8 Marketing Building Blocks to Master Before Investing in Ads

8 Marketing Building Blocks to Master Before Investing in Ads

In today’s digital age, advertising platforms like Google and Facebook offer a tempting silver bullet for small businesses. Wouldn’t it be nice to just slap down your credit card and watch the leads come rolling in?

Unfortunately, for many small businesses, ads are more magic beans than golden goose. In fact, one study estimates that 62% of small businesses feel their Facebook ads are failing. Meanwhile, another estimates that changes in Google’s algorithm mean businesses spending less than $3,000 per month on Google Pay-Per-Click ads are simply wasting their money.

But in 2022, businesses spent more than $67 billion on social media ads — nearly double what they spent in 2019. That bullish increase means ads are working for someone. So why not your local business?

The truth is social media ads CAN be transformational for your business. But only if you first establish a strong marketing foundation.

In this blog, we’ll explore the essential marketing tactics that small businesses should prioritize before diving into paid advertising. Implement these simple DIY strategies and you’ll build a solid groundwork that will maximize the effectiveness of your future ad campaigns.

Define your Ideal Customer Profile

Before investing in ads, it’s crucial to understand who your ideal customers are. By defining your target audience based on demographics, psychographics, and purchasing behaviors, you can tailor your messaging and targeting to effectively reach the right people. It’s tempting to skip this step and assume you know your customer. But according to a survey by Small Business Trends, 72% of small businesses believe targeting the right audience is the most challenging aspect of running online ads.

A great book for finding your audience and identifying the language to speak to them is Jim Edward’s Copywrighting Secrets. It lists all the questions you’ll want to ask yourself (and, ideally, a select group of customers) to discover the language that makes people take out their wallets and buy from YOU.

Build a high-quality website

Your website is your digital storefront and the destination for all those pricy ads. If it doesn’t provide a positive and engaging user experience, all those would-be customers will bounce. In fact, studies show that 38% of visitors will stop engaging with a website if they find the content and layout unattractive. Unfortunately, good website or bad, you’ve already paid for the click.

A checklist for an ad-ready website

Before you invest in ads, ask yourself if your website is up to par. Here are a few must-haves for a website to deliver a solid return on ad spend:

  • Is your website layout professional, modern and easy to navigate?

  • Do you have a coherent brand identity, with a consistent logo, brand colors and set of fonts?

  • Do you effectively communicate your value proposition and explain how you stand out from competitors?

  • Is your website optimized for mobile users?

  • Does your website load quickly? (Not sure? Get your site speed score here.

Enable Multiple Contact Channels

Not everyone wants to call a business landline during office hours. In 2023, it’s like asking them to fax you! You need to connect with customers in all the ways they prefer to connect with you. That means integrating multiple contact channels into your website, Google Business Profile and Facebook page.

At a minimum, you should have:

  • A calendar booking widget on your website and Google Business Profile for appointment scheduling

  • A Contact Us form on your website that someone responds to within hours (not days).

  • A phone number and team email listed prominently on your website and all social media profiles.

  • A chat or text message functionality on your website and social media profiles

  • A receptionist, call center or duty roster established so that someone answers the phone during business hours.

Before you can spend money on ads, you need to shore up every leak in your pipeline. You can’t afford to spend money on a click that goes to voicemail or lands on a contact form goes nowhere.

And if you’re wondering how much all those missed calls are already costing you, check our our missed call calculator.

Digital collage of modern contact methods for 2023 businesses

There is nothing spookier than a dated Contact Us page. If your website still looks like this, visitors will assume inquiries go unanswered.

Optimize your Google Business Profile

For local businesses, optimizing your Google My Business profile is essential. It’s free, it’s easy and it’s the number one way to attract new customers.

Not convinced? Here are some compelling statistics:

  • 86% of people look up the location of a business on Google Maps.

  • 92% of searches choose businesses that appear on the first page of local search results.

  • 76% of people who conduct a local mobile search visit a business within 24 hours.

At a minimum, your Google Business profile should include:

  • Your address

  • Hours of operation

  • Contact details

  • Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

  • High-quality photos of your office, your service and your team (and no stock photos!)

  • A list of all services you provide (listed in the “Product” section, as the Google algorithm favors businesses with a product)

  • A weekly post announcing specials or showcasing a blog, update or team member profile

  • LOTS and LOTS of five-star reviews

A well-optimized profile increases your chances of appearing in local search results, improving your visibility and attracting local customers searching for your services. You shouldn’t even consider Google Local Services ads until your Google Profile is bringing you customers on a regular basis.

Pet groomer girl searching ‘pet groomer near me’ on Google, with ratings displayed

Cultivate customer reviews and testimonials

Online reviews play a crucial role in shaping consumer perceptions and purchase decisions. Studies show that 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, and 97% of consumers factor in reviews when making buying decisions.

By actively managing and responding to customer reviews on your Google Business Profile, you can build a positive online reputation and differentiate yourself from competitors.

Encourage your happy customers to leave reviews on platforms like your Google Business Profile, Yelp or Facebook. When you receive a five-star review, promptly respond with a gracious thank you. More importantly, when the dreaded one-star review arrives (as it does for even the most customer-centric businesses), write a clear, professional explanation. Take responsibility for any mistakes and highlight what you are doing to ensure that type of customer experience never happens again. Customers don’t expect perfection, but they do want to know that a business strives to make it right.

According to a study conducted by BrightLocal, businesses with poor customer reviews and ratings tend to experience a lower return on investment (ROI) from their advertising efforts. If your online ratings are falling below 4.5 stars, then take the time to improve your service and connect with happy customers ready to sing your praises before you jump into advertising.

Develop content that answers customer questions

Content marketing plays a significant role in building brand authority and attracting organic traffic to your website. Create valuable and informative content that addresses your target audience’s pain points, such as blog posts, videos, or downloadable resources. By positioning yourself as a trusted resource, you can establish credibility and nurture relationships with potential customers. Small businesses that blog receive 126% more lead growth compared to those that don’t.

Leverage social media platforms

In theory, social media platforms provide opportunities to connect with your audience, build brand awareness, and engage in meaningful conversations. But organic social media isn’t what it was ten years ago. Facebook, Instagram and other social media giants prioritize ad content, and have dramatically limited the reach of business’s unpaid content. On Facebook, only one in 20of your followers will even see any given post. Since most small businesses only have a three- or (max) four-digit follower count, you could be laboring over a post that reaches an audience that could fit in your dining room.

So why bother with organic social media at all? Why not launch directly into paid Facebook or Instagram ads?

While you may not want to invest more than an hour per month on social media posts, you do want to maintain your heartbeat on your active social media channels. Like that abandoned Contact Us page, a business social media page that hasn’t posted since 2015 looks abandoned and neglected. You don’t want customers to ask themselves whether you are as derelict in your service as you are in your social media.

For that reason, aim to post once or twice per week on your social media channels. Schedule posts in advance and use ChatGPT to minimize time spent on what could be a low-value marketing tool.

Identify the platforms where your target audience is most active, and develop a content strategy tailored to each platform. Share engaging posts, respond to comments and messages promptly, and leverage social media advertising options to amplify your reach and drive traffic to your website.

Implement Search Engine Optimization

Why spend money on ads when you can get found online for free?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is essential for improving your website’s visibility in organic search results. Generally speaking, there are three types of SEO you should focus on:

  • Content: Conduct keyword research to identify the terms and phrases your target audience is searching for, and then create blogs and service pages to match their interests and questions.

  • On-site or technical SEO: Optimize your website’s meta tags, headings, URLs and site speed to help search engines “read” your page and serve it up to readers.

  • Off-site SEO: Your business profiles, reviews and social media posts all send signals that tell search engines what you do, who you serve and how well you do it. Those signals will either boost or lower you in search results. Equally, backlinks are hyperlink citations from other websites that refer back to yours — search engines view them as a “vote” in favor of your website’s credibility. Investing the time to write guest blogs or do media interviews will significantly strengthen your SEO.

Of all eight building block marketing strategies, SEO is the one that requires the longest time horizon. A good SEO strategy can bring you hundreds or even thousands of new visitors per month without spending a cent on advertising. In fact, some seven- and eight-figure businesses rely solely on SEO for lead generation. But it is time-consuming, requires substantial technical expertise and takes at least a year to start seeing results. So you may find you want to jump into ads while you continue to build out an SEO strategy.

Don’t let your small business ad strategy be a shot in the dark…

Your small business shouldn’t have to experiment with expensive ad strategies that won’t deliver. Build a strong marketing foundation first, and then utilize targeted advertising to amplify your message and reach. Contact RS Gonzales today to take your marketing efforts to new heights and achieve tangible results.

Remember, success in advertising is a journey, and with the right foundation in place, your small business can unlock its full potential and make a lasting impact in the digital landscape.