So you own a small service-based business and have been hearing about online or digital marketing for a while now. So far, all your clients have come to you through word of mouth or referrals.

By now, you probably have tried to do online marketing for your business on your own but couldn’t get it to work for you. But you keep seeing other businesses including your top competitors crushing it with online marketing. You wonder, “Why was I not able to attract the clients I want online yet my top competitors seem to do it quite well.”

The problem, in this case, is most likely you. Not your competitors, not online marketing, not your target clients and etc. Understand something. This is not your fault.


Because online marketing is actually a combined number of skills that take a lot of time to learn if you want to implement them effectively. Often times, it takes years to learn and even requires multiple people to do well.

How do you know that you suck at online marketing and you should start hiring digital marketing experts to help you especially if you want to see good results a bit faster? Here are some ways to easily find out.

1. You Don’t Have a Buyer Persona or Personas

buyer persona

If I had to pinpoint one of the biggest challenges small businesses face, I’d say it’s clearly understanding who their customers are and what makes them tick. The important thing to remember here is that not all buyers are alike.

In fact, it’s highly likely you have multiple types of buyers with different needs, interests, challenges, and reasons for buying from you. Knowing who your customers are and what their needs are is the ultimate goal when it comes to effective marketing.

So how do you gain this insight about your buyers? The easiest and most effective way is by creating a buyer persona (or buyer personas). Perhaps you’ve heard of the term? And no, it’s not just an industry buzzword that marketers throw around to look like they know what they’re talking about.

Buyer personas are a crucial piece of the “understanding your customers and what makes them tick” puzzle. In this section, I’m going to discuss why small businesses need buyer personas if they truly want to kick their online marketing efforts into gear and start seeing great results.

Buyer Personas Help You Truly Understand the Needs of Your Clients

Do you know what’s important to your customers? Do you understand the different needs of your customers? Chances are, your customers buy from you for different reasons.

To be successful at marketing you need to understand the different needs of your buyers.

The thing is, how do you know what their different needs are if you don’t intentionally do the research and you never ask? That’s where buyer personas come in. By creating in-depth buyer personas, you will gain insights into your customers’ needs, wants, and buying habits.

This will help you to identify topics your buyers want to learn more about at different stages of the buying process. From this, you can create content around these topics, content your customers will find relevant and helpful.

Buyer Personas Help You Know Where Your Buyers Spend Their Time

Once you’ve gained an insight into the needs and wants of your customers, you then need to understand where they spend their time online. Where they go and who they trust for information, and which social network websites they use.

Knowing this kind of information helps you better target your content and promote it in the relevant places your buyers are actually going to see it. This insight will also help you determine what type of content needs to be promoted in each place.

Some of the great platforms small service-based businesses can start focusing on are Google and LinkedIn.

Just remember, the people you are trying to reach are most likely to react and engage with content that interests them and is of value to them hence you’d have to create helpful and valuable content for your website, blog, LinkedIn and etc. that your audience will resonate with.

Buyer Personas Help You Better Attract Higher Quality Leads

There’s no value in attracting people or converting them into leads if they’re never going to buy from you or are not the types of clients your really want. This is why understanding your buyers is important.

Once you know what information they’re looking for during the buying process, and where to promote it, you can publish highly valuable content they are looking for. Publishing valuable content will also help you to stand out as a trusted authority giving your buyers confidence in your organization.

Buyer Personas Help You Enhance Service Offering Development

Buyer personas don’t only help to better attract higher quality leads, but they likewise help enhance your service offering and pricing. Understanding your buyers will help your business create services that are better aligned to their needs and wants.

Furthermore, it’s much more likely you’ll retain your customers if your services grow and change as your customers do. An easy way to enhance the services your business offers is to interview some of your current customers.

Ask them what they like about your services, how they could be better improved, or what they’d like to see introduced in the future. In today’s competitive environment, knowing your customers and showing them you care about their individual needs and wants is integral to your present and more importantly future success.

2. Your Online Marketing Strategy Is Horrible

customer attraction

When small service-based businesses get started, their focus is often on how to get their first group of customers through the door.

They may rely on word of mouth from friends, family, or their immediate network and maybe from some traditional forms of marketing, such as flyers and etc. They may trust that since they know they offer a good service and price, it’s only a matter of time until customers will find their way to them.

While this strategy may bring in a trickle of business to help them get started, there is a better way for the long term — Online marketing. Especially the production of high-value content relevant to your target audience.

Small businesses should consider the huge marketplace of prospects online. No small business, no matter how new, should overlook this vast marketplace, especially long term. And by long term, I mean at least a year going forward.

But despite all the pros and benefits of online marketing, most small service-based businesses tend to adopt the horrible strategy of ignoring online marketing or trying to wing it without investing the time and money necessary to succeed with it.

Benefits of Online Marketing

The group of potential customers that are found online is a much larger group of people than you are likely to be able to attract locally or from your current network of people you know. Using digital marketing, you can reach an enormous audience in a way that is both cost-effective and measurable.

Other benefits of online marketing include:

  • The ability to interact with your prospects and learn exactly what they are looking for
  • The ability to reach a national or even a global marketplace
  • You can save money and reach more customers for less money than traditional marketing methods
  • Get to know your audience and allow them to know you personally which can help to create brand loyalty
  • You can track responses to your marketing efforts immediately

Are You Postponing Digital Marketing?

Why would you choose to postpone putting time and effort into digital marketing? Different small service-based business owners may come up with a variety of reasons to avoid this form of marketing, but in the end, procrastination is still procrastination.

Small businesses sometimes believe that they don’t have the time or the money to be competitive online. They think they can only face so many challenges all at once and they are still learning the ins and outs of business in general. Many of them may prefer to take things slowly and to stick with one or two basic forms of traditional marketing, assuming that their business will evolve as time passes.

They may even think the best strategy is simply to wait for customers to show up. Since they are a small business, they may think they only need a small number of customers.

This is not an effective approach. There is never a guarantee that your business will attract customers just by existing and even if it does, you may not attract as many customers as you need to make your business become profitable or will it attract the types and caliber of clients you really want.

Your Customers Are Online

If you have been avoiding digital marketing, is it because you think you are simply not ready? Do you think you just need some time to get established and then you will figure out the digital marketing angle?

The problem with this approach is that your customers and potential customers are already online. Right now. Today. There’s a good chance they might already be looking for a business like yours that offers the services you offer, but if they can’t find you easily, they are probably going to choose someone else.

This is how people do business today. When someone has an interest in your business, whether it is in your niche in general or if they are curious about your brand, the first thing they are going to do is research online and see what they can find out about you or your competitors.

They expect to find you there with a website and an active social media presence. They may be looking for reviews so they can learn what other people are saying about your company and whether it is a good place to do business.

If a potential customer can’t find you online, they may conclude that your business doesn’t appear to be legitimate. There is a very good chance that a lot of these prospects may decide not to take your business seriously and they will quickly head somewhere else.

Once they have made that decision, they probably won’t be back.

Your Competitors Are Online

For your business to be successful, you need to pay attention to what your competitors are doing and learn from it. Think of your competitors not just as someone that you are planning to beat, but as people who have something to teach you.

When you look at what your competitors are doing, you will get some idea of what is working and what isn’t working. Most likely, whatever type of business you are in, your top competitors have established a web presence. What kind of content are they using? Are they blogging, or are they using a lot of graphics and videos?

How do they communicate their brand and what makes them unique? How well do they engage with the audience? Do you think you can do better? You can’t if you don’t participate in competing in the digital world.

If your prospects begin to search for a business similar to yours and are able to find your competitor’s websites but not yours, your business is not even in the running. Your prospects can’t choose you if they don’t know about you. In this scenario, your competitors have just raced ahead of you regardless of whether they have an effective website or a clear message.

Be Accessible to Your Prospects

It’s clear that in today’s digital world, the first place the average consumer looks for what they want is online. Whatever product or service they are looking for, they will most likely start their search with Google. If you have no online presence at all, you won’t be found, and you can’t compete.

If you have an online presence but your competitors are easier to find and are found first, you still might not be found at all. Besides creating a website, learning search engine optimization is a strategy that can help you move ahead of your competitors just by being the first name that a prospect finds in a Google search with keywords that can lead them to your business.

Simple questions that your prospects may want quick answers to should be easily discoverable online, such as where you are located, what your hours are, and what you specialize in. By looking at your website and your competitors’ websites side by side, your prospects should be able to compare hours, prices, special offers, and more.

This is why it’s imperative for you to know what your top competitors are up to. Your prospects are already checking both you and your competitors out. They are already comparing you against each other. What are they finding out?

Let Customers Come to You

Think of digital marketing as a way to make yourself accessible to the people you are trying to reach in order to offer your products and services. The scope of your business can reach well beyond your walls. You are able to attract a much larger audience than you possibly could by just catering to local prospects.

By creating a web presence, your business is open for business even when it’s closed. You can create an atmosphere in which your customers can come to you anytime day or night.

At their convenience, customers and prospects can send you emails with questions or call you. Potential customers who have no way to physically come to you can still do business with you, whether they are limited by disability, transportation or simply living too far away.

Get to Know Your Target Audience

Digital marketing allows you to engage with your prospects. You can gradually get to know them and what they are hoping to find. On social media or on a blog you can start a conversation. Run a survey or try to get to know them. Pay attention to their comments or their responses to surveys.

By interacting with people digitally, you can start to get to know what they are looking for. Where is their pain? What is keeping them up at night? What solutions can you offer to them? Instead of trying to guess, digital marketing allows you tools and methods for finding out who your customers really are.

In this way, you start to build a relationship with your customers. You become much more than a business. You become a trusted partner. People are much more likely to buy from businesses that they have already bought from.

Few forms of advertising are as cost-effective as digital marketing. Small businesses frequently try to get as much as possible done on a small budget. Many forms of digital marketing allow you to communicate your brand and reach a wide target audience even when your budget is very tight.

Compared to advertising on TV, radio, or through direct mail, digital marketing costs considerably less and reaches a much wider audience at the same time. Using digital marketing to promote your small business will help you to have a much better chance of business success.

3. Your Website is Not Good Enough

Website Building

Your website needs to be the best “salesperson” you have on your entire company. Things like how your homepage looks, branding, the quality and quantity of CTAs, client reviews, case studies and/or portfolio items and etc., need to be there and impressive enough for your potential clients to convert.

Otherwise, your conversion rate will be very low provided your marketing strategy is good enough to even get many of your potential clients there.

Invest in building and constantly improving your company website and most importantly work on your online marketing strategy to attract the clients you want online.


Above are some key factors that affect your ability to attract the clients you want online. However, there are still other factors to look at and optimize e.g. your offering and pricing.

You will have a better chance of success if you truly understand the factors listed above and constantly work on them. Now I know that all this can be too much for one person and in that case, I highly recommend partnering with a GOOD digital marketing agency to help you implement these things.