Although it’s hard to announce winners or losers during this pandemic, there are certain industries that have benefited from the changes in consumer habits.
eCommerce as an industry has grown quite a lot during this time, specifically within the Food & Drinks, Health & Fitness, Home & Garden, and Beauty segments. This is the result of the accelerated digital transformation of many businesses.
The importance of digital marketing for small businesses
People are now more connected, online at least, than ever before. More and more digital platforms and services continue to emerge, which is why having a digital marketing strategy in place is very important for small businesses. Especially during a time where more people are at home and seeking out more convenient, customer-centric, and cost-effective solutions.
Even if your business is not selling products online, you should still utilize digital marketing as part of your communications strategy. That being said, the best way to leverage digital channels is by fine-tuning them to meet your business goals. Digital can truly be an inexpensive and focused method for reaching customers, but it can also be a money-pit if not approached strategically.
What is the most effective marketing channel?
The following are some of the best digital marketing channels that you can start using during and post-pandemic.
1. Organic search
When a user enters a set of words into their favorite search engine and consequently gets presented with a number of different links leading to relevant content, it is called organic search. And if that user decides to click on one of the links that they are presented with, it is called organic traffic. For example, there are many people out there who are interested in learning about all sorts of different things. And people’s interest in tutorials has increased by an astonishing 72% during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So how do you leverage organic search? By creating content, sales pages, and product descriptions around terms you expect your target market to research. There’s a lot more that goes into it but knowing what your customers want and providing resources, products, and services that serve their needs is the first step.
To get a headstart on an organic search initiative, look at who currently ranks for the terms you’d like to rank for. Check their article titles, page structure, what other sites they link out to. Then adapt those features to your own eCommerce website. But look to answer more specific questions, in-depth resources, and provide a better overall experience to quickly take out the competition.
2. Social media
Research conducted in May 2020, across 20 different countries shows that 42% of social media users spend more time on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic. As you may already know, some of the most popular social media platforms include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. When people check their favorite social media pages, there is a good chance that they will see a post about your company, products, or services with a Learn More link.
In reality, this type of traffic is not that hard to build, but it does require frequent creation of relevant and engaging content. This can be difficult to maintain without a dedicated employee running your social channels or an organized posting schedule. But if your business has a dedicated client base, you can quickly crowdsource content to kickstart your social presence.
The key is once you’ve gained some traction, is to always stay in touch with your audience. Provide exclusive promotions, reach out to those that engaged the most, and even highlight your social channels on your website.
Additionally, look into running paid ads on social channels. These can be inexpensive campaigns that target a specific niche. And if you’re running and search advertisements (which we’ll cover in just a bit) your social ads can complement your message and provide additional touchpoints for potential customers.
3. Email marketing
Email traffic is the type of traffic that is generated by both your outbound email campaigns and your email interactions. For example, if someone stumbles upon a link embedded in an email and they click on it, that should take them straight to your website.
One good thing about email traffic is that it is one of the least expensive options, but it is also one of those options that can be very effective when done correctly. Since many people are still confined to their homes, they are more likely to read their emails. About 44% more emails are being sent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With this in mind, you should try and leverage your email list as much as you can during this pandemic. Just know that more businesses are likely doing the same thing, meaning that you’ll need to test and refine your communication. Your subject lines, introductions, and email length can all make the difference between a conversion and an unread message.
Referrals represent traffic referred from one website to another and provide a great opportunity to turn one-time visitors into loyal clients. For example, if you have a loyal customer base that really likes your products or services you can provide a half-off coupon they can share with friends and family. This is why making your customers happy should be a priority, as they can become your biggest sales advocates.
Outside of providing sharable promotions and benefits, you can also look to partner with other businesses. Cross-promote on each other’s websites, work on co-branded products, or run social contests together between your followers. It’s a simple, inexpensive, and productive way to branch out into an established but complementary audience.
5. Paid search
Paid search marketing includes things like Pay-Per-Click, GeoMarketing, GeoFencing, banner ads, social media post boosts, and more. The main difference between the organic search strategy and the paid search strategy is that the latter requires you to pay for several different things. This includes every ad, every display, every visit, and every conversion.
Despite the fact that GeoFencing (targeting customers within a specific geographic location of your physical business) should currently take a backseat, you should still consider investing some of your marketing money in paid advertising. Start small, test out different ad copy, landing pages, and targeting to find the most cost-effective mix.
It may take a bit of time to optimize your paid ads, but you can gradually increase or decrease your spending based on actual results. It’s essentially a less risky method that can easily become more effective than traditional advertising over time.
6. Affiliate programs and third-party resellers
Some other channels that you can use include affiliate programs and third-party resellers like Etsy, Rakuten, Amazon, and eBay. This is a great way to showcase your products and services on established platforms to gain visibility, credibility, and additional sales.
Keep in mind that you will not be able to receive a hundred percent of each sale that you make using these channels. This is still potentially better than paying upfront for ads and can help attract a completely different audience that may not find you otherwise.
Which marketing channel is most important?
First and foremost, each and every single one of the aforementioned digital marketing channels is important in its own way. They all have their own purposes and benefits, but it’s up to you to determine which channel makes the most sense for your business. It’s also important to note that different digital marketing channels feed off each other, which can help make a single effort viable for multiple channels.
The best thing you can do is start with a market analysis to determine which platforms your customers favor. Then set specific goals, key performance indicators (KPI’s), and budgets for your digital marketing efforts. As always, you can fall back on your broader business strategy and forecasts if you’re unsure, and start by supporting current initiatives. The important thing is starting now because digital marketing and communications is here to stay and quickly becoming a priority.