Four small-business leaders share how they’re starting and optimizing digital marketing strategies in this socially distanced world.
I’ve talked with nearly a hundred small business owners about how they’re adapting their businesses to comply with social distancing requirements. This article is part of an ongoing series where we’ll share the tips, ideas, and stories from these business owners. I hope you find inspiration and insight that will help you pivot to a more digital business model for today’s “new normal.”
This shift to digital marketing is a challenge shared by nearly all small business owners. Ralston Medouze, owner of Strive Academics, summed up the challenge quite nicely: “Once social distancing became a necessity, it became harder to promote our services. My business has always had an online presence, but it hasn’t been exactly where I’ve wanted it.”
In this article, I’ll break down the specific challenges of digital marketing for small businesses and share the tips they have for you.
Building an online presence
Prior to the pandemic, a company website and online presence might not have been top of mind—especially in industries such as construction, accounting, and wholesalers. But now, traditional methods of marketing have been disrupted so businesses must establish a high profile online.
Zach Reece, COO of Colony Roofers, shares, “Roofing is more competitive than it seems because it’s hard to tell one company from another.” Someone looking for a roofer now in Atlanta will likely go online to find one. This means your business needs to not only have a great looking website, but also rank high on a Google search results page.
If it feels uncomfortable—particularly in your industry—it might mean you’re developing a competitive advantage “We weren’t able to keep up some of our traditional sales methods, but online is always there. It’s early days so far but I think we’re going to see our aggressiveness pay off, particularly in an industry that often lags behind technologically.”
Colony Roofers use their website blog to not only share info with customers but also for search engine optimization (SEO) (Source)
Getting personal with marketing campaigns
Small businesses have soul. Passion. Grit. You can speak to this by sharing your story with customers and talking about the challenges of competing against large corporations in your industry.
Chris Riley, CEO of USA Rx, started USA Rx in 2012 to fight the dramatic increase in drug prices and the accompanying increase in cost burden for the consumer filling their medications. “We [USA Rx] are impacted significantly due to COVID-19, and our competitors have massive treasure chests, VC connections, and are sporting billion-dollar valuations.”
Chris encourages his marketing team to be super creative and not afraid to get personal. He says, “What I suggest to our marketing team as well as other small businesses, is to really highlight the value of your brand and how hard you worked to get it there while also mentioning that you are a small business. Dig into that small business narrative right now.”
Here’s a great example of how creative marketing can highlight the value offer of your small business. In the graphic below, USA Rx is showing the varying prices for the exact same prescription medication across just a few blocks. You wouldn’t see something like this from one of their large competitors.
A map comparing the pricing for prescription medication (Source)
Prioritizing content designed to help, not sell
Ty Stewart of Simple Life Insure knows that trust and comfort are two of the most important things his customers are looking for from his business. Because of this, he’s taking a different road on digital marketing—not Facebook ads and social media campaigns.
Instead, he says, “We’re prioritizing educational content that’s designed to break down life insurance terms and topics.” They created a “Learn” section on the website with blog posts with practical and clear information about life insurance.
Ty explains that this educational content serves three purposes in their evolving business model:
1. They’re a great way to attract prospects early in the sales funnel.
2. They reinforce educating customers rather than hard-selling to them.
3. It helps build that trust so important to our industry right now.
A screenshot of Simple Life Insurance blog post (Source)
Learning new marketing platforms
Social media-based selling strategies are often the best way to attract new customers and engage with existing ones. In fact, we found 79% of marketing professionals for small and midsize businesses report an increase in sales by reaching out to prospective customers via social media.**
But learning how to manage new marketing platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, and a blog, takes time and can be frustrating. And while you may have someone on your team who knows these mediums, it’s still important to learn to use them yourself. When surveyed, 29% of small business leaders said social media marketing is one of the most needed skills in the next six months.***
For Strive Academics, the focus has been on standing out from the crowd with new and fresh types of content. Ralston shares, “We’ve started an Ahead of the Curve podcast, we live stream videos, and we’re creating new content consistently.” Students and tutees can listen and learn anytime on multiple streaming services.
Screenshot of Strive Academics’ podcast on their website (Source)
The investment you put into advancing your digital marketing strategy will not only help your business stay open now but will continue to be a source of revenue long term. So don’t keep pushing off learning these new techniques and platforms, assuming things will be returning to normal by Labor Day. And even if they are, investing in future proofing your business is always a good idea.
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*Results based on Capterra’s Digital Transformation survey of 503 small-business leaders, defined as presidents/vice presidents, C-suite, or owners/founders at U.S. companies with 2 – 250 employees in March 2020.
**Results based on Capterra’s Social Selling Tools survey, conducted with 186 small and midsize businesses to learn about the tools that they are using for social and digital selling. Respondents had to own or be working with a business in the U.S.
***Results based on Capterra’s Business Model survey, conducted in June 2020 among respondents who reported leadership roles at U.S. businesses with 2 – 500 employees.