Small businesses often struggle to compete against larger companies in their industries. The right marketing techniques help level the playing field.

Unfortunately, you may not have the budget for a skilled marketing agency. If you want to remain competitive, consider using the following 10 best online tools for small business marketing.

1. Google My Business

Every small business should take the time to verify and update its Google My Business (GMB) listing. Your GMB listing includes basic business details, such as your address, phone number, and website. It is also a powerful tool for helping to drive organic traffic to your website.

When Google detects local intent, Google uses GMB listings in Google Maps search results and search results for regular Google searches.

Managing your GMB account allows you to view and respond to customer reviews. Maintaining your online reputation helps improve your overall SEO score.

2. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is the most used analytics platform for small businesses and entrepreneurs. It has a user-friendly dashboard that displays all your key metrics. You can also integrate your marketing goals to keep better track of your return on investment.

Before launching your next marketing campaign, make sure that you add the Google Analytics tracking code to your website. This allows Google to track metrics on your website, including bounce rates, referral sources, and visitor behavior.

Use the data available on Google Analytics to fine-tune your marketing efforts. If you are not getting the traffic you want, the insight on Google Analytics may help you find the problem.

3. MailChimp

Email marketing remains the most cost-effective type of online marketing, and MailChimp is one of the most affordable options. MailChimp is an email marketing platform with over 12 million customers. You can set up and manage simple or complex email marketing campaigns, helping to bring visitors back to your website.

MailChimp has multiple plans, including a free one for those with less than 2000 email subscribers. When you first start marketing, you are unlikely to surpass 2000 subscribers, which allows you to use the free plan to start marketing your products and services.

4. HubSpot

HubSpot is a comprehensive marketing platform that combines email marketing and advanced customer relationship management (CRM) solutions.

Compared to expensive CRM platforms like SalesForce, HubSpot provides an affordable way to manage client contact info. You can also use it as a replacement for MailChimp when you exceed the requirements of the free plan.

Along with email marketing and CRM tools, HubSpot includes a suite of marketing tools. You can use it to improve the SEO of your blog posts and web pages. It also has tools for creating landing pages, lead magnets, and more.

5. HootSuite

Social media is an important part of most marketing strategies. HootSuite makes it easier to manage your social media posts.

With HootSuite, you can schedule social media posts on popular platforms like Facebook and Twitter. This eliminates the need to generate a new post daily to maintain your posting schedule.

Scheduling the posts also makes it easier to coordinate with marketing campaigns. For example, you may want to time the release of a post on Facebook with a special offer on your website.

6. BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo helps you understand more about your customers and competition. You can find out what posts people are reading in your industry and what types of content resonate most with your target audience.

Marketers frequently use BuzzSumo to discover trending topics and find subjects for blog posts. By choosing popular topics, your blog posts and marketing content may receive more views.

7. Canva

Adding images or infographics to your blog posts and web pages helps to break up the content, making it easier to scan. Unfortunately, stock images are often costly.

Canva provides a simple solution for generating high-quality graphics and infographics for your website’s marketing material. Canva has a free option to test it out before upgrading to a paid plan.

With the paid plan, you can create teams and gain access to additional images and editing options. Using a drag-and-drop interface, anyone can create beautiful graphics to make more visually appealing content.

8. Local Finder Website SEO AUDIT

Local Finder provides a free SEO tool for identifying issues that may hurt your overall search rankings.

After entering your website URL, Local Finder LLC will crawl your website and find broken links, redirects, duplicate content, and other issues that Google tends to penalize sites for. When the scan is complete, you will have a list of recommended fixes for boosting your SEO score.

Check your website HERE

9. Survey Monkey

Marketing campaigns require user research. You should understand your target audience to better tailor your marketing content to their needs. Surveys provide one of the easiest solutions for gaining more insight directly from your customers.

Survey Monkey is a platform for creating and analyzing user surveys. You can create simple or complex surveys and embed them on your website or in emails. Along with surveys, Survey Monkey helps you generate user testimonials and reviews.

10. Trello

The last tool on this list is a productivity and collaboration tool. Trello works on any device, allowing employees to easily share ideas and collaborate. You can link to any online documents from the Trello dashboard, create to-do lists, and manage complex projects.

Projects and lists are organized into boards. With one glance, you can get a complete overview of pending tasks for different projects. Project managers can quickly delegate tasks, request progress updates, and view submitted work.

Trello has a free plan and a paid business plan. The free plan allows you to create up to 10 team boards and includes simple task automation features. With the paid business plan, you can create unlimited boards and add unlimited users.

These are just 10 of the most used tools for small business marketing. If these tools do not meet your specific small business needs, dozens of others are at your disposal.

Business Online Strategy
GMB Listing

Your Google My Business (GMB) listing can have an impact on your overall SEO score, especially for local businesses.

Google uses the information in your GMB listing for Google Maps Search and Google Search. When people look for products or services, the search engine displays relevant businesses and their contact info such as address, phone number, and website.

If you have not yet claimed and optimized your GMB listing, you may be missing out on new customers. Here are the best tips for optimizing your GMB listing properly.

1. Claim Your Listing and Verify Your Business

Claim GMB Listing

Before you can edit and optimize your GMB listing, you need to claim it. If you have an established business, Google may already have basic information listed, such as your address and phone number.

Claiming the listing allows you to edit it. If your business is not already listed, you can set up a new listing. However, both methods require you to verify your business.

Google offers several ways to verify your listing, including verification via phone call or postcard. After receiving the verification code, you enter it on your Google My Business page.

2. Choose a Niche Category for Your Business

Google allows you to edit basic information about your business, including your preferred business category. When selecting a category, choose a niche area instead of a generalized category.

For example, “Grocery Store” is a general category while “Whole Foods Grocery Store” and “Korean Grocery Store” are niche categories.
A niche category limits the amount of competition from other local businesses. This increases your chances of appearing at the top of search results for local queries.

3. Double Check All Information for Accuracy

Along with a business category, your Google My Business listing includes a variety of details related to your business, including:
● Name
● Address
● Phone number
● Description
● Website
● Hours

Double-check this information to ensure that everything is accurate and matches the information on your website. If you operate a business without a storefront, you can select “Service Area Business” to avoid displaying your business address.

All business information should match across all online platforms. If Google detects inconsistencies, your listing may drop in search rankings.

When filling out these details, you may also edit your hours of operation. Businesses that have varied hours or that operate by appointment only can skip this step. According to Google, hotels, motels, movie theaters, schools, and universities can also avoid providing hours.

If you operate a restaurant or drinking establishment, include a URL to a webpage containing your menu. The URL must direct users to your website. You cannot include a URL to a third-party delivery service.

Keep in mind that any changes you make will not appear on Google Search or Google Maps until you verify your GMB listing.

4. Upload High-Resolution Photos

Adding high-resolution photos to your GMB listing may help boost your search rankings a little bit. However, this optimization step is mostly recommended for attracting more customers.

HD photos of your business or products help customers learn more about your offerings before visiting your location. People often want to look at pictures of a restaurant or bar to ensure that it matches their preferred atmosphere or tastes.

If you have the budget for it, consider hiring a Google-approved photographer. You can hire a photographer to develop a 360-degree virtual tour of your business location. These 360-degree tours appear in Google Maps, allowing users to seamlessly travel from Street View to the inside of your business.

5. Encourage Customers to Leave Reviews

Customer reviews influence search rankings when Google displays businesses in search results. Google’s algorithm can detect the intent of the search query. If Google assumes that a user is searching for a product or service, Google displays the top three businesses ahead of the standard search results.

By encouraging customers to leave reviews, you may boost your search rankings and help to draw more traffic to your site.

6. Manage the Reputation of Your Business

You should also respond to reviews, including both positive and negative reviews. Thanking customers for leaving positive reviews increases the chance of them coming back to your business.

Do not respond to negative reviews publicly unless you cannot contact the reviewer directly. If the review includes the reviewer’s email address or social media account, you can respond through a direct message.

Find out if there is anything that you can do to resolve their problem with your product or service. If the reviewer’s contact info is not available, respond with a friendly public message asking the reviewer to contact your business for additional assistance. Resolving an issue may help turn a negative review into a positive one.

7. Avoid Punishable GMB Listing Mistakes

Google has a strict set of guidelines for your business listing. Potential issues to avoid include:
● Stuffing keywords in your business name field or description
● Creating multiple listings for the same physical location
● Using URL redirects instead of your website URL
● Displaying obscene, profane, or offensive content

If you do not comply with their requirements, Google may penalize your listing or even suspend it from appearing in search results.

8. Optimize Your Website and Landing Pages

The last step for optimizing your GMB listing is to optimize your website. As mentioned, inconsistencies between the information on your website and GMB listing can hurt your search rankings.

The SEO score of your website directly impacts the SEO of your business listing. Include relevant keywords in your content. For example, you can add more localized keywords, such as nearby attractions or landmarks.

Your website should also include Schema markup. Schema is a type of metadata included in the body of the webpage to give Google and other search engines more details about your business, products, or services. You can use Schema to help Google find your business address, phone number, and more info about your offerings.

After completing these steps, continue to encourage customers to leave reviews and regularly monitor reviews to manage your online reputation.

Over time, you should start to notice increased web traffic from local searches, which should translate to more foot traffic for your physical business.

Business Online Strategy
How to Define Your Niche Market

How to Define Your Niche Market

Finding a profitable niche market can help you focus your marketing on specific demographics. Unfortunately, many business owners fail to properly define their niches.

Defining your niche allows you to address the needs of your potential customers. It helps you build more successful marketing campaigns that boost conversion rates and sales.

What Is a Niche Market?

A niche market is a subset of a larger industry. Each niche market has unique needs or preferences that separates it from a broad, generalized market.

For example, website development is a general market. Website development for nonprofits is a niche market. Compared to the average business, nonprofits have distinct needs.

Marketing to a niche is often easier than trying to appeal to a broad audience. With targeted marketing campaigns, you can zero in on the distinct requirements of your niche customer base.

  1. Choose an Industry to Serve

The first step in defining your niche market is to identify the industry that you serve. No matter if you work in real estate or fashion, you should have a good understanding of how the overall industry operates. This allows you to identify:

  • Your biggest competitors
  • The size of the overall market
  • The variety of niche markets within the industry
  • The problems that customers face

You need to define the general problems that customers in your industry face and how you can solve them. This helps you analyze the distinct needs and wants of customers in your niche market compared to the broader market.

  1. Define Your Specialization

Your specialization is what sets you apart from the competition. It allows you to dig deeper into a niche market to address the specific needs of a smaller group of people.

For example, “Dallas Law Firm” covers a broad market. Customers likely have a wide variety of concerns and preferences. By choosing a subset of this market, such as “Dallas Family Law Firm,” you can better serve a select group.

  1. Create a Detailed Buyer Persona

A buyer persona defines your target audience. This is who you plan to market your products or services to.

A typical buyer persona is a short biography of your ideal customer. It should include the buyer’s age, income, career, education, geographical location, interests, and hobbies. These details help humanize your target customer.

  1. Define Your Competitive Advantage

Create a list of the problems that your buyer persona may encounter when searching for products or services in your niche. Go through the list and identify the ways that your business is uniquely equipped to deal with the problems.

You should also take a closer look at your competition. Determine how their products or services address the same problems. Pay attention to the strengths and weaknesses of your competition. If you cannot directly compete against their strengths, try to focus on their weaknesses.

Make a shortlist of the advantages of your products or services based on this research. Use this as your unique value proposition when generating marketing material.

Keep in mind that you do not need to focus on one niche market. As your business grows, you may expand your marketing to cover other niches. However, it is important to build each marketing campaign around one niche.

Business Online Strategy

How to Use TikTok for Small Business Marketing

How to Use TikTok for Small Business Marketing

TikTok is one of the latest social media platforms to take off. However, before using it to promote your business, you should learn more about TikTok and its demographics. Social media marketing is only successful if users enjoy your content.

Use the following guide to make the most out of your TikTok marketing efforts:

  1. Make Sure That Your Target Audience Uses TikTok

The first step is to ensure your potential customers use the new social media platform. TikTok has over 500 million monthly active users. 60 million of those users are in the United States.

TikTok has also released stats on the demographics of its users. About 60% of the US audience is female. 60% are aged 16 to 24. 80% are between the ages of 16 and 30.

TikTok is incredibly popular among Generation Z and younger millennials. If you try to market to older adults, you may want to stick with Facebook or Twitter. However, Generation Z includes today’s trendsetters. Marketing to a younger generation may help you promote your brand to a larger audience.

  1. Learn How TikTok Works

To create effective marketing campaigns, you need to understand how TikTok works. TikTok is a video-sharing social media platform.

Users share short video clips lasting between three and fifteen seconds. You may also create looping videos that last between three and sixty seconds.

Most user-uploaded content includes videos of people lip-synching to their favorite songs. However, as the platform’s user base has grown, the variety of video content has increased. People share everything from dance videos to funny video clips.

The platform includes basic video editing features. Before uploading a video, you can add background music or adjust the speed of the video. You also have a few filters to play with.

After uploading a video, other users can react to your short clip with their own video clips. The reactions appear in a small window that you can move around the screen.

TikTok also allows you to add hashtags to your shared videos. Hashtags help people discover content and provide a useful marketing strategy, which you will learn how to use later in this guide.

  1. Generate Fun and Creative Content

As with most types of marketing, you need to generate quality content for TikTok marketing. The content should not be promotional. Focus on creating authentic content that the typical TikTok user may enjoy.

Most of the videos uploaded on the platform are funny or creative. However, you do not need to try to create the next funny viral video. Many small businesses upload video demonstrations of their products. The key is to keep the content light-hearted.

For example, you could film a demonstration of your product and add an unexpected song for background music. Choose something that highlights a feature of your product comically or the lyrics of the song.

  1. Curate Content From Other TikTok Users

You do not need to generate all the content that you share. A common marketing strategy for any social media platform is to curate relevant content from other users.

User-generated content (UGC) provides a content stream of videos for you to share with followers. It can also help you pick up followers who find shared content entertaining.

If possible, look for videos related to your products or services. Unfortunately, small businesses are less likely to find UGC that showcase their specific offerings.

Another option is finding relevant videos you think your followers may enjoy. Search for hashtags and trending topics that you connect to your products or services indirectly.

  1. Advertise Your Content on TikTok

Paid advertising is usually one of the fastest ways to reach a large audience. TikTok gives businesses four different ways to advertise on the social platform:

  • Native ads
  • Brand takeovers
  • Sponsored hashtag challenges
  • Branded filters

Native ads appear between user-generated content. Users can skip or scroll through the ads but it still provides a way to connect with potential customers. The videos need to last between nine and fifteen seconds.

You can include links to landing pages or app downloads in the video. After releasing the ad, TikTok provides metrics such as the click-through rate, number of clicks, impressions, and play duration.

Brand takeovers cost more compared to native ads but generate more exposure. The ads appear at the top of the user feeds before other videos load.

The videos are exclusive to different business categories. Only one video can appear in the slot for a specific category each day.

Sponsored hashtags challenges work differently compared to video ads. With this option, you promote a hashtag and create a page for the challenge. Users upload videos or comment on other videos. However, a custom banner promoting your brand remains visible.

Branded lenses are the fourth advertising option. Businesses can create filters that users can add to their videos. This is useful for wearable products. You could create a filter with a shirt, hat, or other marketing material.

The filter is available in 2D or 3D and lasts for ten days. TikTok also plans to create an augmented reality (AR) version of branded lenses, making this advertisement option more interactive.

  1. Work with TikTok Influencers to Increase Exposure

TikTok is a growing platform and already has influencers with massive followings. TikTok even makes it easy to discover influencers in your niche market.

With the TikTok Creator Marketplace, you can search for the top-trending users and videos. You can also view insights on audience demographics and growth trends to optimize your TikTok marketing campaign.

  1. Monitor Your Results and Tweak Your Efforts

Using Google Analytics or other analytical software, you can monitor referral traffic from TikTok. Pay attention to the traffic you receive from TikTok, conversion rates, and other important metrics.

As you analyze your progress, look for ways to improve your marketing efforts. You may need to post content more frequently or increase your advertising spending.

With these steps, you should build a stronger presence on TikTok.

O2O Strategy: Make it Work for You

O2O Strategy: Make it Work for You

O2O stands for both Online to Offline or Offline to Online. If you operate a brick-and-mortar store location, you may find it hard to compete with online retailers. Online shops allow customers to shop for almost anything without leaving their houses.

Using the O2O strategy, you can convert online customers to offline customers. Find out how to drive more foot traffic to your physical location using the online-to-offline strategy.

What Is the O2O Strategy?

O2O stands for “online-to-offline.” The O2O strategy is a method for harnessing online sales to generate more offline sales. It can also refer to offline-to-online tactics.

Thanks to technology, people find it more convenient to shop from home. This has hurt local businesses and retailers with physical locations. In some cases, businesses have shifted their focus to online sales to remain competitive.

The following O2O strategies help you bring more online business to your storefront.

Allow Online Actions to Occur Offline

The most used O2O strategy involves allowing online interactions to occur at your physical location. For example, you can allow customers to place orders online and pick them up at your store. You could also permit customers to return online purchases at your store.

Having customers enter the store allows them to explore more of your merchandise, which may lead to more impulse purchases.

Offer Incentives for Offline Transactions

Giving customers additional reasons to visit your physical location may help increase foot traffic. Make it more enticing to visit your store by offering special discounts or promotions for in-store purchases.

For example, you could promote an in-store sale on your online store. Customers can still complete the transaction online and pick up the item at your store.

Improve Customer Personalization

Your website provides valuable insight into your customers’ spending habits and interests. You can use these insights to deliver a more personalized experience at your store.

Customers may opt-in to receive notifications on their phones when they walk into your store or receive recommendations for related products during checkout. These simple steps make the shopping experience more personal, which tends to build greater brand loyalty.

Create a Seamless O2O Experience

As you start implementing O2O strategies, try to maintain a seamless experience. Customers should receive the same level of service no matter if they shop online or visit your physical store.

Some businesses are trying to bridge the gap between online and offline shopping through online payment processing. For example, if you allow customers to pay with PayPal or Google Pay on your website, they can pay using these methods at your physical store.

PayPal, Google, Apple, and Shopify have solutions for integrating point-of-sale (POS) systems for brick-and-mortar stores. You can also use the same system for remote events, such as outdoor sales or pop-up events.

These are just a few ways to leverage your online presence to generate more offline sales. Pay attention to the feedback that you receive from customers. Use their input to find new ways to create a better online-to-offline transition.