Digital marketing is a powerful and cost-effective tool for small businesses. For example, successful email marketing campaigns return, on average, $36 in revenue per dollar spent on marketing. Additionally, consumers tend to prefer digital channels with most preferring to connect with brands through email, SMS, and Facebook.

Leveraging digital marketing platforms is a great way to spread the word about your small business, increase brand awareness, and drive more revenue. In this guide, we’ll cover three of the most important best practices to follow when developing a digital marketing strategy:

  1. Know your audience.
  2. Carefully choose communication platforms.
  3. Leverage technology.

Because most digital marketing channels are a form of owned media, meaning they are channels that your business has control over, they tend to be much more accessible to small businesses. So, whether you operate a dog daycare service that is just starting out or a locally-owned family bakery, you’ll be able to effectively reach new and existing customers through online channels.

Let’s get started by exploring how to identify and understand your target audience.

1. Know your audience. 

When communicating with customers, your messages should be tailored to their unique preferences, interests, and lifestyles. This strategy not only makes customers feel understood by your business but also makes your marketing efforts more efficient and effective.

Let’s say a dog boarding business is making efforts to better understand its audience and create more targeted marketing campaigns. Here are the steps they’ll take to research and apply information about the audience:

  1. Analyze data from existing customers. The business starts by analyzing data about customers stored in its boarding software, including their contact information, booking history, pet preferences and notes, and any feedback from the customer. Additionally, they note any personal information about the customers, including birthdates and geographic location.
  2. Reference marketing data. Next, the business looks to larger marketing trends for pet owners in its region or country. Specifically, they make note of pet ownership trends, such as the average number of pets per household and the cost of owning a pet. They also decide to reference general travel trends alongside the travel habits of pet owners to identify the best times to increase marketing efforts. The goal of this step is to understand the overall market, identify growth opportunities, and see how boarding services can address customer needs.
  3. Identify various audiences. Next, the business pinpoints three different audiences it will target: existing, affluent customers who frequently travel, previous customers who travel once or twice a year, and new dog owners who will be looking for a place to board their pets. The boarding business then creates a persona for each audience, creating a person whose age, interests, communication preferences, pet ownership details, travel patterns, and location align with the overall audience.
  4. Use personas to guide your digital marketing strategy. Once this research is complete, the boarding business can use its findings to create a more effective, personalized marketing strategy. For example, they may learn that many prospects in the new dog owner audience support rescues. To reach these customers, the boarding business decides to sponsor a local rescue’s social media posts in exchange for online shout-outs.

In addition to customer personas, your small business can segment customers into groups based on shared characteristics. As GivingDNA explains, segmentation divides your large datasets into smaller, more manageable pieces that you can use to create hyperpersonalized content. 

Returning to our dog boarding example, the business might create segments based on communication preferences or get more specific and group customers based on their dogs’ unique needs (e.g., you might send emails with messages like “We specialize in working with dogs with separation anxiety!”).

2. Carefully choose communication platforms.

Once your business has a solid understanding of its current and potential customers, it’s time to plan which digital channels you’ll use to reach them. When choosing these channels, it’s essential to keep your customers’ communication preferences in mind. If your target audience is part of Gen Z, for example, they may engage with platforms like Instagram and TikTok more than email. 

Additionally, you’ll want to be sure that the platform is a logical choice given the content you’re sharing. If your business sends out a monthly newsletter, it would be best to send the document out via email or direct mail rather than a video-based platform like TikTok.

Consider which audiences and messages tend to work best for the following digital communication channels:

  • Instagram: Instagram is a great way to engage younger generations, but older individuals may not engage with the app as regularly. Opt for eye-catching, branded graphics, photos of your product or service, and quick, clever captions. 
  • Facebook: If you’re looking to reach older generations on social media, focus your energy on Facebook. While you can create a wide variety of posts (e.g., text only, photos with captions, video content, etc.), those with photos and videos tend to garner the most engagement.
  • TikTok: TikTok is an incredibly popular app, boasting more than 900 million users in 2024. Creating engaging videos that align with trends on the app is one of the best ways to target a younger audience.
  • Email: This platform is versatile, making it an excellent option for engaging customers across different age groups and lifestyles. When sending marking emails, spend time crafting exceptionally compelling subject lines and calls to action.

Rather than settling on just one of these platforms, a more effective strategy might be to leverage multiple at once. This way, you can reach more customers and establish more than one touchpoint with them. Remember to make your communications feel cohesive by including your logo, brand colors, and voice in each message.

3. Leverage technology.

With so many marketing tools and software solutions available to small businesses, it can be difficult to determine which one is the best fit for your organization.

Streamline your marketing efforts by using technology such as:

  • Use your CRM to collect, store, and manage data about your customers.
  • Leverage industry-specific software to ensure that the marketing features can support your unique needs and challenges. For example, a dog grooming business might benefit from using Gingr’s business management software, as it has built-in SMS and email marketing capabilities catered to animal lovers.
  • Select a social media calendar tool to manage and schedule posts across all of your social media platforms.
  • Use video and photo editing software along with graphic design tools to create attractive graphics and media.

Over time, work to determine which tools your business needs to create the best marketing materials (and marketing strategy) possible. And if you’re on a tight budget, look for ways to leverage the tools you already have or look for free or “lite” versions.

People spend an average of six hours and 40 minutes online each day—is your small business doing what it can to reach them during that time? Taking advantage of low-cost and free marketing channels like social media, text, and email will help you connect with customers in new, engaging ways and motivate them to invest in your continued success.