Business development · 1 August 2017

Three cost-effective marketing methods giving small brands an edge

Conceptual image of teamwork - hands only
Beefing up a website’s SEO status can act as a free alternative to paid campaigns

To help Business Advice readers lay the groundwork for a strong and cost-effective marketing offensive, a handful of experts outline three ways to advertise a brand on a limited budget.

We discover the secrets to success on Google search pages, before looking at influencer and content marketing strategies owners of small companies can utilise without breaking the bank.

Winning the Google war

An online presence is a given for any business in 2017. However, Google’s pay-per-click budgets can easily outweigh those of a small business owner, and competition is high. Fortunately, incorporating best SEO practices into web pages costs nothing, and, done correctly, can elevate a small online company above rivals.

To help founders challenge in a tough Google environment, Jamie Evans, ecommerce manager at fashion wholesaler Influence Fashion, revealed his top tips for SEO success.

“There’s a number of things you could be doing on page for free to aid you in the battle against Google’s algorithm and have you ranking for certain keywords,” Evans said.

“First off, it’s worth learning the basics – the Moz blog is a brilliant (and free) place to find best-in-class SEO tricks, and you can also learn a lot of basic on-page SEO tips from YouTube videos.”

To mount a strong challenge on Google, Evans explained that priorities should be optimising meta titles and descriptions, and writing well-written content that utilises the relevant keywords you want to rank for in your industry.

“Since we started writing in-depth category descriptions on our key landing pages, we began to appear at the top of search for keywords like ‘wholesale fashion’, which is exactly what we want to rank for.”

Indicating how an SEO strategy can tie-in with wider marketing efforts, Evans said Influence Fashion produced keyword-focused weekly blog posts that also reflected latest trends and releases.

He added: “Before you dive in, make sure you do plenty of keyword research, and remember not to cannibalise any of your content by duplicating it across your site.

“Once all your product and category pages are optimised, you can start producing content that will win you back-links from high ranking sites, and then turn your attention at the more robust technical aspects of SEO like canonical tags, rich snippets and indexing.”

Influencer marketing

According to a study by Twitter, we now trust social media influencers more than our own friends. Around 40 per cent of respondents admitted to buying a product having seen it advertised online by an influencer on Instagram, Twitter or YouTube.

To help founders grasp the capabilities of influencer marketing as a viable channel, we spoke to Matt Donegan, managing director of Social Circle, an agency specialising in influencers.

“When smaller brands are looking for cost-effective marketing, working with influencers is an obvious choice, because the campaign can be as big or as contained as their budget allows,” Dongean explained.

With a whole spectrum of influencers available, how can a small business owner make the most of their budget and find the right kind of exposure?

“The most effective campaigns for small brands involve working with a number of influencers that have a targeted and defined following, as opposed to spending much of the budget on one big player with plenty of followers but far less audience focus, and a bigger price tag,” Donegan advised.

“Micro-influencers tend to have smaller but highly engaged audiences,” he added. “With smaller levels of investment, you can get better value and reach your target audience where they are most attentive and responsive.”

After you’ve researched, contacted and contracted the influencer, Donegan outlined three principles central to the success of a campaign.

  1. Transparency

“You and the influencer should work together to ensure their followers know the content is sponsored . Viewers will know if it’s sponsored, and both you and the influencer will lose credibility if you try to hide it.”

  1. Authenticity

“This is the key to working with influencers – allowing them to work with your product in a way that is natural to them. If you let them be creative in their own style, it works better for both sides.”

  1. Measurement

“You need to be sure you can track the success of the campaign to ensure you are getting the results from the activity that you want. Set out realistic campaign KPIs from the outset.”

For a thorough explanation of the legalities of influencer marketing, Business Advice expert David Walker’s guidance for staying within the law is essential reading.

Meanwhile, there remains something to be said for targeting celebrity figures with product samples. Miranda Harper, founder of knitted headwear brand Zaini Hats, told Business Advice how public endorsements from the likes of One Direction and Linford Christie gave her brand a “great sales push” in the early days of trading.

Content marketing

Despite the colossal rise of social media as an advertising tool, more traditional forms of content marketing offer valuable ways to reach customers and provoke a response.

Email newsletters

In particular, email marketing remains a useful tool for small business owners in delivering valuable messages.

Business Advice expert, and GoDaddy’s VP for EMEA, Stefano Maruzzi, recently told readers why email campaigns hold significant value when used correctly.

“Whether you’re launching a new product, setting up an event or offering a seasonal sale, a well-crafted email is guaranteed to bring more eyeballs to your website. And more traffic leads to more business,” he said.

Maruzzi urged founders to resist the temptation of email databases and to grow a mailing list organically, through a website’s sign up form or targeted through social media followers.

The formula to creating an engaging newsletter lies in the subject line, the quality of the content itself and its usability (for example, featuring integrated clickable buttons).

Maruzzi added: “Before sending out your email, it’s good to take a step back and ask yourself if the email is something you’d be happy to receive in your inbox. Is it informative? Inspiring? Have you backed it up with a strong call to action?”

Video content

To produce basic videos, a smartphone camera and free editing software like iMovie could be all you need.

Videos on your website might offer a product walkthrough, or act as a customer support tool to address frequently asked questions. After watching a video, almost two-thirds of online shoppers are more likely to make a purchase, with 88 per cent spending more time on a website hosting videos.

“For us, video cuts through the noise and, instead of just another faceless person or organisation competing for their attention, they are met with a person,” said Ben Norman, CEO of digital marketing agency Koozai.

For further cost-effective marketing strategies, take a look at our in-depth social media guides:

  • A guide to using Facebook as a small business owner
  • Using Instagram as a marketing tool – because a picture tells a thousand words

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.


 
TAGS:

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

Q&A

If you’ve found the article above useful, but have a more detailed and bespoke question, then please feel free to submit a query to our expert. We at Business Advice will get in contact with them on your behalf and arrange for a personalised response. These questions and answers will then be collated on the site for any other readers who have similar queries.

Ask a question

From the top

Find out how KPMG Small Business Accounting can really work for you

FIND OUT MORE