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Finding the best small business marketing strategies isn’t easy.
But what if you don’t have a massive budget?
Or, maybe you’re a small business owner who doesn’t have in-house marketing expertise.
The good news is you can get started small.
And a key step in that journey is learning more about the biggest digital marketing channels: Search and Social.
In this post, Lulalend’s digital marketing experts, Stacey Vermaak, and Michael Rampjapedi, discuss how to use these platforms to grow your business online.
Small business marketing strategies: search and social
Search and social are the cornerstones of most small business marketing strategies.
No matter what industry you’re in, chances are your customers are online.
It’s estimated South Africans spend more than 9 hours a day online, according to this report.
Vermaak explained the main differences between social media and search:
“The fundamental difference between the two is the basis of their targeting: how you tell each platform who you want to speak to.
“For search, this is based on keywords that tell Google what search terms you want your business to show up for; you are targeting people who are already looking for what you do or sell. For social media, you tell Facebook, or even LinkedIn, which types of people you want to show your ads to based on who your customer is and what their interests are.”
Search is an “always-on” types of media, explained Vermaak. This means your marketing is always visible to people searching for your business 24/7. This is because your audience is self-renewing; as new people start looking for your business or it’s products you want to be visible as long as you are profitable when including your ad spend.
In addition, both platforms allow you to narrow or expand your targeting based on age, gender, location, and device.
You can even include how your audience has interacted with your business before. And this targeting will help you to get better performance from your campaigns.
“For both, you need to install conversion tracking or use UTM tagging to understand if your campaigns are making you money. However, understanding the primary targeting for each allows you to understand the fundamentally different ways the two work.”
Setting up your small business in search
Getting started with building your presence in search begins with finding the right keywords, said Vermaak.
Rampjapedi added that you could use a free tool like Google’s keyword planner to find the right keywords.
Once your campaigns are live, it is very important to compare your keywords with your Google Adwords’ search query reports. These reports are available in your account and detail what searches are triggering your keywords, allowing you to expand or refine your targeting.
“These things will help you be visible for the most relevant searches that make your business money. Using your search query reports to refine what searches you are visible for becomes even more important to avoid wasted money and to help you achieve Return on Ad Spend (ROAS),” said Vermaak.
Once you start developing ads, you should make sure they’re relevant to your customer’s needs.
“Your search term should match what you are selling, which should match your advert (or organic result or business listing) and this should match the page you send a user to. When optimising your advert you are working to tell a searcher why your product is right for them.
“You want to give them as much information as possible so that they are hopefully clicking through to find the product or service they need,” said Vermaak.
Rampjapedi said it was worth hiring a professional to set up your website to make sure your technical SEO was correct.
This included, making sure:
- Google could index your website pages
- Your site is mobile-friendly
Missing this step could hurt your rankings. “When SEO is setup correctly this allows you to use Google Adwords DSA campaigns”, said Vermaak.
Using Facebook to find new customers for your small business
Most businesses are on Facebook. And it makes sense why.
By 2023, it’s expected 19.8 million South Africans will use Facebook, according to Statistia.
Vermaak said approaching FB was different:
“For Facebook, you are looking for the right audience targeting that finds the people who are looking for, and engage with, your product. Facebook has a lot of targeting options from interests to demographics that you can use to define and test users.”
Consider using customer information in other ways to reach new customers.
“You should at least test remarketing to offline customer lists, site users, site converters, page and advert engagers, and test acquiring new customers using similar audiences based on each of these.
“What this means is your primary targeting is a group of people who generally remain fairly consistent. The goal is to find the audiences that work for your business.
Because the audience remains fairly consistent, you should be creative with your content.
“You need to be constantly changing up and testing your messaging, with images, videos, and carousel ads. Consider combining ads featuring different campaigns, products and messaging. Invest in boosted posts to keep the audience engaged. “
“This is very different from paid search which is generally a self-renewing list as new people come into the market for your product or service.”
Looking for more on small business marketing? Read 5 digital marketing strategy tips here.
This article is part of our Open for Business campaign, a drive to set South African SMEs up for success when they re-open during the lock down.
If you are trading in these uncertain times and need funding to really get your business going, Apply Now for instant access to funds from a credit facility that increases as your business recovers.
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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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Are you unsure about how to run your business during COVID-19?
You aren’t alone.
Business owners tell us they’re feeling uncertain about the future.
That’s why we partnered with the National Small Business Chamber (NSBC) to create this Back to Business guide for South African SMEs.
You’ll find a collection of resources that will help you:
- Develop a COVID-19 workplace plan
- Boost your cashflow
- Communicate with staff and customers
- Market your SME during COVID-19
This guide is part of our Open for Business campaign, an initiative to help get your business again thriving during COVID-19.
For the full guide, click here.
Open for Business will be supporting your business growth with:
- Tools to help you assess and forecast your business trajectory
- Content and guides to upskill and empower you
- Extra marketing support from our in house team
- Fast and flexible access to business funding
For more on the Open for Business campaign, read this blog post
Want to increase your marketing? Submit your SME to our Open for Business listing. It’s free and takes only a few minutes. Add your business here.
Still need help getting back to business?
Here are a few Open for Business articles that might help you:
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Back in primary school, as her classmates jostled all around her on the playground, Boitumelo Moroe was getting ready to start her first business.
“From a young age, I fully understood the value of money and profit. I was that school girl always finding something to sell, from cupcakes, lemonade to beads.”
But, after matriculating, Moroe stepped away from entrepreneurship and followed a more traditional path: enrolling in university and earning her degree.
Once she graduated, Moroe started working a corporate job.
Up until that moment, Moroe’s career embodied modern, professional success: she had a great position in a big corporate and all the benefits it provided.
But it wasn’t long before she realised she could no longer ignore the yearning to go out on her own.
She was ready to take the leap.
“The desire to set my own limits and to get out of the comfort zone propelled me to be an entrepreneur. Armed with a vision and belief in thyself, I left the glamorous corporate world, and in a flash, I was back at it.”
That’s when Moroe founded ECU Express, an automotive electro-software company.
And she’s never looked back.
ECU Express specialises in the diagnostics, repairs, replacements, and programming of electronic control modules, the on-board computers in cars.
The company solves that universal problem shared by frustrated vehicle owners: finding quality parts at reasonable prices.
“We regard ourselves as the ‘vehicle gurus’—solving complex vehicle problems daily. Our aim is to offer affordable yet quality automotive solutions to our clientele by bridging the gap between expensive brand new products and parts bought from scrapyards, mostly with no guarantee. Our customer base ranges from dealers, workshops, bush mechanics to individuals.”
For Moroe, ECU Express is far more than just a business.
Her work is challenging, rewarding, and unpredictable, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The thrill and challenges that come with being in the automotive software industry are second to none. I enjoy waking up and not knowing what direction my day is going to take. I enjoy being able to get my hands dirty (in a sophisticated way, of course), whilst wearing heels. I enjoy hearing an old lady saying that her car has started after it wasn’t running for eight months. I enjoy keeping abreast of the new developments made in automotive electro-software engineering and breaking new ground.”
Her advice for aspiring young entrepreneurs is simple:
Don’t delay your business dream.
“You are better off initially running with an idea than waiting for the perfect idea. That’s something I sometimes struggle with because of my perfectionist personality.”
She encourages young people to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions confidently.
Moroe admits this isn’t always easy in a world that frowns upon failure.
“With time and effort, the idea will turn into a good idea; and with continued passion, the good idea will turn into the perfect idea. It is OK to fail and make mistakes because through failure we are simply ‘failing forward’ one step at a time. As an entrepreneur, you need to continuously bulldoze your way in – be loud, be unashamed and grab what’s yours.”
Giving young people the tools they need to become successful entrepreneurs starts at school, said Moroe.
“I am a firm believer that quality education can alleviate poverty in our country and reduce the staggering youth unemployment rate of about 53%. Let’s start with the basics – our educational system should be equipping children with entrepreneurial skills while they’re still at school.”
She thinks of entrepreneurship as a safety net; a set of skills a person can draw on at any time to generate an income for themselves and their families.
“This would mean that should such children, at any point in their lives, find themselves unemployed, they don’t play the pity game but instead know how to use the opportunities around them and turn them into a business idea. The government has done well with the number of youth incubation programs and funding in place but more can always be done.”
Though society celebrates the lifestyles of entrepreneurs, it’s not always easy. But the rewards make it worth it, said Moroe.
“Whenever the going gets tough, I always remind myself how far I have come – from trying to prove my worth in a male-dominated industry and standing out whilst at it, to the sacrifices I’ve had to make – and how much further I am yet to go.”
There might be challenges along the way, but Moroe simply rejected failure as an option a long time ago.
“Once you make a decision to jump into the ocean, you can only stop swimming when you get to the shore—quitting is never an option. You need to soldier on and keep focused on the dream. It is vital for one to continuously reconnect with the vision, which is something I do daily with my morning chants.”
Trevor Gosling, Lulalend CEO and co-founder, said young people had an important role to play in growing the economy and adding jobs.
“Every day we see young people who are going out and changing the world. It’s up to us to give them the support they need to do that. That’s why we’re so proud to back young business owners like Boitumelo.”
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PR is an ideal way to spread the word about your small business.
That’s why we’re giving a R10 000 PR package to the winner of this year’s SANTAM Women of the Future Awards.
We’ve partnered with CN&CO to offer the prize.
Below, CN&CO’s Colin Ford writes about how you can generate PR for your SME.
How to Generate PR for Your Small Business
Public relations is a form of information management that gets public exposure for your brand or product line and/or for yourself as a business owner. PR can help to shape the credibility of your brand and the way people perceive you and your business.
The main purpose of PR is to share your message with the appropriate audience without having to pay for placement. Once you pay, it’s called advertising, and that’s an entirely different topic.
The effective use of PR can benefit your brand enormously and help you to grow relationships with the media and, ultimately, with your customers.
Here are a few tips for doing good PR:
1.Tell good stories
This might seem obvious – but remember the word “good” is extremely subjective. What you think is interesting or important might not be everybody’s cup of tea. You need to find angles that are newsworthy and tell stories that your consumers want to hear. And remember to keep it simple. The more streamlined and snappy your message is, the more likely it is to be remembered.
2. Choose the right media for your brand
Find out what media your customers consume and focus your energies there. Many business owners want to be seen on the front page of the Sunday newspaper, or be interviewed on talk radio by the financial guru simply because those are the media they themselves consume. Remember, your customers might not have access to the newspaper, or even listen to talk radio. The right medium could be a local knock-and-drop newspaper or a popular blog. It all depends on what you’re selling, who you’re selling it to and what your message is.
3. Build relationships
PR is a process; you need to work on building relationships both with the media and with your customers. Ultimately you want to become the person journalists call when they need information in your particular field of expertise. These relationships can take years to build. Be patient, be honest, be dependable and always be available.
4. Integrate with your marketing strategy
There’s no point saying one thing in your PR and another on, for example, your social media. Make sure your message is consistent across your advertising and communication platforms so as not to confuse your audience – or yourself!
5. Call in the experts
If you don’t feel comfortable or confident dealing with the media, speak to an experienced PR agency and see what they can do for you. A well-placed article or quote in a respected newspaper, magazine, radio station or blog can do wonders for both your business’s brand and your own.
For more on the Women of the Future awards, read Lulalend’s blog about the competition.
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On 1 June, the COVID-19 national lockdown shifts to level 3. This means more sectors can get back to work.
If your SME will start trading again, you’ll need to follow rules to keep your staff safe.
In this guide, we’ve collected everything you need to know about trading during Level 3.
This guide covers:
- Who can trade
- What you need to trade
- Useful COVID-19 resources