Small Business Marketing: Getting Your Digital Foundation Right


It’s hard.

And it applies to all types of small businesses – coffee shops, plumbing, cleaning, professional services – whatever…

You’re going to have to become a marketer.

You may believe that your product is so great, or your service so valued, that word will spread and customers will flock.

But let’s burst that bubble right now.

They won’t. Not in the real world.

Small Business Marketing: Be Everywhere, and Do Everything

Having started and helped market many small businesses, I’m all too aware of the hurdles you have to overcome.

Some days can leave you literally tearing your hair out.

When work is quiet, you’re worried about paying the bills and trying to work out where best to spend your limited marketing budget.

When you’re busy, it often feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day.

It’s like you’ve got to be everywhere and do everything.

A great product or service alone won’t be enough to generate the volume of referrals you’d need to grow and sustain a business in any industry.

You constantly need to generate enough fresh leads to stay solvent, let alone thrive.

And this means you end up on a huge learning curve.

Not only do you have to provide your product or service, but you also need to have a firm grasp of cost-effective marketing and deal with the admin and logistical tasks that marketing and Advertising a business entails.

There is little margin for error: Make too many mistakes and your budget will be depleted. And a shrinking budget means you’ll cut costs on the very strategy that determines your success.

It’s like a slow painful death.

Getting the most from a modest marketing budget

If you have a working business phone line, you’ll probably have been subjected to a gazillion annoying, over-familiar sales calls.

In fact, these calls (and emails) often outnumber enquiries from real customers in the early days.

You’re offered an assortment of advertising delights from lots of friendly salespeople who want to help you

Yelp. Google Ads. Newspapers. Local Online Directories. Printing Companies. Local Magazines. Networking Groups. Local Chamber of Commerce etc.

They all profess to have the answer to your marketing prayers.

Except – and I’m sure you’ve noticed – small business marketing has drastically changed in recent years.

The power is back in the hands of the consumer.

They no longer have to hold onto that highly polished leaflet or scramble a pen and scribble a telephone number from a radio broadcast.

And they don’t have to take an extra search step and use a directory to find a local business.

Google does that brilliantly for them and provides results based on quality and location.

If a customer needs your services, they’ll search in their own time and come to an informed decision based on search engine results and the content provided.

And so it is vital you are easily found in Google and your website makes a compelling case of selling your business.

In fact, I’ll go a step further and state that in many local small businesses, the foundation of marketing and lead generation now rests on 2 key components.

And any other marketing strategies simply fill in the gaps.

Improving your website and organic search rankings are your first priorities

I’m dumbfounded when I see small businesses debating the minutiae of leafleting response rates whilst putting up with a dated website and poor search rankings.

And that’s without taking into account the hours invested in networking with movers and shakers and wrestling over what the hell they’re gonna post on social media today!

The phrase “pissing in the wind” springs to mind.

I don’t doubt that targeted leafleting has good potential – we use it ourselves.

And yes, social media can work very well for many small businesses (although it’s getting harder).

But the #1 method of generating a consistent flow of new customers – almost on auto-pilot – is by implementing SEO and offering convincing content on a website that provides a great user experience (actually, maybe that should be 3 methods?!)

I’ll use the example of a plumber looking to grow a business in London to illustrate this point…

A few basic search phrases entered into Ahrefs keyword tool reveal that there are over 900 searches per month for this service, using London as one of the keywords (this is not taking into account searches using location keywords of individual boroughs of London).

Recent research indicates as many as 69% of clicks go to the first organic result in Google for such searches.

So, if you were looking to start a profitable plumbing business in London, wouldn’t it make sense to prioritize a local SEO strategy with the aim of targeting the higher echelons of page 1 Google?

And what if you already run a local business with such impressive search figures? (There are plenty..)

Considering the above statistic, and if you managed to improve and attain the top ranking for most of the relevant searches in London, you could reasonably expect to receive over 600 hot leads every month purely from organic search.

That’s a hell of a foundation from which to grow a small business.

But what happens when they click on your website?

When we design a new website, we like to take into account all of the permutations of local or national search.

Even if the client isn’t quite ready to tackle the obstacle of search marketing just yet.

Likewise, when we tackle a new SEO project, we feel it’s important to suggest improvements in content and design – Conversion is an often neglected component of modern SEO.

And we’re not just saying it in order to try and squeeze a few more shillings out of our clients.

It often requires just a nudge in the right direction; adding or improving content, or perhaps the simple addition of an intelligent call to action box.

Because in my experience, some small business (especially local service businesses!) tend to cut costs on design and worry about it later – only to find that when they do improve their search rankings, their site fails to convert visitors into customers.

At the risk of repeating myself…there’s one thing you need to be absolutely clear on: the quality of your website, and the user experience provided, is the deciding factor in whether your visitors convert or leave to explore other options.

And they’ll make the decision within 5 seconds.


Because there’s so much choice.

Your website and business must stand out.

A cheap template plucked from the conveyor belt and populated with content you copied from a competitor won’t help your cause at all.

Every page needs to provide unique and helpful content and elicit the desired response.

There needs to be a reason for every icon, widget and word…A journey to take.

Images need to add something of value and not be plucked from a stock photo site that screams to the visitor: I’VE SEEN THIS PHOTO BEFORE!!!

And the result of getting this right?

It’s so important you really do get this.

I’ve seen small businesses all but written off as a failure, transformed by investing in a creative, compelling website and an intelligent SEO campaign.

The results of alternative marketing channels simply don’t compare to capturing people actively and willingly searching for your business online.

Don’t dilute the potential of improving your website and search rankings by spreading an already challenging budget too thinly.

I know…I get it…that glitzy networking group offering free Prosecco cocktails appear far more glam than staring at our ugly mugs now and again.

But the leads we’ll help you generate will make it more than worthwhile.

I mean, our clients are proof of what a clear website and SEO strategy can achieve.

There’s Mark at Man With A Pan who’s consistently improving his search positions with SEO, and generating the leads he needs to grow his business from the first few testing months… search rankings

There are the guys at Spear Recruitment who, with our help, have achieved multiple page 1 top 3 rankings in a very short time and overtook long established recruitment companies for competitive keywords such as “motor trade jobs”.

And then there’s The Montpelier, who have trebled their bookings and profit through a complete website re-design and a long-term search engine optimisation strategy.

There are many others – businesses all over the UK that we currently work with and others that are in the initial stages of switching from digital companies who didn’t quite cut the mustard.

We only work with one company in a particular industry within tight geographic areas, so as to always be transparent and avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

Are you ready to stack the odds in your favour and grow your business?

We’d love to talk.

About the author

Alex Thomas

I've been involved in digital marketing for over 10 years and have worked with global and local companies on large scale SEO and PR campaigns. In my current role at Breakline, I'm responsible for winning new business, creating, implementing and overseeing SEO campaigns, social communications, online and offline media relations.

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By Alex Thomas