Having a digital presence is critical for any business looking to reach new audiences.
SEO, social media, and paid search are three powerful opportunities to get your products or services in front of more customers. But when you’re first starting out as a business owner, expanding your digital reach can feel overwhelming — where to even begin?
In celebration of Google’s International Small Business Week, which is anchored on the UN’s micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises day, we’ve created a resource for micro-businesses that might not have a digital presence yet.
Here, let’s dive into tips from four small business owners on how they initially found online audiences after launching their businesses, so you can ensure you’re leveraging the right digital tools to expand your own reach.
Plus, hear from HubSpot’s Director of Advertising on getting the most out of Google Ads as a new business owner.
How to Find & Reach Your Target Audience, According to Small Business Owners
1. Have some broad assumptions about your target audience, and then narrow down.
When you’re first creating a digital presence, you’ll want to start by focusing on some broad, easy-to-identify categories of your target market.
You might add geographic segmentation on top of this if you’re only intending on marketing to a specific location.
Along with general customer persona information, you’ll also want to answer the following question: My business helps people who have X pain point. In other words, what challenge is your business solving?
Understanding your customers’ pain points can help you craft a better narrative of who they are — which will help you target your digital strategies effectively.
2. Analyze competitors’ target audiences to see if your product or service will appeal to similar audiences.
When finding your audience online, it’s important not to get overwhelmed by spreading your net too wide.
More than likely, your product or service exists in some capacity in the market already. So take a look at what your competitors are doing to get inspiration for your own digital strategy.
For instance, if you see most of your competitors creating ads for YouTube, it could be a sign that YouTube has proven to be an effective strategy in your industry.
3. Implement SEO strategies to create a website presence.
You’ll want to start by creating an official business website. Make sure the page is SEO-optimized for search: Among other factors, this includes optimized images, responsive pages, and fast loading time.
Next, create a free Google My Business profile to ensure you can capture traffic from Google search and maps. This is especially helpful for foot traffic — for instance, if you own a restaurant, Google My Business can ensure you show up when someone in your local area searches “dinner places near me”.
Chandler Bolt, CEO of SelfPublishing.com and Self Publishing School, told me, “It was a long-term play, but our business really started to take off when we created our blog, launched our podcast, and focused on creating useful content that solved aspiring authors’ problems. Our formula is simple — create the best content on the internet for any topic we write on, and then get as many backlinks as possible for that post.”
Now, Self Publishing School consistently ranks for keywords related to writing or publishing. A strong SEO strategy ultimately led to tremendous growth for the company and helped them reach the audiences that mattered most.
If your business struggles to find search terms that align well with your products or services, consider how you might partner with more well-established brands to solve for their customers’ pain points, and vice versa. This enables you to access high-intent prospects without relying on SEO alone.
Scott Rogerson, CEO of UpContent, told me, “We continue to build upon content partnerships, and add new ones, to support our customers in addressing pain across their digital channels. It was because of this early approach that we were able to quickly assess which use cases were most valuable and within which industries they were most common. This has now formed the foundation upon which our SEO, social media, and digital advertising strategy are built.”
4. Explore the social channels that are most popular with your target audience.
HubSpot’s Blog Research found 57% of consumers discover products most often on social media — and 23% of 18-24 year olds prefer to purchase products directly through social media.
Which means social media is an undeniably powerful opportunity to increase sales.
Plus, social media has a huge audience — over 3.6 billion people use it worldwide. So, regardless of your marketing goals, it’s imperative you create a digital presence on at least one of the social platforms.
If you’re new to the social media world, you’ll want to start by identifying which channels you want to go after first. To do this, you’ll need to determine where your target audience spends their time.
The three top social media channels in terms of monthly active users are Facebook (2.9 billion MAU), YouTube (2.2 billion MAU), and Instagram (2 billion MAU). It’s a good idea to start with a channel with a large potential reach, and then narrow down from there.
Social media can also help you listen to your prospects and customers and learn from them to grow better. As Impulse Creative’s Senior Growth Marketer, Molly Rigatti, puts it, “We’ve found that creating a space where people can ask their questions is much more effective than trying to start conversations by telling businesses what they need to succeed.”
Rigatti says, “We listen. We listen to our customers’ wants and needs. We listen to diagnose their real problems rather than to prescribe the easiest sale.”
While paid advertising can feel daunting with a limited budget, you can leverage powerful targeting capabilities for a relatively low cost with Google Ads.
To uncover some tips for getting the most out of Google Ads with limited resources, I spoke to HubSpot’s Director of Advertising, Rex Gelb.
When it comes to an effective keyword strategy for startups and small businesses, Gelb told me, “My recommendation would be to start with the keywords that best relate to your core products or services, and branch out from there.”
For instance, let’s say you sell a niche product within a larger category — such as soccer cleats for kids.
“To start,” Gelb says, “I’d bid on exactly that: ‘Soccer cleats for kids’. If that’s going well and you have the budget, then maybe you try bidding on ‘Soccer cleats’ next, and if that works, ‘cleats’ after that.”
Gelb adds, “Broadening your targeting like this means you’ll get some irrelevant clicks and have some wasted ad spend, but you’ll also get more scale and it’s possible you’ll find that even with the higher customer acquisition cost, you’re still generating a positive ROI.”
However, like any effective long-term marketing strategy, Google Ads takes work. As Gelb puts it, “A lot of businesses are looking for ‘tips and tricks’ to try and beat the system, but I’d say 70-80% of Google Ads is using tried-and-true best practices.”
So … what are these best practices? Gelb advises, “Pick keywords that make sense for your business, write ads that are highly relevant to those keywords, pick the correct campaign objective based on your business goals, monitor the search term report, and test, test, test. If you do those things (and read up a bit on match types if you’re not familiar with them), you’re going to be most of the way there.”
Ultimately, creating a digital presence takes time, but it’s worth it. With the right SEO, social, and paid strategies, you’ll begin to see your website and social platforms working for you by pulling in new traffic and leads daily.
This afternoon, HubSpot announced it would be making cuts in its workforce during Q1 2023. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing it put the scale of the cuts at 7%. This would mean losing around 500 employees from its workforce of over 7,000.
The reasons cited were a downward trend in business and a “faster deceleration” than expected following positive growth during the pandemic.
Layoffs follow swift growth. Indeed, the layoffs need to be seen against the background of very rapid growth at the company. The size of the workforce at HubSpot grew over 40% between the end of 2020 and today.
In 2022 it announced a major expansion of its international presence with new operations in Spain and the Netherlands and a plan to expand its Canadian presence in 2023.
Why we care. The current cool down in the martech space, and in tech generally, does need to be seen in the context of startling leaps forward made under pandemic conditions. As the importance of digital marketing and the digital environment in general grew at an unprecedented rate, vendors saw opportunities for growth.
The world is re-adjusting. We may not be seeing a bubble burst, but we are seeing a bubble undergoing some slight but predictable deflation.
Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space.
He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020.
Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.
Happy customers love to share their experience, but sometimes they need some encouragement to do so. The cool thing is, once they do, they become even more loyal to your brand.
So, at this stage of the Customer Value Journey, ask people to share their positive experience with your brand by writing a review or sharing a social media post.
Once you get to stage seven, the Customer Value Journey is going to get a whole lot easier for you. This stage is all about learning your customer’s experience, and building up your testimonial database.
The most important part of this step is asking these four questions.
What Was Your Life Like Before Finding Our Solutions? What Challenges Were You Facing That Caused You to Consider Us?
These questions are great not only because it gives you some really good stories, but because it gives you some insight on how you can provide similar prospects with that AHA moment. Understanding the average day of your clients is important in reflecting on your Customer Value Journey, and helps you understand what really set you apart from your competitors.
What Key Features Had the Biggest and/or Fastest Impact?
Not only is this going to get you to really specific stories, you will understand the specific things you provided that gave the biggest impact. The answers to these questions will not only give you great insight and testimonials, it will provide you with ideas for new lead magnets. This part is a new Entry Point Offer goldmine!
What Has Been the Impact or Results in Your Life or Business Since Using Our Product or Service?
This is a fairly broad question, and that’s why we put it after the others. You will have already gotten all of the specifics out of the way with #1 & #2. But when you ask this question, this is where you get the most valuable stories. You can use this part as testimonials, as an order form, as a sales page, this part is testimonial gold.
If You Were Asked to Justify this Purchase to Your Boss or a Friend, What Would You Say?
This is our favorite question by far. If you had to go back in time and justify this purchase, what would you say? I promise you what we’re going to find is a lot of great ideas for the jobs that your product or service has done. You’ll get a lot of great ideas for your core message canvas. This question is about backfilling all of the assets that you may not have. Here you’re going directly to the customer who are already happy, and using their justifications to help you sell to new customers.
Hopefully you now understand just how valuable the Advocate stage could be, as well as the key questions you need to ask to get your customers talking. Here’s how it works for our example companies.
When it comes to fashion we all love to show off our outfits. So a good example for Hazel & Hems would be to have customers write reviews for a discount code or points towards their next purchase.
Better yet, follow up with the customers to ask them to share and tag themselves wearing the items in a social media post and providing them with something valuable as a reward.
For Cyrus & Clark Media, hopping on zoom meetings or a streaming service for live talks about them and their business could generate valuable awareness for them, and a live case study for the agency. They can use the questions Ryan provided during this lesson to conduct the interview.
Through deals and coupons, Instacart has saved consumers more than $700 million in 2022. As we dive into 2023, the leading grocery technology company in North America has big plans to help consumers save even more while also helping CPGs generate sales. Instacart recently announced an advertising solution that helps both sellers and consumers called Instacart Promotions. This exciting feature is designed to help drive conversions, boost sales, and generate overall engagement on the app.
Interested in this feature and how it can help your business on Instacart? Read on as we dive into everything you need to know about this ad solution including benefits, how to get started, and more.
What are Instacart Promotions?
Instacart Promotions is an advertising feature that’s now available to all brand partners, including emerging brands, within their open beta program. Promotions give CPGs the opportunity to offer new deal structures, promotions, and incentives with Instacart Ad campaigns. With this feature in place, consumers will have access to more promotions, coupons, and deals that are tailored to them within the Instacart Marketplace.
“With the launch of our new Instacart Promotions, all of our brand partners now have the ability to set up coupons and promotions that can drive meaningful business results while also passing on more savings opportunities to consumers. We’re proud to continue expanding our portfolio with additional self-service capabilities, ad formats that drive results, and measurement that brands need to understand the true impact of their campaigns on Instacart.”
– Ali Miller, VP of Ads Product at Instacart
How Do Instacart Promotions Work?
Promotions, now available in Ads Manager, gives consumers the ability to discover more promotions and savings opportunities within the Instacart app. These promotions now show up directly on product item cards before checkout for easy accessibility. Promotions allow advertisers to customize their campaigns to sync with their goals and objectives whether that be driving sales, building baskets, or boosting trials.
Athletic Brewing, General Mills, Sola Company, and Wells Enterprises (maker of Halo Top) are strengthening campaign performance by pairing Instacart Promotions with ad formats such as Sponsored Product and Display. Instacart Promotions include two new flexible and customizable structures: Coupons (“buy X units, save $Y”) and Stock Up & Save (“Spend $X, Save $Y”).
According to Instacart, in the coming months, the company “will work to further enhance the new offering with new deal structures such as Free Gifts and Buy One, Get One (“BOGO”). The new deal structures will help brand partners run “Free Sample” programs that can win new customers and serve personalized discounts for different customer segments, such as “new to brand” and “new to category.”
Instacart Promotions Benefits
Deliver Value and Savings to Consumers
With Instacart Promotions, you have the opportunity to deliver value and savings that will have consumers coming back for more. With this savings feature, your brand can stand out among the competition and offer a variety of deals to shoppers ie: “Buy X units, Save $Y”.
Hot tip: Ensure you are selecting products for your promotion that are well-stocked and widely available.
Tailor Your Campaigns to Specific Objectives
With a variety of savings options available, your brand can structure deals to fit specific business goals and objectives.
Hot tip: If you’re looking to drive visibility and awareness, try pairing promotions with Sponsored Product campaigns.
Access Real-Time Performance Insights
The Promotions beta program is live and can be accessed within Instacart Ads Manager. Within Ads Manager, advertisers can access real-time insights to maximize performance and adjust campaigns as needed.
Hot tip: Make sure your budget matches your discount and objectives.
“As an advertiser, Instacart’s unique offering to self-manage promotions is so exciting! Historically, making adjustments to offer values and other promotion parameters was a more manual process, but now we’ll be able to easily make optimizations in real-time based on redemption performance.”
– Emily Choate, Senior Specialist, Marketplace Search at Tinuiti
Interested in Instacart Promotions?
With Instacart Promotions, you have the opportunity to reach new customers, build bigger baskets, and drive sales. Interested in testing out the beta program or looking to get started with advertising on the app? Drop us a line – we’d love to help elevate your CPG brand on Instacart.