Five digital marketing tips for small businesses at the Crain’s Small Business Forum

This morning I am on a panel at the Crain's Small Business Forum in Chicago talking about how small businesses can use digital marketing generally and social media specifically to build their businesses.  I thought it made sense to use this blog to help think through what I was going to say, write it down and be able to refer people to it in the future.  

First, if you are like me and you always want to know more about the person providing the advice and what real experience they have, feel free to check out my Linked In profile. I have spent the last 15 years of my professional career building businesses that leveraged the power of the Internet.   Three years ago we took CoolSavings private and I founded Viewpoints Network so I am speaking both as a provider of social technologies but more importantly as a business owner who uses all range of digital technologies.

So without further ado….

Five digital marketing tips for small businesses

  1. Don't underestimate the power of e-mail. I suggest that you build a list of all the people that you want to know about your business and start to send an update to that list at least once a month. You can either do this using your personal e-mail account but if you want to get better tracking and opt out management then use a service like Constant Contact which is about $50 per month.  Over the years I have collected about 5,000 business cards and e-mail addresses.  50% of these are no longer valid and I barely remember who half of the remaining 50% are.  But that means I am left with 1,250 people who I have build relationships with over the years. I know these percentages are right because I took almost an entire day a few years ago to go through and code every record with a "level of familiarity"
  2. Start a blog. Blogs are either free or really cheap.  Don't be intimated thinking that you have to blog every day.  We used blogs as a cheap and easy way to set up a web site that we could easily change and update.   Check out This is our blog which also allows us to create "pages" which provide more information about Viewpoints.  We use a service called TypePad which is $159 per year.

  3. Open an account on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  Depending on who your audience is, pick one to focus most of your time and energy on.  Now you can start cross pollinating your e-mail, blog and social networking efforts by promoting your blog posts to your Twitter followers and encouraging your blog readers to sign up for your e-mail list or follow you on Twitter.   You can find me at (169 followers), (534 friends), or  (999 friends)

  4. Learn about the importance of Search Engine Optimization.  Search drives web behavior more than most people realize.  The 120 million daily U.S. Internet users do about 2 searches a day.  That means that that 6 billion times  a month someone is using search to find something including either your business or something closely related to it.  All of your blog posts should be designed to be found via search.  If nothing else, try an experiment by picking an obscure word or phrase.  Write a blog post about it and see if you get listed.  You can use tools such as WordTracker or Google Trends to give you insight into what people are searching for.

  5. Don't forget about lead generation and having great follow through.  I use religiously.  It was the first tool I set up when we started Viewpoints.  You should make it very easy for people to find you and request more information about what you are selling.  Many of the services mentioned above can help you collect the right data from prospective customers so that you can follow up with them and develop and relationship with them until they are ready to buy. 

  6. And one more bonus tip.  Take advantage of survey tools to find out more what your prospective customers are thinking.  We use Zoomerang but you can also use tools such as Survey Monkey, Opinion Lab, Poll Daddy and others.

2 Comments on “Five digital marketing tips for small businesses at the Crain’s Small Business Forum”

  1. Matt,
    It was a pleasure to hear you speak this morning on the panel at Crain’s Chicago Small Business Forum. I found your insight to be compelling and pragmatic.
    A question I did not get to ask was related to using social media in a world that is not generally embracing it – specifically manufacturing! I am working on our website, I have a blog ( and agree with many of the commentaries this morning regarding being where your customers are. However, many of our customers are not yet on LinkedIn, Facebook, twitter, etc. and consider such outlets as fads or flash in the pan concepts. I think that perception will change in time, and would love to hear your thoughts on how to position oneself as an industry “thought leader” of sorts and engage customers without scaring them off with new-fangled technology.
    Thanks again for your input this morning,
    Colin Cosgrove
    Sales Manager
    Laystrom Manufaturing Co.

  2. Sally Smith says:

    I attended the Crain’s Breakfast this morning and found your comments to be very insightful. Thanks for your time and thoughts.
    Sally Smith
    District Marketing
    Harris Bank

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