The COVID-19 pandemic and need for physical distancing has changed the way many of us will shop forever. As more customers turn to online shopping, business owners have had to quickly pivot to fill this need. The early days of the pandemic were likely spent quickly building out this component of the business. Now, a few months in, it’s time to focus on digital marketing.
Digital Marketing on a Budget
One of the strengths of digital marketing is the ability to cover a lot of ground with little to no spend. All it requires is some imagination. The rise of data and technology has allowed marketers to laser focus on the audience they want to reach, cutting through the noise and speaking to the right people. In an earlier blog, Small Business BC shared the Digital Marketing Tools we use to reach our audience.
To help provide further inspiration, here are some free ways to promote your business online.
Google My Business
Google has created a space for businesses to create a free listing for themselves that displays alongside Google search results. This space allows you to communicate important details such as your opening hours, delivery options, contact details and your website URL. You can also publish posts under your listing to help grow your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. We’ll be discussing SEO in greater detail later on.
Online viewers are used to sharing and amplifying content they enjoy. Business owners can avail of this opportunity to create well written blog posts that are of value to their community. For example, a physiotherapist could write a blog on home stretching routines. This kind of content is highly shareable and can be used to link back to your business website. Avoid being too sales oriented in these posts. They must contribute something of value to be worthwhile.
Leverage Social Media
Social media is the main platform available to you to share the content marketing blogs you write. However, before you start, it’s important to consider which platform is best for your business. Each social media platform is used by different demographics. Younger users can be found on Tik Tok and Instagram, while LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are the preserve of an older audience. Consider which platform your target demographic favours and dedicate your efforts there. Hashtags relating to your industry are a great way to spot trends, research a topic, and even gauge how successful your posts are.
If you have an Instagram account and/or a Facebook Page for your business, you can get a free, personalized social media marketing planthrough Facebook for Business:
Become Your Own PR Agency
Hiring a public relations agency is out of the price range of most small business. However, you can still secure the opportunities they present, completely free of charge, if you use the right tactics. Newspapers, television, radio stations and blogs are constantly searching for relevant content for their audience. While contacting an editor or journalist may feel overwhelming, you’d be surprised to find out how willing they are to speak with start-ups and small business owners. Availability to media, or providing a quote for an article, is a quick and powerful way to promote your business to a large audience.
Partner with Other Businesses
A growing trend during COVID-19 has been businesses coming together to launch joint marketing initiatives and other partnerships. Specific examples include Breaking Bread and Beer Van. The benefits of this approach include access to a larger audience, shared marketing costs and a large support network of like-minded entrepreneurs. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of communities coming together for a greater good. This principle applies to small businesses too.
Build a Free Website with Webnames
Build a free .CA website for your business with Webnames.ca. This offer, free for one-year to Canadian small businesses and freelancers, includes the following:
- free .CA domain
- branded email account (eg. firstname.lastname@example.org)
- powerful DIY 1-page website builder
- mobile-ready web templates tailored for small business
Free Digital Marketing Training and Support
Try these free resources for digital marketers:
Alacrity Digital Marketing Bootcamp: Offers 228 hours of content to help you build your digital marketing skills, as well as access to experienced mentors and connections in the tech sector. Businesses can send one employee free of charge. The bootcamp is open to businesses and employed and unemployed British Columbians, with priority given to employers and individuals impacted by COVID-19.
Digital Economy: Rapid Response + Resiliency (DER3) Program: Offers free, one-to-one business and technical expertise for companies that want to better engage with the digital economy. When required, the program will also match businesses with regional service providers who can deliver contracted solutions.
Digital Development Assistance Program: A new initiative of the Burnaby Board of Trade that provides small businesses, non-profits and solopreneurs with direct, hands-on support to build, optimize, and enhance their digital activities for free.