The COVID-19 pandemic is changing your customer’s behaviour.

Studies show more people are shopping online than before the pandemic.

And statistics reveal climbing internet traffic since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown in March.

But does this all what does this all mean for your SME?

If you’re doing business during COVID-19, you need a digital presence.

Now, this was true even before the pandemic.

But right now social distancing and changing lockdown levels keep us physically separated. You need to be able to reach your customers online at any time.

Let’s find out exactly how you can do that.

5 Tips for setting up your SME’s digital marketing strategy

Many business owners who added their SMEs to our Open for Business listing told us they had started operating online over the past few months.

But it can be overwhelming if you’re not sure how to get started.

In this post, Lulalend’s digital marketing experts share their tips to help you get your business in front of your customers online.

1. Develop your brand message

Before you go online, you need to define what makes your business stand out.  If you have not done this  already, then it should be the first step in building out your digital marketing strategy.

Michael Rampjapedi, digital marketing manager at Lulalend, said a competitor analysis could help create your brand’s unique messaging.

“Identify potential competitors and differentiate yourself. Based on your product, understand how you’re providing value and how you’re different.”

In this article for Hubspot, Kathryn Wheeler writes about the role of a memorable brand identity that becomes the face of your business and builds credibility and trust.

Keep two questions in mind when you’re developing your messaging, suggest Wheeler:

  • What makes your business unique in your industry?
  • What can you offer your customers that others can’t?

“And don’t forget that you already know your product and customers probably better than anyone.  Start there and build out”, says Stacey Vermaaak, growth marketing consultant at Lulalend.

2. Don’t copy your competitors

Now, while it’s a good idea to understand what your competitors are offering, you should avoid copying other companies, said Rampjapedi.

“You don’t know the internal metrics your competitors are using. They might be appearing first in Google search ads, but they might be losing money. Their bidding strategy might be different.”

Your competitors may have a bigger advertising budget and different goals, said Rampjapedi.

“Their mission might be to dominate market share in search. As a new business who wants a profit, you can’t be that aggressive if you are not profitable on that sale or on lifetime value.”

Adopt a similar approach to content creation.

While a tool like Buzzsumo can show you the most popular content for each topic, you should remember that those sites might be established, so have an existing audience and strong credibility.

Instead, pay close attention to your own results.

Monitor your web traffic using Google Analytics and study engagement on social media.

Most platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, offer built-in analytics. Using this data you can discover the content that’s connecting with your audience.

3. Get professional help

Managing your online presence can be daunting.

  • Which platforms should you choose?
  • How much money should you invest?

Here’s where a little bit of professional help can make all the difference.

Vermaak, suggested hiring an expert or agency to set up your business’s Google Adwords and Facebook Ads account, even if you plan to run these yourself.

“An upfront investment in professional help can save you a lot of money in the short and long term.”

“Be upfront and explain that this is your plan. This allows you to get your Adwords account structure and all of your tracking set up correctly. The agency or provider will also educate you during calls and meetings so that when you do take over you waste less time and money.”

“This advice will leapfrog your knowledge and help you hone in on the information and campaigns that are important to your business” advised Vermaak.

Rampjapedi said some agencies offer free introductory consultations. Consider finding an agency that specialises in your niche, e.g., e-commerce or business to business.

4. Create quality content

There’s a lot of content out there.

According to Internet Live Stats, each day:

  • Bloggers write two million posts
  • People upload 35 million photos to Instagram
  • Twitter users send 322 million tweets

Fortunately, you’ll set yourself apart if you create quality content that responds to your target audience’s questions.

Rampjapedi encouraged SMEs to use Google’s free Keyword Planner to discover the kinds of questions people were asking in their online search. Next, create content that responds to those questions.

Other free tools you can use, include:

Finally, when putting together the content plan for your digital marketing strategy listen to your own customers. Which questions do they frequently ask you? What are people talking about in industry forums

5. Run small tests, keep track and get better.

And once you’re ready to launch your campaign, you should start small, said Vermaak.

“Have a test goal in mind – think about how much you are willing to pay for a lead/ sale based on conversion rates and costs. Then take a small budget, look at your targeting options, see how one campaign does vs. another platform or other targeting. When you start with a small budget, you also give yourself space to iron out the kinks. What happens when an online order comes through? Call those people and learn about their experience, make it better. Focus on the path to conversion. Can it be simpler, faster, clearer?  If it can you will save money on your acquisition costs.”

If you’re still looking for marketing help, check out these resources:

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