Small businesses looking to grow in the digital world 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.
The digital sphere has evolved remarkably and is still changing, making executing successful digital marketing campaigns more difficult than ever.
The Current Landscape of Small Business Digital Marketing
The shift toward digital marketing has become almost mandatory, impacting small businesses big time. The cost of creating sustainable digital marketing strategies can be immense, especially when you consider their top priorities.
For example, driving sales and building brand awareness are the two of the top digital marketing priorities for small businesses.
These are bold initiatives that require a large investment of time and resources into a variety of strategies.
Another big drain on resources can be the demand for tools in the world of digital marketing. The top three marketing tools small businesses are using are email (54 percent), website (51 percent), and social media (48 percent). That's a lot of tools to focus on, and for small businesses, that can spread many people too thin.
To successfully execute digital marketing strategies, you need to take a holistic approach, incorporating various kinds of initiatives. This helps small businesses tackle these digital marketing challenges.
10 Digital Marketing Challenges and How to Overcome Them
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 percent of consumers say they judge businesses’ credibility based on their website design.
With a few minor oversights in your website design and functionality, 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 percent 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.
Gathering 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.
That also 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 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.
But this is much easier said than done.
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.
It’s a common challenge for small businesses to have trouble finding money to invest in their marketing strategies. It’s a real Catch-22, since you need marketing in order to get attention drawn to your business, but you need funds in order to bolster your marketing.
Thankfully, there are a lot of free or low-cost methods available to businesses of all sizes today.
By promoting your brand through content through social media channels and blogging, you can at least get an email list started.
If your budget allows, you can also look into paid marketing tactics such as pay-per-click, mobile marketing, or ads in your local print publications.
Most importantly, budgeting is the key to keeping your business afloat. Be wise and attentive with your funds so that, while you might have trouble with the amount of money coming into your business, you can always work on managing the amount of money you do have.
8. Building Brand Consistency and Trust
For many small businesses, especially those just getting on their feet, establishing a reputation can be a pretty sizable hurdle. Entering an industry that's already pretty saturated with other businesses means fighting to stand out from the rest.
Often times, the best way to earn brand recognition and awareness is through some of the practices listed above. Providing valuable content and building an online presence in an effort to generate leads has a complimentary consequence of generating familiarity as well.
The people you attract to your business, the more people actually become aware of your business.
And, assuming you are actually following through on your promise to provide value, word of mouth comes into play and makes it a little easier. As you start earning customers, you can begin incorporating social proof and leveraging campaigns that highlight your brand, like user-generated content.
9. Mobile Optimization
Little known fact: mobile marketing and desktop marketing operate on very different levels. And until you understand exactly how to leverage both equally, your small business won't reach its full potential.
Neglecting one platform in favor of another is a mistake that many businesses make. But the truth is that both are equally important in reaching your marketing goals. To start, keep a close eye on who is using your site and for what purpose.
We've already established that building a UX-centric website is important, but is it optimized for mobile viewing too? How efficiently can customers find the information they're looking for from their phones?
And being mobile-friendly isn't just about how your website looks on a smartphone or tablet. According to OuterBox, 79 percent of consumers have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last six months. With rates like that, it's imperative that your leads are actually able to convert through mobile if they should so choose.
The mobile experience is too important to ignore, so make sure that during your design and optimization, you key into mobile best practices as well.
Running a small business is a large endeavor and practical management requires a lot of energy, time, and attention.
Add in the long list of marketing best practices, focus on lead generation, and all the other strategies required to make your business profitable and you've got a recipe for fast burnout.
When faced with this challenge, the first thing is to remember you're only human. If you lose sight of that, you'll forget to monitor your exhaustion and adjust any bad habits you may be developing.
Be conscious of what contributes to burnout for you and create a list of actions you can perform to remedy it if you reach that point.
Keep Marketing In-House or Outsource With a Marketing Agency?
This is probably the biggest decision every small business owner has to make once the need for a marketing strategy is addressed.
There's definitely pros and cons to both avenues and the right choice largely depends on your company's capacity.
There's a lot of appeal to keeping your marketing efforts close to home and it's understandable. But there are certain obstacles that come with trying to defend your territory on your own.
It can be difficult to keep your marketing efforts diverse. Predictability can be a good thing and a bad thing.
On the one hand, consistency in your brand will keep customers loyal and satisfied once they've invested in you. But there's a fine line between consistent and redundant.
A marketing agency will have a much wider range of skills and perspectives working toward creating the best campaigns for your business.
Also, hiring in-house can be a strain on what may already be a small budget. That's not to say you can't find a fantastic strategist or even build a small marketing team, but you'll need to be conscious of employee turnover and HR management.
Often times, the agency route actually saves more because you can hire for your specific needs and have your plan executed immediately.
It’s important to never half-heartedly pursue digital marketing, especially as a small business looking to stand out and build a customer base.
Being aware of the more common challenges can help a business owner plan well and crush their marketing goals.