How To Advertise A Small Business Online

Thanks to the proliferation of wifi and smart devices, the internet is now extremely accessible to consumers. Naturally, business owners want to capitalise on this. Using content marketing, SEO and social media among other tactics, it can be relatively simple to advertise a small business online today.

SMEs – the bedrock of the economy


Virgin Media Business recognises that small and medium businesses are the lifeblood of the Irish economy. They represent

  • 99% of the companies active and trading in Ireland
  • 70% of the workforce
  • approximately 40% of the gross value to the bottom line of the Irish economy

By their very nature, small and medium businesses are few hands doing much work.

Quite often the CEO or founder becomes the de facto HR director, the head of sales and marketing or even the maker of the tea and coffee.

Some aspects of the SME grind are naturally outside the core competencies of the people in the business. For example, how to advertise a small business online consistently crops up as an area that SME owners require help.

Digital knowledge in demand


A 2016 report by The Digital Marketing Institute found

  • 82% of CMOs believe their organizations need to invest more in digital marketing training for staff
  • 53% of CEOs said their second biggest challenge was recruiting the right digital-savvy talent
  • 86% of workers feel that they need to enhance their digital marketing skills (vs 69% in the US and UK)

As a result of data like this, Virgin Media Business created the Complete Small Business Show. Hence, series 2 we focused on how SMEs can benefit from digital marketing.

In five short episodes, we talked to some experts from the independently owned Irish agency, Wolfgang Digital.

Wolfgang won a host of domestic and international awards in 2018. These include the European Search Award for Best Large Integrated Search Agency, a UK Drum award for the best use of data and PPC in a programmatic strategy and the Irish Digital Media award for the best agency, the best search campaign and the best social media campaign.

When it comes to helping advertise a small business online, these guys are experts.

Why digital marketing is important for small business?

In episode 1 we set the scene by looking at why digital marketing has grown in importance in recent years.

The internet has permanently disrupted how consumers research their purchases.
how to do marketing for small business
(click the image to play short video)

In the good ole’ days, we responded to a stimulus (maybe a billboard ad). We then went to the shop to see and eventually purchase the product (the first moment of truth). Finally, we then took it home to use and experience.

Since the advent of the internet, we now have the ‘Zero Moment of Truth’. We now respond to a stimulus by reaching for our connected device to begin ‘googling’ about the product or service to find out more.

As a result, businesses and brands have now harnessed the power of the internet to promote their products and services. For that reason, you can see a shift in global advertising spend. Money is moving away from traditional marketing channels (TV, radio, print media) to digital platforms (search engine marketing, social media marketing, content marketing).

how to advertise small business online

If you have a shop in a rural area you can target your potential customers that are close by your location. You can do this through a search engine or social media marketing and how much you spend is entirely up to you.



Times they are a-changin’


In the old days of traditional marketing, you would have had to buy expensive TV, radio or print ads. But, there was no way of measuring their effectiveness. Success was hoping you saw a bump in sales.

While today if you advertise a small business online, you can measure lots of aspects of your marketing efforts to find out what is working and (just as important) what isn’t.

For more insights on the digital marketing landscape in Ireland and why you should consider it for your business check out Episode 1 of Series Two of the Complete Small Business Show.

Follow the link to request a copy of the eBook companion to Series 2 of the Complete Small Busines Show – Build Your Brand Online.

Why do small businesses need content marketing?

In 2017 the Content Marketing Institute surveyed over 2,000 B2B and B2C businesses. They found that

  • 77% of B2C and 78% of B2B businesses, said creating higher quality content was part of the reason for their increased success in the previous 12 months.
  • 71% of B2C and 72% of B2B companies said the key to content marketing success was having a clear and documented content strategy.

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach
focused on creating and distributing
valuable, relevant, and consistent content
to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience
and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Tried and tested tactics


There are lots of early examples of content marketing. In 1900 the tyre company Michelin created their Restaurant guide to help motorists find somewhere to eat on long journeys.

In the 1930s Procter & Gamble began producing shows for radio that were sponsored by brands such as Duz and Oxydol, which is where we get the term soap operas from.

A US ad agency in Cleveland is credited with using the term ‘content marketing’ for the first time in the early 2000s.

Regardless of the format of your content marketing, focusing on the needs of your customer fosters success.

Content marketing is not an opportunity to boast about your company’s size, heritage or ground-breaking technology… there will be a time and a place for that.

Moreover, content marketing is about speaking to the problems people have, the frustrations these cause and how the solution is waiting for them in a particular product or service.

To help explain why content marketing is important for Small Business, we spoke to Michaela Simpson, Head of Content at Wolfgang Digital.

How to advertise a small business online for free

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tries to place your webpages at the top of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

People mostly click the first result and rarely scroll below the fold on the first page. Therefore, ranking at the top of the SERP gets eyes on your content.

There are some relatively simple steps you can follow when you are creating content on your website that will help you achieve this.

You don’t need to create ads or use any budget to promote the content. People search for information and your webpages are providing the answer.

OK, this form of advertising is not totally free.


You’ll need to invest time in researching and creating the content. You may need to invest some time in learning some on-page SEO tactics or you may even have to hire an SEO agency to implement some technical adjustments.

However, there is no additional charge once you have applied your SEO changes. So long as you retain your top spot, traffic should keep flowing to your website.

What makes SEO even more valuable is the fact that search engines (Google in particular) prioritise websites that are in the same geographic area as the people searching. This levels the playing field as smaller outlets have a genuine chance of competing against the bigger companies for the top positions in SERPs.

To help breakdown SEO – How to advertise a small business for free, we spoke to Sean Markey, Deputy Head of SEO at Wolfgang Digital.

You can request a copy of our SEO: A DIY Guide by following the link.

How to grow a small business with social media

The Ipsos MRBI Social Networking Tracker for June 2018 states there were

  • 1 million active social media users in Ireland
  • approximately 2.7 million of those access their social channels through a mobile device
  • 66% of people owning a Facebook account

advertise a small business online 1

The two top messaging platforms were also Facebook companies, with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger being the most popular.advertise a small business online

Social media advertising in Ireland is not too crowded at the moment. Approximately 35% of Irish companies run paid ads on social media.

Certainly, this is likely to rise very soon though. Online advertising spend by companies in Ireland is expected to increase by over 6% to €520 million. The biggest loser in the battle for ad spend and attention is print media. Ads in the printed publication are forecasted to drop by 11%.

There are several reasons companies are opting to advertise a small business online on social media rather than the more traditional options.



TV still dominates the advertising landscape capturing about 50% of all advertising budgets. However, this is an exclusive club for companies with big budgets globally. To be able to create an ad worthy of primetime viewers’ attentions requires deep pockets. Social media ads, on the other hand, are available for as little as €1 a day. The more budget you have, the more people you can reach… Which leads nicely to our next point:



Every interaction you have on the internet is recorded as data. Whether it’s a click on a link or a view of a video, social media channels can even tell if someone saw an ad but didn’t engage with it. Therefore, you can see exactly where your budget is being spent and whether your ads are working or not. Having more data (and knowledge) allows you to build better campaigns, which should lead to better results.

With traditional marketing, it is much harder to attribute any results to billboards or even TV ads – did people see them, did they do anything as a result, did they come to your shop as a result of the ad? Consequently, all these questions can be answered with data from online ads.



Finally, the internet is disrupting lots of industries beyond advertising. Though people are still tuning into their favourite TV shows, they consume them differently.

20 years ago most people sat down at the allotted time to get a weekly dose of their show. Today, we record shows to watch at the most convenient time and fast forward past the ads. Or we may opt to subscribe to a provider like Netflix, which removes ads altogether. And, people are increasingly watching shows on devices rather than an actual TV.

People consume about 6 hours of digital media every day. 1 hour of this is being spent inside Facebook alone. This gives companies plenty of opportunities to target potential customers with ads.

In episode 4 of the Complete Small Business Show Roisin Linnie, Head of Social at Wolfgang Digital tells us how to grow a small business with Social Media.

Follow this link for an eBook on Business Growth With Facebook.

If you are in the food, fashion or fitness industries you’ll want to take a look at our Guide to Instagram for Business eBook.

Why digital marketing is important for small business

The 2018 report from PricewaterhouseCoopers found that Irish consumers spent €5 billion online in 2017. About two thirds or €3 billion of that went to retailers located outside of Ireland.

While this is disappointing, the large overseas spend provides real opportunities. Irish businesses can build the necessary platforms to attract this lost revenue back to Ireland.

Furthermore, in the Digital Savvy Consumer Report by the Red C Company, 38% of respondents said they prefer to buy from local Irish websites. 53% of the 65+-year-olds have a preference for Irish websites over Global Multinationals.

Research Online – Purchase Offline


Even if your business is not able to sell online there are still massive benefits to advertising a small business online. Having a well-optimised website is a good start.

Consumers still get a sense of comfort when they buy products from a physical store. This is mainly driven by a level of trust linked to the physical connection with the product, the brand and the retailer. 46% of people said that they researched online and then bought in a physical store.

Of course, younger consumers use social media as a source of purchase inspiration more. As they age, it is unlikely that this will change. A well-crafted and engaging social media strategy is therefore critical to build a loyal army of customers that could potentially stay loyal for years.

Some of the other more interesting stats from the PricewaterhouseCoopers report include:

  • 38% of 25-34-year-olds shop online weekly
  • 33% say they are more likely to shop with a retailer who offers mobile payment
  • Less than 50% say they are satisfied with the in-store shopping experience
  • 94% of 18-24-year-olds use social media to inspire their purchases
  • 77% of consumers are willing to pay for same or next day delivery

In episode 5, we’ll talk to Rob Beirne, Director of Clients at Wolfgang Digital, about eCommerce – why digital marketing is important for small business.

If you’re considering running campaigns for Black Friday or Cyber Monday, follow the link and we’ll send you an ebook on how to make the most of your efforts.