July 13, 2022
Case Study

Effective Digital Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses: Discounts on TikTok, neutrality on Quora, seasonality for Google PPC


You always have something you can use to your advantage.

Take the small business, for example. Yes, it is hard to go up against major brands.

However, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some major brands, and while they have many assets at their disposal and superior name recognition…nimble they are not.

So, to inspire SMB owners and marketers to leverage that quick-thinking agility, in this article we bring you examples from a social commerce platform, a B2B ecommerce company, and a local HVAC.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Effective Digital Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses: Discounts on TikTok, neutrality on Quora, seasonality for Google PPC

This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

All the marketing activity your business engages in leads to an ultimate decision for the customer. As marketers, we ask the customer to make that decision using a call-to-action (CTA).

To help you get more customers to say “yes” to your CTA, MarketingSherpa’s parent organization MECLABS Institute is hosting CTA Psychology Workshop: Work directly with Flint McGlaughlin to optimize the conversion rate of your call-to-action on Wednesday, July 20th, 2022, at 3 pm EDT.

Of course, to get more customers to act on your CTA, first you must get them to see your CTA.

So, in this article, we bring you three case studies with examples of digital marketing tactics small business owners and marketers use to attract customers. According to the 2019 United States Small Business Economic Profile from the Small Business Administration, there are 30.7 million small businesses in the country – 99.9% of all American businesses. And that’s just in the US.

First up, a social commerce platform shares what works and doesn’t work for it on TikTok. Then, a B2B ecommerce platform shows it’s original failed Quora strategy and how the team was ultimately able to turn it around. And finally, a local HVAC company’s focus on seasonality to get the best ROI from its investment in Google pay-per-click ads.

Quick Case Study #1: Social commerce platform gets thousands of views and likes on TikTok

“TikTok has been a boon for our marketing,” said Colette Shelton, founder, Chirpyest.

The team figured out through trial and error that its customers value when the social commerce platform notifies them of discounts on TikTok.

Creative Sample #1: TikTok video featuring discount from social commerce platform

Creative Sample #1: TikTok video for small business featuring discount from social commerce platform, part of its digital marketing strategy

Many of the company’s TikToks have 1,000 views but some have more than 10,000. While they also post about their business on other channels, TikTok videos have a greater reach, often at least 10x more. “It appeals increasingly to all ages, so it’s an excellent marketing platform that we’ve had great success with,” Shelton said.

To give you ideas for using TikTok as a marketing channel, Shelton provided an inside look at what worked – and what didn’t – for her company.

The team tried a series on TikTok videos explaining what Chirpyest is and how to use it. This series had their poorest showing of likes, ranging from 36 to 255. “This was surprising, as there are many elements to using the site that apparently weren’t attractive to customers in this format,” Shelton said.

Non-fashion posts on home decor such as paint and wine glasses only garnered approximately 80 and 300 likes respectively. “We don’t feature those often now, instead showcasing more glamorous posts like celebrity homes and their interior design ideas,” Shelton said.

Their most successful TikTok posts featured female superstar beauty routines – one received almost 50,000 views. “We quickly figured out what our clientele wanted to see and buy. Featuring luxury brands and anything celebrity-related gets us similar numbers,” Shelton said.

Creative Sample #2: TikTok video featuring celebrity beauty routine and discount from social commerce platform

Creative Sample #2: TikTok video featuring celebrity beauty routine and discount from social commerce platform

Creative Sample #3: TikTok video featuring luxury brand

Creative Sample #3: TikTok video featuring luxury brand

While your unique customers may prefer different content and you may use different platforms, any small business can learn from Chirpyest’s trial-and-error approach. When starting on a new platform, don’t go all in on one type of content. Come up with different hypotheses about how to serve the customer on the platform and test them out to see what resonates with your unique customers on that specific platform.

Quick Case Study #2: B2B ecommerce company increases traffic 37% using Quora

TradeWheel.com is a B2B ecommerce company. Given hundreds of competitors, including giants like Alibaba and Amazon, it was hard for the team to capture interest from its target market.

“We had hired the best development team and sales team that outperformed our expectations, yet we were reliant on our marketing department to create a name for us and bring in the competitive edge,” said Noman Javed, CEO, Tradewheel.com.

Limited resources were one of the many problems the team faced. The marketers at TradeWheel.com looked for a free platform that could help them boost website visitors and help brand their name.

Along with incorporating content marketing techniques, they decided to experiment with Quora.

The first approach was to directly promote the company by directing users to their website. The team created a Quora profile for TradeWheel.com and started sharing answers through it. Result – 0 upvotes and no traffic to the website.

They quickly realized this approach was not going to work. Quora was a community where people were looking for genuine opinions. They were not interested in reading a company brag about itself.

The team then proceed to create some neutral Quora IDs.

In order to have real conversations, instead of talking just about TradeWheel.com, they created a top five list and talked about the pros and cons of each. This helped instill the neutral feel. 

“Ever since the emergence of the voice search feature, people have been searching in questions, and Google seems to be showing results in the same format. We realized that it was the best opportunity,” said Neha Khan, Marketing Manager, Tradewheel.com.

After some time, the team noticed that the questions they answered started to appear in Google search results, which was their goal. “Meaning people were benefiting from those answers!” Khan said.

The team developed a personalized tool to check the origin of organic leads, and discovered they were getting a 37% increase in daily traffic from Quora.

“We had to admit, so far, it has proven to be the most relevant strategy to our business. We didn’t only get traffic, but we also got leads and continue to do so,” said Javed.

“We learned that to brand your product or to drive sales it is extremely important to connect and interact with users. Quora provided a platform where the company could directly connect and communicate its message with the target market,” Khan said.

Quick Case Study #3: Local heating and air conditioning firm adjusts paid search spend based on weather fluctuations, reduces cost per lead 90%

For more 50 years, Allied Air Conditioning and Heating has served the northwest Chicago suburbs with service and installation. It’s a competitive space with significant seasonal fluctuations in the demand curve – and, by extension, campaign costs.

The team conducted thorough research into keywords and the seasonal demand curve – heating service in winter months, when temperatures plummet to their lowest all year, and air conditioning service in hotter months, when summer temperatures soar. These fluctuations drive spikes in pay-per-click using Google, creating a higher-price, lower-value expense.

“In PPC campaigns, it’s essential to set and monitor a budget. Changes in demand can quickly drive up spending, so understanding how to evaluate ROI and overall marketing performance is essential to success,” said Joseph Skibbie, Principal Agent, JRS Mar/Com (Allied’s digital marketing agency).

This focus on pay-per-click trends and campaign budgeting helped the team manage the demand curve by anticipating spikes in PPC costs before they happened. As a result, the company decreased spend during peak temperature swings and increased spend if temperatures delayed typical installation and service schedules.

To round out the campaign, the team also included paid and organic posts on the top referring channels – Facebook and Yelp.

“With the right skills and expertise, we were able to drive real results via social media,” said Kevin Budinger, Owner, Allied Air Conditioning & Heating. “When considering how to effective market your business on social media, it’s essential to understand the challenges specific to your industry and market. With the right expertise, you can overcome them—and see not only higher ROI for your marketing but an increase in your bottom line.”

Through this campaign, cost per lead was reduced by more than 90% and web volume increased 110%.

Related Resources

Free Digital Marketing Course from MECLABS Institute – Become a Marketer-Philosopher: Create and optimize high-converting webpages

An Effective Value Proposition: What it is, why it is so important to business and marketing success, and how to use it

Local Marketing: 3 strategies that worked for small businesses with physical locations

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