Online Marketing 101: How To Do Online Marketing For Your Small Business

Woman sitting in an office building using her laptop to create an online marketing campaign.

Online marketing is critical for business success. Every business of every size needs it.

But when you’re starting out or just jumping into online marketing, there’s a lot to consider because time and money are too precious to waste.

(Yes, there are established businesses that are just now jumping into online marketing. They’re typically solopreneurs who have been in business for years. So, if this is you, take heart. You’re not alone.)

To help you make a sound decision about how to do online marketing for your small business, we’ll first look at the preparation necessary to create a foundation for success, and then we’ll explore the three broad options you have for online marketing.

Creating the foundation for successful online marketing

Any kind of marketing requires a product or service, knowing who the people are who need and want the product or service, a clear brand, and clear goals. Let’s break each of these down.

  1. Identify the result or solution you offer

    People buy results and solutions to problems they have. So, the first piece of a successful online marketing foundation is a specific result or solution that enough people care about.

    This “enough people” part is important. You might have a great product or service that very few people want or need. Or you might have something that “everyone” wants or needs. In either case, it will be difficult to create an effective marketing campaign.

    If you have too few people, it may not be worth marketing it unless the revenue generated from each sale is large enough to keep the business afloat.

    If you have too many people who want it, then you’ll need to home in on which part of the overall market you want to serve – at least at first – so you can create effective online marketing campaigns and fulfill the orders you receive.

    And this is why knowing your ideal customers or clients is the next piece.

  2. Know your ideal client or customer

    You’re probably sick of hearing about avatars, personas, or ideal customer profiles. However, knowing who your ideal client or customer is is vital to successful marketing.

    It’s only when you can truly put yourself into their shoes that you can create online marketing campaigns that will capture their attention and bring them to your small business.

    You need to deeply understand your ideal client’s demographics, values and goals, challenges and pain points, and sources of information along with their objections and roles. When you do, you can speak their language and create content that’s meaningful to them so they can find where they already spend time online.

  3. Have a clear brand

    In addition to making sure you know who your ideal customers are you want to make it easy for them to identify who you are. That’s why you need to have a clear brand. It’s too easy to create content that captures people’s attention but doesn’t relate to the brand.

    When you take the time to develop your branding, you will create content that has a similar look and feel. You’ll have your own version of Nike’s swoosh or Apple’s apple.

  4. Have clear goals for each of your online marketing campaigns

    Creating content to share online is important. However, creating content without a specific goal is a waste of time. Each piece of content needs to fulfill a purpose. Some goals that you might set include:

    • Increase revenue
    • Increase brand awareness
    • Create customer loyalty
    • Introduce a new product or service
    • Visits to website
    • Downloads of an app
    • Increase mailing list size

    When you have a goal, you can create content that supports the goal. The goal provides some parameters around what type of content you need to create.

    Knowing your goal will also allow you to create meaningful measures to determine the success of the campaign and allow you to tweak things to improve the desired results.

Once you’ve prepared the foundation for successful online marketing, you’re ready to decide which of the 3 ways to approach online marketing you want to use.

3 ways to approach online marketing

I think of online marketing efforts fitting into one of 3 buckets: what you own, what you gift, and what you buy.

  1. What you own

    The online marketing platforms that you own include your website, videos, apps, and, to some extent, emails. You have control over who can see and interact with these platforms. So, these are the ones you own.This is typically where I recommend business owners start when they’re wondering how to do online marketing. And specifically, I encourage them to have a website.

    Your website is the primary sales team for your business, so you want to be sure it appropriately represents your products and services. You’ll also want to make sure it can capture leads.

  2. What you gift

    When you publish your online marketing content on someone else’s website, you’re effectively gifting it to the other site. They get to decide who can see it and when.Examples of sites business owners gift their content to include social media sites, writing guest blogs for other websites, providing interviews for other websites, and creating a Google My Business or Yelp listing.

    I consider gifting to be the second phase of online marketing because you want to have a website that people who find you on other sites can visit so they can learn more about what your business offers.

  3. What you buy

    The final approach to online marketing is all about having others promote your business. These include ads, influencers, and sometimes backlinks and guest posts.I don’t typically recommend these approaches until you already understand your ideal clients and can create content that you know will help you meet your intended goal.

So when it comes to knowing how to do online marketing for your small business, I hope you can see that there is no one way to accomplish it.

The first step is to set up your foundation and then be willing to experiment to see what works best for your business. Once you figure out what works best, you’ll want to focus on it.

And you also need to know that what works to achieve one goal may be entirely different from what works to achieve a different goal. So, like just about everything when you’re running a business, it pays to be adaptable and be willing to experiment to constantly improve your online marketing.


Have questions about online marketing for your small business? Let us help. Schedule a free consultation with one of our content marketing experts today.


Karen Finn, PhD