Digital marketing essentials for small company owners

digital marketing

As a start-up, it’s crucial that you have a plan to connect with your target audience. And nowadays it’s all about how you do this online, or even on your mobile.

Thus, implementing a digital marketing campaign is one of the key steps in building a strong online presence. As a start-up with a restricted budget, you will have to be imaginative and creative.

Here, digital marketing expert Lucy Smith outlines the five basic marketing strategies every start-up should have.

Optimise your website

With billions of users across the world, the Internet is the primary tool to build and promote your business. Start to think of Google as your friend.

To optimise your website, you need to focus on Search Engine Optimisation –SEO-. The purpose of SEO is to make sure your content is visible to people who are looking for it. SEO requires you to define a set of keywords that you think users will be searching for when looking for your product and then using those keywords methodically across your site.

As a rule, you should put your keywords in page titles, page descriptions, image names, headings, links, body text, and, do not forget your page URL! The most important thing when using keywords is that the content should be readable and make sense for your users. So better to leave out a keyword if it doesn’t make sense than shoehorn it in.

There are loads or articles written about SEO on the Internet, if you don’t know where to start, either get professional help or invest in some training if you want to do it yourself. SEO is a long game but is well worth the investment if done right.


Blogging is the name given to regularly updated posts on a range of topics from beauty to home improvements and recipes. People use them for personal use as an online diary or a way of getting their writing seen. For businesses, they are a fabulous tool for promoting products, brands or just getting their name out there. By explaining what their product is and how it can solve a problem many suffer from their brand gets exposure. For example, a homeowner wanting to improve their energy efficiency might enjoy reading a blog post about the benefits of new thermally insulating windows. This is how businesses get their products noticed.

Other types of blogs are intended to be shared via social media and entertain such as topical news events and top 10 lists; these don’t even have to be about a particular topic. These are good examples of traffic blogs; serving the purpose of getting more visitors to the website. For example, a company based in London might want to write a list of the top 10 things to do in London even though they aren’t a travel company or attraction. This gets traffic to their site and serves a purpose that readers will enjoy. Blog sections are also a great way to promote new stories, for example, a new product or an anniversary of an employee. This adds a personal touch to the brand.

By creating a blog, you introduce a stream of regular and unique pieces of information that search engines recognise as new and updated, without needing to expand the website. Every time a blog is published, search engines crawl and index the new page (list it in the search engine results). With more potential landing pages on the website, this creates more ‘organic’ traffic.

Consider using Adwords

Organic search as covered in point 1 can help you get visibility on a search engine results page for free. However, if you are just starting up and you need traffic now. Or you want to discover which keywords will deliver you the right sort of traffic you can consider using Adwords.

Adwords is Google’s paid advertising product and the activity is often called PPC – or pay-per-click advertising. That’s because as the advertiser you pay each time someone clicks on your ad.

At the very beginning of your business life before your website is appearing for your own company name it can be useful to run a brand campaign to ensure that you have a presence at the top of the search engine results page.

Many businesses run brand campaigns to ensure that the whole of the search page is dominated by links to their site for their brand terms.

In this example, you can see that Crazy Egg is listed top organically, but they are also bidding on their brand term, “Crazyegg”. Their ad is the second ad. If they weren’t bidding on their brand term then Hotjar, their competitor, would appear top and there would be a 50/50 chance of which link got clicked on. In this example, CrazyEgg increases its chances by having 2 links (one paid and one organic).


Other types of campaign include lead generation where you might run ads that provide a free guide or whitepaper in exchange for the users’ email address. Or Google Shopping if you are an ecommerce business where you can show an image of the product you have for sale. Paid search may not be right for your business, and I’d advise getting professional help when you first start out to get a sense of the market and what can be achieved before you spend lots of money on advertising.

Read our dedicated guide to using Google Adwords.

Be active on social media

Social media is a no brainer for most start-ups. It gives you an instant online presence in more places than just your website and a multitude of platforms upon which to make your name, perform customer research, chat to your customers and much more!

There are some major differences between the platforms and what they are used for. Get this wrong and your hard work and time could go down the drain:


The value on Twitter is the possibility that your post could go viral and make a sensation. The more people who re-tweet your post the more followers you will get. It’s typically used to post newsworthy articles and business updates. Be sure to include hashtags in your posts so they get picked up more and re-tweet other people’s posts. You will get noticed like that and start to form mutually beneficial relationships. I tweet you – you tweet me!

Read our dedicated guide to using Twitter to market your business.


The value on Facebook is the audience size. With over 2 billion users worldwide no other platform can match its reach. Facebook should be used to engage with fans and customers. Chat to them, get to know who they are. Join groups and make a fuss of your loyal fans. Because of the huge amount of data that Facebook owns you can also use Facebook to find more people who look like your ideal customer – known as “lookalike audiences”. Unsurprisingly these customers will react to your brand more favourably than an unknown user.

Read our dedicated guide to using Facebook to market your business.


If your brand is visual and beautiful, then Instagram is without doubt the place to be. It’s all about brand building, and not much else. You can’t link back to your website to drive traffic, but you can be creative.

We use Instagram to post stories (short videos) about what we get up to in the office and cover any events we may attend. We also run Insta-grad takeovers where the grad takes over our Instagram account for a block of 6.


If your business is B2B then LinkedIn is, without doubt, the place to be seen and heard. Like Facebook, you can join groups and engage with your target audience by chatting to them. They are essentially a huge free database of business contacts. You can use their search feature to find companies and individuals at companies and then start a conversation. Again, the best way to be on LinkedIn is natural and authentic. Be interested in the person, ask to have a business conversation about how you may help each other.

Read our dedicated guide to using LinkedIn to market your business.


YouTube is owned by Google and is the second largest search engine. So, it’s always worth considering YouTube as part of your marketing mix.  And when it comes to SEO videos are more likely to appear in search results than text content.

As a start-up social media channels are an essential ingredient in your marketing mix and they can dramatically increase your footprint in the business world.

Create a newsletter

Now that you have some traffic and interest in your business why not write a newsletter for your loyal following?

Writing a newsletter that contains useful, relevant and free information can be a wonderful marketing tool. Your web users who are interested in the products that you offer may sign up to receive your newsletter because they want to hear more.

So, it’s vital then to provide the customer with more of what they want. Be very specific and generous with the information they want, and you will increase that loyalty. A good example is Hung Lee and his BrainFood newsletter.

Hung provides the recruitment community to links of everything going on in the world of recruitment including useful hacks and tools to use to help grow their recruitment businesses. He keeps it conversational and never promotes his own business.

Because it’s so good I look out for it and want to read it each week because I know I will learn something new. It’s real value to me.

Digital marketing has dramatically changed the way we operate. Therefore, a good digital marketing strategy could set your start-up apart from the rest. You need to get it right. It’s not rocket science, but it does require some hard work and a real and authentic understanding of your audience.

None of that pretending you care – your audience will know.

Further Information

This guide was kindly written for us by Lucy Smith. Lucy is founder of DigitalGrads a platform that trains graduates in digital marketing and then connects them with employers..

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