The internet has done for SME marketing strategy what business cash advances have achieved for small business finance; it has opened up previously unavailable options.

Social media, Google keywords and viral video are low cost, high return techniques that allow smaller companies to grab as much attention as the big boys.  And they don’t need a budget reliant on a small business loan to achieve it!

Online marketing is a must when growing your business. However, it’s also possible to make bad investments and end up with a poor performing website. The smart money lies in the following marketing strategies:

Be mobile friendly

This should be the number one priority for all small businesses. According to Google, 93% of people browse the internet on their smartphones and tablets every day. Smart businesses know that their websites must work well on smaller screens or they’ll lose business.

Check your website on your phone. Is it hard to navigate? Are there too many parts missing? If the answer to either question is ‘yes’, your marketing spend should be devoted to revising your website. No other promotional activity is as important as this.

If you don’t have a mobile-specific site try to ensure your regular site is what is known as ‘responsive’. This means it is capable of adapting its size depending on the device it is being viewed on.

Social networking, not social selling

All kinds of companies, from sole traders to global businesses, are on Facebook and Twitter. Those who fare best understand the community concept behind these sites and spend time building a following rather than a customer base. Few people are interested in daily feeds on how products transform lives. However, you can engage people by posting photos, links and stories that are relevant to your audience. Tips, advice and humour go down well.

Even if you pay someone to build your Facebook and Twitter pages, it won’t cost much to establish your social network presence – but make sure that yours fits with your brand and customers. For example, LinkedIn is great for B2B while Twitter is excellent for sectors where there is constant change.

The cost lies in the amount of time that you need to devote to build a loyal following and integrate it with your website. Smart businesses will establish a promotional plan so that their social media activities remain effective and efficient.

Understanding ever-changing SEO

You don’t need to be a tech guru to get to grips with search engine optimisation and neither is it crucial to hire an expensive expert. SEO, as it is known, is used to help propel websites up the search engine rankings (usually Google) so they are more likely to be found by potential visitors and customers. The rules, though, can change quite quickly so your business needs to keep on top of latest developments.

It used to be easy for a website owner to get the attention of search engines by cramming their site content full of keywords, known as ‘spamming’. It didn’t matter if the text made sense or not; it was the frequency of the keywords that counted.

Thankfully, that has changed now. Essentially search engines want to display the most relevant website to the searcher’s query. So the best way to ‘do SEO’ is to have the best, fastest and most interesting website.

Factors such as keywords remain important but searchengines also look for the quality and length of content, how often it is updated and the quality of links from authoritative websites. Some quick ways to improve your SEO are:

  • Write a blog and keep it updated
  • Write guest posts for popular (and relevant) blogs
  • Post authoritative articles, with links to your site, on article directories
  • Comment on the forums on good quality blogs, including a link to your site

The impact of content sharing

The fundamental principle of social media is the sharing of content. However, smart businesses know that Google is using it to influence the search results that it produces. The more often your content is shared, the more Google will think that you are creating high quality content and the more it will reward you in search results.

Every time someone shares, comments or retweets your content it is seen as a vote of confidence or endorsement. If loads of people are consistently interacting with you then Google thinks ‘wow they must be doing something right – people love what they do’.

The smart move, then, is not only to write relevant copy but to make it useful or engaging enough for people to share within their social networks. The most effective content:

  • Tells people how to do things. If you can save them money or improve their skills, they’ll love you for it
  • Makes people laugh. A photo of a promotional board that offered customers a discount if they ordered in a Dalek voice or a free meal if they turned up in a Tardis was a hit on Facebook, constantly being shared
  • Gives people the chance to win something.

Niche marketing isn’t a new concept but applying it to social networking is. Targeting your content so that it’s more likely to be shared is part and parcel of operating a smart marketing strategy.