Advertising is not only for big, established companies.
And no, you don’t need to break the bank in order to promote your small business.
If you’re looking for ways on how to advertise a small business like yours, then you’re in luck.
Because today, we’re going to share with you some tips on how to advertise a small business in the digital world.
Let’s get started!
Advertising Basics We Will Cover
Before we get too far into the post, we want to go over some advertising basics to make sure we’re all on the same page – at least generally.
Here’s what we’ll talk about today:
- What types of advertising work for small businesses
- Three ways to advertise a small business digitally; search, social, and direct
- The best practices for each type
- Our personal small business advertising hierarchy
We’ll walk you through how we go about setting up small businesses with a good advertising strategy and what we look for first.
At the end of this post, you should have a better idea of how to advertise a small business in the digital realm.
3 Ways To Advertise A Small Business
You probably won’t be surprised by any of these:
Should small businesses pay for ads or focus on organic growth?
That’s a great question. You need to do both, and you’re already doing at least one.
Even if you’re not running paid ads, you’re advertising your business in some way.
You need a combination of organic (unpaid) and paid advertising to help your business grow best.
Stick around for our example of how to take up a ton of real estate on a Google search result (so only your business is seen on screen).
There are three main ways to advertise a small business online, so let’s discuss each one of them.
1. Search Engines
You may be surprised (or not if you hang out with us often) that Google is not the only search engine.
Yes, that’s right.
And if you’re thinking, “Hey that’s obvious, we know about Jeeves and Bing and DuckDuckGo.”
But that’s not what we’re referring to.
Yes, those are all search engines, but so are YouTube and Pinterest.
And actually, a lot of the top ranking social media platforms are working to increase their searchability.
So, pretty much all advertising will have some search component fairly soon.
Now if you’ve been on any search network, you’ve probably noticed that when you search something, you see a combination of results.
Some say “ad”, “promoted”, or some variation of that. And the rest will be organic (unpaid) results.
Search engines drive valuable traffic. Why? Search intent.
Search intent is a term used to describe why someone searched for what they did.
Marketers also refer to this as “audience intent” and “user intent” interchangeably.
This refers to customers seeking out your product, experience, or solution.
You can play around with search intent in your advertising by changing the keywords or phrases you use.
For example, if you sell prom dresses, a search term like “how to make a prom dress” is going to be a lower-intent search term for you.
And that is because those people are looking to make their own, not buy.
But a term like “affordable prom dresses” or “prom dress rentals” has a higher intent.
And the reason is because these folks are looking to spend money on a completed dress.
When you run paid ads on Google, you have to search like your customer, not like your business.
Your customer doesn’t always know what they’re looking for.
So, you have to think about search terms from an outsider’s perspective (as well as an insider’s perspective, because you want those folks too).
What should you focus on first? Organic or paid?
The days of doing one or the other are long gone.
When you advertise a small business, you have to tackle both organic and paid simultaneously because each helps the other.
In fact, your work off of Google can help you improve your performance in search.
Plus, you’ll be able to take up more space on a Google result if you have paid and organic results showing.
Let’s look at an example of a business we helped with their Google presence.
We’ll be keeping the name of this business private, but let’s take a look at where they were at when they started.
When we first googled this business, using their brand name as the search term, the results were dismal.
We wish we had a screen recording of it, but of course, we don’t. None of their ads were showing and their website didn’t appear until the bottom of the page.
So, we put together an organic and paid strategy to boost their presence on Google and convert those visitors into customers.
Here’s what we instructed them to do (and yes, you could use this as a template for your own business too):
- Run paid ads on Google Ads, including shopping and YouTube ads.
- Improve organic results with heavy on-site SEO work.
- Optimize social profiles so they show up in search.
- Aggressively post organic content daily on each of the following platforms:
And then run paid ads on each of these platforms.
- Increase video production (to take advantage of YouTube search results showing up on Google, and social networks favoring video).
- Require email sign-up to get free downloads (to turn all of that traffic from social and search into direct marketing contacts).
This implementation included other marketing efforts, like stellar product photography and website changes.
Let’s look through this search result, and let us walk you through what we see as a marketer here and why we think this is valuable.
Let’s look at the real estate that this company takes up on YouTube.
Every result is for their business.
We took the time to add extensions, and this is one of the reasons they’re worth it:
- Look at all of that space. We have to go below the fold to see anything else.
- We chose the most popular pages or products most folks searched for and added them.
- We included the call extension to increase order volume.
- Notice the YouTube videos showing up for the site.
- These Q&A sections are auto-populated by Google using information from your website.
That is, if you have good SEO for that search term/topic and people find it useful.
We’re using this example to illustrate how important all of your advertising efforts are.
We achieved this result through a combination of efforts across platforms and not just from Google work.
We also want to note that the term we were competing for is a branded term for the client – literally their business name.
This process may take a lot more time (or be nearly impossible) if you’re bidding on keywords, or terms that are more generic or are more competitive.
That’s not to discourage you from doing the work, because, provided you do it properly and consistently, it pays off.
Let’s move on to how to advertise a small business on social media.
2. Social Media
We’re not going to get into network specifics in this post…
…but instead, we’re going to cover some basics that apply to social media marketing for small business in general.
What is social media advertising?
Social media advertising is just what it sounds like: advertising your business on social media.
In 2021, we do this by using a combination of strategies, some paid and some unpaid, to promote your:
- service, or
…to new and existing customers.
If you want an in-depth look at how to create and run successful social media ads, then check out our new social media ads training course today.
What advertising strategies should you use on social media?
You’ll use a combination of strategies (much like we did in search) to reach new, existing, and potential audiences.
And similar to search, you have organic and paid options.
Organic social media advertising looks like this:
- Posts about your product
- Tagging your product in images/video
- Sharing links to your store
- Answering customer comments and replying to DM’s
- Content creation and consistent publishing
Paid social media advertising looks like this:
- Paid ads (promote your page, your product, your video, your website, etc.)
- Single images, carousel (up to 10) images/videos, videos
3. Direct Marketing
Direct marketing is exactly what it sounds like; marketing directly to the consumer.
Here’s a definition we liked:
“Direct marketing consists of any marketing that relies on direct communication or distribution to individual consumers, rather than through a third party such as mass media.”
Direct marketing includes:
- Text message/phone call
- Social media
Of those listed above, we recommend email and social media as first options, with text message and mail coming in 3rd and 4th, respectively.
Text messaging and mail are more expensive forms of direct marketing, but they can be effective if you have a larger marketing budget.
Let’s talk about email for this post.
What is email advertising?
When you advertise via email, you’re sending a message directly to the inbox of anyone on your list.
You’re sending them information, links to products, updates, etc. Email advertising is still hugely effective.
In order to run effective an email marketing campaign, you need to follow a few best practices:
- Spend time to create quality emails (test different types to see what performs best).
- Create quality graphics, photos, videos, and design to accompany the email.
- Send emails consistently; 1 to 2 a week is a good amount if you’re just starting out.
We mentioned testing different types of emails to see what performs best.
Here are some of the first emails we like to create and send when we get a new client:
- Welcome sequence
This refers to creating 3 or 4 emails that are sent a few days apart.
The first email should include a warm welcome, an intro to your business, and a coupon code.
The following emails can highlight your most popular products, services, or experiences.
They should educate, entertain, and sell to your new audience.
The final email in the series should be an abandoned cart reminder, an invitation to engage with you, or some other CTA.
- Abandoned cart reminders
We like to set up 3 of these; one to send an hour after the cart is abandoned, one to send a day later, and one to send 4 days later.
We include a coupon code in our final email to really encourage that purchase.
- Education email
This one focuses on answering questions, sharing a tutorial or tip, highlighting some fun facts, and preparing your customers to buy.
This can look like sending an email outlining an upcoming program/course and answering Q&As (real or anticipated).
- Selling email
Highlight a seasonal product line, new product line, or sale items to get some conversions going.
You shouldn’t just sell, sell, sell to your email list constantly, but you should send at least one sales email a week.
You can, of course, use any combination of content types in your emails.
We’ve found that mixing up the emails and varying the types of content we send helps keep open rates higher.
That’s because the emails aren’t predictably the same thing every day.
It’ll be important for you to monitor your analytics and click maps to see where the most engagement is, and track which emails are converting best.
Now You Know How To Advertise A Small Business!
As a new business, you’ll have to prioritize all of your advertising opportunities because you can’t do everything at once.
Here’s our preferred way to lay the groundwork when we help small businesses who have to take it slow.
Our personal small business advertising hierarchy is this:
1. Work to establish a good search engine presence.
- Improve on-site SEO and create an action plan for putting out more SEO-friendly content
- Improve off-site SEO (like on social networks, other websites, and other search engines like YouTube)
- Run paid search and video ads
- Drive traffic to your website and email list
2. Establish a social media presence on your top 2 or 3 networks.
- Post consistently
- Post quality content – use lots of videos
- Run page like campaigns
- Run shopping ads
- Drive traffic to your website and email list
3. Implement direct marketing (email list) strategy
- Send emails regularly (but not too often)
- Balance explicit selling, entertainment, news, and connection in the content
- Use automated sequences (like welcome emails and abandoned cart reminders) to get or keep customers engaged and increase conversions
- Drive traffic to your website
Ultimately, you want your customers off of every other platform and spending time on your website.
Once you get their attention and earn that click, you have to make sure your website and checkout process aren’t driving customers away.
If you’re getting plenty of traffic and clicks after running your ads for a while, but no clicks…
…you need to evaluate your website content and functionality to see if you need to make improvements there.
Changing your ads and optimizing them can only do so much if you have an uncooperative or dull website.
Should You Do Advertising By Yourself?
You’ve got a lot going on as a small business owner and advertising isn’t like some simple, quick task.
Running ads requires more than an ad account and a setup.
What else do you need to consider when advertising?
- Graphics need to be high-quality and eye-catching
- Setting up and scheduling
- Analytics (reference previous video)
If you’re doing this all by yourself, content creation itself is a full-time job.
Good small business owners (successful ones anyway) know when to outsource and when to take on roles for themselves.
We recommend you hire a marketer (in-house or freelance) or use a digital marketing agency like LYFE.
We will help you create quality content and properly set up, monitor, and optimize your ads.
Contact us to talk to our Business Development team to learn more.
We hope this helped you understand small business advertising and gave you some ideas and direction.