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Marketing has always been an integral part of any business’ success, yet knowing how to adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape has often presented a challenge for small businesses to adapt to. A digital marketing strategy outlines a plan for reaching business related goals in a focused and achievable way through specific marketing actions and tactics. While it may seem onerous, developing a strategy tailored for your business will result in increased lead generation, improved brand credibility, and foster customer loyalty.

To help you get started, we’ve outlined 7 steps to follow when developing a digital marketing strategy for your small business. By following this guide, you can ensure you’ve taken the right steps to building an effective plan and yield results.

1. Conduct a Marketing Analysis

Ahead of creating your digital marketing strategy, you’ll want to start by evaluating your current marketing efforts, if any, to see what you’ve already accomplished and the challenges you’re currently facing. Knowing what marketing tools have been the most effective thus far to generate new customers is important to understand as well as what tools or platforms have room for improvement. From there, you’ll be capable of making informed decisions when setting goals and begin building a roadmap to achieve them.

2. Set Goals & Objectives

A digital marketing strategy is built to achieve the goals and objectives identified by a business. That said, setting specific, measurable goals is a critical step that should not be overlooked.

When defining your goals, consider using the “SMART” criteria, a well established tool to help plan and achieve your objectives. Ask yourself the following:

Specific: What do I want to achieve? Why is this goal important?

Measurable: How will I track the progress of my goal? How will I know when it is accomplished?

Attainable: Is this goal realistic? How will I accomplish this goal?

Reveleant: Does this goal align with the long-term vision for my business? Does this align with my other goals?

Time Bound: When will I be able to achieve this goal? Can I set a deadline for this goal?

3. Define Your Target Audience and Buyer Personas

Once your goals have been determined, getting to know your target audience is the next vital step for success when developing a digital marketing strategy. Your target audience should identify the age, gender, occupation, interests, and geographical location of your ideal customer base. This allows you to identify who is most likely to be purchasing from your business and then properly target individuals who have the highest profit potential in your marketing efforts. This will influence all your tactics from knowing when to offer promotional discounts on certain channels to how to launch new products.

Small businesses that anticipate their customers’ needs are the most successful, so creating a buyer persona based on your target audience is also key. Using the information from your target audience, you should describe an ideal customer to help inform your marketing strategy. You may realize you have more than one buyer persona and that’s okay, but these personas should always be based on real quantitative and qualitative data to avoid personal bias. At the end of the day, a buyer persona will help you keep the customer’s needs at the center of all the decision making and marketing for your business.

4. Create A Content Plan

While your marketing strategy is your vision, your content plan is the clear steps you are taking to get there. When a team works from the same detailed plan, it’s much easier to avoid steering off course and alleviates many strategic struggles such as adhering to a schedule and fending off competition.

A content plan will involve a lot of research to ensure you’re adding value to your brand. Some of the areas you’ll want to research include types of content, tone of voice. posting frequency, and keywords so that SEO is best leveraged. Another important aspect to research is knowing what your competitors are doing in order to differentiate yourself from them. Learn how they’re promoting their products or services, such as the imagery used and the content being created, but also take time to look at their reviews and get a better understanding of their reputation. From this research, take advantage of your competitor’s weaknesses and improve upon your own content. This knowledge will also help you create your differentiators and decide how you will promote them.

When it comes to content creation, you’ll want to use your research to ensure that the topics tie into your overall digital marketing strategy in terms of how and when it’s shared. For this reason, it’s important to create a content calendar to ensure that you see all the ongoing marketing initiatives easily, are planning ahead, and staying on track with your goals.

5. Determine Your Digital Channels

The best way to achieve your long-term goals is by diversifying the digital channels you target in your strategy to ensure you’re reaching as many potential customers as possible. That said, there are many different channels to choose from and not all of them may be right for your marketing strategy, which is why it’s important to analyze how each platform benefits your business.

Google My Business 

A great place to start for all businesses is to create a Google My Business profile. Setting up a listing for your business allows prospective customers to have access to important details such as operating hours, location, website, contact information, and reviews is critical and will often act as the first point of contact when a user searches for your business.

Email Marketing

Email marketing still stands to be the most effective tool, ahead of social media, to help retain customers and generate new ones. Encouraging users to subscribe to your online publications through calls to action on your website is a great way to keep them up-to-date on product launches, sales, and important updates.

Social Media Marketing

An audience-centric approach to marketing, social media creates an online community that fosters a two-way connection with existing and potential customers, much different that other one-way marketing strategies. Effectively marketing your business on social media allows people to see your business as active, resourceful, and nurtures thought leadership. As previously mentioned, not all social media platforms will necessarily be the right fit for your marketing strategy. For example, if your customer base is predominantly females aged 15-25, investing your time into creating content for LinkedIn, a professional business networking platform, would not make sense. You’d likely want to invest your time into social media marketing on Instagram or even Tiktok, which appeals to that target audience and has easy in-app lead generation features to drive traffic to your website. The best approach is to do research on what demographics use each social media platform and see how they align with your target market and buyer personas so you are choosing your channels by making data-driven decisions.

Content Marketing

Content marketing involves creating pieces, from blogs to videos, that don’t directly promote your brand but rather stimulates interest in what you’re offering and allows your target audience to see you as a leader in your industry. Your content should give value to new and existing customers by offering highly-relevant or educational insights. When done correctly, there is a 30% higher growth rate for companies that use content marketing compared to those who don’t.

Influencer Marketing

This approach to marketing involves endorsements and product placements from individuals with a large following on social media to help draw attention to your business. It is important to use an influencer who has an expert level of knowledge and whose audience matches your buyer persona. Influencer marketing is a way to expand your reach and drive sales in a more subtle way without having to bombard your target audience with direct advertisements.

SEO Marketing

SEO marketing in the process of improving your website quality to draw more traffic in from search engines. It can also help build brand awareness, strengthen your brand’s trustworthiness, and connect you with new customers or clients. This marketing strategy involves different SEO tactics from keyword planning for your content, strategically choosing your URLs, including alt-tags, and other elements as well.

PPC/Paid Search

Most marketing efforts require an extended period of time to see results, but a PPC/paid digital search is relatively easy to implement and quickly delivers results. That said, it does require an ample budget. Ads can be created on both Google and social media platforms to help boost impressions on your target market and create new leads. The decision is yours as to if you want your digital marketing strategy to be completely organic or add in a paid approach to elevate your engagement levels and reach.

6. Set Benchmarks and Analyze Results

While the purpose of a marketing strategy is to achieve your goals, it’s important to set benchmarks along the way to make sure you’re on track to achieve those goals. Monthly or quarterly benchmarks such as tracking increased clicks to conversion on emails, positive social media engagement, or higher website traffic are easily measurable KPIs (key performance indicators). For this you will need the proper tracking tools in place, whether it’s an Excel spreadsheet that you manually find the analytics on the platforms themselves each month or using a platform to help you measure analytics automatically.

Regardless if your KPI results are positive or negative, it’s important to not only analyze them but refine and adjust accordingly to optimize your efforts. Your content plan is meant to be fluid and as new data pertaining to your campaigns present itself, you should refine your approach accordingly. For example, if you’re not performing high on Google searches for your business, you may need to do more keyword research and change the focus of your website content. Conversely, if you’re getting much higher conversions from one social media platform versus another, you may want to invest in paid ads on that platform to build upon the success and further the reach of your content.

7. Consider Outsourcing

As a small business owner, you’re likely used to doing it all, but sometimes it’s beneficial to know when to outsource. If you do not have the capacity to take on additional responsibility or executing on a full digital marketing strategy is out of your realm, a digital marketing agency can always help you take your current efforts a step further. By outsourcing your digital marketing, you have access to top talent and the best industry tools. Click here to learn more about what LRO Solutions can do for you.

Alita Fabiano

Author Alita Fabiano

Specializing in strategic communications, content marketing, SEO, and digital accessibility, Alita Fabiano has a passion for creating and managing digital content to help organizations thrive. Alita’s insights have also been published in the Ottawa Business Journal and Canadian SME Magazine, as well as she has been invited to speak to several organizations about inclusivity and accessibility.

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