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Introduction to digital marketing

In our fast-paced world, digital marketing offers SMEs the opportunity to reach more people very cost-effectively. With a professional looking corporate identity and good photography, there are things you can be doing right from the word go without spending lots of money.

You may choose to access some help with some of these things, especially if you’re not particularly ‘techy’, but the reality is that with a little knowledge you can make things happen digitally!

First social media – there are a number of different social media outlets, some appropriate for business-to-business, some more business-to-consumer oriented, so choose wisely and if you’re unsure, start with one and see how you get on before setting up an account with all of them. LinkedIn is the most appropriate for business-to-business organisations for example. This is your shop window, so make the most of it, complete your profile as fully as you can and on LinkedIn seek testimonials from customers as it helps to build the picture. Once your profile is set up, LinkedIn offers you a way of publishing articles, so that you can share information in-depth.

Facebook is a great place to start if you’re running a business-to-consumer company. However, you should realise that customers have expectations of a very speedy response from you to any questions asked. According to a study by Nielsen, 56% of people would rather message a business than call customer service and 67% expect to message businesses even more over the next two years. Facebook Messenger does include some tools to help manage customer enquiries in a speedy way but be prepared, customers will ask questions all day and all night 365 days of the year. Facebook also allows you to create events and groups so that you can build a community of customers.

If you are offering a product or service that is particularly photogenic, then Instagram is the one for you. This is an ideal forum for artistic photography to help you spread your message. Twitter is particularly good for contacting and engaging with journalists and Pinterest, like Instagram, works well for inspiring people to look at your products and allows you to link photographs through to your website. The important thing to remember is that social media should be just that ‘social’, so the tone of voice should be casual and it should feel like you’re having a chat with a friend, not trying to sell someone something. All social media has analytics tools available for business accounts, so make sure you evaluate how you’re doing and that you shape future posts by learning what has gone down well before.

Even with the new GDPR regulations which came in on 25th May, email marketing is a powerful tool and a great reminder to customers you may not have heard from for a while that you are still there! First, you need to ensure that you have an opted-in database if you’re contacting people who haven’t enquired about you or purchased from you before. One way of collecting opted-in email addresses is to include a contact form on your website so that people who want to receive news can sign-up. Customers with whom you have a contract will expect to hear from you, and unless they specifically unsubscribe from email marketing, will usually be happy to be kept in the loop. There are emailing tools like Mailchimp which are really useful for keeping track of unsubscribers and you can create a professional looking email newsletter for free if you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers on your list. The beauty of email marketing is that you can see exactly who has opened your email, who has clicked on links and who has taken action as a result of your email, so evaluating a campaign is easy.

A web presence of some sort is essential these days and is generally best produced by a professional, but if you are not looking for specific functionality, it is possible to set up your own for free using something like which is a blogging platform.  Talking about blogging, that’s another way of getting your message out there to the wider world. If writing is your thing, then creating some unique content about your product or service, or related topics can help encourage interest in your business.

Digital business advice, workshops and technology grants are available through the Digital Growth Programme.