2021 is set to be the year in which digital marketing will determine the survival or death of small businesses. Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, we have seen small business owners scrambling to adopt digital marketing solutions while searching for the best ways to reach their customers. This year will likely bring just as much uncertainty. However, the difference is that we have data, and more importantly battle scars, working on our side.
The past year was a wake-up call to many. It showed business owners of all shapes, sizes, and industries that embracing digital marketing is no longer a question. Instead, it is a necessity. I have seen this first-hand. Over the past year, I have provided pro-bono marketing services to small businesses throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. These services include web design, social media, Google Ads, and SEO. In this article, I will share my top five lessons and tips for marketing in 2021.
- Understand that the digital age is here to stay
It is tempting to think that the business changes made necessary by public safety regulations will become obsolete once the current health crisis is brought under control. Market data, however, point to the fact that many of the new trends in small business - an increase in online marketing and sales, the growing importance of social media, and the move away from in-person shopping - were all underway before Covid-19 crossed anyone’s radar. Public safety guidelines have accelerated the shift to new methods such as grocery and food delivery, and remote meetings. Once those guidelines are no longer in effect, those new methods will remain in place. Now is not the time to hunker down and wait for things to return to normal; it is time to embrace the new way of doing business and adapt your marketing strategy accordingly.
- Make it easy for people to reach you online
The main driver for the shift to digital marketing over the past year has been due to the desire from business owners to replace the in-person contact due to the pandemic. With that in mind, you should find opportunities to make it easier for people to find you online. This point is so important that I broke it down into three parts:
- First, you should maximize the number of avenues for people to find your business. This means creating blog posts, hosting online live events, and looking for new media platforms to appear on to attract new audiences.
- Second, you will want to make sure that all of your marketing content and assets are user-friendly. This means ensuring that both desktop and mobile versions of your website are optimized, using font/colors that are easy to read, and having clear calls-to-action on your site.
- Finally, you should make sure that your content is SEO optimized. You can do this by using relevant keywords, having proper H1 tags, and writing on interesting and relevant subjects. These are small investments that will help drive incremental users to your website. For more info, you can view Neil Patel’s SEO guide.
- Enhance your content through engagement
Digital marketing tools can feel like a one-way street of communication. Shouting into the void without including the response and interaction of your audience leaves out a key piece of the conversation. Look to interactive platforms that allow your audience to take part. Livestreams and video conferences allow you to interact in real-time with your loyal customers and continue the conversations that may have been constrained by safety regulations. You can also allow your customers to create user-generated content as it is one of the best ways to develop brand loyalty. Consider customer and employee submitted video testimonials that tell the story of your business and how your community is getting through this hard time together.
- Back your ad campaigns with a purpose
More now than ever before, consumers are buying with a sense of empathy. Individuals want to support local businesses during these challenging times. They are also looking for organizations that care about specific issues. When designing a new marketing campaign, consider how this can positively impact your community, and why your customers should care about your business. Find more info on purpose-driven marketing campaigns.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance
In times of rapid change, those who are most successful are willing and ready to ask for guidance when they need it. Industry trends show that small businesses are increasingly turning to business coaches and consultants in order to navigate the changing waters of a national health crisis. Knowing when to reach out to experts and advisors is key to being flexible in ever-changing times. And there are more people than ever looking to share their expertise with others. For any marketing-related questions, you can reach out to us at any time!
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.