Everything you need to know about digital marketing for small business

laptop on desk with digital marketing onscreen
(Image credit: Pexels)

Digital marketing, also known as online marketing, involves publishing online marketing communications, promotions and digital adverts to connect with customers. It can include email, social media, and web-based ad banners. 

Using the best CRM software can be a good starting point with digital marketing, helping develop customer relations and establishing what connections they may have with your firm. From there, you can use targeted marketing for specific interests.

What does digital marketing do?

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Digital marketing transposes standard marketing into the online world (Image credit: Pexels)

Digital marketing is the natural evolution of traditional marketing. While the latter focuses on magazine ads, billboards, and direct mailings, digital marketing uses online video, website adverts, search engine marketing, and much more.

It can be divided up into more hands-off advertising, such as by displaying an advert to a customer as they watch a video or browse a website; or it can be more direct, such as via social media. Whether through sponsored adverts on a social media platform, or by a company posting information on their social media, it all comes under the banner of digital marketing. 

A separate field includes search engine optimization (SEO), with websites that rank highly in search results often performing best amongst their customers. In conjunction with content marketing, it enables customers to gain more attention from potential clients, via driving awareness of the product. 

After all, Google is often a key place for all consumers to search for something, so ranking highly proves beneficial. 

How departments can use digital marketing for small businesses

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Various different SMB departments can take advantage of, and utilize, digital marketing functions and services (Image credit: Pexels)

Customer service

Digital marketing in conjunction with good customer service can build up customer insight, ensuring that customers get the best service possible. Combined with digital marketing tools like HubSpot, Hootsuite, and various CRM software platforms, customer services can be more informed about the past history of a customer, as well as how they have previously interacted with a marketing campaign. 

That leads to better customer service for the client, as they feel more like they're gaining an individual service rather than being treated as a number. It also typically leads to issues being solved faster. 


Sales relies heavily on good marketing. With more people using the internet and social media than ever before, digital marketing is a key component of that. With good quality digital marketing providing a strong message to potential customers, a sales team has an easier job converting a lead into a sale. 

In turn, a customer feels far more informed thanks to seeing more of a product via digital marketing, so that they feel more confident in knowing they have purchased the right product for their needs.

Particularly for small businesses, a good reputation and a personal service goes a long way, meaning a well-combined digital marketing campaign and sales department ensures everyone is happy, and that feedback is positive.


Traditional marketing and digital marketing can co-exist. For some businesses, one type may work better than the other. 

It's important to keep options open when starting out on a marketing campaign. Using marketing automation can help cut down some of the more tedious tasks associated with both traditional and digital marketing. B2B marketing automation may be required for small businesses that work with other companies. 

Via automation, it's possible to schedule social media messages to be sent out at a specific time. Automated emails can also be helpful. At all times, it's important for both sides of marketing to communicate too, with CRM software helping here. 


HR departments can use digital marketing as a form of virtual paper trail. The HR department can check that marketing is working effectively by monitoring sales leads that are developed through it, via the use of relevant software. 

They can also predict more accurately what the future holds for a small business based on prior results. From there, the department can work out if more investment in terms of employees need to be made when it comes to digital marketing services, which can also be used to help with recruitment. 


Finance's main role in conjunction with digital marketing is to determine budgets. A finance department can track the performance of individuals as well as specific campaigns, knowing where investment needs to be made to make the best of a digital marketing strategy. 

It can also test scenarios to determine where the most successful marketing campaigns might lie, before creating reports that show what's likely to occur. Being able to allocate budgets most appropriately is immensely useful to digital marketing, especially when it comes to acquiring funds for SEO-based campaigns, or purchasing social media software that aids automation. 

Features and benefits of digital marketing for small business

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You can reach more customers and improve sales by investing in digital marketing (Image credit: Pexels)


Digital marketing is the most modern form of marketing. It's not essential for all firms to implement, but it's a good way of making even the smallest of businesses look very modern. Its modern nature is highly varied, ensuring that anyone can reach out to potential clients through various forms of social media, or go further by using advertising services to expand their horizons online. 

Reaches a wide range of people

Because digital marketing is online, it can reach a wider range of people than traditional marketing that often relies on geography to make things possible. A social media presence ensures that a business can reach out to potential clients hundreds or even thousands of miles away, with locale no longer being a limited factor in getting the message out. 

Thanks to algorithms on social media platforms, such messages can also pinpoint users that find the service more relevant, rather than relying upon adverts at bus stops or in local magazines, which tend to provide more scattershot results. 

Better return on investment 

A lot of digital marketing can be achieved relatively inexpensively compared to billboards or TV adverts. Devising a social media campaign takes time and money, but issuing it is relatively straightforward, meaning a better return on your investment. 

It's also more efficient, which saves the business time. Once certain services are set up, digital marketing can soon pay for itself through better reach and sales performance.

Better lead quality

Much of digital marketing is focused on a personalized service. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media services all use algorithms to recommend services and accounts that are most likely to be of interest to a user. By using social media for your digital marketing, users can instantly appeal to the customers best suited to them; meaning customers aren't distracted by something irrelevant, and that a company's sales team has genuinely-interested clients. 

Builds up brand recognition

Marketing isn't just about sales. It's also about establishing brand familiarity. A name that someone sees everywhere is a name they are more likely to recommend to people, even if it's not a product they use themselves. In the case of digital marketing, a strong social media presence can help immensely with creating a positive view. 

It doesn't need to be used for customer service or selling products. Many successful campaigns simply encourage interaction in a fun way, making a company seem more human than just a place to buy a product. It can even be used to develop product ideas.

Digital marketing FAQs

How much does digital marketing cost?

Different forms of digital marketing can cost varying amounts. For instance, B2B digital marketing can often cost more than B2C. Alternatively, using content marketing or search engine marketing to drive high organic traffic to your website can cost as much as a skilled SEO freelancer costs on an ad-hoc basis.

Social media marketing requires someone knowledgeable in how social media services work, and how to build brand awareness effectively to generate leads. Email marketing often requires skills in digital marketing automation software, such as Mailchimp.

Ultimately, there's no one price for digital marketing. Often, it's useful to hire multiple different people for a service. Alternatively, software tools such as CRM packages or automation tools can help reduce long-term costs, providing you buy the right one for your needs.

Do small businesses need digital marketing?

Digital marketing plays a key role in developing a small business. While word of mouth is useful, a good form of digital marketing can extend your range of customers to much further afield. Many products can be shipped internationally, providing a customer already knows about them. Similarly, services can be arranged remotely too. Getting your word out remotely via digital marketing is a crucial way of making all this possible.

Why is digital marketing good for small businesses?

Digital marketing gets the message out, and doesn't always have to cost a fortune. Many elements of it can be learned or developed by existing staff, or consultants can be hired for a short time. Software can also be used to make the process simpler, with a lot of it proving to be quite intuitive.

Brand recognition is a particularly key factor for small businesses, and digital marketing helps expand good word-of-mouth further afield than locally.

How do I get started with digital marketing for my small business? 

It's a good idea to read up on vital marketing strategies to learn what would work best for your business. Keeping up with the latest trends or even internet memes can help ensure your social media presence is fresh and up to date. As well as that, creating a strong presence that isn't solely focused on selling products or services is a good way to keep someone's attention. 

Working out whether video advertising or social media marketing is best for your business is also useful. If your product or service is very visual, focus on a visual medium such as Instagram or TikTok, for instance. 

How do we earn money by digital marketing?  

Like other forms of marketing, digital marketing isn't strictly to do with developing sales. Instead, its focus is on strengthening your brand, so that when a customer or client does approach your sales team, they already know a bit about the product. That leads to stronger sales and a more positive experience for the client, as well as a simpler sale for your company. 

Don't see digital marketing as a quick way to make cash, but as an investment to grow the quality of your sales over time.  

What are examples of digital marketing for small business?  

Digital marketing for small business covers a wide range of areas. These include search engine marketing (SEM), SEO, marketing automation, email automation, digital advertising, content marketing, and social media marketing (SMM). 

It's important to work out what is best for your business. A digital campaign of videos and banners can be useful in a more hands-off way, but it's also good to engage with clients and customers via social media to provide a more personal experience.  

Key takeaways

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You can grow your reach, improve customer relationships, and achieve strong brand recognition with digital marketing (Image credit: Pexels)

There's a lot to learn about how digital marketing works and how it can help your business. Here's a brief overview of the main things to know about it. 

  • Digital marketing expands your business's reach: by using internet-based marketing, you can reach out to more people, and not be constrained to geographical locations to adverts
  • Digital marketing is flexibly priced: it's possible to spend a lot or a little on digital marketing, and a small business can start out with a small budget before expanding it to include more areas of interest
  • It can improve customer relations: like a lot of good marketing, use digital marketing effectively and you can boost your sales while also making customers happier, because they know more about a product or service before considering a purchase 
  • You can achieve strong brand recognition: marketing shouldn't just be about gaining sales, it should also be about forming a good reputation, and good digital marketing does that by providing a way for customers to interact with more than just a sales advert, or by providing them with interesting content marketing pieces

Further reading on marketing

Your first port of call should be reading up on marketing 101 to learn about basics relating to both traditional and digital marketing. If you're confused about the differences when it comes to marketing vs sales, our comparison will help.

Finding out what a marketing funnel is, and the best digital channels for the various marketing funnel stages, will guide you towards how to build your marketing strategy.

It's also sensible to read up on the best B2B marketing strategies, and the best small business marketing strategies proven to work when appealing to other businesses; as well as establishing marketing objectives for your small business upfront.

Jennifer Allen

Jennifer is a roving tech freelancer with over 10 years experience. Having graduated from Swansea University with a degree in Media and Communication Studies, and later with a diploma from Staffordshire University with a post graduate diploma in Computer Games Design, she's written for a huge number of publications, including T3, FitandWell, Top Ten Reviews, Eurogamer, NME and many more. 

Her main areas of interest are all things B2B, smart technology, wearables, speakers, headphones, and anything gaming related, and you'll find her writing everything from product reviews to buying guides and hunting down the latest coupon codes to save you money. In her spare time, she enjoys the cinema, walking, and attempting to train her pet guinea pigs. She is yet to succeed.