How to choose a digital marketing agency for your small business

Every small business owner knows they need a ‘presence’ online and any experienced digital marketing consultant knows that just having a website or Facebook page is not enough to deliver ambitious business goals. On the flip side, if your business goals are not ambitious you don’t need a digital marketing agency!

Effective digital marketing strategies take creativity and skill, they are not learnt in a morning training session and digital channels do not work in silos. Your customers are online 24/7 on multiple devices and want to discover brands whenever they find time and wherever they are. A winning digital presence is easily discoverable amongst target customers and showcases a brand’s proposition in a clear, consistent and compelling manner.

If you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur behind a startup the chances are high that you are:

– extremely busy,
– wearing multiple ‘hats’ from HR to new business,
– very mindful of cashflow,
– not an experienced digital marketing manager.

Does this sound like you? Please read on for 6 tips to help you choose the right digital marketing agency or consultancy for your small business.

1. Make the decision to outsource your digital marketing needs
Today, many small businesses outsource key business areas (E.g. accountancy) and appointing a digital marketing agency is very common. Learning a complex new skillset is time consuming and whilst it’s admirable to wing it and learn as you go there will come a moment in your business when you need to outsource.

Ask yourself: Does your business need strategic digital marketing expertise? Can you really create and optimise your entire digital presence on your own or within your small team? Will an intern have the level of digital marketing experience you require? Answer for this moment and think ahead to six-months’ or twelve-months’ time. Whether you need expertise now or in the near future your goal is to find a talented and great value digital marketing consultant with all of the skills you need.

2. Define your digital marketing brief
Every business is unique and your digital marketing agency brief should reflect your business goals and your brand ethos. To start your brief, define your brand proposition in a few sentences and the, consider where you are now and where you’d like to be in 12 months’ time. Digital marketing is a great means to raise awareness, acquire new customers, increases sales and more! Describe 3 to 5 goals or reasons why you want to invest in digital marketing.

Write a list of the areas or channels where you believe you need help E.g. responsive website design, SEO, social media content creation etc. Your list may be long but your digital marketing consultant will manage expectations and help you prioritise everything when you meet for your initial consultation. Finally, decide an approximate digital marketing budget and if you require an adhoc project or a monthly retainer of on-going support.

3. Research online for digital marketing support
The best digital marketing agencies and consultants will be easy to find online and Google is a great place to start. Research is time consuming but it’s an essential step – please don’t just go for the first business you see in Google, instead create a shortlist of 3 to 5 companies you like the look of.

You can research suppliers local to your own business especially if you have a local business and you want to grow its presence in your local area. A local digital marketing consultant is most likely to know your local area well and be available for regular face-to-face meetings if that’s important to you.

However, most important is that they have the skills you need to grow your business online. Spend time going through their website to understand the services they offer. It’s easy, and common, to get bowled over by big brands in a digital marketing agency’s portfolio. However, the chances are as a small business you’ll be lower down their priority list of clients if there’s a household brand in the mix. Big brands have big budgets and are often very demanding of their suppliers’ time.

You should be able to decipher from their website if they work with small businesses like yours. Next consider, do they understand the challenges that small business owners face and how much your business means to you? At Hi Digital, we love to work with small businesses for five very good reasons !

Before you add an agency or consultant to your shortlist consider the following questions: Do you think they can meet your brief? Are you getting a fantastic first impression? And ultimately, would you like them to be responsible for promoting your brand online based on what you can see online about their business? If it’s a yes save their details as we go through the next steps.

4. Validate their testimonials and reviews
From the research conducted in step 3 you probably know what this digital marketing agency or consultant does, but now consider how they do it and if their clients think they do it well. Many websites will include client testimonials and bigger agencies boast case studies. Client reviews can also be found on a companies social media pages, directory listings and their Google My Business profile.

This research step gives real context to their service and ethos. What are they or their team like? Do they deliver results? Are they efficient? You know what kind of people you like to work with and will be able to gauge if they fit that criteria. It’s totally acceptable after an initial consultation to request references and/or speak to their current and past clients for a more personal referral.

5. Finalise your shortlist and meet in person
At this stage you should have a list of about 3 digital marketing agencies or consultants you’d like to work with. Send an enquiry and schedule a face-to-face consultation with the person who will be your main contact not just their business development manager. This is a collaboration to last at least a few months so you need to establish rapport with your day-to-day contact. Following your consultation you can expect to receive a bespoke proposal presented over the phone, email or face-to-face. Be critical yet reasonable and ask yourself: Do they understand you, your business and your customer? Do you like them? Are they value for money? It can be that simple. Trust your instincts and remember you can ask to speak with their current or past clients.

6. Avoid digital marketing training courses in your early stages
It’s tempting to sign up for a digital marketing course and ‘learn’ it all in a few hours. However, do you really have the time to spend a day or more a week implementing these new ideas? There’s a lot of homework from these courses and they are suited to somebody with enough time to invest in them and get the best results. Training courses are often in groups rather than personalised to your business so there are a lot of data gaps that you will need to personally fill.

Whereas, if you utilise an experienced digital marketing agency or consultant to set your digital foundations for growth and gain momentum you can always bring it inhouse later. Outsource those digital marketing skills you don’t have yet and let your consultant create a beautiful website that is fit for purpose, looks great on every device and is easy for you to update ad maintain in the long term. Let them create and deliver a digital marketing strategy aligned to your business goals, whether that’s paid social or PPC, or a social media strategy with content creation.

Just like an accountant or HR manager a digital marketing consultant has honed their skills over several years for successful brands, and to put it bluntly you can’t learn effective digital marketing in a few hours. Invest to learn alongside your digital marketing consultant in 1-to-1 sessions with bespoke advise and ideas tailored to your unique business, Ask lots of questions and when you’re ready to take it inhouse do, you’ll be set up to scale your activity and continue your business growth for years to come.

Hi Digital are a boutique, digital agency based in Harrogate. We are dedicated to growing small businesses with effective digital strategies and we’d love to help you reach your business goals. Please email us or please get in touch with using the form below to book a free consultation with us.

Alternatively find out more about what we do or discover more free digital marketing tips on our blog.

5 local digital marketing tips for small businesses

In their early years, many small businesses typically start growing their client base within their local geographic surrounding area and a common goal amongst Hi Digital’s clients is “we want to be known for the best ‘X’ services/products in the North of England”. Thankfully, this kind of goal is possible with an effective local digital marketing strategy.

Every small business has the opportunity to make their brand more discoverable online amongst local audiences and to make it easy for prospective clients to choose them over the competition. So, before you embark on nationwide or global domination it’s advisable to build your reputation and establish what you stand for within your local community! Whether you sell online via an ecommerce website, you’ve a bricks and mortar set up seeking more bookings, enquiries, or footfall, or you’re a home-based business wanting to attract new clients – a discoverable digital presence fueled by effective local digital marketing is essential.

Read on for five easy local digital marketing tips to help your brand engage its nearest physical customers:

1. Define your brand story
Is it clear to potential new customers who land on your website or social media profile page for the first time what your brand is about? Ensure that you are sharing a clear, compelling brand story. In addition to explaining what you do and why, you can also reference your location and heritage to appeal to your local target audience. Can you describe what your brand does in a tagline of up to seven words, a couple of sentences and a few short paragraphs? Give it a go and critique it from the perspective of your target customer(s).

Online you only have a few seconds to create a ‘wow’ first impression so don’t forget to feature beautiful imagery and utilise the bespoke features of each digital channel or platform. Once your brand story is articulated well, tell it consistently on your website, social media channels and any third-party website listings. Give customers a fantastic experience wherever they discover and interact with your brand online just like you would if you met them in ‘real life’!

2. Create a Google my Business profile
Google my Business is a fantastic free local digital marketing tool that will literally put your business on the map. For example, if you are a coffee shop in Leeds you will want your business to show on the Google map in the search results every time a user searches for ‘coffee shop Leeds’ and/or ‘coffee near me’ when they are physically local to your business.

Your first step is to create a listing that accurately reflects your brand and utilises all of the great features such as opening hours, website, contact info, photos etc. Ensure you describe your business using one or two key phrases a customer may use to find you on Google so that Google knows they are looking for your business.

Next, you want your business to be featured above your competitors in Google’s map listings. This bit takes time as you need to build your reputation with an active and popular Google my Business profile. The most effective way to do this is to gather authentic Google reviews from customers and respond to each one.

3. Build a responsive website optimised for local SEO
Your small business’s website doesn’t have to be complicated and contain multiple pages, however, it does need to be a responsive website and be discoverable via search engines for users actively searching for your brand or its products and services.

One-page websites can be great for small businesses with a simple brand proposition but they are limited in terms of their local digital marketing potential, most small businesses need about five webpages. Each webpage has a role to play in capturing traffic for your target local search keywords (E.g. event caterer York), the more pages the more local search keywords you can effectively target. The trick is to nail your brief to ensure your website will be ‘fit for purpose’ and within budget, and then it’s time to copywrite, design and build your website well.

Tip: Never skip the design phase of any website project if you want yours to be beautiful and well thought out.

Website templates are tempting to small businesses because they are quick and simple to implement. However, be mindful that templates whilst cost effective in the short term they can be restrictive in the long term, many are difficult and expensive to manipulate for your content and brand proposition as it evolves over time. Trust us, a small business’s needs evolve quickly! If you have a little more budget available appoint a small business digital marketing agency such as Hi Digital to create a bespoke website that’s easy to update and maintain yourself day-to-day whilst adding additional features and pages cost-effectively.

4. Be active on social media
Some days it feels like the world has gone social media mad and every business is told you need to be on social media. Do you? Yes. Your customers once they know your brand name are probably going to research you on social media so you need a presence that proudly portrays your brand on the channel(s) they are most likely to use. It’s important that they see recent content here too otherwise they may question if you’ve closed down.

Creating great content for social media takes time and planning to find your optimum formula. Try starting with the social media channel that your key target customer is most likely to be active on and create content with them in mind. If that channel is Instagram here’s 5 tips how to improve your Instagram strategy. Organic (free) growth on social media takes time and the algorithms of each platform frequently change, we recommend that you focus on engagement with your content (comments as well as likes) rather than follower growth, and have fun getting to know and networking with your local audience.

5. Encourage reviews and share the best
Trust and recommendations are key to success online, especially with the overwhelming amount of choice from local, national and global brands. Each review you receive online be it on Google, Facebook or a review partner, is going to help you win more customers and they are a key part of a local digital marketing strategy. Consistently deliver a 5 star service and then share those reviews with your audiences on your website and social media channels. Don’t be shy, shout about what your customers really think of your brand!

Are you ready to take your small business into its next stage of growth? Do you want to create or optimise your brand’s presence online? Hi Digital are a boutique, digital agency dedicated to growing small businesses with effective digital strategies and we’d love to help you reach your business goals. Please email us or please get in touch with using the form below to book a free consultation with us.

Alternatively find out more about what we do or discover free digital marketing tips on our blog.

8 benefits of Video Marketing for Small Businesses

Video content is an accessible and effective form of communication for consumers and brands, whether between friends or on a commercial B2C or B2B level. After over a decade of video being hailed as the next major marketing tool, it is finally having it’s moment and audiences can’t get enough of short-form videos (less than 60 seconds in length) on Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook, and Linked In, and educational videos such as “how to” tutorials remain a firm favourite on YouTube and websites. Video marketing is no longer just for big budget global brands or TV commercials – hurray!

Many brands, from micro businesses to SMEs are embracing video marketing and seeing great results such as bigger brand reach, stronger conversion rates, increased organic search engine traffic. In this article I explain 8 benefits of incorporating video content into your brand’s digital marketing strategy.

1. Better engagement with your target audiences
Video is now part of our everyday life and audiences consume videos daily particularly across social media platforms such as YouTube, Tik Tok, Instagram and Facebook, and customers want to see video content from your brand. Videos are accessible, engaging and often educational – by publishing video content your brand can engage existing and prospective customers in a more interactive and exciting way.

2. Videos tell great stories
From explainer videos to how to tutorials, and glossy brand videos to raw behind the scenes and live streams. There are many ways brands can create video content, the first step is identifying the right style(s) to connect your brand with your target audience. Define your story and deliver it well.

3. Adaptable for multiple channels
Don’t invest in video and just add it to your website, this strategy is expensive and limits your ROI, use it to reach new audiences on a variety of channels and platforms. Plan where you intend to broadcast your videos and ensure that your project brief clearly lists each format, you may wish to collaborate with a video production agency or produce video content from your smartphone with your marketing team.

Tip! Shoot content from multiple angles such as vertical, square, wide angle etc so that you have plenty of content for all of your digital marketing channels.

4. Reach bigger audiences
Video content is often favoured by social media channels (i.e. Instagram, Linked In) and is likely to shown to more users which will increase your brand’s overall reach. The more engaging your video content the bigger the audience it will reach! Videos can also be used to advertise your brand in multiple placements on multiple platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. These sites have fantastic targeting available so you can ensure your budget is only spent attracting the right customers for your brand. If you are considering using video for advertising please check the video advertising specifications of each platform before you begin filming and producing your video ads.

5. Great value for money
Video may not be as expensive as you think, always strive for value for money by producing content with longevity and create content to broadcast in multiple places. Think of producing video for your brand as a series rather than one blockbuster film. For example, create content to last you six months then share and promote it on a pre-determined schedule. Just like websites, many cheap video templates exist but we recommend creating your own unique style so that you can bring your brand’s unique personality and proposition to life.

6. Great for on-site SEO
Always add video to your website. Put very simply, Google loves video and it can help your website increase its search engine results page (SERP) rankings. Why does Google do this? It knows how much users love to consume video and if your video is relevant to the rest of your website and adds value to users you’ll be rewarded. Video can increase dwell time on your website, reduce bounce rates, and boost organic traffic from search engines.

7. Get creative with influencers
A successful social media influencer may be able to help your brand increase its reach, boost engagement, and drive incremental sales or leads. Influencers can add credibility to your brand and introduce you to their loyal following, however, when it comes to influencer marketing authenticity is key. Consider the following questions: Is your audience on YouTube, Instagram or somewhere else? Which influencers are influencing them? Would the influencer provide a relevant, genuine endorsement for your brand? Influencers create fantastic video content day-to-day and partnering with the right one(s) could add tonnes of value and creativity to your brand.

8. Align to your digital marketing goals
As with any investment its important to set objectives and define goals. What is it that you want to achieve from your digital marketing strategy? Is it likely that video content could help? For example, if you are a new brand with a unique story, product or service to explain and your target customers are likely to be on Instagram – it’s extremely likely that video will help your business succeed. If you do pursue video content within your digital marketing strategy there are two key metrics to consider when understanding how engaging your videos are:

    • video views: the number of times your video has been watched
    • viewer drop off rate: how many seconds do users typically watch your video for

An effective video marketing strategy delivers high views amongst your target audience and engages them in your video for more than a few seconds.

Let’s explore video marketing for your small business
Are you considering incorporating video into your digital marketing strategy but don’t know where to start? We’d love to help you create the right content to help grow your brand and business. Please email us or get in touch using the form below to schedule a free consultation with us.

Hi Digital are a boutique, digital agency dedicated to helping start-ups and small businesses to fulfil their goals, with a winning digital presence and effective use of digital marketing. Please browse our service portfolio and learn how we can help your small business to improve it’s presence online.

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