Paul is the epitome of a local business owner. He has a thriving and solid business, and yet he can’t help but think that he is missing the mark with digital marketing. He has a set budget and he knows he wants to grow his business, but he has NO IDEA where to start. Sound familiar?

Digital Marketing is kind of a beast to think about. From your research, it could mean a thousand different things, and in truth, there are aspects that change on the daily! As an educated business owner, you probably have questions and might be struggling to find a clear answer. Congratulations on getting here! You have finally found the right resource to stop daydreaming about business growth and actually make it happen. Ready for our ESSENTIAL list to help you get started Digital Marketing? Here we go!

Get Started Digital Marketing Exposed: 5 Things You MUST Have

1. A “Real” Website

Paul, our go to local businessman, has a website. It is semi-functional, only slightly outdated, it isn’t mobile friendly or secure – but he has high hopes for it. We think that Paul needs a bit of a wake-up call.

In this day in age, it isn’t enough just to have a presence online. There are steps you should be taking with your website in order for your business to be the best it can be. It is not enough to just have site, your website needs to be “real.”

• Your website needs to have a goal. In order for your website to be considered real to your customers, it needs to have a function. Are you trying to sell a product? A service? Inform or educate people about a certain issue? Find out what the goal of your business is, because ultimately that should reflect on your site.

• Your website NEEDS to be responsive. Everyone and their mom has a smart-phone these days, and it is crucial that your website looks good and is functional at every size. There are people in some industries who don’t have access to computers throughout the day, like developers and contractors, and if they need to get a hold of your business and struggle, you might be sending them straight to your competition.

• Your website needs to have an SSL certificate. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private and integral. If you do not have a secure sight, you will probably not even rank on Google. And the worst part is that if you don’t have this, a big ugly pop up will be shown to all of your website users that says “This site is not secure! Would you like to leave?” And you better believe that they will indeed leave, because you will now be seen as untrustworthy.

Without these three things, people (at least marketing professionals like us) might deem your site inauthentic and take their business elsewhere.

You know what we mean? Haven’t you ever been to a site and immediately you felt weird about being there? It didn’t seem to have a purpose, you can barely find what you were looking for in the first place, and it was so outdated you started doubting whether or not the company was even real. A real website is easy to spot, and can promote itself well.

On the flip side, if you have a great website, but are lacking other important components to get started digital marketing, you might not be getting anywhere. We like to say that a great marketing strategy is like a well made stool. Your website is the seat that your business sits on. This piece is vastly important, but if all you have is the seat, and no legs attached, your business just sits on the ground. Doesn’t make for a very nice stool, does it? You need some legs, which we describe below, in no particular order.

2. An Active Social Media Presence

People get really worked up about Social Media, including our good buddy Paul. He gets really ramped up how many likes his business gets weekly, and because he runs social media himself, he kicks himself if engagement is low. He doesn’t think that the things he does on Facebook has anything to do with his website.

We would like to clear up a couple things about the social side of digital marketing. Engagement isn’t everything. Are you shocked? As a businessperson, you shouldn’t be. Engagement means nothing if you aren’t getting business. You could be the best liked organization in all the land, but if you aren’t getting money as a result of your social media, then what is the point?

Don’t get us wrong, we LOVE social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (it’s still a thing!), Google+, Instagram, Pinterest – They are all amazing platforms for reaching very specific demographics of individuals and don’t even get us started on advertising results using these platforms. Social Media can be absolute MAGIC for businesses of all sizes.

The big picture though, is that your social media has to link up with your website. Isn’t it so frustrating when you follow an awesome group on Facebook, but their website doesn’t match and you get the feeling they forgot they had that crappy website? Your social media strategy should reflect the goal of your website… they need to go hand in hand in order to make a measurable impact on business.

3. An Email Campaign

We cannot stress the importance of an email strategy enough. It is CRUCIAL for a successful business. It is a very strong leg on our stool as you get started digital marketing with awesomeness. Here’s why:

• There are 3x the amount of email accounts in the world than Facebook and Twitter COMBINED. Let’s say that again for those in the back. 3 TIMES THE AMOUNT COMBINED.

• The percentage of people actually seeing your post organically on Facebook is only about 6%, while the percentage of people seeing and opening an email is 20-30%. This is quite the difference and should be overlooked!

Assign a value to each and every one of your customers. How much is one client worth to you, on average? Now think of each email address you get as a lead to this amount. If it only costs you $15 to create a single email, and that same email brings in $100 of profit, isn’t that worth spending the time to follow your leads?

The point is that you should not disregard an email campaign. Emails can absolutely retain customers and value because you are constantly reminding them of your availability or services or products, and those reminders lead to measurable profits. If you don’t care about following up on your leads, maybe you don’t really care about growing your business – and maybe you should stop reading now.

4. Regular & Relevant Blog Posts

We almost didn’t even want to include blog posts on this list because it is a NON NEGOTIABLE/ NON OPTIONAL piece of digital marketing. Blog posting joins with social media and emails so deeply that we really don’t want you to think of them as separate things. But they are technically another leg that we put under our website seat so that our stool is not so wobbly.

Our favorite business guy Paul has mixed feelings about blog posts because he sees them as a just another thing on his site that people don’t read. Well, Paul, you are mistaken. The content that you put on your blog is the same content that goes into social media, and your email campaign. A blog brings relevant and interesting information to your business in a way that general website content does not. Blog posts are the “meatiness” of every business, and they are also GREAT for capturing emails.

You’ve probably seen loads of articles saying that “Blogging is Dead,” but the truth is, blogs are merely evolving. No longer are you reading fluffy online diaries of angsty teens who need a public outlet. Now your business can really THRIVE with great information and content, in a way they never could before. Even dead blogs, blogs that are no longer being updated, are great for building business. Everything you do in the digital marketing spectrum has an affect on SEO.

5. SEO

Ok, so we know we said “in no particular order,” but SEO is last on our list. Our advice to every business individual is this – know what SEO is, make a strategy for it, and then DO IT. That’s it. You’ve probably heard that Search Engine Optimization is everything in business, but we want to make sure you understand a couple things about it:

• Websites can rank well organically. SEO is a very important aspect to being a successful company, but if your well-made website seat is sitting on strong legs made of email campaigns, social media strategies, and blog posting, your business will rank well all on its own. If you have all the right components, SEO won’t be such a big deal. Does that make sense?

• SEO takes time. Search Engine Optimization is a continual work in progress. It takes time to rank well search engines like Google. Usually the magic number is 18 months. If you are using all of your legs as a cohesive and collaborative marketing strategy, you will start seeing results.

• Money buys time. When it comes to SEO and profits, the more money you have to spend on cleaning up your site or to spend on advertisements, the faster these results will come. However, if someone is telling you that they can get you ranked #1 in a short amount of time, you should run, because that is probably the exact thing they were going to do when they got your money. There is no “get rich quick” scheme for SEO that works. In fact, Google will probably see that you are trying to cheat the system and consequently your business could suffer.

• Leave it to the professionals. There are literal books written on everything that goes into this stuff. People can get an actual degree in making your website rank better. It’s a lot to think about. Again, our advice is to take learn about the basics. Even if you know only a little, that is probably enough to hire someone to do the hard work for you. You don’t have to be an SEO genius, you just need to know enough to make sure that the person or team you have working for you is actually following through on the strategy your business has set to get started digital marketing.

Now You Know About Digital Marketing… What’s Next?

So there you have it. Our list of 5 things you should be thinking about and implementing, especially if you aren’t doing anything else to grow your business. All of these things are the MINIMUM. If you are just doing the bare minimum, you will still see results. Imagine what you could be bringing in if you really put time and effort into growing your business? But we know that all of these things take time.

If you aren’t that excited about tackling this list, or if you just don’t care about the ins and outs, and just want to see profit margin, we recommend finding a team to handle this for you. When you break it down, you will have to spend time or money (probably both) and we recommend hiring someone else to do the work they know how to do. Most likely, they will do it in less time, and probably do it better than if you just taught yourself how.

Remember Paul? Good ole Paulie finally changed his mindset on how Digital Marketing could change his business in a positive way. He bit the bullet, and hired a team of professionals, and now his business is growing better than he ever thought possible. If you related to Paul at any time during this article, consider reevaluating what “growing your business” means to you!

Overall, we hope this list gives you a glimpse of just how important to get started digital marketing is for your business. Its measurable, and if done correctly, it can make a dramatic difference in how you reach people!