Digital marketing for small businesses – an interview with Will Critchlow

Last week, I was at the Search Love Conference in London, an event organised by Distilled where digital marketers gather to discuss the latest trends within the industry. I sat down with Will Critchlow, co-founder of this conference, to talk about digital marketing for small businesses like yours.

Hey Will, can you introduce yourself and your experience within digital marketing?

I’m Will Critchlow, founder and CEO of Distilled – a company I founded in 2005 with Duncan Morris. We provide online marketing services from offices in London, New York and Seattle, host the SearchLove conference series in the US and UK and produce the online training platform DistilledU.

Will Critchlow, Search Conference London 2015
Will Critchlow talking at the Search Love Conference in London 2015.

Isn’t digital marketing only for businesses with deep pockets?

No! In fact, I believe that digital is one of the few channels where passion and creativity can compete with budgets. You know your industry and market inside-out as a small business owner, and you know your customers in a way that the big chains never will. You need to find the ways to harness the things you have that they don’t. You might be interested in this presentation (see below) I gave on that very topic at our conference a couple of years ago.

What is the number one mistake small business owners do?

I think the biggest mistake is not to see marketing as a core part of the founder / owner’s job – and that includes digital. If you want to grow, it’s unlikely that you can ignore it, and it’s unlikely that you’re at a scale where you can hand it off to someone else inside or outside your company just yet. Don’t be scared – the technology is getting easier and easier to use (and cheaper and cheaper).

At a more tactical level, the biggest mistake I see is putting effort into producing content and then never promoting it to anyone. For more on this, see the section entitled “How to get your blog post read by the people that matter” in this post.

In terms of trends, the biggest one for a small business owner to be aware of is the growth of mobile.

What are the most important online channels to grow a small business online today? What are the trends for 2016?

The most important channel for driving new business is search (Google, Bing) for most online businesses – though the loyalty power of social can make that more effective for some small and local businesses.

Both are powered by content. See the post I linked to in the previous answer for more on that.

In terms of trends, the biggest one for a small business owner to be aware of is the growth of mobile. Especially for local businesses. People who are out and about (i.e. your target market) are always on their phones, and if your website doesn’t work well, it’s going to frustrate them more and more as expectations rise. Make sure the layout / design works on mobile, and make sure it’s fast.

Small business owners are often in charge of administration, accounting, marketing, sales, purchasing, human resources… How can they fit digital marketing activities in their busy schedule?

Follow your passion. Don’t try to do every channel perfectly. Find the things that you love, and do those. You’ll need to create content – but that should be easy.

Will Critchlow
Will Critchlow

Can you recommend tools for digital marketing management to small business owners?

For the most part, I’d recommend not using too many tools – the content and the elbow-grease are by far the most important parts. Tools like Buffer are probably as deep as I’d get into the technology side when I was getting started.

Final question, if you were a coffee shop owner in London, how would you promote your business online?

Although it was a bit more focused on restaurants, check out this deck – especially the wrap-up. For one tactical tip, I’d think about hosting little meet-up groups of people with disproportionate amounts of online influence (bloggers, tech founders, etc…).

[highlight]

Takeaways:

  • Digital is one of the few channels where passion and creativity can compete with budgets.
  • Don’t be scared – the technology is getting easier and easier to use (and cheaper and cheaper).
  • Make sure your website layout works on mobile, and that it’s fast!
  • Quality over quantity: don’t try to do every channel perfect – find the ones you like and stick to them.
  • Think about events and invite influencers in your area. [/highlight]

A big thank-you to Will for taking the time to answer these questions. Follow him on Twitter.

Published by

Erwan Derlyn

Head of Organic Acquisition at iZettle

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