This post is a contribution from Cecilia Foxworthy from Revision Ventures, an online marketplace that matches the digital skills of low-income youth with the marketing needs of local small businesses to create economic prosperity in underserved communities. They are a non-profit organization working to create economic opportunity for the underserved.
Small businesses need customers, not loans. Sounds obvious right?
The things is, we often get caught up in the prevailing narrative that small businesses simply need loans to grow. If you get the loan, you’ll get more sales, be able to pay back that loan, and will be well on your way to growth, right?
We need to take a cue from the lean startup world instead. What small businesses really need are customers. We need to have customer validation, we need to know that there is demand for our product or service, and we need to know how to tap into that demand. Then, and only then, if you need a loan to fulfill the needs of those found customers, its time to seek out that money.
Now it’s all well and good to say you just need to find new customers to grow your business, but the question is, how? That’s where digital marketing comes in. Digital marketing are all the activities you can do to get people finding and interacting with your business online. And it all starts with online research.
First you’ll need to find out how people are talking about your product or service online, and what the customer journey is. For example, if you own a gym, people are likely talking about gyms directly, but they’re also probably talking about motivators that are earlier on in the pipeline, such as weight loss, getting ready for bikini season, and eating healthier.
Second, once you know how people are talking about your industry, you’ll need to find online competitors and influencers. Knowing your online competition helps you determine the holes in the market, it helps you draw inspiration, and it helps you get to know potential customers better. But be careful, the brick-and-mortar competitors you know and love may not be your competition online.
Then there are the influencers. Influencers are essentially bloggers and social media enthusiasts with huge followings that write about specific topics. These people are important. They know your target audience well and know how to speak to them. Building relationships with these influencers and creating brand ambassadors out of them can do a world of good for your business. But be careful, the trick here is to be genuine, not salesy.
Now I know what you are thinking. I’m a small business owner – there is no way I have time to think about learning how to do all these things, and forget about trying to implement on a weekly basis. That’s where firms like DOZ and Revision Ventures come in.
You can work with companies like these to create your digital marketing strategy and get you growing online in no time. DOZ will pair you with seasoned marketing professionals that have worked with some of the biggest brands in the country. Revision Ventures pairs smaller businesses with more limited resources with young people trained in digital marketing.
So whether you decide to do it yourself or hire an outside company, digital marketing can help you get those new customers and stop relying on loans to power your business. This is the healthier way to grow – find and engage with customers online.