Creating a small business marketing strategy using analytics data
When a small business invests time and money in a marketing strategy it had better work. Every business is looking for a return on investment from their marketing spend, but the stakes are always higher for small businesses.
Success means finding valuable new customers and driving your business to the next level, but failure can mean personal losses for the owners and difficult decisions about people’s jobs.
As a content marketing agency, we believe every small business can benefit from a proper, goal-oriented, digital marketing strategy that leverages original, relevant and high quality content. We also believe small businesses can use free tools and their own analytics data to shape, measure and improve that strategy.
So, with that in mind, we’ve set out a 3-step process for building a small business marketing strategy using analytics tools and data. But before we get into that, let’s take a look at some of the particular challenges small businesses face when it comes to creating and running successful marketing campaigns.
Small business marketing challenges
Despite having a reputation as innovative economies with a high proportion of owner-operated businesses, Australia and New Zealand’s small business community is feeling less confident about the future and is a little skeptical about technology.
According to CPA Australia’s 2017 Asia-Pac Small Business Survey it’s still common to find small businesses in Australia and New Zealand not using social media to reach out to and engage with their customers. Furthermore, only 26.6 per cent of Australian small businesses and 26.8 per cent of New Zealand’s small businesses were confident of getting a quick return on technology spend. That compared to 76.4 per cent in Vietnam and 74.1 per cent in mainland China.
Despite that, Aussie and Kiwi small businesses clearly see digital as central to their survival and growth efforts. Separate figures from the NAB Quarterly SME Survey put both improving their websites and investing in online marketing ahead of traditional marketing when it came to strategies for improving competitiveness.
But small businesses need a different digital marketing game than their larger competitors. Chances are they’ll have much smaller budgets; more limited access to specialist resources and expertise; and less time even if they’re chasing some of the same customers.
Let’s start with budget. Money talks when it comes to building an effective marketing strategy. Everything from creating assets to media spend is easier when you have deep pockets. Small businesses have to find ways to get work done on the cheap and pick their battles so that every dollar counts.
Access to expertise – from business analysts to SEO consultants – is a big challenge for small businesses. Without the budget for a big in-house team, it often falls to the owners to upskill to the level where they can make decisions themselves or bring in outside help without getting burned.
And then there’s time. Small business owners often create bottlenecks – wanting or needing to be across too many decisions, meaning nothing gets done until they give it the green light. This can be especially problematic when it comes to the marketing strategy. Owners know their businesses better than anyone and they also care more. Nuances like the tone and style of the blog or look and feel of the creative for an ad campaign can be difficult to let go of.
But it’s not all bad news. Small businesses have challenges that their larger rivals don’t have to worry about, but they also have some advantages. The first should be flexibility. It’s true that a lot of small businesses can be over-reliant on a few key people, but that can often make for snappier decisions. If a marketing campaign just needs a quick conversation with the owner it can get going a lot quicker than if it had to work its way through a multi-layered corporate sign-off process with all the associated bureaucracy and office politics.
The other advantage is authenticity. All brands are looking for a unique and memorable voice to connect with their customers. But however good a job larger brands manage with that everyone knows it was decided by a committee or delegated to an external agency. A small business owner can have the real people that come up with the ideas, do the work and meet the customers visible in their marketing strategy.
Take this blog post from Jacinta Mcdonell, owner of W1LL, a high-end yoga studio in Sydney’s Surry Hills. As the owner of this business, she is able to speak with genuine passion and share real stories about where the business came from and what it stands for. This is much harder for faceless corporates, even when they plaster their websites with pictures of their call centre staff.
Small business marketing strategy using analytics data in 3 easy steps
So, how can you as a small business owner go about building a data-driven marketing strategy and what are some of the tools that can help you do it? Here’s a 3-step process to get you started:
Step One: Understanding Google Analytics
As any small business owner knows you don’t pass on free stuff when money is tight and resources are scarce. One of the best free tools to drive your marketing strategy is Google Analytics. If you have a website you probably have Google Analytics set up already, but checking it’s been done correctly needs to happen before you start creating new content or paying for ads. You can’t back-date your Google Analytics data so if you find a problem in three months that’s three months of data you’ve lost or compromised.
Google’s support pages are a great, free resource for learning how Google Analytics works and figuring out solutions to your problems. We would also recommend the Tag Assistant extension from Chrome. Tag Assistant is a handy tool that immediately flags tracking code problems on whatever web page you’re looking at. This is an easy way to spot errors as you browse your own site. It’s really easy to miss the tracking code off new pages or sections of your site and you’ll lose data for good until you find and fix it. Tag Assistant will let you know right away if that happens.
Once your tracking code is working properly, you should create a view in Google Analytics that filters out internal traffic. This is easy enough to do but most small businesses don’t remember to do it, especially if they’re handling their marketing in-house. Filtering out internal traffic is important for any business, but it’s especially important for small businesses where visitor numbers will be lower and activity from your own staff can really throw off your stats.
If your data is clean, working out what Google Analytics is telling you is straight-forward enough at the top level, especially with the help of the support pages. But if you want Google Analytics to really drive your marketing decisions you need to build a deeper understanding of how it works and what it can do.
For that we would recommend the Google Analytics Individual Qualification where you can study for basic and advanced analytics certifications. As a small business owner you probably think you’re too busy to do this yourself, but you’d be wrong. If you’re serious about running a data-driven marketing strategy you need to get to grips with Google Analytics so you can make properly informed decisions and keep your staff and external agencies honest. The qualifications are supported by accessible video tutorials and online exercises. If you put the work in you can get qualified in a couple of weekends.
Step Two: Controlling your website
One of the things that still surprises us is how often small business owners delegate responsibility for and even access to their own websites. They wouldn’t cede control over other valuable assets or pay for office space with a locked door and no keys. But when it comes to their digital presence, too many business owners have a blind spot.
Of course, digital isn’t the only way to do marketing, but even if you’re having great success with traditional, offline marketing strategies to generate business you can bet that more and more customers and potential customers are checking you out online as part of their decision making process.
And what they see matters. EY’s Digital Australia: State of the Nation 2017 revealed that 40 per cent of consumers would walk away from a brand that failed to provide a high quality digital experience. A particular challenge for small businesses here is mobile compatibility. Sites that look a bit dated but not fatally so on a desktop can be impossible to use on a smartphone. The share of traffic on desktops dropped by 19 per cent in Australia last year, while mobile traffic increased by 36 per cent, according to the 2017 Social Media Marketing Report by Social Media Examiner. If you want to know if your website is turning off mobile users, you can use Google’s free tool for checking mobile friendliness.
Now, you don’t need to learn to code to get a professional, mobile-friendly website. And you certainly don’t need to be a programmer to get control of your site. Using an open-source platform like WordPress can remove a lot of the traditional barriers that small businesses face. WordPress has a huge library of third party plugins that can help you add functionality without needing a developer. The back-end is simple enough to use and because it’s the world’s most popular platform there is plenty of free support available online when you run into problems and if you ever do need expert help you’ll have plenty of choice..
Understanding how your site works doesn’t mean you have to add CTO to your ever-expanding list of de facto job titles. What it does mean is that you know what’s required when you need changes made to one of your pages or some new content uploaded. If there’s an emergency – like an embarrassing typo on your homepage or a problem with your Google Analytics tracking code – you can get in and fix it yourself rather than having to rely on a third party.
If you decide to create content in-house to drive your marketing strategy, easy access to your site will be essential. You don’t want to be paying to upload content or having to wait on someone else when you’ve got an important new landing page or a killer blog post ready to share with the world. Our pro tip if you’re doing your own content creation is an excellent tool called Canva. You can use Canva to create everything from banners and social media ads to custom images for blogs and full-blown infographics. You can do most things you’d need with the free version and it can cut down your production costs significantly.
Step Three: Finding your audience
One of the more exciting ways analytics data can drive your small business marketing strategy is when it comes to promoting your best content. For example, if you enable remarketing audiences in Google Analytics you’ll be able to retarget website visitors on Google Ads.
This could be as simple as hitting everyone who comes to your site with an ad prompting them to reconsider. Or it could be more sophisticated, perhaps targeting users who abandoned a purchase or download midway through the process.
As well as remarketing audiences in Google Analytics, we also recommend adding social media tags to your website. Facebook is often a good bet for small businesses because it has the best range of ad products and you can usually run campaigns for less money than you would need to spend on LinkedIn or even Google Ads.
If you add a Facebook pixel to your site you’ll be able to build an audience of website visitors to target with your Facebook ads. If your site doesn’t get a lot of traffic or you’re keen to get started before your audience is big enough, you can use a Lookalike Audience. With a Lookalike Audience, Facebook will take your data and find a much larger pool of similar users to show your ads to.
LinkedIn and Twitter both have website tags that work in a similar way to Facebook pixels. We would recommend adding these tags even if you don’t immediately plan to run ads on these platforms. You can use them to start gathering data and to get better insights into how users are interacting with your content.
As well as Google Ads and social media ads, you might also want to use email to reach out to your target audience. If you have a decent-sized marketing database with clean email addresses, sending regular emails can help you nurture leads and move them down the sales funnel.
We would recommend a low cost tool here, such as MailChimp. MailChimp is free for lists with fewer than 2,000 recipients and the templates are super easy to customise – especially with some help from handy tools like Canva. As well as enabling you to send great-looking emails, MailChimp will also help you crunch the data and segment your list accordingly. This means you can identify the more valuable users in your database and send them better-targeted emails.
Of course this only really works if you have a strategy for capturing email addresses from relevant users to make up for the natural attrition and keep your list growing. Our pro tip for topping up your email database is to create a compelling download, like an eBook or whitepaper, and put it behind a simple form. There are plenty of free WordPress plugins that can do that for you. Then use a lookalike audience on Facebook to target users similar to those already getting your emails to promote your download.
Small business marketing tools
We mentioned a few different tools you can use to build a data-driven small business marketing campaign in this post. Here they all are again plus some more we couldn’t find room for:
- Google Analytics Support Pages
- Tag Assistant Chrome Extension
- How to exclude internal traffic in Google Analytics
- Google Analytics Individual Qualification
- Google’s Mobile Friendly Test
- WordPress Plugin Library
- WordPress Support Pages
- How to enable remarketing audiences in Google Analytics
- How to add Facebook pixels to your website
- How to create Lookalike Audiences on Facebook
- Facebook Blueprint: Free Online Training
- How to segment your list on MailChimp