Commerce has been an integral part of society since time immemorial. Businesses from all sorts of sizes and nature know and understand the importance of marketing their brands, products or services to attract and earn some profits from their targeted customers. However, not all can afford the significant resources required to run an offline traditional marketing and advertising campaign, with many relying only on the power of word-of-mouth advertising and cultivating a good reputation for their business. However, the times and corresponding technologies continue to change and evolve, and with it comes corresponding changes in all other aspects of human society – including commerce. Modern businesses are slowly transitioning from the traditional brick-and-mortar style of conducting business to online platforms using the immense marketing power of the Internet. Digital marketing is the most efficient and effective way to adapt to this ever-changing online marketplace and businesses who cannot keep up will surely be left behind. Digital marketing has also opened doors for small and medium businesses (SMBs) to compete with large corporations and multinational companies vying for attention and business of targeted customers. How effective businesses use these Digital Marketing techniques will spell the difference between merely surviving in this digital arena to completely achieving financial goals and business success. Knowing so, the question remains as to what Digital Marketing tools and tactics should SMBs use to remain competitive and ensure survival in this new business landscape. With several types and variations of Digital Marketing techniques and tactics available, small businesses can easily get lost or get overwhelmed in selecting what particular tool or tactic should they use that will bring results. A small business owner cannot simply select one without knowing what that tool or tactic can actually accomplish. This article attempts to remove all the guesswork and hard work required for selecting the right digital marketing tool for your business – and it all begins with your website. #1. Optimize Your Website Several articles have been written in the past about how important it is for businesses competing in this modern marketplace to have their own professionally-built website. It is imperative that a particular business should have one, if they haven’t done so, for it is your staging ground and launching platform if you want to succeed in this digital arena called the Internet. You can have one built by a third-party website designer and developer, or you can form your own team in-house specifically for this job. A good website referred to here is a professionally-made website with your own domain and hosting that you have full control of. There are several “free” website resources out there but as a business building its own brand and reputation, it is advisable to shy away from these types of resources and go for really professional websites you can call your own. Once established, you should start filling your site with good quality content that will be valuable to your targeted audiences, as well as optimizing all other web elements including navigation, color scheme, layout, and loading time among others. #2. Search Engine Marketing Small business owners can select Search Engine Marketing as a primary digital marketing tool they can use for their business. It begins by getting a clear understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and how it can be an effective tool to draw in targeted audiences through organic search results. SEO is a very wide topic and small business owners can begin with an SEO audit of their websites to check its current condition and identify areas with room for improvement. Once you get an important assessment, you can start optimizing your website using SEO guidelines, and improve on your design/structure, page descriptions and titles, link system an your content. #3. Social Media Marketing Social media has grown from a mere fad to a very powerful digital marketing tool that not only connects you with people but also provides you with a facility to interact with such visitors. Getting in touch with customers in a very social and interactive way can spell the difference between success and failure. But with a large proliferation of social media networks available, the type of social media channel that you should select shall depend on the type of brand, product or services you are marketing. An important fact that business owners should remember when conducting a Social Media Marketing (SMM) campaign is to identify first what your goals are for conducting such a campaign. Although generating sales through your social media channels is possible, more common goals for SMM is lead generation as direct interaction with customers through various social signals that are available in a particular social network. #4. Pay Per Click Advertising Paid advertising through traditional marketing channels is what many small and medium business owners are familiar with, although not all can have the resources to finance or run such kinds of paid advertising campaigns. This is different in the current online marketplace, where business owners can leverage on the power of paid advertising through Pay-Per-Click (PPC) marketing to generate highly targeted leads that have the highest possibilities for conversion. PPC advertising channels like Google Adwords rely on the effective use of keywords or keyword phrases together with well written marketing copy that will make your targeted visitors interested enough to click on the ad – bringing them directly to a sales or lead generation page. As a form of paid advertising, of course there is cost involved. Expenses however can be under your full control if set properly, and is not as exorbitant compared to traditional advertising channels. #5. Email Marketing Email marketing is a very powerful and cost-effective tool that small and medium sized businesses can use as part of their digital marketing campaign. An important element in email marketing is to build a list of subscribers who have opted in or voluntarily signed up through your websites or landing pages to receive emails or newsletters from you on a regular basis. Email marketing through an opt-in list is an effective way of directly marketing to a target audience without being labeled as spam – as what email blasters are doing so in the past. Email blasting means sending a series of messages to a list of names and emails, and in many cases these messages are unsolicited. This results in either deletion of your messages or being branded as spam. In email marketing to an opt-in list, recipients have voluntarily signed up to receive updates, articles, and other materials that they would actually read or even share. It is a cost-effective digital marketing method to reach out to a target audience that will eventually generate results. #6. Content Marketing Your content is the centerpiece of your website and should be at the heart of your overall digital marketing campaign. Content marketing means reaching out and engaging with your targeted customers through high-quality materials with information that is relevant or important to their needs and interests. There are different types of content and it can be text-based or visual, including articles, eBooks, infographs, images, posters, white papers, blog posts, videos, slideshows, and a host of other types of content in various forms – all containing relevant information about your brands, products or services. The key to content marketing is not to sell per se, but to inform. Although your content contains information about your brand, product or service, content marketing should present it in a way that would be interesting your targeted audiences. Content marketing can be as varied as providing information about the latest updates in your business niche, to an elaboration of the benefits of a particular product type or material that you are marketing. You can be as creative as you want to without resorting to hard selling – that will only turn off your audiences. #7. Local Search Marketing Local search marketing is a variation of Search Engine Optimization that is focused on optimizing your digital marketing channels to target potential customers right in your area of operations or business. This involves integrating the digital mapping functions of search engines that will provide potential visitors specific information about your location both as a text address and your pinpointed location on a digital map. In local search marketing, you should focus your content in providing information about your specific locality. You can include local news, events, meetings, seminars, presentations, sales, special promotions and other information that would be relevant to targeted local audiences. This is very important particularly if your business maintains a physical address or a brick-and-mortar establishment that people can actually go to. With localized information, these highly targeted customers can easily locate you through their searches using their personal computers, smartphones or tablets. #8. Use More Graphics and Videos High quality content includes not only text materials like articles and blog posts, but also graphics, videos and other visuals that will make your web pages come alive and more interesting to targeted audiences. Pictures do tell better stories, and using other visual tools like videos and presentations can multiply the effect of pictures even more. As can be seen in social networks, great visuals can really get viral, with interested people sharing your content with other people in their network – opening new doors to a wider reach and bigger potential customer database. #9. Make Use of Press Releases Being in the news can really give your business great exposure that can catapult your business to new levels almost overnight. However, being featured in news articles or magazine features depend solely on the discretion of networks, or if coursed through a PR agency, will cost you significant amounts that will eat away from your marketing budget – a fact small business owners simply cannot afford. However, there are available channels online where you or an agency can publish press releases. This includes press release distribution services that include a very wide network where it would be easier and faster to reach out to targeted audiences. The higher the visibility of your press releases, the wider your reach will be and the bigger the chances of generating sales from your targeted audiences. #10. Engaging or Interacting With Your Targeted Customers Online Whether you are dealing with a potential customer or an existing one, engaging or interacting with them can spell the difference between an unsatisfied customer and a loyal one. You websites should be equipped with proper engagement points where your targeted customers can communicate with you directly regarding whatever matters related to your brand, product or service. It is crucial that this interaction be well attended, with responses to communication properly performed on a consistent basis. You can also engage with your targeted customers through reviews and ratings, and in the process you can gain an insight of what they truly want so you can adjust your next moves accordingly. There are various websites like Yelp that allow people to rate or rank businesses based on their location and business niche. From such engagements, you can develop good relationships that will eventually give you with loyal customers. Conclusion As a final word, small and medium-sized business owners should understand that the entire business marketplace is changing at rapid rates. In this very dynamic digital arena, only effective tools can bring out desired results that will spell the difference between your success and failure in this business. Digital marketing tools are essential elements that every business owners should know and understand, leveraging on what would work best in their business niche – and deliver results that will move you closer to your business goals. Images: ”business man writing digital marketing concept / Shutterstock.com“ __________________________________________________________________________________ Connect with Tweak Your Biz: Would you like to write for Tweak Your Biz? Tweak Your Biz is an international, business advice community and online publication. Today it is read by over 140,000 business people each month (unique visitors, Google Analytics, December, 2013). 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