You’ve done the hard yards, created your product or service, and launched your business but you are caught in the tactical weeds. Now it’s time to get the digital marketing strategy for your small business sorted out.
… You go looking for that silver bullet piece of advice but it’s so overwhelming.
Now, you need a bulletproof digital marketing strategy for your small business.
The internet has changed everything, especially digital marketing for small business. Suddenly, you can build a booming business, no matter your budget. And with the right digital strategy, you can compete with the biggest brands in your industry.
This guide covers a detailed overview of the various components you need to think about to nail digital marketing for your small business. At Relearn Digital we call your digital marketing strategy your “Digital Marketing Game Plan” because that’s what you need: a plan that is actionable.
This is not the only guide to digital marketing out there, but it’s the only guide written specifically for small business owners and solo entrepreneurs. It’s the only guide that challenges the accepted status quo and the “lemming-like advice” that is regurgitated everywhere.
Read on and you’ll find a bunch of handy digital marketing strategies, tips on developing your plan, the exact details you’ll need to learn about your humans (and what to do with that info), and the core approaches to creating content, getting more traffic to your business, and, most importantly, driving sales.
why do we call them humans?
At Relearn, we use the term humans instead of customers or audience because that’s what ALL customers are for every business: humans.
The more you acknowledge this — the humanness of the people you want to reach and serve — the more you can empathise and connect with them. And that will go a long way to helping you succeed.
Oh not much. Just a step-by-step guide to creating an actionable digital marketing strategy…
Digital marketing will look different to every business depending on that business’s objectives and strategy. It could take the form of online videos, emails, social media posts, blog posts, or display ads.
It should become pretty obvious to you now how it’s different to traditional marketing, which takes place in the offline world (think magazine ads and billboards—and TV ads too).
You can be forgiven for thinking that digital marketing replaces traditional marketing but it’s not true. Instead, they work in tandem—and the principles of marketing apply whether it’s traditional or digital marketing.
Whether it is traditional or digital marketing, marketing is about reaching and connecting with the right people at the best time with a compelling message and a great experience…
… So people will know you and choose what you’re selling over other brands, like you enough to stay loyal to you in the future, and help build trust in your brand by recommending you to others.
Digital marketing is becoming increasingly important because it can have a huge impact on small businesses.
It can be an effective but also economical way of getting your fresh-faced brand out into the world or helping you to boost your sales to grow your business.
Digital marketing helps democratize marketing for small businesses — big budgets help for sure but “content” and “authority” are big in the digital space and smaller businesses are better positioned to be nimble in these areas. A digital-centric approach means you can compete with bigger businesses.
Some of the benefits of digital marketing include:
Read more about the benefits of digital marketing here.
Another advantage of digital marketing is all the different types of channels and approaches you can use. Here’s just a shortlist:
If you don’t have a digital marketing strategy, you’re going to waste time faffing about trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
But first, what IS a digital marketing strategy?
It’s essentially a carefully researched and considered plan that helps you overcome your business challenges and achieve your objectives through specific digital marketing channels (more on that later).
When we talk about your Digital Marketing Game Plan, we’re talking about the strategy you’ll use to employ your digital marketing.
This Digital Marketing Game Plan is based on a little framework we have developed called: F.A.C.T.S.
This nifty framework is going to help you create the right strategy for your digital marketing.
FACTS stands for:
Don’t worry if you’re feeling in over your head. We’ve labeled each section of this guide so you know where it fits in.
Digital marketing is all about growing your business in the way that suits you
But how do you know what that is if you don’t know the ins and outs of your business?
Establishing a strategic Digital Marketing Game Plan is about understanding WHAT your biggest business problem is and setting SMART goals to overcome that challenge using digital marketing.
Knowing exactly WHAT problem you’re trying to overcome in your digital marketing strategy makes sure you stay the course and don’t drift in the wrong direction (which is easier than you might think).
Crafting a business problem statement is a good way to define the problem you’re trying to solve. Some questions to ask yourself might include:
From these questions, you should be able to provide a succinct, no-fluff, honest account of your business problem.
Examples of business problems might include:
Your brief business problem statement should follow a format similar to this:
Once you’ve identified your business problem, you can create SMART marketing objectives to help you solve it.
When you have clear digital marketing objectives, it’s easier for you to know whether your Digital Marketing Game Plan is successful or not.
Business objectives = long-term goals that speak to the vision you have for your business
Digital marketing objectives = short-term goals that help you achieve your long-term goals
The Objectives Ladder shows how different objectives work within a business and how they ladder both up and down.
The key takeaway here is to understand that the objectives higher up the ladder are more long-term while those lower down are more short-term and more focused on implementation and tactics.
Before you set your digital marketing objectives you need to get clear on your business objectives (check your problem statement).
Remember the objectives ladder. So if your business objective is to grow sales by 20% make sure the digital marketing objectives talk to this.
Examples of digital marketing objectives include increasing:
Once you’ve picked the marketing goal you want to focus on, you need to get clear on exactly what this objective involves. This is where it needs to be SMART.
the SMART model for marketing objectives is one of the handiest models around so let’s look into it quickly.
A SMART marketing objective is:
In digital marketing circles, the term “audience research” gets bandied about a lot. But we think it makes you forget what exactly you’re doing here, which is getting to know your humans.
Never forget, the people you’re serving are just that: people. And when you keep that front of mind, you speak to them human to human. Which is what we want.
We don’t buy into producing “customer personas” or “buyer personas” for small businesses.
Some big marketing firms love having these detailed fictional characters representing the humans they’re talking to (and sure, maybe it helps in big organisations who are distanced from their customers).
But in truth, if you’re a small business owner or solo entrepreneur, you already have a good idea of the people you serve because you’re much closer to them in your dealings with them.
But what you DO need to research is what drives them:
Knowing these details helps inform your Digital Marketing Game Plan – let’s dive a bit deeper.
One of the main reasons you do any marketing at all is to make sure the humans you want to serve find your business and do what you want them to do (for example, buy a product, sign up to an email, enquire about a service).
To understand the process your human goes through to get to that end point, marketing literature is jam-packed with info about “buyer’s funnels” and customer journey mapping.
People have a habit of complicating buyer’s funnels and customer journey maps so let’s keep it simple:
While customer journey mapping has its place in your Digital Marketing Game Plan, make note that it’s not a linear progress through the different stages. For example, someone might come to you through a recommendation, completely bypassing the Awareness and Consideration stage.
This is a great way of thinking about the human buyer journey in real life: loops rather than a linear journey.
So why do customer journey mapping at all?
It’s got its advantages. Mapping your human’s journey can help you identify where you might be able to favourably influence people’s decisions to increase your chances that they’ll buy/book/sign up with you.
But most importantly, you can make the most of customer journey mapping when you combine it with the rest of your Digital Marketing Game Plan, including:
Time to think like your humans.
Pain points and triggers go hand-in-hand with how you position your offer, create your content, and decide on the tactics to get more people to your website and buying.
Pain points — These are the specific problems your humans experience along their customer journey.
Triggers — These are the specific events that cause your human to identify their problem and start looking for a solution.
Let’s look at pain points first.
To uncover your human’s pain points, you need to dig a little deeper into your “audience research” to find out what your humans are saying.
Here are some places where you can gather data:
Once you’ve found out what your humans were struggling with—the problem they were looking for a solution for—it’s time to turn to triggers.
Your prospective humans need a trigger to start them on the customer journey.
Some example triggers:
Let’s look a little deeper take the example of Karen, she has just been invited to a wedding (the Trigger) and needs a dress ring to complete her outfit:
The trigger is in most cases out of your control but it’s a good way to think about the experience they’ve gone through and the mindset they’re in when they start their customer journey.
There’s a pretty strong chance your product or service isn’t the only one of its kind in the world. So you need to get a good idea of the space it occupies in your market and how other people perceive it.
There are two ways to do this: landscape analysis and social listening.
Notice that we don’t call this “competitor research”. That’s because we want to review the landscape and how it impacts our humans, not review competitors and copy them.
Your business sits in a landscape of competitors who are all competing for your humans’ attention.
Understanding who these competitors are can help you:
These are the brands and businesses that offer the same type of thing as you.
These competitors are normally easy for us to reel off as they are, in most cases, known to us.
Content landscape competitors
These are the businesses that compete for the attention of the same humans you’re trying to attract, using content. They might be going after the same pain points as you, but with a different offer.
You can find these competitors by looking wherever people search for content (such as on search engines like Google). Type in a common inquiry you hear in your business—notice how some of the main articles that pop up might not come from your direct competitors?
Let’s say you sold steel windows. If we look at the search results for “how much do steel windows cost”, we can see content competitors such as Houzz and Remodelista.
They’re competing for the same humans as we are. This gives us great information to help build a plan.
In 2021, almost two thirds of marketers agreed that social listening has increased in value over the past year. So what is it and why is it so important to have it in your Digital Marketing Game Plan?
Social listening is a tactic that involves analysing your social media channels for engagement, brand mentions, and conversations related to your brand to gain insights and find opportunities you can act upon.
Where you can do social listening:
To undertake social listening, you’ll need to find out WHERE your humans are hanging out to talk about topics relevant to your business. It could be in Facebook or LinkedIn groups or on Quora or Reddit.
Once you’ve found their hangouts, look out for:
When you do social listening right, you’ll:
Note: Social listening isn’t a one-off activity. You need to continuously monitor your social channels so you’re aware of trends and stay on top of your competitor landscape.
“Listening to customers is more important than it’s ever been because their feedback is manifestly public where it’s historically been private” – Jay Baer
Using your landscape analysis and social listening, you can find out how to talk about your offer in a way that makes your humans know that YOUR product or service is the one they need.
So what is offer positioning?
Offer positioning determines what makes your product or service stand out against similar offers — be distinctive.
It gives your humans the answer to WHY they should choose your product or service over any other.
To get your offer positioning right, you need to fully understand:
Stand out in your landscape by what you stand AGAINST
Let’s focus on that last point for a moment. To find your positioning, you can ask yourself: “what is my business positioned AGAINST?”
But you figure this out by understanding what matters most to your humans.
You could position your business against
Let’s take cars as an example. Ultimately, cars do one thing: They get you from A to B fast.
So then why do we feel differently about a Porsche than we do about a Landcruiser?
It’s through the car brand’s POSITIONING—and what it positions itself against. It’s where the brand places itself on a scale of economical to luxury, or rugged to sporty, or practical to all-the-bells-and-whistles.
Positioning is about deciding where your brand sits in this landscape—and how it makes your humans feel.
Offer positioning is less about SELLING your offer and more about the problem your offer SOLVES.
Think about some real-world examples:
Figuring out your unique positioning helps you ensure that whatever marketing approach you take, you’re addressing your human’s pain points, needs, and preferences.
Your online business amounts to nothing if people aren’t finding you. So how do you get their eyeballs on your product or service? How do you get that all important traffic to your website?
We think this focus on digital marketing channels is skewed. People often look at digital marketing channels FIRST, then define a strategy around that channel and jump right in.
Instead of just picking a channel and running with it, you need to understand the different media types open to you and how your humans discover your type of product or service.
As with anything, it takes research and strategy to decide on the right approach to marketing your business online to increase visibility and traffic.
Let’s kick off by looking at the different types of media you can use to market your business digitally.
Type “digital marketing channels” into Google and you’ll get endless results with different lists of marketing channels—some list 5, others 12. Others still say there are only 7 types of marketing channels that actually work.
It’s no wonder you can get overwhelmed fast.
So what are digital marketing channels?
They’re the platforms you use to get information about your business in front of your humans.
Examples of digital marketing channels include:
To help decide which channels might be best for your business it’s best to look at them through the paid, owned, and earned media model.
We listed some of the different digital marketing channels (also sometimes called digital media channels) above.
It’s an overwhelming list and the truth is, as a solo entrepreneur or small business owner, you’ll never have the time to do ALL the things.
So let’s not focus on every single digital marketing channel. They’re part of a much broader strategy anyway, so it’s good to put a little context around them…
… Which brings us to the POE media model, which helps classify the digital marketing channels. POE stands for:
These three types of media work best when they’re interconnected—and shows you that there are many ways you can attract new customers outside of paid advertising.
The term “paid media” is ultimately just a jargony term for “advertising”. It’s where you pay big media companies to put your brand right in front of your humans.
Paid media examples:
Small businesses don’t often have big budgets so paid media approaches are unlikely to be the main approach you use in your digital marketing strategy.
Owned media channels are the channels and approaches you can fully control. You don’t need to give big bucks to anybody—you can create content on these channels that can drive people to it for free (often called “organic traffic”).
Owned media examples:
Note: A lot of marketers add “content marketing” as an owned media channel. But it’s better to think of it as a facilitator in driving people to your business through each of these channels.
Earned media is the media that is ultimately controlled by your humans. Though it’s hard to control earned media, you can “earn” it by what you do in your marketing.
Examples of earned media:
Since you have little control over earned media, it’s not usually a part of your Digital Marketing Game Plan (although you can absolutely do things to encourage earned media, such as by creating an exciting or “Instagrammable” unboxing experience).
Before you choose which platforms and approaches you’re going to use in your Digital Marketing Game Plan, you need to understand your audience behaviour — their path to discovering your brand — and the different digital marketing channels available to you.
Based on how your humans browse and buy online, how can we help them discover your brand?
Through discovery paths.
Only when you understand your human’s discovery paths can you create an informed strategy about which marketing channels will be most effective to use for your business and your humans.
There are 4 main discovery paths:
The search discovery path is the path your humans take when they’re “searching” for the thing you offer. They know what they want and they proactively search for it.
A search path might look like this:
When your human is on the review path, they’ve already found your brand—along with a list of others—and they’re trying to figure out who they can trust.
A review path might look like this:
The share path is a tricky one for businesses to control. In this path, your human is so impressed with your product or service that they proactively talk about it to others.
It intersects with the review path, since having humans advocate for your offer builds trust in your brand.
A share path might look like this:
The browse path is all about getting your message—your business—next to the stuff your humans are reading or viewing.
Your humans may not be proactively searching for your brand but they come across it through their everyday searches.
A browse path might look like this:
The key is to focus on two key channels/media types and do them to the best of your ability (because as business owners we can’t do it all). So which ones? This is where your discovery paths come in, to understand how your humans find your type of business and to provide the focus you need.
Content is one of the most important tools for small businesses as it’s democratic and doesn’t need a huge financial investment.
Creating useful, consistent, and high-quality content can help you outrank and outperform big competitors and build:
Content marketing is a type of marketing that involves creating and sharing valuable, relevant, and consistent content (such as videos, blog posts, and social media posts) to attract your target humans, with the aim of building interest in your offer.
Content has different roles to play in digital marketing but you can broadly categorise them into 3 different approaches:
Creating a plan with a mix of these approaches will give you a strong content marketing strategy.
It’s the non-negotiable content your business needs. If you don’t have time to carry out a complete content marketing strategy, at least make time for this.
Foundational content forms the backbone of your entire Digital Marketing Game Plan—and is essential to feed your content to grow and convert.
3 types of foundational content:
These are the building blocks for all other content and create a cohesive brand experience.
Examples of content elements:
Canva has great content elements, the use of button colors stem from the brand logo and contrast so well with the white background.
Content assets are marketing collateral—high-value pieces of content that support the various marketing initiatives for your business.
Examples of content assets:
Hubspot are the masters of adding downloadable content assets into content using multiple formats to do so. You can see 2 in the image above – one in the main banner and then and side pop out.
Below you see how they include a third download CTA mid-text.
Note: Content assets are different from content types (which are the medium or format content is presented in, such as videos, infographics, presentations, memes, and so on).
Base layer content is the cement for your foundational content and turns your site from an empty shell into a rich resource.
It’s the content that fills your blog or learning hub, supports your social media, provides a base for your email, and becomes your core website pages.
Examples of base layer content:
As the category suggests, this is the content that helps you grow your business. It links back to the discovery paths we talked about above because the content you create to grow aligns with where your humans are.
For example, you might create content to grow to:
When we talk about growing your business, we’re really talking about building your business presence with your humans—particularly new humans.
You can do that by increasing the number of people going to your website, following you and engaging with you on social media, or signing up to your email list, for example.
Examples of content to grow:
Xero has an amazing content hub that covers different content formats and encourages people to come back again and again.
This is the content that helps get your humans over the line, turning them from digital window shoppers to customers and clients.
Examples of content to convert:
At Relearn we have a Quiz designed to help convert browsers into leads
This approach is designed to get your humans into your sales process—and what that process is (defined in more detail below) will help you decide what type of content to convert you’ll use.
When you have your foundations in place, strategically add content to grow and content to convert. Align them to the channels, media types, and discovery paths to gain maximum benefit.
This is where everything comes together. You’ve laid down the foundational content and started creating and sharing content to help you grow your business.
The sales funnel is the final piece in the puzzle, mapping out the process you take your humans through to buy (or book!) with you, with the help of your content to convert.
A sales funnel (you might also catch people calling it a revenue funnel or, more simply, the sales process) maps out the stages your humans go through to complete a sale with your business.
It can also outline the process you use to find, quality, and sell to your humans. Knowing your sales process through and through helps you map out the content you need for it OR find opportunities to refine the process.
Examples of a sales funnel:
A sales process isn’t set in stone. A person might bypass the contact form and phone directly or send an email instead. But the final stages of the sales funnel are usually the same for everyone.
A lot of marketers like to focus on the stages of a sales funnel. But there’s no need to complicate it. All you really need to understand is how your sales process can be mapped to the customer journey we’ve already talked about.
For many small businesses and solo entrepreneurs, lead generation is a typical part of the sales process.
Let’s break it down.
What are leads?
Hubspot defines a lead as “any person who indicates interest in a company’s product or service in some way, shape, or form.”
A lead—the human who has shown interest—is usually the one to reach out to the business (instead of the business cold-calling prospects).
What is lead generation?
Lead generation is the process of finding new business leads—simply put, bringing new humans to your business and increasing their interest in your offer through nurturing content.
If your sales process requires an email address or phone number at the start, lead generation becomes an important part of your digital marketing strategy.
While there are many ways to execute leads, the process follows 4 core steps:
You may have realised that the landing page is an essential component of the sales process if you want to “generate leads”.
We gave a brief definition of landing pages above but let’s look at it in a little more detail now.
In digital marketing, a landing page is a standalone web page, created specifically for a marketing or advertising campaign. It’s where a visitor “lands” after they click on a link in an email or on ads from Google, Bing, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or similar places on the web.
Unlike other pages on your website, a landing page guides your visitor towards a single action. It typically doesn’t even show up the main navigation panel that’s present everywhere else on your website. The idea here is to provide NO DISTRACTIONS to your humans.
The singular focus is what makes a landing page essential in your sales process.
You could use a landing page to:
A lot of small business owners and solo entrepreneurs fall into the trap of believing email marketing is JUST to generate sales.
And sure, that’s probably the end goal.
But you don’t make sales without relationships.
That’s what email marketing, also called email direct marketing (or edm), is all about: building relationships.
Email marketing is a form of marketing that uses emails sent directly to your humans to promote your offer, build loyalty, provide updates on your business, and keep your humans “warm” so that when you’re ready to sell, they’re engaged.
Your email marketing strategy should nurture your humans, which is why it’s important you don’t JUST email them when you’re ready to sell.
Sales emails should be part of a larger email marketing strategy that includes emails that:
Need inspiration? Take a look at these examples of email marketing campaigns.
When you provide consistent, high-quality emails to your humans, you’re not just building relationships but priming them so they’re ready to click on your link when you promote an offer—getting them engaged and re-engaged in your sales process again and again.
It’s the final piece of your Digital Marketing Game Plan — and one of the most important bits! You need to be able to know what’s working (and what’s not working) in your plan to achieve your objectives and further optimise your digital marketing strategy.
The important thing is to know exactly what to measure and why — and that’s where KPIs (key performance indicators) and metrics come into play.
See how closely your KPIs and metrics work together with your digital marketing objectives?
Now, as soon as you get into data and tracking, it can get quickly overwhelming. But don’t worry, you don’t have to know everything. You just need to know what you want to track.
Remember those SMART objectives you set? Now’s the time to break them down to understand what you need to track.
Once you’ve figured out what to track, you need to know where the data is. Firstly, think about where your HUMANS are:
Creating a Digital Marketing Game Plan that’s right for your humans and your business takes time, hard work, reflection, and regular reviewing.
But having a solid digital marketing strategy is essential for businesses big and small—and if yours happens to be small, the right strategy can help you compete (and maybe even outperform) the big leagues.
Every part of your Digital Marketing Game Plan is intertwined so each component has to be well researched and executed for your entire strategy to work.
Take the time out to give your digital marketing strategy the attention it deserves so you can craft a Digital Marketing Game Plan that helps your business grow from the outset.
If the info we’ve outlined here has got your gears grinding, wait until you see what Relearn’s Digital Marketing Game Plan course can do for you.
Over 6 weeks, you’ll go through all of the concepts we’ve outlined here—and plenty more. Through detailed video explainers, course activities, templates, and mentor feedback, you’ll have an effective Digital Marketing Game Plan in action in no time, serving the right humans for your business in the best way possible.
It’s Weekly. Written For Business Owners & Solo entrepreneurs. Packed with Digital Marketing Gold.