Top five digital marketing tips for SMEs

Try to use a variety of marketing approaches to maximise your chances of success

The digital world is a crowded place. Marketers are clamouring to have their voice heard. On top of this, the concentration span of customers is diminishing. How, as a start-up, can you get your voice heard? Ian Cowley gives some tips. 

The digital world is a crowded place. Marketers are clamouring to have their voice heard. On top of this, the concentration span of customers is diminishing. How on earth, as a start-up can you get your voice heard?

In my experience, you need to develop an arsenal of digital marketing tactics that together help you claim a space. Here are our top five tactics to consider when you look at your digital strategies in 2016.

Mix of platforms: social, PR and search

We purposely use a variety of marketing techniques including social media, PR,  search and online digital hubs, because we know that customers no longer make decisions based on seeing one advert on a single platform.

Instead, customers pass through a purchasing funnel en route to conversion: from awareness to consideration; research to validation. It’s really important that your own online presence supports customer behaviour. 

For example, we use PR to drive awareness through news of our charity work. Social media then kicks in to promote added-value content, just like crafty Christmas, to build trust with potential customers and educate on our brand values. As they then progress to research, we have a raft content that shows we are experts in our field, such as printer reviews. Then, we use customer review sites like Trustpilot to offer validation through peer feedback.

This is a very simplistic breakdown of the marketing work we do. The reality is each means of marketing we employ supports every step of the customer’s process. But the above example offers an insight into supporting customer behaviour. 

Influencer marketing

Peer and influencer endorsement is becoming more and more important. Today’s shoppers are looking for authentic voices they can trust. As cynicism grows, they feel a recommendation from a trusted peer is more credible than a message from a brand.

We’ve all heard of vlogger Zoella who is now commanding thousands of pounds to review a brand’s product, such is her superstardom status among Generation Y consumers. However, you don’t necessarily need to pay influencers. 

For example in 2013 we launched a crafty Christmas campaign. We wanted to encourage the ‘at home’ market, largely made of families, to print by directing them to fun, Christmas-inspired activity like ‘how to make’ advent calendars, cards and garlands. The idea being that families who visited our site for free content would then buy printer cartridges when their ink ran out.

However, to help spread the word, we identified a selection of influential family bloggers and challenged them with a Christmas cracker competition. The results were amazing. Every blogger enticed by the chance to win the title of ‘best design’, wrote at least one blog and posted a social media post telling their readers and friends about our crafty Christmas hub. Through this tactics, we reached a total of 15,600 additional potential customers.

Moment marketing

Do you remember in January when a puddle in the North East went viral? #DrummondPuddleWatch trended internationally when some locals used Periscope to live stream members of the public attempting to get around it.

What was interesting, for me, was how many brands jumped in on the conversation. For example Domino’s Pizza tweeted ‘delivering to a puddle near you’, Lidl used it as an opportunity to push their welly specialbuy posting a product shot with the caption ‘Always be sure to have proper puddle-traversing footwear when you’re out and about!’, and Hunter reminded customers that they’d been ‘helping you cross puddles since 1856’.

All effectively asserted their voice in the trending conversation through witty comments, that used the dedicated hashtag, and added to the commentary. This was a brilliant example of moment marketing: the process of reacting quickly and cleverly to real time events.

It’s a tactic we use regularly via social media. For example, our higher purpose is to get people to print what matters and books are the best example of this. Therefore on World Book Day we launched a competition via Facebook offering customers a chance to win £100 Waterstones vouchers, tagging posts with the official World Book Day hashtag. This competition was the most engaged and shared in March and reached 60,000 potential customers, three times the size of our Facebook community. By jumping on the opportunity presented by a much-loved national day, we got our brand in front of a new raft of customers, while reinforcing a key message to our current community.


Video is tipped to become much bigger in 2016. More and more is being consumed through social media and its no coincidence that YouTube is the world’s second biggest search engine after Google.

The trick is to create content that people actually want to share. Brands are often going wrong because they are making videos like TV programmes. But TV programmes, rely on your passivity. When it comes to video content, you want people to take action. So forget long introductions, cutaways and instead focus on authentic content.

A great recent example was the record-breaking mattress domino. It wasn’t slickly produced but it was shared worldwide, purely because you had to see it to believe it. Not only did Aaron’s Inc get international acclaim for the event but they communicated a very important key message for the company: that they were raising money for a homeless charity. They communicated the fact they had heart and soul. Which we know is a huge motivator for customers. Customers want to purchase from brands that are like them; brands that care.

Email marketing

Email marketing still has its place. It’s not as trendy as social media or video but it is not subject to the whims of Google and Facebook, which have the ability to minimise your online presence through penalties and algorithm updates.

If you have a database, you can start conversations with customers directly. The only obstacle is the content itself. You have to send out emails that engage.

Investing in tools like dotmailer will help. Not only will it help automate and personalise mass emails but it will be help you analyse what’s working and what isn’t by tracking open rates and responses.

Further reading on digital marketing

See also: Tips for prosperous marketing in the New Year

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Marketing business

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