The 5 pillars of online marketing for a small business

The 5 pillars of online marketing for a small business

If you own a small business you know how important is marketing but you are overwhelmed by a lot of unknown terms used by marketers, terms you don’t know a lot about.

Therefore you are confused. Let’s describe what the 5 pillars are for small business online marketing.


  • Local Marketing

If it is true that customers search products online, it is also true they search mainly locally. If I want to buy something and I live in Phoenix, AZ, I don’t care about the perfect store in New York.  If I can buy that product online I can look at the store in NY but if I need something locally, I do not. If you are a small business, you must be visible locally more than internationally which means that if a customer searches for your company he must be able to find all the important information about you and if a customer searches for a product/service, he must be able to also find your company. Local marketing means a lot of different things like local listings, website content, advertising campaigns set up, social media accounts content and so on.

  • SEO

This magic word is related to search engines. Search Engine Optimization is the process of being able to be ranked better by search engines. But how does a  search engine generally works?

The process is simple: the search engine scans your website, keeps track of the words used and of all the combination of words and phrase and then stores it  in a database. When someone starts a new search, it compares the terms of the search with all the website profiles in the database and order the result based on the most relevant.

Therefore your content on the website, your keywords, your website description, your domain must all be relevant to what users search.

It is important to think like a customer, not as a business, not as a marketer.
Customers don’t know deeply your business but they could need your product/service. They do searches using incorrect terms (or combination of terms) but you have to create content that shall be able to be relevant to the searches done by users. Don’t write content for yourself (especially if you have to use technical terms) but for the customers. Don’t use keywords that you can use daily and customers don’t.

  • Content Marketing

You have created your website: awesome!

Most small businesses when they publish their website, think the job is done. Actually, the job starts now.

You don’t read a book over and over (unless it is masterpiece) because you know the content, the story. Same for a website: If you never change anything, it becomes boring both for customers and for search engines (they don’t update your profile because there are no changes).

Content marketing is all about using the content to be more visible and searchable, to be more attractive to potential customers, and to be more useful to them.

If your website is very attractive to users, your product will be as well.  This is even truer for small businesses where the lack of brand and fame must be replaced by a deep knowledge of the product/service you provide. You have that knowledge, I am sure, but you need to convince the customers that you have it.

  • Reputation Management

Now you are online. Internet is the free digital space. Anyone can say anything, most the time, without any control. And this is the time of reality shows where anyone want become famous. People like to be an Internet lead actor. Review sites give the possibility to people to have a power, the power to judge others.

You need to take care of that, your reputation online is very important.

It is common sense that a user trusts more another users than a business owner. Therefore you need to check the entire user generated content about you, you need to answer if it is the case, and you need to be able to interact with your customers.

  • Social media marketing

Why is this so important lately?

Because customers are using it and any media where there are customers is important media for small businesses. There is something more.

Social networks differently from other media (like television or magazines) are places where the content is generated mostly by users, where users engage in personal relationships with other users, where the communication is bi-directional, where the emotions are more important than the features.

Social media is the perfect place to engage potential customers, but it is important for small businesses to act like a user, not like a business. Act as a person not as a business, because this is the only way to be effective.

Restaurant Marketing Tips

Are you a restaurant owner? If yes you already know that marketing is key element for your success.

A lot of restaurant businesses unfortunately fail the first year and many of them because of lack of marketing.

When you open a new restaurant, a lot of customers want to taste your food and try your new concept. Usually you have also allocated a budget for the initial launch, and you are sure over the time your high quality service and food will be enough for your success.

After the first period, problems start to arise. People are not coming back and new people coming in less than before. This is the moment where only if you planned a good marketing strategy can you survive and become profitable. Don’t think that restaurant success is based only on quality of food and service.

Eating is a need. Eating out is not, but it could be. Therefore we need to understand why someone wants to go to a restaurant and why to yours.

We all know that customers are critical to your success. Well, let’s analyze them.



Let’s start from a new customer perspective

  • He finds you and then decides to come to you for one or more of the following reasons:
    • Location: because he lives/works close to your location  –> Local Marketing
    • Food proposition: because you have something special (food, service, atmosphere, layout…) –>  Marketing proposition
  • He heard about you
    • Referral: because someone else recommended your place –> Reputation

If he found you, it means he searched for a restaurant, therefore

  • Be visible so they can find you à SEO & Content
    • Be attractive so he can be interested in you –>  Website

If he heard about you, he probably will check your business

  • Be attractive so he can confirm his interest –> Website
  • Be consistent so he can have a confirmation about the referral–>  Reputation

You need to check where your business is listed

·        Check that all your information are consistent

·        Check that there are not any repetitions

·        Check that all the information is correct and complete




You need to make clear in all your communications what makes you unique

·        Create a clear claim

·        Focus your website and your printing on what makes you unique

·        Use Public relations to share your uniqueness to the local community

·        Create a visual marketing campaign (logo, corporate kit, printing material) that is consistent with your message



Don’t limit your Website to your “menu” online

·        Give the option for customers to interact with you (newsletter, blog, order online…)

·        Share your knowledge without unveiling your secrets

·        Focus on content: give customers a reason to visit your Website more often and come back to your restaurant



Customers love to review a restaurant where they have been especially if it has been either  an amazing or an awful experience

·        Monitor any review you find online

·        Respond to the bad reviews

·        In order to give customers all the information they need, publish the reviews on your Website

·        Ask your customers to review your restaurant


At the end of their experience at your restaurant, a customer can be:

  • Unsatisfied: something went wrong. It could be also that the level of expectations he had was too high for what his experience was. Obviously if he doesn’t want to come back, you need to do something to recover this customer –> Social Media
  • Satisfied: he has been satisfied but not enough to consider that experience as unique or special. The main reason why a satisfied customer doesn’t come back is that he forgets about you. With a lot of restaurant on the market it is easy to be attracted by something else –> Customer Interaction Management
  • Delighted: he is enthusiastic about the experience. This customer will come back for sure but pay attention that now the level to expectation is very high and he can disappointed very easily –> Social Media

Why is Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so important?

·        Social media is the only way to keep in touch with customers continuously

·        You need to update them very often

·        Don’t post only promotional info: tell stories, involve customers

·        Social media is also the best channel to transmit emotions to customers: images, sounds. These are elements that cannot be transmitted through Web only

·        Social media is perfect to ease the interactions among the customers


6th TIP: Customer Interaction Management

Interaction with a customer is the perfect way to keep him interested

·        Newsletters: try to contact your customers regularly updating them about new offer, promotions

·        Printing material: update regularly your marketing material to keep high the level of interest

·        Blog: talk to customers continuously through your content, establish a dialogue and make them know you are there waiting for them

Fabrizio Cali
Small Business Manager
Advertising Business Consultants

The difference between “doing” and “managing” digital marketing.


It is clear that digital marketing is important. Any business knows that.

Almost any business have a website, most of them have a blog and some of them do online advertising but many of them are losing a lot of opportunities.

Which is the big difference between offline and online marketing?

The biggest is that digital marketing can and must be updated, managed and it must be interesting.

A lot of business owners think that developing and publishing a website means the end of a marketing action, actually it is the start.

Any activity in digital marketing needs continuous update and maintenance to be effective:


  • Website: you receive a new brochure. At first glance it could be interesting and you are thinking to contact the company. Maybe you look at it 2-3 times to understand better. But after the 4th time you are not interested anymore. Why? Because the content is still the same and there is nothing interesting anymore. You cannot afford to do a new brochure every month, but you can update your Website (your digital brochure) to attract users and keep them interested.
  • Advertising campaign: differently from a traditional media campaign which is usually prepared and launched and cannot be modified, in the digital space a campaign can be modified in any moment (and that is the main advantage). You can lower the cost per user or increase the leads rate or even change target if you see that something is going wrong. Most of the time companies set up a campaign (keywords and budget) and they forget about it
  • SEO: this “magic” word is all about the performance of your website on search engine ranking. I don’t want to be tedious describing in details how a search engine works but a thing must be underlined: a search engine doesn’t catalog websites, it tries to understand them. A search engine evolves continuously because rankings are like a race: you are running and you are in the second position, silver medal coming! But if you continue to run at the same speed ignoring whatever happens around you, probably somebody will reach and surpass you, farewell silver medal! You need to monitor the others, you need to modify your run every day.
  • Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on, are all social media networks. Let’s analyze what it means. First of all they are media. This is clear, they broadcast information. But they are networks which means they are able to connect different “persons”. Most important they are social. Also a TV network can be defined a media network (this is actually the proper name) but it is not social. Social means that the information is flowing in both directions. Without the social component, it becomes a traditional media. A business if present in social media networks, must act and react and must dialogue and participate. Otherwise it is only like a website and nobody cares about a website on a social media network

What I am telling so far is that “doing” digital marketing is easy: everyone can create a stunning website, set up an advertising campaign, and optimize content and SEO and open infinite social media accounts.

What is hard is to manage all this: it means time, dedication, knowledge. A lot of skills that most of the small businesses don’t have (and most of the marketers neither to be honest). And this is the reason most of them fail on digital marketing.

How to understand your marketing consultant is the right one for you

Everyone wants marketing. Everyone wants the best marketing consultant. Everyone wants to spend close to nothing.

Now please you stop dreaming and let’s go to understand how you can “understand” if your marketing consultant is right for you.

Somebody can now say: it is simple, if he brings results he is good otherwise not. But you have results only after he started to work (and being paid) and sometime results is not the perfect parameter to consider.

There is a big issue that any marketing consultant should manage first: he doesn’t know your business.

You are the “king” of your business, you know market, customers, business model, goals, needs. He knows nothing about that.

So here are the rules to follow to understand if that marketing consultant really cares about your results:

1) First questions he does are about your business

If he starts talking about the past results he did with other customers, I would try to understand if he applies standard model to any customer. In this case sometime he is lucky, sometime not. In your case maybe he will not be lucky

2) He spends time with you to understand what you want really

It is not true that any company wants to grow:it is different for each company how they want and they can grow. A good marketing consultant helps you to go where you want to go, not where he thinks he is right to go

3) He explains you the “why”

He knows nothing about your business but probably you know little about digital marketing. The difference here is that you are paying him. So it is important that he is able to share with you the reasons why he is planning to do something. It is a way to make you able to review him

4) He admits mistakes

Everyone does mistakes. Then there are people that find a culprit for everything. But they never learn from their mistakes. Others they know they can do mistakes. In this case they learn from the, they know how to repair what they did wrong.

How to deal online with disappointed customers


Dealing with a customer is really different if you are face to face or if you have to deal online.

A lot of people feel that Internet is a place where they can speak freely and they are usually more sincere and even aggressive. In case of a bad experience with a business or a product, the first feeling they have is to “punish” you. They trusted your product/business and they feel themselves betrayed. For this reason customers are usually more aggressive online then offline.

Any company has to deal with customers that review their business and sometime in a bad way.

How to deal with them?

  1. Calm down

Nothing is personal, even the customer (especially in the case of small businesses) tries to talk at a personal level. So don’t react like you have been personally attacked. It is a business matter. Speak to the customer at a persona level but don’t react at the personal level.

  1. Understand

Doing business is hard and doing it perfectly (without mistakes) is close to be impossible. Therefore try to understand if the customer is right even partially, it can help you to understand the real level of frustration the customer went through and how to solve the issue

If there had been a problem, you can think how to solve it, if not (and you are sure of that) it could be you have in front of you a “troll”, someone that it is trying to have visibility and maybe some advantages reviewing you badly. Your behavior will be completely different.

  1. Answer

This is very important.

Internet is a place where fake news are able to propagate very fast. One of the reasons of that is because of the lack of a two-way communications.

Also if social networks are a platform to dialogue, if one of your friend posts something, you assume that is true because it comes from your friend.

This means that whatever is written is assumed as true.

You begin to doubt that the information you are reading is accurate only if somebody answers to that statement and try to give another opinion about the subject.

Same thing happens with a bad review: if it is unanswered everyone thinks it is completely true, if there is someone else (even the business owner) that gives another opinion about what happened, we judge it differently. Also if the fact described is true and the business owner assumes his responsibility the review becomes less interesting for everyone.

A bad review is like a bomb with a lighted fuse, if you answer it becomes an unexploded bomb.

  1. Don’t escalate

Internet is not a good place where you can dialogue. Writing is different than speaking and it is easy to misunderstand each other. The communication is asynchronous so it is very hard to be able to explain yourself.

Therefore talk to your disappointed customers but don’t dialogue with them because it is easy to make things even worst.

Avoid any “but”, go direct to the point. If you made a mistake, say “sorry” but don’t explain too much. Your goal is to solve the problem not to give more reasons to your disappointed customer to continue his crusade. That customer is very frustrated and you don’t want to escalate his frustration.

  1. Don’t panic

A lot of good businesses have some bad reviews. You cannot make all the customers happy.

So don’t panic if you have a bad review, it will not destroy your reputation and credibility.

If you have only bad reviews, there is something wrong with your business. But having some of them means nothing. Learn from your mistake and consider a bad review a possibility to improve your processes and your relation with your customers.

If you show how good you are in managing your customer, you will be granted by a positive effect, probably higher than having only good reviews.

What is a Business Community?

What is it a community? It is a group of person sharing the same interests and living desires. A business community is all around a company but it works in the same way.

A community is a multiplier of needs and solutions. In fact a man alone is weaker than a community. We face that every day, even in our neighbor communities. A business community is a powerful instrument both for your external clients both for your internal clients (the employees). It is the first step to transform your company into a community able to share information, put in common stories and business practice and create a two-way communication channel with all the persons that surround you

Why is so important to know your business before starting social marketing

Content marketing seems to be the key for the 2015. But a lot of companies forget that the first step in order to have a strong social marketing strategy is about knowing better processes and market of their own businesses.

“Bring me more customers”. My answer usually is: which customers?

Because the ultimate goal of a social marketing strategy is not to bring more customers but to do more profit. 

So let’s see what you need to know very well before starting a social media plan.

1) Business model

Do you sell a single expensive item or do you sell a subscription?

You sell cars: your customer has to make a decision to buy an expensive product that will keep for an average of 3 years. Your problem is first how to show the product in order to sell it, but then you have a customer that will not buy anything from you for a long time that must be kept happy because he could be a returning customer in 3 years.

You sell an online subscription based service: your problem is completely different. You need to keep engaged that users otherwise he will cancel the subscription and never come back.

ROI changes too: a social marketing campaign to sell cars needs to focus on conversion. Executing a social strategy for an online service needs to focus more on retain customers because if the business acquires a customer and lose it after 15 days there is no profit

The key elements to consider are: sell value, churn rate, recurring sales.

2) Target

Which is your customer? Your right customer?.

Businesses need to understand a lot about the customers they should have before setting up a social strategy.

How the customer can be reached?
Which is the cultural and social level of the customers?
How the customer looks at the company and the product/service it sells?

If the business is mainly a local one, some channels cannot be effective like others. If the business is a highly professional company the kind of communication cannot be based on prices but mostly on showing the high level of skills of the persons that are in the company.

The key elements are: which are the elements customers use to make their choice, which is the customers’ profile, where is the customer

3) Product/Service communication style

Is your product described through words, images, slogans or what else?

Both the channel you are going to use both the content you have to focus more change a lot based on the kind of product/service you have.

A construction company must show what it is capable of and therefore images are very effective. A CPA firm has to focus more on text and numbers because this is what customers are expecting more.

The key elements here are: how can you describe at best your product/service, how a customer can understand your product/service.

There are other elements to consider afterwards but those three are the main important.

If you are going to hire someone to take care of your social marketing, be sure he is able to understand and help you understanding your business. It is the most important thing to check.

The 5 Gold rules of content marketing

Everyone speaks about content marketing, but are you ready for this?

1. Context

Content must be related to what you do but it doesn’t speak only of what you do. In sales do you do free promotions? I guess so. Same you should do for content: you give free content (useful ones) to potential customers to attract them

There is nothing worse for an user to search for something, to think finally he found it, click the link and understand after 5 seconds that the content is completely useless for him. 

2. Customization

Content must be customized for different users especially if you have a broad range of products and services. Make possible for users to find immediately what they are looking for, create different landing pages, interact with users when they come to your website

3. Update

You have a blog: awesome… not really. You need to update it continuously. It is an hard work but it must be done. You don’t want your showroom empty and outdated for sure. Customers think about a content not updated that you don’t care about yourself and probably neither about them

4. Interaction

If you talk to someone, he could answer: this is a general rule. And he can say good things or even bad. You need to interact with your audience. It makes you more human and more reliable. If you think that nobody can talk about you forget the content marketing

5. No overselling

A content marketing strategy is different from a sales strategy. You cannot speak only about yourself and your product. Customers come to you to have more information than simply your products/services. Readers want stories more than numbers.