Driving Success: How to Create a Digital Marketing Strategy

small business owner taking a product photo for advertising

Looking to create an effective digital marketing strategy for your small business?

As an entrepreneur, you understand the importance of creating a buzz around your business. Fortunately, today's digital marketing tools can help small businesses increase awareness and drive sales at a low cost. Before you get started, it’s important you develop a digital marketing strategy; this guide will help you understand the key components of a successful digital marketing strategy and provide you with tips on maximizing your marketing budget.

What is a Digital Marketing Strategy?

A digital marketing strategy is a plan outlining how your business will use online channels to reach your marketing goals. For a small business owner, this means identifying where your potential customers spend their time online and how you can effectively engage with them to promote your products and services. Think of a marketing strategy like a map for a road trip – a step-by-step guide for how you’ll reach your destination.

Set a Clear, Defined Goal

Determine what you want to achieve with your marketing efforts, such as increasing sales, building brand awareness, starting a loyalty program, or growing your customer base. Your marketing goal should directly align with your business objectives and guide all marketing efforts from design to user experience to messaging and beyond.

It can be tempting to create several goals that cover every aspect of your business; however, setting one goal will provide you with the focus you need to get started. You can always add additional goals and initiatives over time – but start with one specific goal you can easily measure. For example, you might want to generate a certain number of leads, reach a certain number of followers on social media, or boost website traffic by a certain percentage.
Icon for open quote Icon for close quote
Your marketing goal should directly align with your business objectives and guide all marketing efforts from design to user experience to messaging and beyond.

Understand Your Target Audience

Before deciding which channels, tactics, and campaigns will work best to achieve your goal, it is important to identify who you are trying to reach. Identify who your audience is, what they need, and where they spend their time online. This helps in crafting targeted messages that resonate with your potential customers. By knowing who your audience is, you’ll be able to implement strategies and use channels to reach the right person in the right place.

Choose Your Channels

Decide which digital channels (social media platforms, email, search engines, or your website) you'll use to reach your audience. Each channel comes with unique advantages and disadvantages. Here is a breakdown of some top channels to consider:

Google My Business

Google My Business is essentially your businesses existence on Google. Setting up a Google My Business profile can help increase your visibility in search results, attract more customers, and provide essential information like hours and location, which helps drive foot traffic and online engagement.


Perfect for sharing local stories, announcements, and engaging with a broad audience in your geographic region. Instagram: Ideal for showcasing your products or services visually, especially if they’re particularly photogenic (think colorful food, lush flowers, or funky crafts).


If you’re in the business-to-business (B2B) space, LinkedIn is your go-to for connecting with other businesses that might benefit from your services.


A great platform to connect with your hyperlocal community and build relationships with potential customers in your neighborhood.

Blog Posts

Craft content packed with local tips, industry insights, or helpful how-to guides to establish yourself as an expert in your space.

Optimize Your Website and Online Listings

Make sure your website includes relevant keywords that specify your city or region to rank higher in local search results.

Email Marketing Segmentation

With email marketing, you have an opportunity to personalize communication from your business. Tailor your messages to resonate with different customer groups and nurture existing relationships.

Small Business owners planning their marketing strategy

Create Content

Develop valuable and engaging content tailored to your audience’s interests and needs. This can include blog posts, videos, social media updates, and email newsletters. Look at your competitors and take note of their content strategy – both good and bad; this can give you valuable insight into what customers want in your industry.

Allocate Budget

Set a budget for your digital marketing activities; this includes costs for advertising, content creation, and any tools or services you might need. Start small and grow from there. Remember, the more you can do yourself, the more you will save on marketing costs. A good rule of thumb is to allocate 5-8% of your annual revenue to marketing.

Implement Tactics

Use various digital marketing tactics, such as search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, email marketing, and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, to drive traffic and conversions. Consider your goals, budget, and resources, then prioritize which strategies and channels will best help you reach your goals. Focus on building your presence via one or two critical channels before expanding and investing in new ones.


  • Search Engine Optimization: The process of optimizing your website and content to improve its visibility and ranking on search engine results pages for relevant keywords and phrases, thereby increasing organic (non-paid) traffic to your site. 
  • Social Media Marketing: The use of social media platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.) to promote your business, engage with your audience, and drive traffic to your website. 
  • Email Marketing: Sending targeted emails to a list of subscribers to promote products, share news, or nurture relationships with existing customers. Effective email marketing can drive engagement, sales, and customer loyalty.
  • Pay-Per-Click Advertising: An online advertising model where advertisers pay a fee each time their ad is clicked. Common platforms for PPC include Google Ads and social media sites like Facebook. It’s a way to buy visits to your site rather than earning them organically. 

Once you have a strong foundation, expand your digital strategy based on your audience and business goals. This could include organic content, SEO, and email marketing. Keep your budget top-of-mind as you expand your reach and nurture the efforts that are showing the highest return on your investment, rather than spreading yourself too thin.

If you have an established foundation and are looking to increase your marketing spend, paid media is a great way to round out your strategy. Paid media uses external marketing efforts with paid placement. It can be an effective way to expand brand reach with strategies such as pay-per-click on search or display ads.

Analyze Performance and Adjust

Track the performance of your marketing efforts using analytics tools like Google Analytics, or platform-specific tools like Instagram Insights. This data will help you understand what’s working and what’s not, so you can adjust your strategy accordingly. 

To drive success and use your time and money efficiently, it’s important to regularly measure the performance and growth of your digital media. Set checkpoints, such as weekly key performance indicator (KPI) monitoring, budget pacing, quarterly creative refreshes, and A/B testing, to see what is working and what isn’t. Apply what you learn to your marketing efforts and be prepared to continuously adapt and improve. There will be a learning curve; you may make mistakes, but your marketing will improve over time as you learn more about your customers and make informed decisions.

A/B Testing

Icon for A/B Testing
Icon for A/B Testing
A method of comparing two versions of a webpage, email, or other marketing asset to determine which one performs better. By testing variables such as headlines, images, or call-to-action buttons, you can tailor your marketing efforts for optimal results.

Cost Considerations When Creating a Marketing Budget

Go Digital

With consumers spending many hours a day on their smartphones, having a digital presence is crucial. It can also be more cost-effective than traditional options like direct mail or outdoor advertising. Consider creating a website, implementing Google Search practices, running email campaigns, and engaging on social media.

Get Social

Creating social media accounts for your business is a low-cost way to build your marketing presence. It allows you to showcase your business and create a direct communication channel with clients and prospects. Explore several platforms to determine what makes the most sense based on your business goals and audience. For example, video is one of the most consumed types of content online, so don’t overlook channels such as YouTube or TikTok.

Create a Website

A website is a vital tool for marketing. While websites vary in cost, there are several low-cost options and even free resources available to you, such as Wix or WordPress.

Get Creative

Even without graphic design skills or a big budget, you can create polished, professional content. Online tools like Canva make creating content for social media posts less daunting.

Know When to Outsource

At some point, it may be easier to hire a professional instead of doing all the marketing efforts yourself. Efforts like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Paid Search, Paid Social, and other digital advertising can be complex and require expertise. If your budget allows, consider hiring a freelancer or marketing agency to help you grow and improve your strategy.

Track Your Budget

The most important thing you can do is have a clear and accurate picture of how your money is being spent. Resources like your bank’s online banking or mobile app or a Microsoft business budget tracking template may help you stay on track.

Get Going

Marketing your small business may seem overwhelming at first, but by setting reachable goals and making a clear plan, you’ll find the path to marketing much clearer. One of the tenets of marketing is to keep your messaging simple, and when it comes to digital marketing, simplicity will go a long way for your business too.

SouthState is proud to support the small businesses in our footprint with checking accounts, cash flow management, employee services and much more. To find out how we can help your business, visit our Small Business Resource Center.

About the Author, Missy Power: Missy Power is the Senior Vice President, Director of Digital Marketing and Branding for SouthState Bank.  In this role, she is responsible for Omni-Channel Marketing Strategy and Execution, Corporate Advertising, Marketing Technology, and Brand Management.

Missy, who joined the bank in 2004, is a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications.  She also attended the ABA School of Bank Marketing and Management.

She lives in Charleston, SC, and is married with five grown children and two yellow labs – Brew and Hops. On weekends, you can find her enjoying her time on the beach, traveling with friends and family, or watching the USC Gamecocks play.

  • This content is general in nature and provided for informational use only. Content may be used in connection with the advertising and marketing of products and services offered by SouthState Bank, N.A. and its subsidiaries and affiliates. This is not to be considered legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You should seek individualized advice from personal financial, legal, tax and/or other professionals, as appropriate depending on the specific facts of your situation. We do not make any warranties as to the completeness or accuracy of this information and have no liability for your use of this information.

Secure Log In

Close login menu
Login Error

Your username is valid but has a problem. Please call customer support

Our website uses cookies to ensure your online experience is as informative and relevant as possible. Please review our Privacy Policy to learn more about the information we collect.