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  • Writer's pictureClaire Elbrow

A quick guide to digital marketing.

Chatting with a couple of new small business owners recently made it very clear that digital marketing is not always as straightforward as we marketers think. We tend to think people know and understand what digital marketing and all the associated acronyms are all about. As a new small business owner, you have much to think about and so many new tasks and roles to take on; it is obvious you won't know it all immediately.

So, on their advice, here's a quick guide to what us lot in marketing mean when we talk about digital marketing.

A quick overview of digital marketing:


The definition of digital marketing, also often called online marketing, is marketing that uses digital channels or online marketing to reach, engage and promote its products or services to its customers.


Business owners using digital marketing to communicate with their customers will use a number of different channels.


These Channels are:

  • Search engine optimisation (SEO)

SEO is a term used to describe the process of optimising your website to rank higher on various search engines, like Google or Bing, which your customers will use to search for the products and services they need. SEO focuses on pushing the ranking of your website in organic search engine results using target keywords. By ranking higher on a search engine result page (SERP), you will receive more traffic to your website and potentially more leads.

  • Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)

A form of online advertising where advertisers, such as the small business owner, pay each time a user clicks on one of their ads.

  • Social media marketing (SMM)

The process of promoting a brand, product, or service on social media platforms through engaging with your customers through posts, reels, carousels or stories.

  • Email marketing

Email marketing is sending promotional, transactional, or informational messages to a group of people via email, invariably using an email marketing platform like Mailchimp, SendinBlue or Constant Contact.

  • Affiliate marketing

A performance-based marketing model where affiliates are paid commission for promoting and selling a company's products or services. On a simpler level, this also might be when two service businesses cross-promote each other services.

  • Content marketing

Content marketing refers to creating and sharing valuable, relevant, and consistent content that will attract your audience and ensure they engage with you. The goal invariably involves raising brand awareness and driving profitable customer action.

  • Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing is on the increase. It promotes your products, services, or brands to mobile users through SMS, MMS, apps, websites, or other mobile channels.


Before you click off this page, as it sounds all too complicated already, let's be clear, some of these channels above require expert support if you want them to work efficiently. However, all of them can be used or improved by your efforts once you understand them better and take a little time to learn how each channel will benefit your business. You do not have to choose to do them all, but you do need to select the ones that garner your audiences' best responses.


Firstly though, think through your goals just as you do with traditional marketing or business planning.

Most likely digital marketing goals for small businesses owners:

  • Increase your brand awareness

  • Drive traffic to your website

  • Generate more leads and create more conversions

  • Improve your customer engagement and loyalty

Consider how you will measure your goals. You can go with one or all of these below.

  • Website traffic - this may be an increase of visitors to your site, a longer dwell time, growth in leads, or a mix.

  • Conversion rate - this will be the conversions you measure on your website. Are you noticing more purchases after specific digital marketing activities or getting more phone calls or emails?

  • Return on investment (ROI) - easily measured if you are using PPC or social media advertising. Less easy to measure if you are not, but you can still measure if you are getting more contacts through digital activity.

  • Customer lifetime value (CLV) - CLV is the amount of money a customer is predicted to spend with your business for the duration of your relationship with that individual. This measures your returning customers which is vital if you have an ecommerce business. Email marketing is also excellent for this goal as you can track if customers spend more often if you send them a specific type of email.

  • Cost per lead - this is important as it will help you measure the amount it costs you to gain each lead. Knowing this lets you adjust your PPC campaigns to give you the best results.

  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): Measures the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions (times an advertisement was displayed) on an online advertisement.

  • Social Media Engagement: This describes the level of interaction between a brand and its followers on social media, including likes, comments, shares, and mentions.

  • Email Open Rate: The percentage of recipients who open an individual email campaign.

  • Email Click-Through Rate (CTR): The number of clicks on links in an email divided by the number of email deliveries.

Having Google Analytics, email marketing reports through your chosen platform, and some reporting mechanism on your social media scheduler helps here as they will give you the data you need to see if your activities are meeting your goals and working. Again, not the simplest to set up if you are a novice, but doable if you have the time and patience to learn how. If not, then ask your marketing support person!

So, what are the best practices for a small business owner when considering digital marketing? Firstly, you must define your target audience and buyer personas, and you must know who are you are selling your products or services to, how they engage and where they hang out.


Once done, develop your content strategy and decide upon the best option for you to use. Then plan out your tasks. Tasks to meet your strategy could include planning your email output and ensuring you have all the content you need. Should you decide to run a PPC campaign, ensure you can fulfil any interest that comes your way. Should you use social media, set up your social media strategy and decide which are the best channels to use for your audience. Plan out your content run for your blogs and social content to give a mix of content types and subjects.

Test, test, and test your campaigns - try tweaks such as different images and messaging to see what resonates best with your audience.


To be honest, most small business owners will pick just a couple of options that they can manage in their time allowance, which are cost effective and which give them the widest coverage. Examples from my own clients include one who relies heavily on social media and social media advertising to promote his service and another relies on email marketing which gives him the most success through targeted emails and customer journeys. Another relies on a mix of PPC, social media and email marketing. He has also seen great results through an SEO campaign which was set up through an SEO expert I work with. None of my clients use all of the above tactics as their budgets and customer needs would not support that approach.


Last but not least, keep an eye on trends and changes as digital marketing is fast moving! The top trends at the moment are:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)

  • Interactive content (e.g. quizzes, chatbots)

  • Voice search optimisation

  • Personalisation - think of the personalised offers or emails you get from other providers.

  • Influencer marketing - on social media in particular. This ranges from the niche micro-influencer to all singing, all dancing, and well-known celeb endorsing your product.


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