As a small business owner, you've probably heard your share of well-intentioned marketing suggestions from friends, family, social media, and everyone in between. The conflicting advice you'll get – even from industry news sites and professional networks – could easily make your head spin.
To help you design an effective marketing strategy, I’m diving into 5 of the biggest myths about small business marketing and explaining the truth behind them. As you build your marketing strategy for the year, find out how testing the limits of these myths may actually benefit your small business today.
MYTH 1: Online marketing costs more money than it generates.
While there are lots of ways to spend money marketing your business with digital ads and other costly initiatives, making yourself easily found online doesn't have to cost a fortune. You can design a basic website for free in minutes on sites like Wordpress, Wix or Squarespace, and the information you make available to customers can help foster trust in your business – long before a customer ever walks through your door. Ultimately, a strong web presence can actually drive more customers to your business, and getting started can cost under $100 a year. If you don't have a website yet, the first place to start is by building one.
MYTH 2: Once I build a website, I can leave it alone.
Unfortunately, simply having a website isn't enough! You need your website to be easily found, and that takes something called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The basic concept of SEO is to make it easy for search engines to find your website and show it to people searching for words related to your business. Again, getting started doesn't have to cost a lot of money. There are lots of free and paid tools available from sites like Moz.com and Yoast to help you learn the basics of SEO, from site structure and speed to keyword research and beyond. Once you understand the basics of SEO, you can start thinking about how additional content, like a blog, may help expand the library of search terms that will help customers find you.
MYTH 3: My industry isn't well-suited for social media.
Don't take a one-size-fits-all approach to social media. According to a report from Pew Research Center, 65% of adults in the United States use social media today – including 90% of Americans 29 years old and under, and 35% of Americans aged 65 or older! Do some research to figure out which social media channels your customers use most, and consider speaking directly to them on the channels they prefer.
MYTH 4: Word of mouth is adequate for marketing my business.
If you're only relying on word of mouth to grow your business, it's time to consider diversifying your marketing. Now I’m not discrediting being an active member of the community who prioritizes face-to-face interaction and attending industry events; this type of "old school" marketing is still appreciated by consumers in our modern, often impersonal world. However, if your biz has no online presence, the scope of your reach is severely limited. Today, word-of-mouth referrals extend to online reviews too, so find ways to cultivate loyalty and consumer trust in the digital world, in addition to the real one.
MYTH 5: I don't have enough internal resources to manage online marketing.
Creating a successful digital marketing strategy doesn't have to be expensive, overly time-consuming, or require a full-time marketing staff. Once your website is built, create a marketing calendar that's realistic for the staff you have. It could be as simple as writing one blog post per week, or spending a few hours managing your social media accounts and researching the kinds of content your customers want to read. Ask everyone on your staff to share their ideas for topics to write about, so no one person is responsible for coming up with every content idea. Depending on your industry, you can even request and repurpose content created by your customers, including positive reviews and pictures or videos of your business and events that are shared online. Make sure to get any necessary permission to use content generated by third parties.
Once you understand the reality behind these five marketing myths, you'll realize how easy and important it is to cultivate a strong online presence for your small business. Start small and within your means, and you can soon be well on your way to seeing more marketing success through digital marketing.