Digital Marketing for Small Businesses: Step-By-Step Guide

This guide will show you exactly how to take your small business to the next level with an inbound marketing strategy that focuses on results!

You don’t need to be a marketing guru to do this; all you need is social skills, a good management process, a solid lead gen strategy, and a platform (website, landing pages).

This guide is detailed and designed for those with no marketing skills who plan to digitize their businesses by offering online solutions. It works best for

  1. Fitness coaches and personal trainers who want to offer an online solution
  2. Consultants who plan to sell courses online
  3. Photographers and wedding vendors who need more bookings
  4. SaaS startups who need trial sign-ups

If that is you, bookmark this page, and let’s get started!

Table of Content

If you are a coach, a startup with zero budget, or an entrepreneur with an idea but no idea where to start, read on. This guide will put you in the right direction regarding what needs to be done in the next 90 days.

Alright, now let the fun begin.

Chapter 1: The brand story framework

People love a good story. Look at your favorite movies and break down the story into simple terms; you will be surprised that they all share the same concept.

A hero, a villain, a guide

Look at the Matrix, for example.

The hero: Neo

The villain: the Machines

A guide: Morpheus

Now, can you guess who your customers are in your story?

We all want to be the hero in our stories, but we are not the hero in the business world. The hero is always your client.

Who are you in that story?

The guide.

I picked that up from The StoryBrand framework; a storytelling formula created by Donald Miller to help businesses communicate their most potent messages and clearly.

That book changed how I do marketing, and it’s mighty if it’s done right.

Now, let’s take an example.

A fitness coach who sells online courses or online coaching, let’s see how we can build a story framework that fits the fitness coaching industry.

A character

Middle age parents, with two kids with no time for the gym and always fail to commit to a fitness plan or a diet; they tried it all, and nothing works for them, they dream that one day they can look good, wear their favorite clothes and post some self pictures on social media.

Has a problem

Lack of motivation, lack of trust in the online coaching programs, unwanted weight, and overeating management issues, and they actively go to Gym but with no results.

And meet a guide

An online fitness coach that they found from a friend’s post who shows before/after photos at some point. They started by following him/her around and progressed into an inquiry about the coaching program offered.

The guide meets the character to define a plan that will get them where they want to be.

Who gives them a plan?

The guide asks the characters questions to learn about their pain, challenges, and obstacles (The villain of this story) and define a course of action based on his own experience of helping others in defeating that villain.

And call them to action

The plan is ready; now it’s time to take action and do the work.

The Guide will ask the character to start a 90 days commitment now without any wasting time and delays (At this stage, the hero might question the plan, and ask for validation to justify the investment)

That ended in success

The hero takes the guide’s advice and starts the 90 days plan, commits to it, and sees it through.

That helps them avoid failure

And its ends with success; the hero hits all of their goals and smashes them to the ground.

It can end with a photo shoot or before and after photos, and a case study for the guide. Or, It ends badly, and the hero fails, but the guide is still there, guiding them until the goals are achieved.

It looks simple right?

But it’s not that simple…

What makes you different from the others? Why you’re the right guide for that hero? What have you done to prove to that hero that you’re the one?

There is only one guide in that story, and the hero has the full freedom in picking who guides them through, and believe me, your competitors are fierce in the digital space.

You no longer compete locally; the world is open now and accessible to all.

That is how you build your story and use it as a focal point in your website, social media, ads copy, and imbed it in your core DNA every time you speak to a potential customer.

You’re not the hero of that story.

This worked incredibly well for me as an agency owner because I enjoy being a guide.

I like helping business owners succeed online, it brings me joy that you can’t buy, and the moment I shifted my focus to my clients, everything changed for me.

I managed to grow my business faster, keep my client and retain them and even turn them into close friends.

BTW, in my story, you are the hero who is reading this blog to overcome a challenge. I’m here to give you a plan and call you to take any action so that you can find success with online marketing.

Now it’s your turn, to dig deep and think of your future clients; what makes you an excellent guide?

Chapter 2: Building your platform

No matter how good your story is, it’s a dead story if no one knows about it.

To get your story to your audience, you need a good storyteller.

How do we tell a story? We use media that connect us to an audience.

In the movie world, it’s the big screen.

In the digital space, it’s your website, your content, your sales funnel, and your social media channels.

This chapter will look at how we can build that media presence using affordable tactics that won’t costs you much.

Let’s start with the first media, the website.

Like any business, a website is the first place that your audience sees, and that website job is simple.

Attract. Convert

It might not be the first touch; it’s often your social media, but what if someone is looking for something specific and they’re using Google?

Your website is representative of who you are, and it should be personal, easy to digest, and tells a story.

Remember that we said to build your platform, not a website.

A website is one part; the second part is your sales funnel and your lead generation forms.

Why are sales funnels so important?

At some point, you will run ads, and ads are expensive that can cost you a lot, especially for a small startup where every dollar counts.

A sale funnel tells the story without distraction in a smooth flow designed to touch on pain points, and offers a solution with an easy convert call to action, often combined with a strong offer that they can’t say no to it.

A platform is a website, a sales funnel offering one solution to one pain point without any distraction powered by advanced automation, retargeting, and nurture campaigns.

Chapter 3: Unlocking the traffic gates

Traffic is my favorite topic and challenging if you don’t understand it well.

Before diving into traffic, there are three types that you should know.

Cold traffic

Traffic from people who never heard about your brand name or services. It’s as cold as it can get. This type is skeptical, hard to trust, and has a low attention span. Plus, it is bombarded with choices.

This type might not be aware they have an issue and require a lot of effort to warm them up.

Where that traffic exists in the customer journey?

Top of the Funnel (MOFU)

Warm traffic

Traffic from people who visited your site before, or downloaded something from you, maybe a guide or a list, it can be anything.

Or maybe saw an ad and decided to look at your thought.

Or saw a post from a friend mentioning you, and they check your IG profile; from there, they followed you.

This type is aware of the problem but not ready yet to take action.

They’re in the discovery stage.

Where that traffic exists in the customer journey?

Middle of the Funnel (MOFU)

Hot traffic

Traffic from people who are ready to take any action now.

They’re already doing the research, know the solution, and looking for validation to justify the investment or simply looking for better offers.

This type knows exactly what they want, aware of the problem, the solution, and the options available.

If somehow they consider you, they will often check reviews, your offering, read a case study or ask a friend.

Where that traffic exists in the customer journey?

Bottom of the funnel (BOFU)

Traffic is expensive and can be sourced from two methods:


Anything that doesn’t require you to pay a fee. SEO, social, word of mouth and referral, cold emailing, etc.


Anything that requires you to pay a fee. Cost per click (CPC), Facebook advertisement, Google ads, and affiliates for a fee.

If you’re a small startup that is just starting and your idea is not validated, you are more likely to have a low to zero budget, and paid traffic is out of the picture.

You are left with only one option, organic traffic.

Organic is either from SEO or social.

The downside of organic search is that it takes time, and lots of effort, but

SEO is free traffic that is owned, and it’s your authority metrics in the industry.

Chapter 4: Converting that traffic into leads

Having a lot of traffic is great, but what will you do with it? It’s not going to convert on its own.

What is your plan after that traffic move from cold to hot?

Hot traffic needs to act fast; they want a solution now, want offers, assurances, and excitement, and they ain’t waiting for you; if you are not fast enough to grab them, your competitors will.

Call your hero to action; remember that part in the brand story framework?

For a startup that targets businesses (B2B), you need leads and a process to qualify those leads.

Many people might say yes, I want to learn more, but the pricing might be the biggest blocker, or they are not ready yet.

By asking your lead a few smart questions about their challenges, goals blockers, or any info you can learn before the call, that info can be used to persuade them into buying your services.

A trick to convert traffic into leads is by offering something so compelling that they can say no to it. Something they deeply desire and offered for a free or low cost.

That is your Trojan horse. By doing this tactic, you can acquire leads at a much lower cost than you would normally do, and it’s a way in.

Once you secure a low-ticket sell lead and you have them on your list, you can do a lot to convince them into buying a higher ticker sale.

In the sales universe, you need 10-15 touchpoints before closing a sale, and that depends on many factors like industry vertical, service offered, and buying window.

Chapter 5: Automating the process with ActiveCampaign

I’m a big fan of marketing automation and everything we do for our clients and our own marketing is based on automation.

You might be wondering, what a startup that just starting out can automate without sacrificing the human touch.

If you think like that, you will limit yourself to a small box.

If your goals are aggressive and big, and you’re a dreamer like me, you need all the help you can to reduce the time spent on repeating tasks.

Marketing automation exists to do just that, and if it is done right, you can sit back, relax and watch your business grow at an unbelievable rate.

I personally tried every automation software out there and nothing fits in as well as ActiveCampaign.

It’s affordable, easy to learn and you can automate everything you will ever need.

Take my agency, for example, we get dozens of leads a day.

We can filter out the low-quality leads who can’t afford our services and nurture those with potential but not ready yet by educating them about how we help businesses generate revenue.

With ActiveCampaign, we’re qualifying leads, scoring them based on engagement, nurturing them to convert (especially if they entered through any of our sales funnels), and routing those leads to our sales department which uses Pipedrive as the main CRM.

Thanks to ActiveCampaign, our sales team only focus on qualified leads who are willing to meet us and have a conversation.

Not to mention that all of our marketing is automated (we pre-plan everything quarterly)

My first recommendation is always to use ActiveCampaign for small businesses with a limited budget. Why?

  1. It’s incredibly versatile. You can do and automate anything you can imagine.
  2. It’s super easy to learn and setup
  3. It’s very affordable for startups and small businesses
  4. Plenty of templates and automation playbooks to use
  5. An amazing support system, their support team is fast to respond and often records a video or shows you how to do things
  6. Can be integrated with your favorite tools

I’m not affiliated with them, it’s simply the default for us with our SMEs, and I picked it up after I tried all the similar tools out there.

What you can do with marketing automation?

  1. Automate your emails responders
  2. Automate the onboarding process
  3. Nurture your existing buyers to buy more stuff or to refer you.
  4. Automate the reviews collecting process
  5. Automate your offers
  6. Score your leads and qualify them based on engagement
  7. Trigger smart automation based on engagement
  8. Show different content based on engagement and interests
  9. Personalize every touch in your customer journey

And much more.

You can save a lot of time if you did this step correctly and with sound logic and reasons.

When it is done wrong, automation is robotic and often kills that personal connection between you and your audience. Better plan this carefully.

Another superpower to unlock is funnel automation.

Imagine having a funnel that generates passive income from ads, and the same profit from that funnel is used to fuel its own


Digital marketing is a complex topic, and the internet is filled with countless content, all with different approaches that often confuse you. Ignore all that

Focus on your audience; always ask, will that make sense to my audience?

The biggest solution to online marketing is adding value to your audience in every possible touch.

Focus on your content and how you’re transmitting that valuable content to your audience, what media you are using as a platform and what you can do to warm your traffic.

The rest will follow, and you will get results from your online marketing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What is a digital marketing and how can it benefit my small business?

Answer: Digital marketing refers to the use of various online channels, such as social media, email, and search engines, to promote a product or service. It can benefit small businesses by increasing brand awareness, driving website traffic, and ultimately, generating more sales.

Question: How can I create an effective digital marketing strategy for my small business?

Answer: Creating an effective digital marketing strategy for your small business involves setting clear goals, identifying your target audience, and selecting the appropriate channels to reach them. It is also important to regularly measure and analyze the performance of your campaigns to make informed decisions about future strategies.

Question: How can social media marketing help my small business?

Answer: Social media marketing can help small businesses by increasing brand awareness, engaging with customers, and driving website traffic. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow small businesses to reach a large audience at a relatively low cost.

Question: How can I use email marketing to promote my small business?

Answer: Email marketing allows small businesses to directly communicate with their target audience by sending them promotional messages and updates. To effectively use email marketing, it’s important to build a targeted email list, segment your audience and personalize your emails, and regularly measure and analyze your campaign performance.

Question: How can I use search engine optimization (SEO) to improve my small business’s online visibility?

Answer: SEO involves optimizing your website’s content and structure to improve its ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs). This can be achieved by incorporating relevant keywords, building high-quality backlinks, ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly and loads quickly and more.

Question: How can I measure the success of my small business’s digital marketing efforts?

Answer: Measuring the success of your small business’s digital marketing efforts involves setting clear goals, and then tracking relevant metrics such as website traffic, conversion rates, and return on investment (ROI). You can use tools like Google Analytics and social media analytics to track these metrics and gain insights into the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Question: How much does it cost to implement digital marketing for a small business?

Answer: The cost of digital marketing for a small business can vary widely depending on the channels and tactics used. Some digital marketing efforts, such as social media marketing, can be done with little or no cost. However, more advanced tactics like search engine marketing can be expensive. It’s important to set a budget and prioritize tactics that are most likely to drive results.

Ruben Harutyunyan

Back to top