Small businesses looking to grow in the digital world of today know that internet marketing is a must. And this focus on marketing in the digital age brings plenty of unique challenges along with it.
Unfortunately, most small businesses struggle with establishing a strong online presence – a challenge they can't afford to fall short of.
Here are six challenges small businesses face in the world of digital marketing.
1. Building an Awesome Website
This is an obvious place to start – when a business decides to go online, the first challenge they have is building the best website possible. Most small businesses start looking for professional web designers, who can make sites that both look pleasing aesthetically and deliver a great user experience (UX).
The way your audience experiences your online presence is a huge factor in the success of your marketing efforts.
Why Design and UX Matter
First of all, a poorly designed website will hurt your reputation and your ability to position your brand as an authority in your space. In fact, 75% of consumers say they judge businesses’ credibility based on their website design.
Also, if it's hard to find menus and pages within your site and if your webpages appear outdated and lack engaging visuals, visitors might discredit you as a spammy website that can't be trusted.
Let's say visitors know they want to find your blog. If they struggle to find that webpage, they won't stick around. There are plenty of other businesses on the web that they can find in an instant.
They will also leave if your site is not attractive to them. In fact, 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content and layout is unattractive.
Fortunately if you're working for a small businesses that has a limited budget, there are many options for building and maintaining websites at an affordable rate. You can build sleek, modern websites that look great and attract the right visitors.
2. Understanding Their Audiences
Speaking of attracting the right visitors, many small businesses don't fully know who their target audience is. This is where buyer personas come in handy.
Buyer personas are essential in the digital marketing world. They are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers. You use real data about your existing customers and market research to fully develop and build your buyer personas.
This is another common challenge for small businesses because most people assume this can take a good amount of time, especially if you need to collect real data from your current customers.
But it doesn't have to cost you a fortune and weeks of work to gather this information. Simply use a free survey tool and regularly conduct surveys to gauge their levels of satisfaction and gather feedback about your products and services.
Then, once you have all the information you need, you can build your personas by answering simple questions about your ideal customers. HubSpot's Make My Persona tool makes this process easy and fun.
This information helps you understand who is looking for your small business and how you can position your messaging and build an effective marketing strategy.
And in digital marketing, one of your most valuable resources is the content you create to attract your audience.
3. Creating Valuable Content
Even if your small business has a good looking website, without valuable, informative content, your marketing won't deliver results.
Content that is targeted and relevant to your buyer personas can attract the right visitors to your site. Ideally, you want to run a consistent publication schedule for your blog, record and edit video content, and create sharable content for your social media channels.
That's a lot of content to create.
And that requires a hefty investment of time and resources. Not all small business owners have the capability to invest in doing so.
Overcoming this challenge usually involves hiring professionals to create content for you. Outsourcing content creation can take a lot of the burden off a small business team. Many small businesses hire agencies to take care of their content creation needs.
Other small businesses hire an in-house content creator to oversee all content creation, including video, blog articles, and social media shares.
4. Promoting Content
Even if you're creating awesome content that delivers value to your ideal readers, there's another component that often gets overlooked – promoting the content.
There are several ways you can fuel your content distribution, all of which can take up a substantial amount of time to do.
One of the best ways to promote content is through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. You want to build a strong following of relevant users who align with your buyer personas.
The best way to build and maintain this following is by hooking their attention by sharing insightful content that addresses their pain points and helps them pursue their goals.
Many small businesses drop the ball on social media because they assume it takes a lot of time every day to send a tweet or write a post on their Facebook page.
And that is the case if you're not using the right tools. There are several free social media management tools that simplify promoting your content.
You can schedule shares in advance and adjust messaging for each platform within tools like Buffer. These tools often include analytics reporting as well, so you can adjust your strategy based on what's working and what's not.
Creating an email newsletter can deliver many awesome benefits for small businesses. First of all, by sharing snippets of content, you are able to drive more traffic to that piece content, like a blog article or whitepaper.
But you're also keeping your audience engaged on a regular basis. For example, if you're sending weekly newsletters, your brand is going to stay top of mind, especially when those newsletters help them solve an issue.
But small businesses tend to drag their feet on promoting content via email. They might assume it won't help their marketing efforts much, but that is a costly oversight.
In fact, three of four companies say that email delivers "excellent" to "good" ROI. With the help of automation tools, you can make your email strategy efficient and easy to manage.
The term outreach marketing refers to the practice of connecting with people or companies that share an interest in what you and your organization has to offer. Your outreach strategy can consist of a few parts, like public relations or guest blogging.
One of the most popular approaches is connecting with influencers. Small businesses might be contending with bigger brands, so while they might not have the budget for big advertising campaigns, they likely can afford working with influencers.
Another great way to promote content through your outreach strategy is to engage in online discussions with people in your industry. For example, join relevant groups on LinkedIn or answer questions on sites like Quora.
This ongoing engagement in online communities can attract more readers to your site. It also gives you another space to showcase your authority and promote your content.
5. Generating New Leads
The overall goal of content marketing is to earn the trust of your readers. When they trust you and seek out more information from you, they are willing to share some personal information in exchange for gated content, known as a content offer.
This is how small businesses generate leads. A visitor who reads your blog articles finds a call to action (CTA) at the bottom of one of your posts. The CTA is promoting a free ebook.
Once they click that CTA, they are sent to a landing page, where they fill out a form, giving them their name and email address. After the form is submitted, they receive an email with the ebook attached.
The visitor becomes a lead as you add their contact information into your customer relationship management (CRM) system. They enjoy the free ebook, and you have a way of sharing more value with them and keeping them engaged with your brand.
Small businesses especially struggle with generating leads because creating lead generation campaigns and developing the content for the campaign is time intensive.
But if you invest in outsourcing digital marketing to an agency or invest in a marketing automation program that makes the process of running a campaign easier, you're better prepared to capture leads.
And as you know, many leads are just sales waiting to be closed.
6. Driving Sales
When you're developing your online presence for your small business and executing digital marketing strategies, you're hopefully seeing a spike in your website traffic.
This traffic can create leads, but those leads are not guaranteed to close to become customers.
So why is it so hard for small businesses to close deals and drive sales?
Because you're likely competing with bigger names that have much more brand recognition than you. Even in the smallest industries, you're bound to encounter bigger competitors with deeper pockets.
The best way to drive more sales – commit to being helpful at every customer touchpoint and stay human in every interaction you have with your audience.
If people in your niche consistently believe they are learning from you and feel connected to you in an authentic, human way, they will eventually look up to you as an authority within your industry, trust you, and value your business enough to invest money in your products and services.
The digital world has made digital marketing a necessity for small businesses. And the best way to thrive in the increasingly crowded digital world is by following the inbound methodology.
The future of business belongs to the inbound organization. Because no matter the size of your company, your projected revenue, or your budget, delivering a helpful, human experience through digital marketing fuels sustainable business growth.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2015. It was updated in December 2018 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.