Digital Marketing: How to Proceed with Caution if You're a Small Business

Tom Tate
by Tom Tate 06 Apr, 2016

As reported in 2015, business owners said "yes" to digital. Not only did owners realize the importance of digital marketing, but they also committed to creating great content, managing their customer relationships through email marketing, and optimizing everything through testing.

So, after a year of diving into digital marketing, are small businesses still at it? You bet they are.

Here is what we learned in a recent survey of over 1,600 businesses.

Small business is still small business

Despite a slight decrease over the previous year, 71.7 percent of respondents identified themselves as solopreneurs. An additional 20 percent of respondents reported 2-5 full-time, or part-time employees at their business.

There are no less hats to wear, so small business owners must continue to balance their time across multiple areas outside of just marketing.

Still throughout this year, these solopreneurs plan to increase their efforts in email marketing, social media marketing, and in optimizing their business website. These areas of digital marketing provide an opportunity for small businesses to find their most engaged prospects and customers. However, there are a few points of caution for small business owners seeking to expand in these areas.

Set fewer goals

It's clear from the survey results that business owners want to grow, and who can blame them?

Survey takers say they hope to send more email, get more subscribers, increase their open and click rates, drive more engagement, and produce more revenue. It's a natural tendency to want to drive all metrics up and to the right.

For entrepreneurial superheroes, trying to do everything all at once can be kryptonite.

When asked to describe digital marketing, 11 percent said, "I'm a pro at it," 67 percent said, "I'm better at using certain channels more than others," and 22 percent said, "I'm completely overwhelmed by it."

For the majority of small business owners who do not claim to be a pro, set realistic goals in the channels that will have the greatest impact on your business. Focus on what you are best at, and avoid becoming overwhelmed by new technologies, platforms, and social networks.

Experiment with measurable intent

That's not to say you shouldn't try out new platforms, or marketing through new channels. Just be sure to understand why they're worth trying, and how you plan to measure your success.

Whenever exploring new technologies, always dive in with a hypothesis. What do you intend to get out of your investment? What are the risks, or opportunity costs? Why is this technology or platform important to grow your business?

Not all marketing channels yield a direct ROI. For example, engaging in live streaming video, which 46 percent of respondents plan to do in 2016, may not immediately increase revenue. If the intent of using this medium is to increase awareness and engagement, track followers and traffic to your site, rather than revenue.

Always be learning

Over half of the survey respondents receive their marketing industry information from blogs, email newsletters, and social media. Digital marketing trends change monthly. To be a smart and sophisticated marketer, it's essential that you are keeping up with what's working.

But be careful not to get tempted with trying and learning every flashy new platform on the market. Instead, select a few key blogs, or information sources, and stay aware of just enough news to keep your finger on the pulse.

When a piece of content speaks to one of your core marketing channels, dig deeper to learn more. Gain a firm grasp on what's working for others, as well as what's not working. As always, be inspired to optimize your marketing efforts and test tactics for yourself. About the Author:

Tom Tate is the product marketing manager at AWeber where he is passionate about helping customers grow their businesses with email marketing tools and tips. Tom is also the host of the Ask Me About Email Marketing podcast.