The Calgary Herald reported today that Small and medium-sized businesses plan to cut spending 27% this year and that Small business confidence hits another record low in Alberta.

In this business climate that you need to make sure every dollar works for you and your best bet is a well-rounded and integrated marketing and sales strategy using a variety of channels with consistent messaging and branding. If you’re cutting costs, however – maybe even drastically, you need to make sure you have taken full advantage of the low-hanging fruit.

You can work smarter in 2016 and see your business weather the economic downturn. 

Even in a weaker economy, people will not suddenly (or ever, really) stop buying gifts, going for dinner, doing their taxes, sending their kids to sports programs, buying gym memberships, fixing their car, having coffee with a friend, throwing parties, having babies, getting new glasses, having their hair done, taking piano lessons, upgrading their car stereos, changing out their car tires, repairing or replacing faulty appliances, getting counselling, and grooming their dogs.

Keep in mind that, while unemployment has risen in Alberta to just over 7%, it has just recently matched the national average – that means that fully 93% of Albertans are still employed. Furthermore, Todd Hirsh – Chief Economist for ATB Financial, noted in a recent CBC article, Albertans spend more than rest of Canada despite economic slump.

You need to figure out who your customers are and find them. Digital marketing is key.

1. Social Media – Sharing & Engagement

Where are your customers hanging out online? Do you serve the end consumer? Your customers are definitely on Facebook, maybe Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Maybe you cater to young men or teens; did you know you can reach your customers through XBox Live? Do you serve other businesses? You will find your clients on Twitter, LinkedIn, and in various networking groups you can find on Did you know that behind Google, YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world with 3 Billion searches per month – bigger than Bing, Yahoo!, Ask and AOL combined!

Get out there and engage with your customers.

Share what you’re doing, what you have to offer the world. Find your brand champions through social listening – hashtag searching on Twitter and Instagram for starters. Open the app, click the search bar and search your business name; you might be surprised at what you find. Here’s a little more on getting your small business started with social media.

2. Content Marketing – Creating Solutions

Why do people buy from you? What do you have to offer? What is your expertise? What kind of problem can you solve for your customers? How can you create content to solve those problems for your customers and build trust with them before they’ve ever had the pleasure of trying out your products?

Are you an accounting firm? Write the answers to frequently asked questions with enough detail that people can solve some of their own problems. Post them as articles on your website. Use a blog. The more frequently your website is updated, the more frequently it will be crawled and new content indexed for search.

Are you a coffee shop or restaurant? Choose an expertise that fits your brand personality and own it! Write and publish recipes, create a daily dish, showcase your local suppliers, be all about coffee beans or wines or herbs or cappuccino foam designs. Create content that answers the questions that people ask of Google, Siri, Alexa and in the YouTube search bar.

Once you have written this amazing content, share it on your social channels! Drive the click to your website and enable easy sharing by including an image, catchy headline and share widgets.

Worried about giving away the information your charge your clients for? Don’t be. There will always be people who need your professional services. When that time comes, they’ll remember that you were the expert who helped to empower them to solve their own problem when they needed it.

3. Review Sites – Google, Yelp, Facebook etc.

Get reviewed. Straight up ask people to post a review of your products or services anywhere they like to post reviews. Oftentimes people don’t think to post reviews at all; some only post when they have had a terrible experience. Don’t be afraid to ask your happy customers to review you. Up to 90% of consumers are influenced by reviews when making a buying decision. Make sure you are found on all appropriate review sites for your industry.

4. Simple SEO – Search Engine Optimization

There are lots of little things you can do to optimize your website to be ranked higher by the search engines. Placement will always depend on a myriad of factors and highly competitive industries – like real estate, for instance – present more of a challenge than niche industries – like dog grooming – for sure. But the quick nuts and bolts are this:

Optimize your Content & URLs

Make each page of your website its own topic. Don’t try and cram it all in to one if you’re trying to optimize for search. Include around 300 words about whatever you’re talking about and then optimize the URL so it says what the page is about. Instead of using bold and underline to draw attention to headings, use the Heading 1, 2 and 3 etc. to make your section titles – this helps the search engines figure out what your page is talking about. Include internal links to other content within your site.

Optimize your page titles, keywords & description

Page titles appear when you hover your cursor over the browser tab. They also make the first linked line of every search result listing. Include your main keywords, what your company does and your company name. Use the SEO Moz title emulator tool to see what your title will look like in search.

Most content management systems make it easy for you to include up to 10-15 keywords or phrases for each page as is appropriate – no need to stuff inappropriate keywords here. Then, add a description that will make up the body of your search result listing – make it useful and compelling. Your search result needs to entice a click just like an ad.

Optimize images

Reduce the size of images uploaded to your website to 72dpi at the largest size they need to appear. Any larger than that and you’re slowing down the load speed of your site; load speed is one of the factors the search engines consider when serving up search results . Optimize the image file name before you upload the image to include keywords for the page the image will sit on. Then, optimize the alt text for the image to describe what it is – search engines cannot read image content but they can read the alt text.

Email Marketing

Think email is dead? Think again. Do your customers buy from you more than once? You can and should build an email list. Use a tool like MailChimp to ensure it is a high-quality list of double-opt-in subscribers who are interested in hearing from you. Email them from time to time with relevant information, offers and that great blog content you wrote for your social channels. Cross promote your social channels in your email; cross-promote your email subscription in your social channels. Give your customers many options for receiving information that will benefit them.

With an email list you can even create custom audiences in Facebook to serve up your content to your subscribers directly and seamlessly in that channel.

There are so many ways to capitalize on today’s digital technology without spending any money. Bringing budget to the table will make a greater impact as you can more quickly increase your community size and spread awareness of your business to exactly the right people. For instance, a current client is receiving clicks to their website from a Facebook Carousel Ad at a cost of just $.11/click. Even a budget of $5-$10-$15 per day can make an impact.

Whatever your business, getting started with some simple social connecting, content marketing and search engine optimization is worth the investment.

If you don’t have the time to implement these strategies yourself, contact us. We can help.