Making Sense of Online Marketing for a Real Small Business

We believe that success in online marketing for a small business isn’t just about the right set of tools. It’s also about the know-how.

We’ve spent a lot of our focus recently on packaging and sharing that know-how, based on our decades of experience in online marketing. The result? Our set of free online marketing guides, known as The Download. We have guides developed for several industries including nonprofit, retail, real estate, and many more on the way.

Free online marketing guide for small business, The Download.
TIP: Get The Download, our comprehensive and easy-to-understand guide to online marketing.

The goal of these guides is to give small business owners and nonprofit professionals a comprehensive, but approachable map of the modern online marketing world.

We get excited about the opportunities that digital marketing tools can bring to small businesses, humanitarian causes, and more. This is our way of highlighting those opportunities and telling people how to take advantage of them.

As our next step in this effort, we’ve been working with a local Constant Contact customer to actually implement the recommendations outlined in The Download, step-by-step.

We’re going to share that story in a series of blog posts, of how we used our guide to give a local business a marketing “makeover,” and to bring a real small business owner closer to achieving her goals.

This is the beginning of that story and I’d like to start by sharing a little bit more of our philosophy behind creating and sharing The Download.

A guide made for the real world

After releasing The Download, our team was eager to test the guide in the real world.

As much as we love marketing (we are an online marketing company after all), we know that most small business owners have a lot on their plates and they can’t devote all of their time and money to marketing efforts. 

Not only do we want to recommend tactics and tools that are effective, but we also want to make sure our recommendations are realistic. That means:

  • Tools and strategies that can be set up and managed in a reasonable amount of time
  • Tactics that generate a return for the small business owner
  • Plans that are flexible, able to accommodate the shifting schedule and priorities of a modern entrepreneur
  • Explanations that are easy to understand, especially for non-experts

We get it — most small business owners are marketers by necessity. The vast majority aren’t working with online marketing teams and are lucky to have just a few hours each week to dedicate purely to marketing. Nevertheless, marketing is essential to the success of a modern small business and can’t be neglected. There needs to be a balance.

That’s what this project is all about — taking our online marketing guide into the real world to help small business owners find that balance and implement online marketing plans that work to serve their goals – in a way that works with their lifestyle.

Introducing Dawn, owner of La Provence in Rockport, Massachusetts

On a brisk November day, my Constant Contact teammates Ashley, Patrick, and I drove from our office up to Rockport, Massachusetts, an adorable seaside New England town full of small shops, restaurants, and beaches. It’s a major destination during the summer months, but this afternoon, it’s quiet and peaceful.

We’re in town to visit Dawn, a Constant Contact customer and owner of La Provence, a small store selling French goods. Her store is simply adorable and represents everything I love about these small New England shops. It’s cozy, warm, exudes personality, and is filled with unique little finds I’d be unlikely to stumble upon if I were shopping online.

La Provence, French Goods Store in Rockport MA
The storefront of La Provence in Rockport, Massachuset

Dawn warmly welcomes us inside and we enter the shop, with The Download guide in-hand, excited to team up with her to take full advantage of Constant Contact’s tools and marketing know-how. In order to know how to help her, we wanted to get to know her — how she came to be a business owner, what her goals and priorities are, and what her day-to-day is like.

Becoming a business owner

“I was actually waitressing across the street from the old location of La Provence. I was friendly with both owners. Bill, who was one of the owners, came by to pick up his tuna melt (with onions and no tomatoes) and approached me about buying the store,” Dawn tells us.

“Initially, I thought he was crazy. But then I thought about it. I approached my dad who’s a business owner himself and he was just like, ‘Go! Do it!’. He also told me to be ready to work.”

She didn’t waste any time and decided to seize the opportunity. 

“The other store owner trained me for about three hours and the next day we signed papers. They left and there I was, behind a register with inventory to sell. I was a business owner.”

“That first summer I was open, I was in the store about 70 hours per week. I just showed up and was open every day and every night, and I worked my butt off. But I realized I liked it and I just kept going. I really threw myself into it. And I’ve been running with it ever since.”

Nowadays, things are a little different. Dawn has three kids, her store is off the ground, and she is turning her attention toward the future.

Dawn’s goals for her small business

Inside La Provence, French goods store
That’s me, Jake (left)  talking to Dawn (right) in her store, getting to know her business and her goals.

When I spoke to Dawn about her hopes for her business, she, of course, wanted to increase her revenue, but more specifically she wanted to create an online revenue stream for her store that would sustain her in the winter and spring. While Rockport is a bustling summer destination, and Dawn’s store attracts some holiday season business, the early months of the year can be quiet.

“We’re so busy for about three months, but there are nine more months in a year, so my goal was figuring out how can I still sustain the business during that time.” 

Dawn initially focused her marketing efforts on email marketing. She dabbled in Google ads, but had some difficulty, and found herself relying heavily on word-of-mouth advertising. Most of her online customers were people who had heard about the store during an actual visit in the summer months. 

As we chatted, Dawn expressed a desire to continue engaging with and catering to her current customers, but at the same time, to expand her customer base beyond the people who were able to discover her store in-person.

Longer-term, Dawn shared that her goal would be to pivot from needing to open and work the store herself every day to a focus on managing the overall business operations and marketing. She’d liked to carve some time out of her busy business schedule to focus on her other important roles: mother of three and a highly engaged member of her local community.

The road ahead: Using The Download as our map

With Dawn’s goals in mind, we put our heads together, cracked open The Download and got to planning. We kicked off this project in November and used the holiday season as a launch and experimentation opportunity, working with Dawn to try new marketing tactics and observe her current processes.

In the months ahead, we’ll continue to check in with Dawn and to build on our experimentations to move her closer to her goals of engaging current customers, attracting new customers, and creating a sustainable, year-round revenue stream from her online store.

Some of the things we’re already working on with Dawn that we’ll be sharing details on in later posts include:

  • Launching a new business website for La Provence, with a brand new online store
  • Optimizing Dawn’s email marketing to engage current customers and welcome new ones
  • Updating her social media presence and strategies
  • Ensuring her store’s business listings are optimized to properly showcase her business
  • Exploring how content creation can serve Dawn in all her online marketing goals.

My hope is that, through this story,  we’ll be able to show you how you can take advantage of the latest online marketing tools and know-how, regardless of your level of experience or comfort with the world of digital marketing.

We say this a lot here, but it’s because we believe it — You’ve got this!

If our tools and know-how can work for Dawn’s business, they can work for yours. Whether your goal is to grow your business or to simply carve out more time for yourself for other things, we have tools and guidance to help you.

Check back on our online marketing blog or subscribe to our newsletter to continue to follow Dawn’s story. In the meantime, you can dive into our online marketing guide yourself and start trying out our recommendations to transform your business or organization.

The post Making Sense of Online Marketing for a Real Small Business appeared first on Constant Contact.

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