For most entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses, the realm of the internet, social media and digital marketing is a world that is the sole preserve of big businesses with deep pockets, writes Ethel Nyembe, head of small enterprise at Standard Bank.
Nothing could be further from the truth however; digital marketing is for everyone, especially small businesses that have a product or service that is attractive to a customer base situated outside of their physical space.
The Internet allows small businesses to tap into global knowledge and networks, and provides a major step towards guaranteeing the sustainability of businesses. The internet also allows small businesses to tap into digital marketing opportunities which are an equal playing field for both small and big business to compete in.
The beauty of the digital marketplace is that people don’t have to know whether your business is a big or small business – or even where it is located. Online customers will most likely measure the business on their product or service, the quality of their offering and the service experience they deliver. Given that small businesses are often more responsive than large corporations, the chances of building a bigger, more faithful customer base of online customers is really good especially for efficient operators.
Small businesses should however ensure that their systems are equipped with the latest anti-virus and firewall software to prevent any security breaches. Many concerns about the security of online payments have been solved, and millions of customers are moving across to the internet because of accessibility and convenience.
In addition, small businesses that want to make the transformation to a national and even international customer base should consider developing their website to meet industry quality norms, writing their own blog on their website so as to position themselves as leaders in their respective fields, researching suitable social media platforms for their companies and owning that space, and engaging customers using online marketing tools such as emails alerting customers of special offers.
Digital marketing really should be considered as an integral part of the everyday marketing arsenal that is available to small businesses. Every time the business web site is accessed by a potential customer, this is recorded and tracked providing the business owner with an account on how often their site is accessed and even which products are viewed the most.
As with any marketing plan, it is advisable to consider all the digital marketing options available and then opt for those that offer the most value to the business. Small businesses should also consider their digital marketing strategy holistically, including identifying words that create search engine optimisation (SEO) for the company and its products.
It is also crucial that the digital marketing strategy is customer focused, and is easy for the end-user to navigate and to enjoy the experience. This may be the fine line on whether or not the business’ customer base stays or goes to the competition.