Taking on the Big Boys: The Best Internet Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses in 2017

Taking on the Big Boys: The Best Internet Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses in 2017

For consumers, the internet is an incredible resource for product information, reviews and price comparisons. For small businesses struggling to reach their market, this could be a bad thing, but it needn’t be.

Related Read: The Best Advice for Local Businesses from the Top 60 Marketing Experts

Sure, it's hard going trying to compete with big box stores or the multi-national e-tailers, but using some smarter internet marketing strategies tailored to your business—you can cut through to those high-value customers who appreciate the personalised service and quality products you have to offer.

Successful internet marketing for small businesses is all about planning ahead—developing strategies and a schedule that you can roll out through the year. Being prepared in this way helps keep costs down too, as you won’t be making last minute, hasty marketing decisions that might be expensive and ineffective.

Here are some of the technologies and internet marketing tools that will put you ahead of the game in 2017:

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1. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile.

We shouldn’t need to remind you that a mobile-optimised presence (website, apps, social media) is almost compulsory these days. Google will pretty much ignore you if your site isn’t mobile-friendly. Mobile overtook desktops in terms of usage way back in 2015, and your customers carry them everywhere, all the time. So make sure your app or mobile website is location aware and can deliver your clients localised information.

What other trends will influence how we market our business on mobile? Expect to see more e-commerce functionality appearing in the apps for social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Google will start to include Apps and Web Apps in their SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages), particularly when that search is instigated on a mobile device. This means even Apps can be SEO-optimised. Single-page, Javascript based apps are relatively easy to create and can serve as mobile sales-oriented landing pages.

2. Video.

Video courtesy of: Take One Business Communication

Whether it be video ads, video podcasts or YouTube How-Tos—video-based content ranks highly in Google’s algorithms and when you provide credible, informative video content, you will get noticed. Video quality is a subjective matter–clear sound and a stable picture are minimum requirements but don’t feel you need to spend a great deal on ‘production values’, your clients may well appreciate something less slick as long as it’s honest, authentic and informative.

3. Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented reality apps are expensive to develop and somewhat out of reach for small enterprises. However, there are marketing opportunities to be gained from staying abreast of this technology. Pokemon Go was a great example of a gaming app that provided unexpected spinoff benefits for businesses; who used it to attract customers to their premises. While Pokemon Go has waned in popularity, it is only the first of many apps in development, and we will see many more business-oriented AR apps in the near future.

4. Live Video Streaming

Platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Periscope have brought simple, low-cost live streaming to everyone and for small businesses with a good following on social media, it's a brilliant way to connect with your customers (and more importantly, see who is connecting with you).

5. Native Advertising

Native Advertising

There are differing views on what constitutes native advertising, but for many a good definition is:

“Paid content that matches a publication’s editorial standards while meeting the audience’s expectations.” 

So we’re talking here about sponsored content, written and designed to fit in with the rest of the publication or website. For a small business, this could entail writing a guest blog post for a third-party website related to your industry. The secret is to provide genuinely useful information, tips or advice. You need to be upfront about your company—don’t try to disguise the content as pure editorial, as readers will see right through that ploy. You can offer a discount or a special offer as a call to action, but generally it’s best to be low-key and not 'hard-sell', as you may create a negative impression.

Joline Buscemi has an excellent blog post on the good (and evil) of native advertising. Her advice? Don’t try to trick the audience, just give them useful information and, if appropriate, make it entertaining.

6. Be Immersive

This may not suit all small businesses but if you’ve got something great to show your customers, why not go total immersion? Using 360-degree video, virtual reality or even live webinars, you can create a memorable experience that creates a buzz and is likely to be shared widely. Live webinars provide an excellent opportunity to personalise your marketing to suit a particular audience and also garner valuable feedback from your clients. The networking company Cisco make a good point on their blog regarding live webinars: make sure you record them. 300% to 500% more people watch a recorded webinar than attend a live one.

7. Partnering

Make Your Business Thrive Through Partnerships

Recently I went to a local glazing company to buy a sheet of glass. After some discussion, it was clear that a sheet of perspex was going to suit my needs better. This company immediately gave me the business card of a nearby plastics supplier. These cards were displayed prominently in their reception. This is a good example of the benefits of partnering with a complementary business. Similar arrangements can be made in the online space—everything from simple cross-links, guest blogs, even agreements to sell each other’s products. Vend have a great blog post that outlines what you need to consider when partnering with other businesses.

Above all, successful internet marketing for a small business means you need to Be Different (it worked for Apple!). Try something different, whether it's a new technology or creating truly original and useful content for your customers. Make sure your online brand is unique, recognisable and nothing like your competitors.

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Posted in Marketing