Why You’re Reading This

No matter where your business is today, chances are you know it could grow a lot faster if only you had the right marketing systems in place.

But sorting through all of the information out there and deciding which marketing strategies are right for you can be incredibly confusing…and time-consuming!

At PaySimple, we believe that accepting payments doesn’t need to be complicated, and neither does your marketing strategy.

We’ve built the ultimate marketing guide for attracting more customers to your business and creating a more predictable revenue stream—all on a small business budget. We’ll get you up to speed on the online and offline marketing strategies working for today’s most successful brands, from SEO to event marketing.

Ready to get started? Dive in for our best marketing ideas for making your business grow.

Marketing Basics

Before you run your first marketing campaign, you’ll need to understand a few basic concepts, from the marketing funnel to commonly used marketing terms and what it takes to launch a successful campaign.

If you’re already familiar with these ideas, feel free to skip ahead to the next section and start putting your marketing campaign together. But if you’re fairly new to things like funnels, PPCs, backlinks, and meta descriptions, we’ll be covering it all in this section.

Let’s dive in.

Understanding the Marketing Funnel

When we talk about the marketing funnel, we’re describing the journey a potential customer goes through on the way to purchase. Your goal as a marketer is to get them from the top of the funnel (when they may not even be aware they need you) to the bottom (where they’re entering in their payment details and clicking “Buy”).

To do it, you need to understand what they’re thinking at each part of the journey, so you can target them in ways that are relevant.

Let’s take a look at the customer’s journey at every step:

At the top of the funnel (TOFU), prospects are just beginning to realize they may need a product or service like yours. They’re doing research, exploring options, and trying to figure out exactly what they’re looking for. A lot of marketing comes down to bringing more people into the funnel: here, you’re casting a wide net and trying to draw potential customers into your orbit via social media ads, content marketing, search engine optimization, and so on.

At the middle of the funnel (MOFU), prospects have honed in on a specific need, and are looking for solutions. They may have signed up for your newsletter or connected with you on social media. At this point in the journey, your goal is to engage with them—perhaps by setting up a call or meeting, educating them, and leading them through to the bottom of the funnel.

At the bottom of the funnel (BOFU), your prospects know exactly what solution they need and are looking to make their purchase. They’re narrowing down their list and are ready to take action. This is when it’s time to get even more personal, because you’re working with those people who’ve indicated a strong interest in your services or products. Here, you may reach out directly to close the sale yourself or offer a special discount tailored to them.

At the top of the funnel, there may be 1,000 people looking at your product or service. Along the way, some drop out and the funnel narrows. At the midpoint of the funnel, there may be just 100 people. At the bottom, you may end up with 10 or 20 of those original 1,000. (This is why we call it a funnel, not a cylinder!)

You should have a basic understanding of how this funnel works and where people tend to drop out because it will help you make better marketing decisions. For example, if not enough people are aware of your business, you might design a marketing campaign that draws as many people as possible to your site (top of the funnel). Or if you’ve already generated a lot of brand awareness but not a lot of buyers, you may look at marketing strategies that help you nurture those relationships.

Marketing Terms You Should Know

As you delve into the world of small business marketing, you’ll come across a lot of acronyms. The sooner you can untangle your CTAs from your CPMs, the better off you’ll be. Here are the terms you’ll need to know:

A/B test – An A/B test (sometimes called a split test) lets you quickly compare two variations side by side, to see which one works best. For example, you might send half of your email subscribers a message that says, “Open immediately for hot holiday deals” and the other half a message that says, “Discover something special inside” and see which gets the most opens.

Ad copy – This is the text of an online or print ad. Good ad copy is clear, engaging, and relevant.

Brand – Your brand is your reputation: it’s how current and future customers perceive you and your products/services.

Brand lift – This is an increase in how many people are aware of your brand.

Bounce rate – A bounce rate tells you how many people leave your website immediately after landing on it, without clicking on any links or going to another page.

Buyer persona – A buyer persona is a way of visualizing your target customer. You create a persona from demographic info (like age, relationship status, income, or profession), and use it to guide the direction of your marketing and messaging. (“Would my persona engage with this content?”)

Call to action (CTA) – A call to action is a word, phrase, or sentence that guides people to take action. For example: “Click to purchase.” or “Sign up for our email list.” A CTA is a very clear way of telling people what they should do next. Only include one CTA per message, to avoid confusing people.

Content marketing – Content marketing refers to any of the content (blog posts, videos, white papers, PDFs, podcasts, and more) you create in order to draw people in and raise awareness of your business. It’s all about creating useful material to engage, inspire, or help your audience.

Conversion – Whenever a customer takes an action that brings them closer to purchase, that’s called a conversion. A conversion is pre-determined by you, and may be signing up for your email list, clicking through to your website, or signing up for a webinar.

Conversion rate – This tells you how many people actually take the action you’ve defined as a conversion. For instance, if 1,000 people visit your website but only 100 sign up for your email list, that’s a 10% conversion rate.

Cost per acquisition (CPA) – Your CPA is the average amount you spend to acquire a new customer. You can figure out your CPA by adding up all of your sales and marketing costs over a period of time, and dividing them by the number of new customers you acquired. If you spend $10,000 on marketing and acquire 1,000 new customers, your CPA is $10.

Cost per click (CPC) – The CPC is how much you pay when somebody clicks on your PPC (pay per click) ad. The CPC may be influenced by the quality of your ad and how many other advertisers are paying to reach the same audience.

Cost per impression (CPM) – CPM is how much you pay when your ad is displayed to a potential customer (typically calculated for every thousand impressions).

Lead generation – These are the steps you take to attract potential customers to your business. When you generate a lead (by providing a free eBook in return for a prospect’s email address, for example), it becomes a part of your sales pipeline. Your goal then becomes nurturing that relationship, drawing them down the funnel, and persuading them to buy.

Lifetime value (LTV) – Lifetime value refers to the total amount a customer will spend with you from the first purchase to the last.

Pay-per-click ad (PPC) – PPC is a great way to generate traffic, because you pay every time somebody clicks on the ad. If nobody clicks, you don’t spend anything.

Qualified lead – A qualified lead is someone you’ve deemed to be a good fit for your business. For example, you may consider someone a qualified lead if they’ve agreed to speak to a sales rep or signed up to get more information.

Retargeting – When you show people ads based on their expressed interest in your business, that’s called retargeting. For example, you might choose to show Facebook ads to everyone who has visited your website but hasn’t yet made a purchase.

Return on investment (ROI) – How much money did you generate as a result of your marketing campaign? That’s your return on investment. For example, if you invested $100 into an ad campaign and sold ten $50 products, your total sales equaled $500 and your ROI was 400%. ROI can also refer to abstract benefits, like brand awareness.

Social media marketing – This means engaging with potential customers through social media platforms (like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.), via paid ads, your own content or relevant content from around the web.

Social proof – Social proof is communicated in a variety of ways, including customer reviews, testimonials, total sales numbers, positive media coverage, and any other indicator that people trust you and do business with you. You can use social proof to gain the trust of potential customers.

Unique selling point (USP) – What sets you apart from your competitors? That’s your USP.

Value proposition (value prop) – This is your main selling point: why does your product or service benefit the customer?

Seven Steps to a Successful Marketing Campaign:

Now that you’ve mastered the lingo, it’s time to start running marketing campaigns. A marketing campaign is different from your ongoing marketing efforts. It’s a well-defined initiative with very specific parameters:

Here’s an example. Your regular marketing activity may involve running Facebook ads and writing regular blog content. But let’s say you want to attract clients in a particular area. You might host a neighborhood event, publicize it in the local paper, and get referrals from current customers. These are all elements of a marketing campaign.

While you can dream up any number of marketing campaigns, you will always follow the same basic 7-step process for setting up the campaign:

1. Choose an End Goal

First, come up with an end goal for your campaign—the more specific, the better. For example, would you like to sell $10,000 worth of a product? 500 units? Get 30% of customers who bought something else to buy this, too? That’s how specific you want to get.

Here are some ideas for high-level marketing goals. Choose one, and make it specific to your situation:

2. Set a Budget

Always begin with a budget in mind. How much can you afford to spend on a campaign, and what do you hope to get in return?

To figure out what you can afford, think about your customer lifetime value (LTV). That’s how much income you can expect to generate from the average customer.

Now that you know how much one customer is worth to you, over the course of your relationship, you need to think about how many customers a campaign can realistically bring in (and how many new customers you can realistically handle!).

If each customer is worth $5,000 and you think your campaign could result in two new customers, that’s $10,000 in value generated. You might then decide to spend $5,000 on the campaign, which means you will see a positive return on your investment.

You also need a good grasp of your current financial situation. If you need to borrow money for a campaign, that could introduce significant risk: if things don’t go as planned, you may not be able to pay back the loan. Stick to spending what you can afford, if possible.

3. Define Your Target Audience

Who will your campaign target? If you’re clear about your demographic and its needs, you are in a better position to create a valuable, memorable, and relevant marketing campaign.

Think about your ideal customer:

If you can answer these questions clearly, you are in a great position to target these potential customers effectively.

4. Design Your Campaign

Now that you’re clear about your budget, your target audience, and your end goals, you can begin to design your campaign content.

Your campaign content should convey a specific message and a call to action (CTA). The CTA is the specific action you want people to take, whether it’s follow you on Facebook, set up an appointment, visit your website, or sign up for your newsletter. Your campaign should only have one CTA, to avoid confusing your audience and diluting your results.

So what kind of content can you create for this campaign? It can take many forms. For example, you might decide to market a blog post that inspires people to subscribe to your blog or implement a direct mail campaign encouraging people to redeem a discount at your shop.

You can turn that idea into a polished and professional piece of content with the help of tools like CanvaiMoviePromo, and Gimp. You don’t need to have an ad agency on retainer—or a technical background—to create beautiful content, often for free.

5. Choose Your Promotion Channels

Promotion channels are how you’ll get your content in front of your audience. You might opt to use just one channel or many—it all depends on your budget and your goals. Typical channels include:

While a TV commercial may be out of your price range, you may be able to afford Facebook ads, which can be as low as $1 per day. Good choices for a small business may be email campaigns, events and trade shows, and social media channels.

Once you’ve evaluated the channels that make sense for your business, think about where your audience hangs out. You might target Millennials on social media, using Instagram and Pinterest ads to pique their interest. Alternately, you might entice Baby Boomers through direct mail and a free in-person workshop.

Your marketing campaign can bring together many different channels to “touch” potential customers as many times as possible, in many different ways.

6. Launch and Monitor Your Campaign

It’s exciting to go live with a campaign—but hold the champagne for now. You still need to monitor its progress and carefully track the results. There are a lot of ways to do this: if your goal is to generate more positive Yelp reviews, for example, you might record how many good ones you received thanks to the campaign.

7. Analyze the Campaign Results

When your campaign ends, review what happened and determine whether you’ve reached your goal. If you defined a clear goal at the outset, this should be no problem: you either met it or you didn’t.

It’s also useful to ask:

Knowing what worked and didn’t in this campaign will help you plan better future campaigns.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The idea behind search engine optimization (SEO) is simple: when people search for you online, can they find you? SEO is a good place to start your marketing efforts; after all, it’s free and the first thing a customer will usually do when looking into solutions is take to Google.

SEO involves making sure your website is set up in a way that’s easy for search engines to crawl (“see”), and that you’re using keywords your audience is searching for throughout the copy (writing) on your site. (For example if your website consistently uses the term “seafood in LOCATION,” it increases the chance that hungry people searching for seafood in your city will actually find your site).

Be aware that SEO will not bring you immediate returns and is more of a long-term strategy. It’s about increasing your natural, or organic traffic, over time. When you create good content over a longer period of time, using the language your audience uses when they’re looking for you, the idea is that you’ll naturally rise up in the ranks of search engines.

The big questions guiding your SEO strategy should be:

SEO is different from SEM (search engine marketing), which involves paying to show up at the top of search results. You can see more immediate results with SEM, but it does require that upfront investment. This should be the second step in your strategy: once you have your SEO in place, expand on it by paying for search engine marketing.

But let’s start with very practical questions first, mainly: how can you make SEO work for your small business? In the next section, we’ll share practical steps and guidance to help you do just that.

Using Local Seo and Google Maps Marketing to Gain a Competitive Edge

SEO is great, but if you’re a small business it does have its limits—mainly, how do you compete with large national brands that dedicate a huge budget to SEO and other marketing efforts?

The answer is local SEO and Google Maps marketing.

Local SEO is a powerful way for small businesses like yours to compete with national brands, on a limited budget. Because it involves optimizing your website for local search results, it’s an economical and highly effective way to generate more leads. So, for example, when someone searches for “homemade food in downtown Dallas,” a place like Wild Bill’s local BBQ Joint pops up in the search results thanks to local SEO.

Your small business needs local SEO because:

Google Maps marketing works hand-in-hand with local SEO, and since Google started featuring map results along with regular search results, it’s becoming increasingly important. In fact, Google now places Google Maps results above organic search results!

Google Maps marketing means optimizing your business info to be featured on Google Maps when potential local customers search for you online. It dovetails with the steps you would take to optimize your local SEO.

Bottom line: if you want to dominate search results for your area, you need to build up your local relevance in Google’s eyes. Here’s how to do it:

1. Optimize Your Google Business Information

Let’s start with the basics. If you want to appear in local search results via Google Maps and Google Search, you need an up-to-date Google My Business listing. Here’s what that looks like:

This listing helps you maintain a consistent online presence across all Google products, from Maps to Search. Be sure you fill it in completely with your business location, phone and website, accurate working hours, and compelling photos.

The most important step is to fill in an accurate business address. It should describe your business’s physical location, and cannot be a mailbox or PO box located in a remote location. Use an exact, USPS-verified address and avoid broad city names. If the system’s having trouble finding your address, pin it directly onto the map.

After you add your business address, you need to fill in your service area. Clarify whether you serve people at your location or if you do business by phone only. Don’t forget to list service areas where your customers are located.

Once your information is complete, you will need to verify your business location. Google offers several ways to do this, but the most popular choice for small businesses is postcard verification.

Finally, make sure your Google My Business introduction is clear, detailed, and helpful. Mention why you started your business and what sets you apart from your competitors. Answer potential questions customers may have. And finally, avoid cramming it with keywords—use natural language instead.

2. Place a Google Map on Your Website

Use the Google Maps Embed API to embed a street view, panorama, or interactive Google Map on your site. You’ll just set the Embed API’s URL (address) to the src attribute of an iframe. Don’t worry—it’s simple, and it looks like this:

3. Optimize Your On-Page Seo

On-page SEO includes the following elements:

Throughout your site, be clear about the product or service you offer, as well as the exact location you serve. This way, Google will know to surface your website when people search for relevant keywords.

4. Ask for Reviews

Reviews have a big impact on your local SEO rankings and Google Maps results. According to Google, the more positive reviews and ratings you have, the better your local ranking becomes. That’s added to the fact that great reviews help your business stand out and bring new customers your way.

Getting reviews is as simple as…

If you happen to receive a negative review, don’t stress out. Respond to it in a courteous and honest manner and follow Google’s review guidelines. Customers appreciate seeing that a business takes reviews seriously and strives to improve, and in that way even negative reviews can become a positive selling point for your business.

Plan to regularly manage and respond to reviews to keep your listing relevant.

5. Build up Local Citations

A local citation happens when your business’s name, phone number, address, or website appears online on a site like Facebook, Apple Maps, Google My Business, Yahoo, the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, the Yellow Pages, and so on. You can also look for industry-specific and local directories as well as local blogs that might mention your business.

When Google evaluates your business’s local authority and relevance, it looks at local citations. The more local citations you have, the more relevant you appear to Google. That means you show up higher in search rankings and more prominently in Google Maps.

6. Build Links with Local Content

When other sites link back to yours, it’s called a backlink. Google considers these backlinks a reliable indicator of your site’s trustworthiness and relevance, so having several high-quality backlinks can help you rise in local Google rankings.

You can earn backlinks through locally focused, relevant, and useful content marketing (we’ll cover that in depth in the next section). Whether you create a blog post, a video, a podcast, or another type of content, get it in front of a local crowd by:

If you follow these five steps for enhancing your local SEO, you’ll put yourself in an optimal position to attract local business. And when you compound this with your other marketing efforts—like content marketing and social media marketing—you’ll see those results grow exponentially.

Content Marketing

When paired with SEO, content marketing, or inbound marketing as it is often called, is a powerful and relatively inexpensive method of attracting interest to your business.

What is content marketing, exactly? Let’s break it down:

Putting it all together, content marketing is a way to attract potential customers and entice them closer to purchase. Content marketing can help you reach new customers, engage existing ones, and raise overall brand awareness. It has the power to spark that first conversation, and then nurture the relationship, with your audience.

Content marketing differs from more traditional, or outbound, forms of marketing in that its goal is to build relationships by offering genuinely useful content that people love. It can take many formats: for example, Equinox caters to its audience with a beautifully designed online magazine while SoulCycle curates their own Spotify playlists.

Content marketing is a proven strategy, and people tend to trust it more than ads on TV, movies, magazines, billboards, or the radio. It’s also more engaging than traditional advertising. If you’re anything like the rest of us, you probably just tune out the banner ads that pop up in your browser window. Most people do; it’s a real phenomenon known as “banner blindness.”

You can see why trying to attract customers through ads can seem expensive and ineffective when compared to content marketing!

The Most Popular Types of Content

If content marketing sounds like a great match for your business, your next question may be, “What type of content should I create?” While this list isn’t exhaustive, here are the most popular options:

The type of content you choose depends on your goals. For example, if you want to educate people about a particular topic, a blog post or eBook may work best. A bike shop might write about finding the perfect bicycle for hilly terrain, while a personal trainer might create a free eBook full of healthy lunch ideas. On the other hand, if you’re trying to attract more social media followers, a short Facebook video or article on LinkedIn may be a better fit.

The Buyer’s Journey

Content helps move prospective clients through the marketing funnel, from first contact to final purchase. Ideally, your content marketing should engage customers at every stage of that journey. Let’s look at an example of what this might look like.

Imagine that you wake up with an extremely stiff back one morning. You hobble out of bed, sit at your laptop, and search for “cause of stiff back” or “stretches for a stiff back.” That search leads you to a blog post that addresses achy backs. From there, you click on a related post for how to solve back problems. All the suggestions in the post are good, and one of them is “buy a new mattress.”

The next day, you wake up with the stiff back. You Google “comfy mattress” and one of the first results that comes up is an ad for the mattress brand that published the blog posts you read yesterday. Because the brand took the time to build awareness with a blog post, you trust the brand enough to engage and ultimately buyfrom them.

That’s the power of effective content marketing: it can take you from knowing almost nothing about a brand to making a major purchase. That’s the buyer’s journey in a nutshell.

It starts with awareness (you realize you have a problem, like a sore back). It moves to consideration (you begin looking at solutions to that problem). Finally, it ends at decision (you pick a solution).

Where to Publish Content

Just about anyone can create content these days, but how do you ensure people actually see it?

There are many different outlets you can use to promote your content, including:

The great thing about content is that it’s flexible, which means it can be repurposed for multiple outlets. For example, you can upload a podcast episode to iTunes, Stitcher, and Soundcloud and then publish a blog post transcribing some of the highlights.

Content Marketing Faqs

1. Should I invest in content marketing instead of ads?

No. Ads are still an effective tool, and the results are quick to kick in and easy to track. Content marketing, on the other hand, is a long-term strategy. We advise investing in both ads and content marketing.

2. How long until I see results from content marketing?

Before you see results, you’ll need to create content—and that can take up a lot of time and resources. At first, you probably won’t have much to show for your efforts: prepare for weeks or months of radio silence, because you won’t have many (if any) followers, subscribers, viewers, or readers.

However, content compounds in value over time. The more people engage with it, the more new people will see and engage with it. As people start sharing what you’ve published with their friends, it multiplies your exposure, increases traffic to your site, and tells search engines and platforms like Facebook that you’re producing valuable stuff. In return, it will be surfaced to more people.

At a certain point, your existing content will generate enough new traffic that you’ll be able to produce new content on a less frequent basis and still see great results.

3. How can I tell if content marketing is working in the short-term?

Content marketing takes a while to pay off, but in the short-term, you can look for a few different indicators that it’s working. Page views, social media likes and follows, overall website traffic, the number of people who share or comment on your content, and email opt-in rates can all help you determine whether your strategy is working.

4. Can I do this on a budget?

If you’re willing to do everything yourself (or even hire a freelancer) you’ll be able to accomplish a lot for fairly little investment. But if you hire a full-time writer, graphic designer, and SEO specialist, your costs will be significant. It depends how you want to approach it. A small business might opt for a pared-down approach at first, and then scale up as it grows.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a great way to nurture relationships with both existing and potential customers.

When somebody checks out your website, reads your blog posts, or has a positive interaction with your business, they may choose to sign up for your email list. When they do this, they’re essentially telling you that they like what they see and would like more of it.

Your job, then, is to continue that conversation: to inform, engage, and ultimately guide those subscribers closer to purchase.

But email marketing isn’t just about collecting a list of names (opt-ins) and blasting out a message every once in a while. To do it well, you’ll need to have a strategy. Many businesses will build their email marketing strategy around a basic weekly or monthly newsletter. This is a great place to start! Here are our tips for developing a winning approach:

1. Define Your Focus

Your newsletter is a chance to build your brand and show off what you know about your topic. Think about topics that naturally suit your business, and that your audience would appreciate reading about. If you’re the owner of a yoga studio, for example, you might create content around yoga poses, as well as complementary themes like conscious living, healthy food, and yoga-inspired products.

2. Clarify Your Goals

You’re not sending out a newsletter, or any email communication for that matter, just for fun. Be clear about what you’re trying to accomplish. For example, if you’re trying to attract new business, then your ultimate goal may be more web traffic or new leads. If you’re trying to nurture a relationship with existing customers, then you may be aiming for signs of engagement, like high email open rates. You’ll need to know what your goals are in order to answer the question, “Is this email ultimately doing what I need it to do?”

3. Choose an Email Solution

There are a number of email solutions on the market, from established platforms like MailChimp and Constant Contact to newer players like TinyLetter. The solution you choose will depend on your budget and specific needs. Do a little research and figure out what it takes to begin. For example, you can use some solutions for free up to a certain number of subscribers, after which you’d upgrade to a paid plan.

4. Choose a Template

Most email services like MailChimp and Constant Contact offer pre-designed email templates. You don’t have to labor over complicated design details just to send out your first newsletter: simply pick one of the existing templates, adjust the colors and fonts, add your logo to the header, and pop in your text.

5. Encourage Your First Sign-Ups

The first rule of email marketing is: don’t spam people. If you already have a list of customers or prospects on hand, and that list complies with CAN-SPAM laws, you can send a polite, one-time invitation to sign up for your newsletter. Do not just automatically add them to your newsletter list—that can feel annoying and spammy. While your list may start out small, the people on it are likely to be genuinely interested in your newsletter and more likely to share it with others. Your email solution should have a customizable signup form that you can link to in your invitation email (and put on your website or anywhere else people are likely to sign up).

6. Send out Your First Newsletter

With your email solution picked out and your initial list of subscribers ready, it’s time to send out your first newsletter! The best time to send it out is within a week of the initial invitation, so it’s at the top of your subscribers’ minds. Not sure what to write about? You can always repurpose and link to an existing story on your blog, or link to relevant stories from third parties.

7. Promote Your Newsletter to New Subscribers

With your newsletter up and running, you can spend more time promoting it. Here’s an easy way to start doing that: simply link to it in your website footer and emails, and encourage subscribers and friends to pass it along to others and share it on their social feeds. In the long-term, you could investigate using display ads or other paid advertising to attract new readers.

8. Keep a Regular Schedule

It’s best to keep a regular newsletter schedule, whether that’s every week or every month. Your subscribers will get used to hearing from you, and it will feel strange to them if you disappear for long periods at a time. If you commit to sending a weekly newsletter, be absolutely positive that you have the resources and time to make it happen. We suggest starting with a monthly newsletter until you feel comfortable upping the cadence.

Remember that your subscriber list won’t grow overnight, but if you consistently provide great content, word will spread and more people will join your list in the long-term, making your strategy a success.

Social Media Marketing

Today, nearly half of the world’s population logs into a social media platform on a regular basis: that’s three billion people, or 40% of the global population. These social platforms include Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and new ones that are constantly emerging.

That’s great news for small business owners: it means that your customers are almost certainly on social media. You can meet them there by making social media marketing a part of your overall strategy.

When we talk about social media marketing, we talk about two main things: first, there are the everyday, non-paid social interactions you have with your audience, often called organic social media. This includes content you share on Facebook and Instagram or videos you upload to YouTube, for example. It also includes all the conversations you’re having with your followers across platforms.

The other piece of the social media marketing puzzle is paid advertising. This is when you pay to get your content in front of more eyeballs, reaching a wider audience than your existing followers. Paid advertisements can take the form of a product ad on Facebook, a commercial that plays before a YouTube video, a promoted Instagram or Pinterest post, and so on.

It’s easy for most businesses to get started with the free side of social media. You can do this to build your brand online, connect with your customers, advertise events and promotions, and so on. There’s no cost associated with launching a Facebook Business page, opening a Twitter account, or making an Instagram profile.

But to get to the next level, you should consider paid advertising. Here’s why: in 2016, organic reach for Facebook pages dropped by more than half and an early 2018 announcement from Facebook notified businesses that these numbers are only going to get worse.

It’s not just Facebook that’s making it harder for businesses to reach people through organic content. Instagram prioritizes posts based on the user’s relationship with the poster and whether they’re likely to engage with the content. And Twitter’s algorithms serve up posts it thinks users will like the most.

Bottom line: even if you’re creating amazing content for your audience, it’s going to be difficult to reach them organically. The way to combat this? You guessed it—paid advertising.

We know paid advertising can feel daunting, especially if you haven’t done it before. You may be wondering, Where should I advertise? What kind of content should I produce? How much should I spend?

These answers depend on your individual business, but there are some general best practices that can guide your decision-making. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Choose the Right Platform for Your Business

Small business owners don’t have the luxury of huge marketing budgets, which is why it’s important to put your money in the right places.

Which social media platform—or platforms—should you advertise on? That all depends on where your audience is. You may already have a good idea of where your customers hang out, based on their engagement with you so far on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or other platforms you’re on. If you’re already seeing great engagement on Facebook, for example, that’s an indicator that it’s a good platform for your business.

Here are a few demographic trends to consider:

Of course, budget will also guide your decisions: some platforms simply charge more for exposure. For example, an Instagram post can come at a higher cost than one on Facebook.

2. Select Your Targeting Criteria

Once you’ve chosen your platform, think about who you want to see your ads. Who is your demographic, and which criteria can you use to reach them?

As an example, Facebook will let you target people based on their gender, location, age, relationship status, job title, hobbies and interests, where they work, and more. If you’re trying to reach suburban men who are over 35 years old and love to bike, Facebook’s targeting options will show your ad to people who match that profile, and no one else.

Twitter, on the other hand, will let you target people based on words and phrases they’ve searched for or tweeted. You can also target people who follow specific accounts—like your competitors’ accounts!

As you experiment with targeting, you’ll get a better sense of what works and what doesn’t. You’ll start recognizing which audiences are most budget-friendly to reach, which are more likely to click on your ads, and which are most likely to buy.

In the beginning, however, you’ll simply have to form an educated guess for whom to target based on your current customer demographics. Think about commonalities your customers share. Do they live in a specific part of town? Do they own a house, or do they prefer to rent? Do they like eating out or preparing homemade meals? Take the time to figure out what your customers have in common, and begin your targeting based on that.

3. Set a Clear Goal

As with everything, you have to be able to answer, “Why am I doing this?” What goal do you hope to accomplish with your paid ads? Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

These are just a few ideas, and there is no “right answer.” Your goals will depend on your business needs. For example, if you’re introducing a new product line, you may want to promote the launch to current customers. Or if you’re aiming for higher revenue, you may look for ways to motivate people to make an immediate purchase.

Our advice is to pick one goal (and one goal only!) and stick to it. Having a clear focus will make it much easier to run a successful paid ad campaign.

4. Decide How You’ll Pay for Your Ads

Now that you know your goal, you’ll need to decide how to spend your ad budget. There are a few different ways you can pay for social media advertisements:

5. Create and Launch Your First Ads

No need to panic: you don’t need to be a design genius to create a compelling ad. If you have the funds to hire a professional graphic designer and copywriter, then go for it.

But if you’re working on a shoestring budget, for example, you can create a simple Facebook photo ad in minutes. You just need a high-quality image, a brief headline, and a short caption that encourages people to take action (like visit your site, opt-in to your email list, sign up for a consultation, etc.). DIY design tools like Canva can help you create beautiful ads for a variety of social media platforms, and Promo can help you create gorgeous video ads without the high production costs.

If you’d still like a little help from a professional, you can find a great freelancer (at a great price) on websites like UpworkToptal, and Peopleperhour.

Once you’ve designed an ad, decide on a start and end time for your campaign, your target audience, and your budget. You may be prompted to enter a few more details, but the hard part is over. All that’s left is to click “start” and send your ad out into the world!

6. Measure Your Ad Performance

Once your ad is live, check on it regularly to make sure it’s running (you’ll be able to check on this in your social platform’s ad manager).

Once it has been live for a few days, step back and analyze the results. There are four main metrics to look for, though you don’t have to monitor them all: pay closest attention to the one that suits your business goals.

The main metrics to look at are:

7. Don’t Forget to Integrate Paysimple into Your Social Media Strategy

You can use PaySimple’s eCommerce tools to run special offers and promotions on your social media channels. Here are ideas for making the most of PaySimple on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram:

Facebook: Add a payment button

Facebook: Create an offer

Facebook: Promote an event

Twitter: Share a promotion

Instagram: Share a promotion

PaySimple: Get more followers

You can tackle social media advertising in a variety of ways, and with practice you will figure out what’s right for your business. These strategies, however, should give you a good starting point for effective ad campaigns.

Event Marketing

Hosting or participating in local events can give your business excellent brand exposure, get you in front of new customers, and help you network within the community. Here is how to make the most out of this marketing opportunity.

1. Host Your Own Event

Is there an event you could host that aligns perfectly with your business? If so, it can be a great way to generate community involvement, attract new fans, and have fun interacting with customers in a fresh way.

Brainstorm all the event possibilities that could be right for your business. For example, if you own a local running shoe shop, you could host an annual neighborhood fun run, offer group training sessions at the local park, or treat people to a free chair massage after a major race. You could also create a local Meetup group around running, and lead social runs around different parts of town.

Here are some great event ideas to consider:

To host a great event, you don’t need to spend your entire marketing budget or make up complicated seating arrangements. You simply need to invite people to do something fun with you, and then show up. You can get as fancy as you want with your events, but the bottom line is that you don’t need much to create a great experience for everyone: your event can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.

2. Participate in an Existing Event

If you don’t have the time, budget, or creativity to dedicate to your own events at the moment, you can always join someone else’s.

Continuing with the example of our running shoe shop, you could offer to host a refreshment table for the local marathon or triathlon, send your employees out to do complimentary shoe fittings at other sporting events, or set up a crazy obstacle course for a local school’s field day.

You can accomplish a lot by pooling your knowledge and resources with other community businesses, and this is also a great way to amplify your individual impact and get exposure to new audiences.

3. Don’t Forget to Market Your Event

Use the digital marketing techniques you learned in this guide to promote your event to customers, fans, and prospects. Build up anticipation across your social media feeds, include a link to the event on your website and within your email signature, and get in touch with local media channels to publicize it. There are a lot of creative ways you can market your event, and you can check out a more complete list here.

4. Get More Mileage out of Event Day

The event itself is a great marketing opportunity, but why not kick things up a notch and provide all the little extras people love? We’re talking about free product giveaways, free consultations, on-the-spot contests, and of course free food!

If you’re manning a booth at another organization’s event, for example, come armed with lots of goodies for the crowd: it could be sweets stamped with your business name or simply free refreshments served with a smile. Or, pick out a few great products (or services) to give away and host a raffle or competition to build excitement and anticipation.

Give people unexpected “treats” to look forward to on event day, and you’ll make the event more fun, more memorable, and ultimately more engaging for your audience.

5. Maximize the Roi

Events can be costly, so it’s important to set goals and objectives. A common goal for events is to collect email addresses. This can be done by simply requiring people to sign up for your event through Eventbrite or Facebook. Collecting email addresses allows you to continue to engage with attendees after the event so you can eventually nurture them into paying customers. If you are participating in another organization’s event, ask the organizer if you can have the email list to market to after the event.

Direct Mail

With so much happening online, it may seem a little old-fashioned to include direct marketing in this playbook. And yes, we’ll admit there are a few downsides to “snail mail” (not the least of which is that junk-mail stigma). But when you get down to it, there’s a reason millions of businesses still budget for it in their marketing plans: it simply works.

As with any marketing strategy, you’ll need to consider whether direct mail is the right choice for your business. If you’re an online retailer, digital marketing may simply make more sense. But if you’re a small business that serves the local community—like a bookstore, cleaning company, or ice cream parlor—direct mail can be a great option.

You’ll also want to consider cost. Postcards and other direct mail pieces come with their own printing and postage fees, which you’ll need to evaluate against (sometimes) more cost-effective digital methods.

That said, if you think direct mail could work for your business, here’s a quick look at two ways to get into people’s mailboxes (and maybe even their hearts).


We recommend checking out the U.S. Postal Service’s Every Door Direct Mail program, which lets you easily execute direct mail campaigns in your area. Here’s how to get started with the program:


With so much communication happening instantly online, sending a postcard can come across as either incredibly archaic or…incredibly charming. After all, with so much being said online, a postcard stands out in a very tangible way. People interact with it physically, and it’s not something that can just be scrolled past on a screen or quickly clicked on and deleted.

While you may use email and text for most of your communication, what happens when there’s a special one-off occasion that merits something more than digital? Let’s say you want to send a special thank you card or carefully crafted sales message. Sure, you could send either via email, but imagine the impact of a postcard delivered at just the right moment, with just the right standout message.

That’s where Postagram comes in. With it, you can send polished-looking postcards to anyone, right from your computer, tablet, or phone. Just upload an image from your computer, phone, or social media streams; customize a special message; and let Postagram mail it to the address you provide.

For example, you could dash off a quick postcard after a sales meeting, complete with a concept image and customized sales message. You can send Postagrams from your phone, which means you can create a message right after a meeting finishes and the conversation is still fresh in your prospect’s mind.

Postagrams do come with some digital-age features, like a QR code stamp that lets recipients reply to your card, save the picture, or post it to their social media stream.

Get started with the service by setting up a free account, which lets you send out five free postcards (download the app here). After that, you’ll need to pay per card or buy bulk credit packs to keep the cost per card low.

Getting More Done in Less Time

As you get more comfortable with marketing and start seeing its impact, you may start looking for ways to accomplish even more in less time.

In this section, we’ll show you how to automate—and even outsource—some common business tasks so you have more time for big-picture thinking and planning.

Automate as Much as You Can

How much more could you accomplish if you automated some of your most repetitive business tasks? And what could you do with all that saved time? Here are seven ideas for making your marketing automatic:

1. Elevate Your Email Signature

Your email signature could be doing so much more, and services like WiseStamp help it reach its potential. WiseStamp turns your everyday sign-off into a beautiful email signature that captures people’s attention and gives them a reason to reach out. Whether you’re sending a note to a colleague or a new connection, a WiseStamp signature shows off your professional side without seeming showy.

2. Automate Your Email Marketing

If you’re using email services like MailChimp and Constant Contact, you may have already discovered the ability to set up a series of automated emails for just about anything. So, for example, any time you get a new customer, you can automatically send them a series of pre-written emails that keep the conversation going. You can pick when these emails go out, whether it’s immediately after purchase or a couple of weeks later.

See how many automatic email sequences you can set up to save you time. You can use them to automate client follow-up, build up anticipation for a new product, or keep your customers engaged over the long-term. For more great ideas, check out HubSpot’s article on email workflows.

3. Make Business Proposals Automatic

If you regularly send proposals to your clients, you can stop the copy-and-paste routine and make the whole process simpler with tools like BidSketch and Proposeful. These services will autofill proposal sections based on your past preferences, let you adjust as needed, and make it easy for clients to view and sign off on proposals electronically.

4. Tap into an Endless Flow of Content Ideas

One of the big challenges of content marketing is finding ways to consistently engage your audience over the long-term. It’s the eternal question content marketers ask themselves: “What do we cover next?” The more content you produce, the harder it can be to come up with fresh ideas—especially if it feels like you’ve already said it all!

Instead of struggling to come up with ideas, train the internet to automatically send you a constant stream of content inspiration. First, set up Google Alerts to tell you any time something relevant to your business pops up online. It’ll alert you to emerging trends and newsworthy topics you can then expand or comment on. (Bonus tip: Set up your inbox to send these alerts to a special “ideas folder” you can go through later).

Next, install the Evernote Web Clipper or the Diigo browser button. As you come across things that catch your interest online, you can save them for later, when you’re ready to incorporate them into a post or video. You can also get a list of hand-curated content ideas from services like Quuu.

5. Automatically Post to Several Social Platforms

Use services like HootSuite and Buffer to post updates across your social channels, at exactly the time of day your audience is likely to be paying attention. You can also set up IFTT (“If this, then that”) to automatically take the content you publish on your blog and share it on Facebook. If you still manually post things on social media, you’ll be amazed at how much time you can save with services that do it all for you.

6. Reuse Your Best Blog Content to Delight New Audiences

You’ve invested a lot of time and energy into thoughtful, relevant blog posts—so why publish them just once and then let them go to waste? MeetEdgar can recycle your past posts to generate fresh views and engagement from your community. Think about it: as your blog has grown, so has your audience—and that means you probably have a lot of really good older content people haven’t seen yet. That content can still feel “new” to them, with the help of MeetEdgar.

7. Delegate to an Algorithm

You could spend time creating your own social media ads, or you could simply delegate that task to a service like Needls, which designs and launches ads for you. Touted as the internet’s first “robo agency,” Needls pays attention to the social media conversations happening in real time, and then responds with targeted, relevant ads that send new business to you.

For example, if somebody takes to social media to complain about their flooded basement, Needls will automatically show them ads for your flooding solutions company. Or if someone asks for style advice for a new business wardrobe, Needls can point him or her to your tailoring business. Just feed Needls a set of images, videos, and a basic message, and it will put them together in a cohesive ad campaign.

The most important thing to remember about marketing automation is this: if a computer can do the job for you—and do it quicker and better—just let it. Set up automated marketing systems so you can spend time on more important things.

Know When to Outsource

As a small business owner, you get used to doing everything—especially in the beginning, when your budget is tiny and your time commitment is huge. You’re the business owner and the marketing person and the accountant and the receptionist, all rolled into one.

But as your business grows and you finally have the resources to hire people who can help you, it can be hard to break out of the initial “I can do everything myself” mindset.

That’s because when you started your business, money was probably scarce. To become more profitable, you had to either generate more sales or slash your expenses. You probably realized that spending less instantly increased your profits, and that’s the path you chose.

But as your business grows, if you insist on wearing too many hats, what will eventually limit your business’s potential is not your cash flow, but your time.

Think about how much one hour of your time is worth. Is it the hourly rate you charge customers? Is it the cost of producing a product, divided by the time it takes to produce it? Is it your monthly revenue divided by the amount of time you put into your business each month?

Take a moment to calculate what one hour of your time is actually worth. Whether it’s $20 per hour or $2,000 per hour, you’ll quickly realize that it’s not worth spending that precious hour on low-value tasks someone else could easily do for less.

Let’s use business accounting as an example. You may be tempted to say, “I don’t need to hire a bookkeeper. That would cost me $300 per month, and I could save that much by just doing it myself!”

But unless you were an accountant in a previous life, chances are it would take you more than 10 hours per month to do your books. You’d have to do all the research, plan your ledger, map your accounts, and teach yourself the accounting software just to get started! Next, you’d still have to close your books each month and reconcile your accounts.

Let’s say all that takes you 10 hours per month. A good bookkeeper would cost $300 per month, so you’re essentially paying yourself $30/hour ($300/10 hours) to do the accounting yourself—and that’s not including set-up time.

If your time is worth less than $30/hour, then the DIY route might make sense. But if it’s more than $30, why would you ever waste time (and money) doing this on your own? And let’s be honest, if you have what it takes to run your own small business, your time’s worth a lot more than $30 per hour.

Think about the value of your time when figuring out whether you should hire someone else to do it for you, or if you should stick to doing it yourself.

As you start hiring people who can help you with those lower-value tasks, you’ll be able to dedicate more time to high-value tasks that grow your business. This, in turn, increases your cash flow and gives you more flexibility to grow your team. As you bring more people onboard, you can dedicate yet more time to high-level work.

Each task you give to someone else frees you up to grow your business. And great business owners know that in order to grow, they need to take that leap of faith and delegate to others. They know that great teams ultimately build great companies.

What Comes Next?

We hope you enjoyed this marketing playbook and feel confident about running your first marketing campaigns using some of the tips and strategies we provided. At PaySimple, we love seeing small businesses reach their potential, which is why we love creating resources like these to help you on your journey.

If you’re interested in learning more about how PaySimple can help you accept payments, market your business and manage your customers, all from one easy-to-use platform, then give us a try for free.

Learn how PaySimple can help take your business to the next level.