How to Create a Small Business Digital Marketing Plan

Digital Marketing PlanningA digital marketing plan is simply a plan that you will follow for a period of time to promote your business online. The idea behind creating a plan is sound, however deciding what to include can sometimes be daunting. The following will illustrate a simple online marketing plan that will fit most small company budgets.

This plan is aimed at business to business companies, usually in services area.  Digital planning for B2C will take a bit more work.

Decide on Your Budget & Time

Are you outsourcing your marketing or are you planning to run it yourself or in-house? Do you have enough time? How much free time do you have right now?

For professional services, like my company, I opt for the industry standard of 60% for work and 40% for marketing and sales. So I plan that two days every week are for sales and marketing. Understanding this breakdown helps set a realistic price for my services given that I will be working on client projects for only three days per week.

I estimate that most small business need to spend about €1,000 per month on advertising and marketing. Therefore if I have enough client work for 5 days per week rather than 3 it makes financial sense to outsource the digital marketing.  In addition if I can outsource I can spend more time becoming better at my own business rather than having to learn a new skill that may not be of great interest; for example I can prepare my own accounts, but it makes sense to outsource due to time, cost, and interest considerations.

Google Adwords, LinkedIn Ad, Facebook Ads

A correctly structured online advertising campaign normally has a positive return on investment within two months and an increase to cash flow with three months.

I suggest that at least €250 from the budget of €1,000 is used to advertise, more if the campaign produces immediate business.

Using Google Adwords allows you to see how many people are searching for your product or service each month in your service location.

When calculating the possible returns from advertising I am conservative before I have firm statistics. A reasonable expectation is 1% of referrals from ads will turn into customers. Therefore if your cost per click is €1, 2.5 customers are expected from the €250 monthly spend. However firm figures become available as you advertise and allow for better projections.

Setting up and running LinkedIn ads are very similar to Google Adwords. With LinkedIn I have had the most success targeting groups rather than targeting a geographical area.

I believe that Facebook ads are a waste of money for business to business service companies.

Search Engine Optimisation

SEO is an essential part of the mix for any digital plan. However it is suitable for some sectors better than others.

Having a correctly setup website is a must and therefore either a website audit or check is advisable. Google Adwords, above, uses a ranking system to decide which adverts appear at the top of the ad shown; this is called ad rank.

Part of the algorithm for ad rank is the quality of the landing page. Google will take into account the page copy and other HTML elements while calculating how much to charge you per click. It simply makes financial sense to have both your adverts and campaigns aligned to reduce as much as possible the cost per click.

Traditional SEO is the practice of achieving higher ranking in Google with the intention of gaining more converting traffic.

I suggest about €500 of the €1,000 per month be used for search optimisation. However the main problem with SEO is the lack of predictability and the time required before results are achieved. For a new business the risk is too high and the dip too long. Though established business can gain more business quite quickly.

Social Media

Plan Social MediaFor business to business social media is simply networking. I have two aims with my social media plan: network with others in the industry who will then recommend me or allow me to write on their website, showcasing my businesses products, services, and expertise.

While the lag between effort and results in SEO can be a couple of months, I find that it is usually longer in social marketing. 1,000 twitter followers or contacts on LinkedIn are not much use if they are not in my target market and if they are not buying from me.

Several years ago I decided to learn how to network off-line. Like most people I disliked walking into a room of people and introducing myself and starting conversations. I believed it was a skill I lacked, but one I could learn. I did not go looking for business, my one aim was to learn how to network.

I did learn and along the way I made some friends. I got to know people and I became interested in how they dealt with business problems, some of which I also struggled with. After about 6 months I started to get business from some of the group, but more importantly they referred others to me. At that point I knew I had learned networking.

I view social media in the business environment the same way. While on LinkedIn or twitter it is too easy to see the people who are just shouting me, me, me.

It is not easy to find somewhere online and then stick with it, helping others until you are seen as someone who can help and is referred to by others. For this reason I find that outsourcing social media for business to business service companies is almost impossible.

Once you find an area that is suitable for your business online social marketing the time can be limited to about 30 minutes per day. However expect a learning curve during the first few months.

Content Marketing

The above plan, so far, is suggesting €750 on SEO and Adwords, leaving €250 for content. There are a few reasons for producing content regularly and a few good places to either place or promote it.

Do you blog? Do you want to, do you have time?   Some blog posts, like this one, take a few hours to write; generally though my posts are inspired by the problems I deal with each day for clients.

Reasons for Producing Content

If a potential customer reaches my website and reads a post I have written I would like the content to illustrate my knowledge and expertise in my area.

If I write for another website, (again the same as above), I would like the other website to refer to my site and me. This increases my reach and rankings in Google’s search results.

I write on LinkedIn occasionally, I look for this to be shared and drive curious customers to my site.

If my website only contained my main services page I would have few pages on my website. The more I write on my blog the more areas I can target in Google where I know customers are searching.

Promoting Content

This is the main reason for social media for B2B service companies. The more widely shared my content the more likely Google will rank it higher, therefore more visitors to my website, resulting in more business – if the targeting is correct.

€250 can pay for between 5 and 10 good articles per month. I can then use 1 per week on my blog, 1 per month on LinkedIn and publish the others on websites from contacts I have made via social media outreach.

Email Marketing

I use both Aweber and Mailchimp. Collecting emails from your website visitors is easy to implement. Mailchip has a free plan for less than 2,000 mail per month and this is enough to get started.

I send two newsletters each week. Testing what content, subject lines, and images provide the most opens and clicks are a must.

Free give aways and emotive content works best for me. Include industry news and your recent blog posts.

Measure everything.

Google analytics and Google Webmaster Tools for website information, visitors, etc.

Record how many phone calls, ask where did you hear of us. Note online and email enquiries.

And most importantly – how many new clients, how much more business.

Putting It All Together

Focus on SuccessSetup Adwords: this has the potential to bring business right now and is therefore the most important.

Create a SEO plan and implement. This will increase ranking in search and lower the cost of clicks in Adwords.

Find a social group online and start using it every day. Look for the influencers in the group, aim to help.

If you are out-sourcing your writing, find a writer otherwise have a set time each day to write – I do this first thing at 7.30am.

Be prepared to stick with your plan for a reasonable period of time. There will be a dip while you are working hard and no results are forthcoming – this is normal, it takes a while.

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