woman confused about small business marketing options

What Kind Of Marketing Do I Need? A Guide For New Business Owners

You open a small business. You must market it. But the options and sales pressure from digital marketing companies are mind boggling. Some are legit. Some are less than honourable, preying on the lack of knowledge on this vast topic.

This post was born out of a question a new client asked me. She wanted to know if I could offer the same SEO services her current website hosting company was offering her. When I reviewed the services she was paying for, well, let’s just say, good SEO was not one of them.

I am by no means a marketing expert but I am a savvy freelancer, and manage the digital marketing and websites for several small businesses ranging from an IT company, several dental practices and natural health practices. Let me help you out here. In this post, I will break down some different types of marketing to help you choose what you need right now. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a great starting point, especially for new practice owners, or those with teeny tiny budgets.

Website Building And On Page SEO

This is largely a one time project, done at time of website build (or when a new page is added), and includes things like:

  • responsiveness & speed – both must be good to rank, especially with Google moving towards mobile first and accelerated mobile pages
  • content structure, page titles, H tags and LSI keywords to help search crawlers understand what the site is about
  • natural language use to appeal to humans and voice searches
  • meta descriptions to entice users to click
  • site layout to make it easy for users to find what they need on the site
  • site structure and organization, with an internal linking strategy to service pages and well defined cornerstone content
  • image optimization and alt tags to load quickly and tell crawlers what the images are
  • schema to tell crawlers pertinent information about the type of site or content on the page

Website – Blogging

This is ongoing work. It includes writing content on a regular basis to:

  • help your site be crawled and come up in searches
  • gives you content you can re-use on social media and in email newsletters

You can do this yourself with a little keyword research, but most business owners find themselves at a loss on what to write about, or how to make it appealing. Or simply at a loss for time. As such, you may want to consider outsourcing the task. You can limit the scope and cost of outsourcing by sticking to buying content and then sharing it on your social media channels.  Content can be purchased by post. To expand the scope and cost of content marketing, you can look at full SEO marketing packages. More on that below.

Off Page SEO – Citations

This is largely a one time project, done at time of website build or business opening. Check on your listings periodically to ensure all the info is still correct. For example, if you move offices, you should update all your citations. Check everything at least annually.

In the past, people sold promises of listing you in hundreds of directories, but these directory sites and any value promised have been debunked or flagged as spam.

There are a few important directories to be listed in, and you can certainly do this yourself. When I handle this for clients, I create a spreadsheet to track all listings and log ins for them for easy reference when needed. Here is a good list.

  • Google
  • Bing
  • Yahoo
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Yelp
  • CitySearch
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  • YP.ca
  • Brownbook

There are certainly more, and some are industry specific. For example, if you are in hospitality, travel, restaurant and entertainment, you probably want to be listed on TripAdvisor.

Off Page SEO – Link Building

This requires ongoing work by skilled SEO marketers who will use link building and traffic building tactics to build authority for the website and drive large volumes of traffic to the site. Expect to pay $900+ per month. Shop carefully. Find a reputable provider that works on your industry. Often, these monthly packages have higher priced options which include content creation such as blog posts for your website.

For off page SEO for dentists, I recommend Trevor Tynes, a knowledgeable and enthusiastic SEO marketer in Ontario.

Social Media Marketing

This is ongoing work.

Many new business do this themselves but without a strategy, find they don’t get the results they want.

For social media, you want to engage people and simply get them to know, like and trust you. Don’t expect them to buy from your posts. Only a small portion of your posts should be promotional.  Posting about one special offer after another won’t draw in an audience. Be human. Be relatable. Be likeable.  Invite readers in to your business, behind the scenes.

In addition to the relationship building and engaging posts you create on social media, you can also buy ads or boost posts. Here is where you can make your promotional content shine. Paying to distribute your ad or content across a network can increase web traffic and bring in more new clients.

Social media is always evolving so be sure to read up before you begin, and stay up to date by subscribing to newsletters or podcasts from industry authorities. Try Anissa Holmes for dental marketing tips.  Or for local hands on help with next level Social Media Marketing, I recommend Brand Ambition in my hometown of Bowmanville ON.

Email Marketing – Patient Newsletters

This is ongoing work.

You create educational, inspirational or promotional content to distribute to your existing clients. You can use software such as MailChimp or Constant Contact.  For dental practices, platforms such as SolutionReach can integrate with your practice management software and give you the tools to create email newsletters. No matter what, be sure you are CASL or CANSPAM compliant.

Email Marketing – List Building / Funnels

This is ongoing work.

You create a large list of potential clients by creating and giving away useful content in exchange for a visitors email address. Once they are on your list (on your funnel) they receive a series of automated emails you have crafted, designed to inform and engage them and move them through the funnel from an interested party to a paying client. This is not common in dentistry and healthcare, but is very common in coaching and consulting. Due to extreme saturation in the market, you have to be sure you can create compelling content if you decide to invest time and energy into this format.


This can be short term or long term depending on your goals.

An example would be Google Adwords. You can attempt to do this yourself with help from a Google call centre rep, but not everyone agrees with this approach.  There may be a conflict of interest, but I leave that for you to decide.

If you do attempt DIY Adwords knowing what you are doing, you will most likely spend a lot of money very fast, without seeing any return whatsoever.  This may convince you that Adwords don’t work, when in fact it’s user error.  Google does offer free courses to help you understand how to use the platform and choose your keywords, so be sure to take those courses before diving in on your own. Better yet, hire a PPC marketer to help you.

Event & Community Marketing

This can be one time or ongoing, depending on your goals.

As a small business owner, community events can be one of the most rewarding forms of marketing for your practice, if done well. Not only will you meet many locals, but you can be viewed and recognized as a truly caring person, and this tends to have a positive effect on business.

This may include sponsoring events, sponsoring local sports teams, volunteering at events, or hosting your own client and community appreciation events. think skating days, movie nights, BBQ’s, or themed and fun events in your office or local community halls.

But not every business owner enjoys this level of interaction. If you don’t, focus on Local SEO by building a responsive, professional website, local citations, and focus on collecting Google reviews from paying clients, as this will help you show up in local search results.

Where do I fit in?

I am a small business manager turned owner and freelancer.  I help new business owners get started with brand messaging, on page SEO and website design, landing pages, blogging, social media and email marketing.

Do you want some help getting started online?