get from small business owners – what do I need to do to market my business online?

The answer always is “it depends.” When it comes to internet marketing strategy, there is no one size fits all plan that covers absolutely every little biz. I’ve recommended that clients not use Twitter, for example. Or that they don’t take on email marketing. 

There’s a reason for personalized strategic plans – every business is different!

However, with that said, there are some basics when it comes to online marketing that every small business can benefit from. Here are 4 things that your biz should cover online.

1. A website

This is an absolutely no buts must-have. No, it’s not enough to have a Facebook page or a Google Places profile. You need to have an online presence, even if it’s just a very simple few pages, that you completely control. That no one can take away from you.

Websites don’t necessarily need to be scary, overwhelming, pricey beasts. With all the great inexpensive website building options out there, any business can afford to have their own website. The question really is, how can you afford not to?

I still see countless businesses, especially really small local ones, that have no web presence. And it’s frustrating. I want to support them, but if I can’t even find basic info online, it makes it challenging. You can’t assume that potential customers will take on the leg work of calling you or getting in touch to get answers to their questions (assuming they can even find your phone number or email address). If your competitors have a website and you don’t, who do you think will get more business?

2. A blog

Having a blog has really become a standard in online marketing. Any website system worth its weight will have simple to install blog functionality. A blog is an easy way to provide updating, refreshing content to your customers (and to search engines). If you need a little more convincing, check out 5 reasons blogging rocks for small business.

Remember, you are a small business owner, not a professional blogger, so you don’t have to worry like crazy about the content you create. Have fun with your blog! Longer, educational posts are great for customers (and for search marketing) but that’s not all you have to do. Use your blog to post about events, special promos, new products, pictures, videos – whatever makes sense for your biz. A blog is a way to get people to like and trust you and your business. I know that one of my first stops when visiting a website is the blog. It’s like an inside window into the biz.

3. A way to reach out and connect with customers

It’s important that you have a way to foster relationships with current and potential clients and keep your business on their radar. People will not necessarily keep on coming back to your website or your blog of their own accord – you need to find ways to reach out to them.

It could be an email newsletter. If your business benefits from having repeat customers, building an email database is crucial. You don’t even need to send out a full-on e-newsletter to start building a database – you can use your blog to effortlessly execute email marketing for free.

It could be a social media channel (or several) – if you’re not sure which social channel is right for you, Karen wrote a great post on that here. You need to choose carefully where to focus your social media efforts so that you don’t stretch yourself too thin. Figure out where your customers are hanging out and start there.

4. Search marketing basics

Search engine marketing is not an overnight thing. Getting noticed by the search engines takes time and requires consistent effort. For this reason, it makes sense to get the basics, such as keyword research and site optimization, going as soon as possible. It’s like laying a foundation, and then building up from there.

If you decide months or years down the road that you need search engine visibility, you’ve got a long, uphill battle ahead of you. Covering the basics right from the get-go is a better bet.

Check out Why No Business Should Ignore Search Engine Marketing for more details and to answer the question of why you should bother with that search stuff, even if search rankings aren’t really that important to your biz.

While there is no internet marketing plan that will work for each and every small business, the 4 areas above are a great place to get started.  Now it’s time to decide how exactly you are going to execute these online strategies for your little biz.

Got questions? I’ll meet you in the comments!

Martina Iring works with entrepreneurs overwhelmed with all that web stuff. She’s on a mission to help the little guys make sense of internet marketing, teaching small business owners how being online is not only profitable, but enjoyable! Her blog, Small Business Bliss, offers up gobs of marketing info and doses of inspiration just for little biz owners. Be sure to go visit and grab a free website improvement guide.