At first glance, digital marketing seems fairly simple: just post a few photos on social media and wait for the new customers to reach out. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Developing an effective digital marketing program for your small business requires time, research, and a clear understanding of your ideal target audience. In this episode, Jon Aidukonis and Gene Marks, along with INGroup Creative co-founder and owner Jeannette Dardenne, discuss how small business owners can launch a successful digital marketing campaign.

Executive Summary

0:39—Today’s Topic: How Do I Develop an Effective Digital Marketing Program for My Small Business?

1:43—Digital marketing is essentially promoting your business through various online channels in a way that engages both your existing and potential client base.

2:23—Before you create a digital marketing strategy, you need to define your target market. Once you establish this, you should test out which marketing channel best serves you and your audience.

4:02—To determine which platform your audience uses the most, start with a few posts on different social media channels and observe which ones generate the biggest response.

5:29—Regardless of which channel you use, it’s important to use specific keywords that pertain to your business. These keywords will not only solidify your brand, but they will also drive more traffic to your homepages.

7:15—As a small business owner, you need to have some insight into your consumers’ needs. Only then can you use digital marketing to present yourself as the answer to all of their problems.

8:02—The primary challenge of digital marketing lies in standing out against your competition and making sure that your business is the first one that search engines share when a potential client needs your services.

9:10—Marketing tools and materials that can be utilized on multiple channels are the best investments because they will enable you to reach a larger audience.

11:01—If you’re still hesitant about investing in a large digital campaign, start small with some inexpensive posts on a few digital channels.

12:45—Keep in mind that consumers may need exposure to your business on multiple platforms before they recognize your brand. This is one of the benefits of setting aside a larger budget for mixed digital marketing.

15:26—Don’t be afraid to reach out to digital content producers who can amplify your brand by providing you with exposure on their channels.

17:19—Consistency is the key to effective digital marketing; if one strategy fails, keep trying others until you find one that works for you.



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Jon: Hi everyone and welcome back to another episode of Small Biz Ahead, the small business podcast presented by The Hartford. This is Jon Aidukonis, one of your co-hosts. Joined by Gene Marks and a very special guest today, Jeannette Dardenne. The co founder and owner of INGroup Creative. How’s everyone doing today?

Gene: Jon, I’m doing fine.

Jeanette: Fantastic.

Jon: Jeannette is doing fine too. You’ve got lots of questions to ask. I’m going to step in the background here and let you fire away. Great topic today on digital marketing.

Gene: Awesome. Jeanette, thank you so much for joining us. For our listeners, you might remember Jeanette being on the podcast about a year or so ago when we talked a little bit about how you can kind of get out and do some local community involvement in PR for your small business. Excited to have you back and thanks for the time.

Today I think we want to dive right in. One of the topics that comes up a lot is questions on how people can get the word out about their business. Oftentimes the conundrum is how do I activate on digital channels to be effective, to actually drive some level of business results and how do I know that it’s working? Is it enough to just do some paid social media? What do display ads mean? How do we kind of get in front of people on their devices, especially in such a new world where maybe more traditional kind of channels, like things like out of home or linear TV don’t quite work the same and probably aren’t as cost-effective for the everyday business owner. Really keen to get your thoughts on how someone can kind of think about a digital marketing program and how they can take some steps to put that together.

Jeanette: Absolutely. I think one of the biggest things about digital marketing is people often get confused really what it is. What is digital marketing? People think, oh, it’s just I’m going to pull up something on a website and see a few advertisements, maybe a few sponsored pieces, but really digital marketing encompasses so much. It’s going online. It’s looking up search engines. It’s social media. It’s email. Engaging with your audience online. There are so many ways that you can really thrive within digital marketing.

Gene: That’s a good point. It’s kind of, what is it? I think it can be a lot of different things. To me, it kind of all goes back to the business objective. I think before you jump into marketing plans, what business metric are you trying to change or influence? Then how do you build a marketing objective around that? When you think about most small business owners across the country, I think a lot of it’s probably a consideration or an action, right? People are trying to get more feet in their shops or product in people’s hands. When we’re kind of in that space, what are maybe some of the first steps someone can take once they’ve kind of figured out what it is they’re trying to do?

Jeanette: Well, I think one of the biggest things you want to understand is who is your target market? I think oftentimes people get so overwhelmed with the options that are available in digital marketing so they try to attack all of them at once. They’re posting on every social media channel available and they’re sending out tons of emails to their network and they’re putting together all of these fantastic SEO search engine optimization strategies. The bottom line is in order to really succeed, you need to know who your target market is and really test out which marketing channel works best for you. Where is your audience? The great thing about digital marketing, especially social media, is it can be really easy to see pretty fast what your engagement is like. Are people paying attention to what you put out there?

Gene: That’s a great point because I think you’re right. The first thing is who are you trying to get to do what and by what action. The more succinct you can be in that target audience definition, I think you’re a hundred percent on kind of the better. I think you said another really interesting thing is find out where your audience is. How do you kind of think about that? I think sometimes it’s like, well, everyone’s on Facebook, but that might not be the place where most people engage or the most effective way to drive consideration and action. Are there things a business owner can kind of do or take? Is it more of a test and learn kind of approach? How do you find that where audiences might be living?

Jeanette: It’s not an easy answer. I think it’s a combination of a lot of different things. I think you can absolutely tap and learn, right? You can put out a few posts and you want to do this first specific timeframe. You can’t just do this for a few days and say, oh my gosh, none of my audience is on Facebook. You really have to put out a few bits of information on various channels and see what the response is. For example, one of the most overlooked social media channels is LinkedIn. Oftentimes people think of it as just a place to slap up your resume, but really it’s an easy way to engage with other audiences and also to share content.

Gene: I think that’s really interesting, especially for folks who might be in a consultant or kind of a professional service based business. We’ve had a couple of conversations on the show about the importance of creating your own authority or kind of positioning yourself with this thought leader, especially when you’re trying to provide a service to help someone else run their business or another corporation. I think LinkedIn at an organic level is probably one of the most underutilized channels and one of the easiest to really get started on. They make it really easy for you to put out your opinions and to have a thought and share it and find new people to kind of see your content. I’m with you there. I think especially if you’re in a service-based business, that’s a great place to start.

Jeanette: Absolutely. Whenever you’re posting online, it’s important to make sure that you’re using specific keywords. It doesn’t make a difference if you’re using Facebook or if you’re even using Pinterest or it’s your email marketing or you’re designing your website. You’ve got to include those keywords in there that help to draw attention to who you are and what you offer. That’s really one of the largest weapons that you can offer and to drive in business because the more defined your keyword is specific to what you do, it can be very easy for these search engines to prioritize your content based on those keywords. It’s a really easy way to drive in. If you’re putting a post together and maybe your a veterinarian, you might want to drop in some long tail keywords that are specific to what you’re offering. Something that really sets you apart from your competitors.

Gene: That’s a good point because I think you do need to speak the language that your audience is looking for. It’s kind of an extension on your comment around target audiences as you kind of need to have some level of insight to your consumers. Whether that’s your existing customers or maybe you’re really looking to drive loyalty and kind of increase the share of wallet among them. Maybe it’s about finding new customers and to your point, if it’s a new veterinarian in a neighborhood or maybe you’re a restaurant who’s trying to build up your lunch meal period, thinking about really kind of who it is you’re going after, what are the kinds of questions they’re asking, and how you can provide an answer to those I think is key to kind of building any message platform. Especially when then you can be highly targeted in digital channels

Jeanette: Today, there’s not a question that goes unanswered on Google. You can type in these crazy long questions like how do I start my car with blue liquid? I mean, it’s incredible. It comes back with all this information, but remember it’s information from millions and billions of people. You want to make sure that your site, that your information comes up and I think that’s one of the hardest battles to overcome when you are trying to push out your product or service.

Gene: I think we’ve talked a little bit kind of about organic, right? I think if I’m going to recap that part, it’s really important to know your audience. When you’re thinking about your web properties, whether that’s a homepage or a blog, making sure that you’re using your content smartly and thinking about not what you’re trying to say necessarily, but how you can answer the questions that your audience is looking to answer. I think using your profiles and reach that you can build on things like Facebook or LinkedIn to kind of really put yourself or your company out there as that solution provider. I do think there’s always a lot of questions on like, what are the things I should pay for? Nothing is really free, even organic. It’s a time investment if nothing else.

I think about things like paid search or display ads or even paid social ads. I think about things where people might say, well, maybe I think I want to do a local TV commercial or a local radio buy. I’m just kind of keen on your opinion on the difference of some of those more traditional channels that might be reach drivers and sometimes seem more efficient because you’re getting more people. I have some thoughts on there, kind of like are you reaching the right people? How do you see those channels working together? How might someone start to develop an appropriate budget to know how to start to step into those spots?

Jeanette: Absolutely. Sometimes people feel that TV is not as effective. The common response that I often hear is, well, geez, I don’t even watch TV myself. Why would I advertise on TV or why would I share information with a host on TV if I was being interviewed. The fact of the matter is it’s just one marketing tool. Once that interview or that advertisement goes live, now you have the ability to share it with all of your people through social media or through your email marketing. Now it’s on TV, it’s out there to their audience. You can now take this very beautiful video and share it say on your Facebook feed. If you want to take it a step further, you can either boost that post or pay for a little bit of an advertisement with that post and hone in on your target market more. You can really quadruple the value of that simple TV interview.

Gene: One of the questions we get too is kind of around how much those moment in time promotions work. When we think about investment, especially if you’re trying to assign a little bit of a marketing budget to channels and the digital space, how do you balance long-term game, kind of like playing chess instead of checkers to make sure you’re constantly kind of showing up in people with those kinds of splash in the pan moments and how might you actually start to build a budget around those?

Jeanette: Sure. I think first you have to figure out who you’re looking to target and what is the message that you’re trying to put out there. Then you may want to break that up into a few different stories. Everybody likes a story. I would suggest putting it out on maybe two to three channels, we’ll call them digital channels. Let’s say maybe a Facebook and a Instagram and maybe a Pinterest. Make sure that you can hone in on your target market. The great thing about these social media channels that they really allow you to target down to the nitty gritty. If someone likes blue rather than red or what their education level is or where they went to school. You really have the ability to target down. I would say test it out. Throw $20 on an advertisement, see how it works. See if you’re getting a lot of engagement.

If that doesn’t work, then try out another story and see how it works. I think throwing $20 is typically minimal for a lot of people’s budget and it’s a really easy way to get a response. The one thing I want to clarify is oftentimes I’ll have clients say, well, geez, I put an ad out there and we had traffic come into our store, but no one mentioned the ad. Unless you’re going to offer some sort of promotion, typically people are not going to walk into a store and say, Hey, by the way, I saw your great post out there. It made me walk into the store. Oftentimes people need to see things seven times, seven different ways before they actually take action.

Gene: Right, I think that’s a really important point. When I think about a total marketing mix, everything to your kind of common or on TV is one way and it’s one piece of the pie. It is really hard to attribute a single sale or a visit to a store back to a single ad. Realistically for very small budget, you might not be able to kind of make one thing work, unless to your point it is a true kind of like flash sale or promotion or like come in to this, mention this ad and get something in return. There’s some kind of trade off. I do think what’s really important is just to remind folks of the critical nature of top of mind awareness.

If you can come into someone’s mind, I always believe they’re likely to consider you. They think of you, then they can at least consider you. If they can’t even identify you, it’s hard to convince them to purchase from you. I do think there is some merit to really investing in an always on kind of bargaining mix. Making sure you’re showing up where your audience is when they’re thinking about your product and sometimes when they’re not. I think sometimes we also try and think about our target audiences as the people they are when they purchase versus people in general. We all consume media all day, every day. It’s increasingly through digital channels. Things like streaming audio. Things like streaming TV or even what we think is linear TV. If we’re on smart TVs, it might be coming through apps.

There’s a lot of new ways to show up a big kind of marketing player, I think in ways that can be highly effective in one local markets and when you have niche audiences. I do think there’s a really critical piece to making sure that people can think of you which means you have to invest in getting them to know you. I feel like digital marketing is a very easy way to do that. I love your recommendation about testing messages for those kinds of small budget moments. I think even if you’re not amplifying reach for 20 bucks, if you’re like, okay, I don’t know if my audience like story A or B or C or maybe there’s kinds of subgroups. That is a good way to say does this resonate? Then you can kind of repost it organically. You kind of can start to get some insights from those types of moments. I think that’s a really smart way to kind of test a messaging platform.

Jeanette: And podcasts. Podcasts are another excellent way to get your story out.

Gene: It is true. I think another way too, and it’s almost goes more into digital PR, but pay attention to the things that you listened to if you’re in your audience set, right? Pay attention to the credits. I think about if you’re watching a local TV program like you said, maybe you want to be on there interviewing and talking about your upcoming boutique launch or kind of a new menu that you’re launching at a restaurant or maybe you’re the new vet in the neighborhoods to your earlier example. Those producers are credited on those shows and it’s not hard to find an email address. Feel free to pitch them yourself because even on a linear channel like that like a local news station, they’re running beats on their socials, you know what I mean? They’re doing things on their sites and it’s an easy way to kind of amplify that you’re out there. As much as you’re looking to get your content out there, these producers are looking for content to talk about. So you can’t be shy.

Jeanette: One of the hidden secrets that I will share with everyone is the power of the DM otherwise known as the direct message. There are so many ways that we can get in touch with people these days. When you’re on LinkedIn, you can send a quick note. When you’re on Facebook, you can send a private message. When you’re on Instagram, you can send a direct message. Don’t be shy, just send someone information and see how they respond.

Gene: I 100% agree with that. I wholeheartedly believe that everybody in this world is accessible and probably much more accessible than you think. As someone who’s taken the risk of putting your idea into the world and putting in an infrastructure and business behind it, I do think more people want to help than you realize. To reach out and say, Hey, I have something interesting to share, I think it would add value to your audience or I just want to tell you about what I do. Most people will give you the time and if that person doesn’t, there’s a hundred like them that will.

Jeanette: Couldn’t agree more.

Gene: Awesome. Well, I think this has been a great conversation and I may hope that the folks listening have learned as much of it as I have. I think we’re at about time for today but Jeanette, I so appreciate you coming on and talking about this topic and you know before we wrap up, is there anything else you would want to add from a digital marketing perspective?

Jeanette: I think you really need to make sure that you’re consistent. Don’t give up. If one strategy doesn’t work, try it out a different way.

Jon: Right. There is no replacement for good old fashioned gumption and hard work. Very much appreciate the time today. Folks, thank you everyone for listening. This has been Small Biz Ahead, a small business podcast presented by The Hartford and we’ll catch you on the next one.

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