11 Small Business Online Marketing Challenges and Solutions

by | Jul 11, 2017 | Digital Marketing | 0 comments

Small business online marketing doesn’t have to be difficult. Each day, small business owners must make decisions about how to spend their time and energy. Both when improving their business and progressing toward their goals. Many of these efforts get spent on the in’s and out’s of small business online marketing. Every small business owner faces unique challenges, depending on their skills and industry. They’re all required to wear many hats to make daily decisions. Especially when it comes to marketing. Some problems will be industry-specific and need subject-matter experts to find solutions. Some involve the management of staff to produce the results that the company is looking for.

Small Business Online Marketing

Some small business owners tackle these problems head-on and still find a balance in the daily operations of their company. But they still have to compete in the marketplace against other companies and win. Not only will they need to provide a better product or service than their competitors, but they will also have to do a better job of promoting their brand. Then also worry about converting their audience to customers better than their competition.
 
Most business owners mainly focus on the day-to-day operations of their company. So it’s not uncommon to fail at generating profitable marketing strategies. You may need to hire outside help to ensure success in local online marketing endeavors. We’ve made a list of the top 11 challenges small business owners face when it comes to promoting their branding using local online marketing. We also included some advice on how to address these issues, and still come out a winner.

11 Small Business Online Marketing Challenges and Solutions

  1. Explaining who their target customers are.
  2. Understanding what their customers actually want or how to provide it.
  3. Knowing how to turn their audience into customers.
  4. Being able to tell if their marketing is working for their business.
  5. Having enough time to think about marketing their business.
  6. Trusting marketing companies, so they’re hesitant to try new things.
  7. Keeping track of their results because they work in the business too much.
  8. Understanding how much they should spend on marketing and cost per acquisition.
  9. Knowing how to execute online marketing campaigns.
  10. Committing to the execution of marketing to see if a strategy is effective.
  11. Knowing where to start.

1. Explaining who their target customers are.

Small business owners usually have a good idea on the type of customers they have, as far as interests or demographics. But they may not realize how to better understand their audience, and how to gain even more customers with confidence. Being able to explain who your target customer is the foundation of small business online marketing. Many business owners think they must outspend their competitors to make an impact with marketing and advertising. In reality, focusing on customer service, while understanding those customers better than the competition, is more effective.
 
First, it’s important to cover all grounds that can be reasonably covered with little to no extra effort. This will ensure that all your “low-hanging fruit” customers are gained for the lowest cost, and with the most attention. Then, it’s important to have a good understanding of who your competitors are targeting. You can apply effective means (like remarketing) to try and get some of their potential customers in a cost-effective way. Finally, it’s important to go the distance and research the interests of your audience. This will help you understand them better than the competition. That will enable a small business owner to get new customers without stiff competition eating up their marketing budget.
 
A professional marketing services firm shows you how to develop different audience profiles, or buyer personas. This will allow you to reach each potential customer in a more meaningful way. If you only use one method of advertising, your potential customers may feel that their interests are not fulfilled. Or the selling point may not be well targeted to compel them to buy from your company. Here is where you can use A/B testing and engineered marketing experiments. You can discover what each type of customer will respond best to. Then provide that direct approach with each of them to have the most impact with your messaging.

2. Understanding what their customers actually want or how to provide it.

You have to envision what it’s like from the consumer’s point of view to see what your business is actually doing in the marketplace. The products or services that your company offers may be high quality, but your potential customers don’t know about your business. This may be the only reason that they wouldn’t pick up the phone and buy from you today. Your neither your company nor any of your competitors are offering what your audience actually wants. It’s important to ask them directly using surveys. Speak with them at events, conducting presentations, or use other outreach methods. Then you can gain an awareness of the customer’s needs better than your competition.
 
The products or services that your customers use may be good at solving their problems, but a competitor might still have an advantage. They might be offering extra features that improve the customer’s mood or satisfaction after a sale. Even if your business’ products and services are equal to the competition. The method of delivery, or how the customer feels about buying from you, can be the difference in making the sale.
 
The method of product delivery is also important. We can see a perfect example in Amazon’s 2-day free shipping, when competing with stores like Walmart. Although the product may be delivered later than the customer wants, the convenience of low prices when combined with a no-brainer free delivery scheme produces a tremendous amount of sales that companies like Walmart are missing out on. Even though the product is exactly the same, and may even cost the same, customers may prefer to “1-Click” shop and forget about it, rather than drive all the way to a nearby retail location to pickup the merchandise. Amazon has also begun working on a logistics network that provides shipments even quicker. Plus, allowing customers to pickup from a location near them as soon as it’s available.

amazon beating wallmart

Consider implementing unique value propositions along with your existing products and services. This can add some “icing on the cake,” and convince your audience to work with you instead of your competitors. Some of the smallest changes can have the largest impact. Especially when your market size includes thousands or millions of potential customers.

3. Knowing how to turn their audience into customers.

Most of your potential customers already know what they want. To get from point A (where they are now) to point B (where they want to go). Your products and services should align with the audience’s desire to be at point B. Your marketing message should inform them on how you can get them from point A to point B. Help your audience feel like they are closer to point B when buying from your company. This will increase the effectiveness of your sales and marketing strategy. This will also help with raising customer satisfaction. This process feels painless when compared to buying from your competitors.
 
Many small business owners think they have to be the only ones offering a product or service to get clients. As we have shown above, the experience of buying from your company is vital to satisfying a new customer. If it is smoother than your competitors, you will earn their business by adapting to the customer’s needs. Novel approaches like free add-ons or service upgrades can push an audience on-the-fence toward your side of the marketplace. That is, as long as your competitors aren’t offering something better. Even if something is a standard feature, highlighting these differences can be important. It helps potential customers distinguish your company’s offerings as they research their options.
 
Understanding why your audience isn’t buying can be as important as learning how or what they want to buy. Doing the research, and actually asking your audience what they want, may be the important step that no other competitor has taken. And for this, you will reap rewards. Have close connections with your potential customers and seeking to earn their business. It’s a much more effective approach than praying and waiting for sales to come in. Even if your products are awesome! Be sure to form connections with existing customers, and reach out to non-customers. Find out what makes them tick to see if they would actually prefer your company’s offerings.

4. Being able to tell if their marketing is working for their business.

Most small business owners know how to read their financial statements well. They are usually focused on increasing the bottom line throughout the company. Yet, many business owners may not have a system in place to understand exactly what is going on throughout the sales and marketing process. Or when prospecting for new customers.
 
We recommend adding Google Analytics and other data gathering tools for your website. This would help you better understand what is going on throughout the sales process. Learn how a customer decides whether to buy from your company. Google Analytics data can help small business owners see who is actually viewing their website and what they are doing. We firmly believe this is a superpower when it comes to marketing. Since Google already gathers and stores all the information that its users provide, they can also share these microdata elements with you. This help you understand their interests and demographics, as well as data about what these users are doing on the website itself.
demographic reporting in google analytics for small business owners

via Google Analytics Demographic Reporting

Gathering this data is very important to get the best view of what’s going on in your business. But it’s also necessary to make adjustments as you learn what makes your website actually convert visitors into customers. This could cut out negative aspects and further highlight the elements that work. Finding out that customers only buy within certain hours of the day may inform your strategy. Limit your advertising exposure to those specific buying hours. In turn, this can lower your costs and produce more effective results. If you discover that a particular page is never converting your visitors, remove it from a primary location on the home page. This will allow visitors to flow more naturally to the pages on your site that are converting leads. This reduces your bounce rate, while increasing your click-through rate. Both are important factors for an effective marketing strategy.

5. Having enough time to think about marketing their business.

If you’ve ever used the excuse “I haven’t gotten the time,” or “when I have a spare moment,” then you realize that there are more tasks than you can manage to keep your business running. Successful business owners know how to delegate and automate wherever possible. This makes the company more effective at accomplishing its goals. And in a way that leverages everyone’s strengths.
 
Since many small business owners either market their own business, or don’t do any marketing, there are many more advantages left on the table. Better processes can meet sales goals with less effort than traditional “hard work” methods. In the Information Age, we have the ability to leverage technology to help us. Even when it comes to spreading the word and promoting products and services online. Digital marketing leads to faster and larger company growth.
 
Some businesses have employees that focus on sales and marketing efforts. Others may outsource their marketing strategy to firms that specialize in these skills. If a small business owner doesn’t realize the best methods to use when marketing their business, it’s difficult to delegate those tasks to others. This needs to happen to maintain cohesion within the organization. It’s important to make sure that someone is dedicated to your marketing success. A business that ignores this aspect is not likely to grow as quick as they would like (or need).

6. Trusting marketing companies, so they’re hesitant to try new things.

Outside marketing agencies and firms can help many small businesses succeed online. They’re focused on operating these specific growth-oriented skills. But most companies don’t have the time or resources to devote to maximal success. Small business owners feel a sense of compromise when they decide to spend time developing their brand within their audience. And while analyzing the intricate details that drive the company’s sales. An advanced marketing agency can work with small business owners to inform them of these important details. Then, the company can remain focused on its priorities as it experiences the many challenges of accommodating growth.

digital logic team working on small business online marketing campaigns

Digital Logic team working in Shreveport, LA on client web design and SEO

A marketing agency with a poor track record or deceptive sales practices can promise the moon to small business owners. This often leaves them disappointed with the lackluster results. Deciding which marketing firm is most suitable to help your small business is a challenge in itself. But the things you should look for in a good marketing firm are:
 
Business Savviness. A marketing agency that doesn’t understand how to run their own business is not likely to positively affect yours. A smart business owner can spot another when they see it. This is a gut feeling that many small business owners feel like they should ignore when hiring a company outside of their own range of expertise. Smart business is good business, and you want a company with proven success to help your company grow.
 
Industry Expertise. Since you are the small business owner, you know your business better than anyone else. With so many competitors out there, it’s best to work with a marketing firm that’s been successful in helping companies in other locations, or even in your own market. This shared expertise can ease communication efforts. Then your interests will be understood and taken into account when a marketing strategy is being designed for your company.
 
Technical Skill Set. Working with a marketing agency that doesn’t have the ability to spread your message far and wide will not be able to deliver on their commitments. The competitive environment requires marketers to use the best available tools to collect and analyze data. Choose a company that proves they understand their industry. And one that’s committed to serving their own clients with the best tools available.
 
Strategic Alliances. As a small business owner, you know that networking is important for growing your company and solidifying your place in the community. When hiring a marketing company, you also gain the benefit of their network’s capabilities. This can be very helpful to a business seeking rapid growth. The best marketing agencies will have partnerships with other agencies and the companies that they work with. They should be able to deliver a service that is validated by an existing pool of interested parties.
 
Authenticity & Responsibility. The most difficult aspect of choosing a marketing agency is selecting one that acts with authenticity. And finding one that shares responsibility for your company’s success. A poor marketing company will not make guarantees to prove their commitment to your success. That’s because they cannot deliver to begin with. A marketing agency that has been around for some time understands the importance of reassuring their clients that their business is in safe, caring, and capable hands. A good marketing agency will prove this by sharing their concerns with you during the strategic planning process. This is to make sure they can deliver exactly what you are expecting.

7. Keeping track of their results because they work in the business too much.

Even small businesses that have marketing staff may not be keeping track of changes in their marketing efforts. They may not collect, see, or understand the data that is available. A professional marketing services firm knows how important acting on information is to the success of a growing company. They will want to share changes and evolving strategies with you to maintain the highest growth potential. This is done by a process of establishing KPIs, or key performance indicators, and measuring them over time.

Small business online marketing reporting dashboard by Digital Logic

Screenshot from Digital Logic client dashboard

Each company will have different marketing goals. For example, one company may benefit by having more and more visitors to increase their exposure in the market. Another company may need to work with a smaller market they are targeting in a maximally-effective way. That will ensure that each potential customer is treated with a high interest, because there are fewer opportunities. Other companies may find success in growing an active fan base through social media platforms. Another may make nearly all their sales through their regular emails to customers.
 
When working with a marketing agency as a small business owner, you will want to make sure that both perspectives of your company’s goals are clear. This is so you can get back to work on your business’ unique challenges. Establishing KPIs is a perfect way to create data channels that can be understood with regular reporting. You can spend a short time getting caught up on all available marketing data. Use that data to make important decisions about the future of your business.

8. Understanding how much they should spend on marketing and cost per acquisition.

Many small business owners look at online marketing like a huge hole in the ground. Like something they should throw “enough money” into, and pray that it returns through increased revenue. Some businesses are afraid to spend any money on marketing their brand at all. Whether they rely on “guerilla marketing” tactics, or spend a lot of time to do their marketing tasks “for free.” The thing that all business owners can agree on is that they want their money being spent well. They want their marketing expenses to return as greater revenue.
 
Email marketing campaigns can either be done internally, or by an expert marketing firm that handles thousands of emails per week. A marketing firm can leverage their insight to deliver the best email marketing campaign for a much lower cost. Pay-per-click online advertising can be done by “boosting” a Facebook post to increase awareness. Or a specifically-designed audience can be sent tailored messages to get the most conversions. Applying decades of expertise with marketing many different companies will provide new lessons about how the market actually works. Things that even small business owners may not realize are right in front of them as well!
small business online marketing vs traditional marketing

Via Seriously Simple Marketing Traditional vs Online

An expert marketing agency will understand the high need and high cost of marketing a business. And they will work to achieve the greatest benefit on the budget that’s available. Good marketing efforts will earn more revenue than the expense to cover them. Making sure that your marketing plan is tested for efficiency and success in key performance indicators will keep your costs low. This keeps your business growth at the forefront of your goals.

9. Knowing how to properly execute small business online marketing campaigns.

Even if small business owners take care of their own marketing efforts, they should still consult experts to gain awareness of the competition. They should also understand what advantages are available and what is being used against them in the marketplace. Competitors who have dedicated marketing professionals working to grow their brand are able to do far more to reach an audience than you can with fewer resources. You may need to spend even more resources to keep up with them. Or need to sharpen your campaign to achieve better results than other companies.
 
Earlier, we mentioned how delegation and automation are important to company growth for a small business owner. And few are better at automation tasks than some marketing professionals. So much of the communication that happens through digital sources is being automated. It’s often discouraging to see how much time and resources companies spend to keep up with advanced technologies. With a dedicated team of marketing experts, you can ensure that the regular processes being done for many competitors are matched. You’ll receive regular updates, which will add to your company’s bottom line.
 
When you work with an advanced team of marketing experts, you’ll find that strategic planning is often the most important factor in success with digital advertising. Use a cost-effective approach that takes into account what competitors are doing. Then, respond specifically to your customer’s demands. That strategy will be the most successful in the marketplace. Have a dedicated team working to ensure the growth of your KPIs. You will find your company outpaces your competitors quicker than unfocused efforts.

10. Committing to the execution of marketing to see if a strategy is effective.

As a small business owner, you should seek the advice from as many sources that are available to you. This will help you understand what others are doing in their companies and give you new or better methods to grow your business. Just because a strategy is recommended by an expert does not mean that it will succeed in its intended goals. With close attention to data collection and analysis, you can quickly respond to the market. This will shape your brand’s unique path to success within the market.
 
Even if you feel that you don’t have the time to focus on marketing your business, you should consider working with professionals. They can quickly and easily deliver the metrics and relay them to you in an understandable way. That way, your business decisions aren’t being made in the dark. When you’ve got the blinders on, you’ll be taking unnecessary risks with your time and resources. That method could allow competitors to gain significant advantages over your company.
Ryan working on campaigns while Seth bothers him for a blog picture on a small business online marketing campaign

Ryan working on campaigns while Seth bothers him for a blog picture

Since we have so much access to data in the information age today, it’s even more important to know what to focus on. Setting these focal points is something that our trained experts can help you do today. Using competitor data and previous experiences may inform your unique value proposition. Marketing success doesn’t happen overnight. Having the right metrics in focus and continuously collecting data is an effective way to keep up-to-date. This informs where your marketing strategy is heading, and allow you to adapt to new information to stay ahead.

11. Knowing where to start.

This is one of the most difficult challenges, but you can solve it! Start with the marketing activities that yield the highest returns with the least amount of effort. An automated and successful marketing system won’t happen without someone doing the input. Setting everything up can’t happen overnight, so you’ll need to start somewhere. Strategic planning with experienced marketing professionals provides a lot of information on how to proceed in your company’s online marketing efforts. This is done by actually understanding how the existing market is operating, instead of venturing out in the dark.
 
Remember that you’ll need to discover your key performance indicators (website traffic, phone calls, online sales, lead forms). Then, you need to develop a system to not only collect information, but to put in place any changes as time goes on. An in-depth strategic planning session can offer this full perspective for the small business owner. You should instead focus on developing the products and services that make their company great. The best marketing efforts share with the world your passion for delivering excellent products and services to your customers. And in a way that will help you gain even more customers based on the cost of acquisition.
 
Start by executing your tailored marketing strategy. Then you can focus on the key metrics that will inform you of your business health. Along with tracking performance, according to those desired results. Some methods will be surprisingly effective, where not much consideration was originally given to the idea. Other “sure fire” marketing strategies will fail with a difficult or unconventional audience. Keep all your options on the table, but limit your focus to the methods that provide your largest ROI. From there, you will see growth increase month after month and year after year.
 
Here are some effective ways that you can start doing online marketing your small business today:
  • Setting up a Google search campaign is extremely directional in nature. This means that people are taking the initiative to search specifically for what you have, and then click on your website. Using keyword research tools and website data, you can understand what makes your visitors “tick.” Then you can provide them more of what they already want.
  • Using Local SEO. Run an audit on your website to make sure you’re indexing on search engines for the keywords that you should be showing up for. There are many aspects to ranking websites on search engines. But you should first gain an awareness of where your business stands online before developing a plan to improve its positioning.
  • Create a blog and try to post on it weekly. A solid content marketing plan will help your business get more visibility on search engines and social networks. That provides more access to potential customers you weren’t able to reach before.
  • Setup, claim and verify all your social media profiles for your business. This means Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google Business, Twitter. This is very important, because you will want to control what people see when they search on Google for your business. Have a profile on each of the major social media platforms to control what’s shown on Google and Bing search results for your business name.
  • Hire a professional online marketing company (like us)!

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