How You Should Market Your Business Online

How You Should Market Your Business Online


If you own a business, chances are you’ve thought about how you’ll market the product or service you’re selling to your potential customers. But while a traditional marketing strategy is necessary, these days online marketing is becoming an essential part of the marketing mix too.

1. Know who your online target market is

The firs step in marketing your business online is to know exactly who you’re selling to and where you’ll find them online.

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Are your potential customers young and tech-savvy, interacting on social media and buying products on their mobile devices? Or are they a more conservative bunch who like to read product reviews online before making a buying decision? Knowing exactly who your potential online customer is helps you uncover their core need that may differ slightly from your offline customers.

It also helps you tailor your messaging so you reach them more effectively on the online platforms they’re using. 

2. Build your database

With strict privacy and anti-spam laws now in effect in South Africa, it’s important to have permission from your potential customers to market to them online.

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Whenever you make a sale or engage in a conversation with a potential customer, get their permission to keep their details so you can communicate with them in future.

Once you have a list of these prospects and/or past customers, you can send them targeted marketing in the form of email newsletters or targeted SMS messages. 

3. Add value online

Marketing online successfully is much more about engagement and adding value than about the hard sell – if your product is as good as you think it is, you won’t need to push this.

To add value, decide how you can make your customers’ lives better online: Maybe you can provide expert advice, or provide resources for them to read and use in future? Or, maybe you can entertain them or provide a convenient tool or service? Once you develop a reputation for being a useful resource, your customers are more likely to trust you and become customers that keep returning.

4. Create good content

A key way to add value online is to create good content. This can be in several forms: Useful, well-researched articles, or a blog post that touches on key issues in your industry, or even a competition to win a product giveaway, cash or an experience.

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Good content begs to be shared, and the more your content is read online by others, the more your brand will gather momentum and the more people will be open to buying what it is you’re offering.

When you do create good content, make sure that it’s search engine friendly (see point 7 below) and that you have a good social networking structure in place (see point 6 below) to help seed it. 

5. Design a newsletter strategy


As long as you’re writing good content as per the previous point, you may as well leverage what you’re publishing even further – a regular email newsletter is an excellent way of doing this.

Successful email newsletters are well written with lots of (but not too much) relevant and unique content that’s specifically targeted to its readers.

They also push products and services, but be careful to tread the middle ground between selling and adding value. Generally it’s best to send out a newsletter about twice a month, and there are a host of free tools (such as Constant Contact or Mailchimp) that you can use to create an attractive HTML newsletter that won’t trip your recipient’s spam filters.

6. Choose a social media channel that suits you

Social media is the buzzword on everyone’s lips, but it’s not a magic bullet and not every channel will work for your business.

Just because you have a Facebook page and advertising campaign, a company LinkedIn page and a Twitter account doesn’t mean potential customers will come running.

Look at the nature of your business and your ideal customers and decide which channels suit – leisure businesses, for example, generally work well on Facebook.

Bear in mind too that getting involved in social media for your business is time consuming and takes commitment, so don’t embark on this unless you have the resources to do it regularly.

7. Get visible on search results

Search is one of the only platforms where your target audience is actively asking to be marketed to, so it’s worthwhile making sure you’re visible on search results pages for the queries they’re typing in to Google.

You have two broad options when it comes to marketing your business on search engines: Paid search, where you pay for your ads to appear on search results via Google’s Adwords platform, or search engine optimisation, where you make changes to your site so that you appear on Google’s natural (unpaid) search results.

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The above points are just a start, because the ways to market your business online are vast, as are the different tools you can use.

No business these days should be without an online marketing strategy though, so get involved in creating one yourself, or hire an expert so you can formulate a plan that will drive your company forward.

Catherine Black
Catherine is a search engine optimisation (SEO) specialist, social media strategist and web copywriter with a Business Science degree from UCT at Black Mountain. With over 12 years’ experience in paid and organic search, she began working on the agency side (Quirk in Cape Town, Greenlight Digital in London and iProspect in San Francisco) before heading the internal SEO team at CBS Interactive in San Francisco. Back in South Africa, Catherine has provided SEO, social media and web copywriting services to clients since 2009. She’s the author of the book, “301 Ways to Use Social Media To Boost Your Marketing” (McGraw Hill, 2010), and has been a convener and course writer for GetSmarter, one of South Africa’s fastest growing online education companies.

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