9 Ways to Market Your SMB Online

Small business marketing used to mean direct mailings, flyers, and postcards listing the latest deals, promotions and specials. As a kid, I would earn a nickel for every envelope I stuffed for my father’s insurance business and a few extra dollars if I sorted them by ZIP code before I gave them to him. I have a feeling today’s kids aren’t earning their extra change that way.

Because the Internet has changed all that. Today marketing your small business means doing things to help you gain visibility on the Web. It’s about reaching real-life customers through online portals and giving them a reason to come visit you in store. Below are 9 ways small business owners can market their businesses online. Ideally, you’re already doing a combination of these.

1. Search Engine Optimization

I was recently asked to share what I thought was the biggest mistake small business owners make with their websites. My answer was that they ignore search engine optimization. Whether you’re opening a restaurant, a hardware store or a consulting company, you need to invest in SEO. That means making sure your site is set up to be spiderable, that you’re going after the proper keywords, that you’re localizing your content, that you’re creating unique titles and meta descriptions and that you’re following SEO best practices. The importance of SEO to the success and visibility of your we site really cannot be overstated. It’s through proper SEO that customers are going to be able to find out about you. If they don’t know you exist, they can’t do business with you.

2. Social Media

Just because the focus is more on conversations and group chatting doesn’t mean that social media isn’t another important marketing channel for your business. Each time you send out a tweet, add a status update or post something on your company’s LinkedIn profile, you are marketing your business. You’re showing customers a new side of you, sharing the company viewpoint or giving them new insight into who you are. Over time, creating this relationship and constant visibility helps to brand your company in the eyes of your audience. You can also use social media to strengthen the marketing you’re doing offline.

3.  Local Listings

Claim your local listings. Claim your listing on Google Places, Bing, Merchant Circle, Yellow Pages, Yelp, FourSquare and on all third-party sites. It may seem like monotonous work, but it’s also very important work. Creating a variety of complete, accurate listings is your key to search visibility. Google, especially, is looking to make sure that the Joe’s Pizza Truck listed on Google Places at 123 Main Street is the same Joe’s Pizza Truck listed on Yelp at the same address. If you don’t know where you’re listed, where you’re not, or what your information says, use GetListed to find out.

4. Blogging

Blogging could really be listed up there with social media, but it’s so important I thought I’d break it out into its own category. As a small business owner, there are few better marketing vehicles at your disposal than creating a company blog. Blogging allows you to establish your authority in the market, gives customers a look behind the logo, and sets you up to create valuable content on a regular basis. The search engines love blogs for their fresh content, while customers love them to help connect with your brand.

5. Invest in Reviews

No, when I say “invest” I don’t mean that you should go out and buy reviews. But do work reviews into your business and sales process. Encourage people to support your business by leaving comments and testimonials on Google Pages, Yelp and whatever other review sites have influence in your niche. By encouraging this habit from your customers, you’re also helping to market your business at the same time.

6. Flickr

This past spring we covered four ways to market your small business with Flickr. Have you started? What, exactly, are you waiting for?

7. YouTube

The same way that users can tap into the power of Flickr, they can also tap into YouTube. By creating video content related to your business – whether it’s how-to videos, product videos or just a behind the scenes view of your business – you not only give yourself another way to market and connect with consumers, but you also boost your SEO power. The search engines love video. They love it so much that video is now appearing on the first page of many search engine results. By optimizing your title, description and tags, and building an engaged set of views, you can dramatically increase the number of people being exposed to your brand.

8. Email Newsletters

Email newsletters give marketers the opportunity to hit consumers where they’re most receptive – their inbox. Whether it’s to keep customers up-to-date on upcoming promotions, share informative articles or just share a bit of news, email newsletters are another powerful marketing tool for those that follow best practices.

9. Online Events

I love online events! I love them because they give business owners a way to connect with their fans and customers without ever having to leave the comfort of their own chairs. Getting involved in online contests, Twitter parties and other online events is a fun (and free) way to boost your brand’s marketing appeal.

Above are just a few ways for small business owners to market their businesses online. What have I missed?


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

11 Reactions
  1. Very happy that SEO is the first item mentioned. For small businesses, SEO has the most promise and long-term success. Social media, local listings, and blogging are my next three favorites and obviously I’m not alone.

  2. Regarding #5 about investing in reviews, this is often just a matter of asking your most loyal customers (you know, the ones who talk about you anyway) to give an honest review and giving them links to various platforms where you would like reviews. Just remember to make it as easy as possible for them.

  3. Leave comments and participate in forums. If you sell yarn, find a place online where people talk about knitting, then join the conversation. You don’t have to be selling, but just as with social media, you are networking and marketing. Look for blogs written by people who are your customers or blogs that your customers read and leave comments. Each comment or statement is like a little footprint in cyberspace, leading people back to your site.

  4. Before I decide on marketing “channels”, any Marketing, I want to “know my customer.”
    Their Lifestyle, their worries, habits, memberships, income, children, hobbies, type of employment; as much of the things that “make” this customer who they are, as I can.
    Reason? Only then can I begin to “profile” my Ideal Customer, leading to answering the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How of establihing a relationship leading to a loyal customer.
    THEN, I can recommend what Marketing Mix my client should pursue.

  5. I have to agree with Robert regarding #5 (reviews). If selling products, allowing customers to write a review right on the product page is huge. I find that having reviews to read on the product page play a role in my buying decision. It also adds unique content to your page and keywords you may not have thought of using, helping you rank better.

  6. Great checklist, thanks.

    I’d also say, don’t necessarily give up on some of those mainstay strategies from the days of your dad’s insurance company. In marketing, sometimes what’s old is new again. And it’s precisely because “no one else is doing it” that some of those strategies can be more effective than ever.

  7. Wish you would have expounded more on flickr, pretty good stuff in there. SEO still has to be first, followed by social media. Curious though why YouTube and flickr aren’t considered part of social media in your opinion? Blogging would also be more of content SEO strategy…

  8. Too many people focus on the words search engine optimisation and forget that the most important part of that is content. It is interesting to see that blogging is so much further down the list than SEO.

  9. I appreciate this article, both for the content and its concise explanations. As my business is just entering the world of social media and online marketing, this article was informative without being overly technical and too detailed.