Our special guest on this week’s episode of Performance Delivered is Kayla Elliott, VP of Marketing at PC Matic and the Founder of ell Consulting. She is skilled in social media management, public relations, digital advertising, and content creation, holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration, and currently helps small businesses that do not have a marketing or a key person in house to thrive. 

Kayla says, “Reinforce building those relationships. Realistically, over the last year, we found that face to face interaction has significantly diminished, so moving that to social media has had a huge impact on rural businesses because they’re not limited to the people that walk into their store.”

We chat about adapting marketing strategies for rural businesses, as well as:

  • The biggest competition for small businesses
  • Client retention— how to keep your clients coming back
  • Narrowing down your perfect client list
  • The best ways to set up stronger organic SEO
  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered, Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.

Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success Podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host Steffen Horst. Today we’re going to talk about digital marketing for small businesses. Here to speak with me is Kayla Elliott, who is the VP of Marketing at PC Matic and is the Founder of ell Consulting a company that helps small businesses that do not have a marketing or key person in house to thrive. Kayla has a strong background working in the computer software industry and is skilled in social media management, public relations, digital advertising, and content creation. Kayla, welcome to the show.

Kayla Elliott: Thank you so much for having me.

Steffen: Kayla, before we explore today’s topic, I would like to find out more about you. Tell our listeners about how you get started in your career and kind of why did you pick marketing?

Kayla: Well, when I first started in my career and went for my undergrad, I had an emphasis in behavioral health sciences. So I, I started in the human service field, and found that after working in that arena, for about 10 years, I found myself quite burnt out. So I wanted something that was just as challenging, but didn’t have the emotional overload. So I went back to school for my MBA. And as I was taking some classes there, I found I found a passion for marketing, I enjoyed the creativity part of it, but I also enjoy how it constantly evolved. You know, you know, as well as I do, I’m sure that marketing today is very different than it was even five years ago, 10 years ago, I mean, it’s, there’s always something that’s changing. So that always kind of continues with that level of excitement, there’s no room for complacency. So I like that constant challenge that marketing provides. 

Steffen: Interesting. And so in my intro, I talked about that, you know, wanting to talk about digital marketing or marketing for small businesses. And in our conversation leading up to the recording, you had mentioned that, you know, Ell consulting, kind of put together to to help small businesses overcome situations where they because they don’t have internal marketing people or key people to to have access to that to to take advantage of that. And what led you to that?

Kayla: I grew up in a small town, and it was population, I think it was 1200 then, and it’s slowly declined since then. And when small businesses open in rural communities like that, they need as much help as they can get, because they’re so reliant on that community and small surrounding communities for their level of success. So many times it is one or two people that decided to open that business, and they’re in charge of everything from the operational component of it, inventory, marketing, account accounting. So it’s, for them, understanding the magnitude of what marketing can do for them to accelerate their business objectives and to increase their conversions and their sales and, you know, to continue to remain profitable. 

Oftentimes, as I said, with them only having one or two people that are operating this entire business, marketing kind of falls off of their radar. They’re more focused on operating their business from a opening it closing it, making sure that the consumers that walk in their door are pleased with the service and all of all of that more operational focus aspect of it. So when it comes to the marketing, they aren’t sure where to start. Or if they do start, they might start on something, say social media, and they get everything set up and they go really hard for maybe a week. And then that just falls off of their radar because they have so many other things going on. So helping them to thrive in a rural environment. Makes me incredibly happy because I understand growing up in, in a rural community that that is that Main Street, of maybe two or three blocks is the livelihood about community. 

So making sure that what they are investing, and the time that they’re investing really kind of pays dividends, because they’re incredibly busy people, and they’re gifted, and they’re passionate, but they only have 24 hours in a day. So making sure that the efforts that they are putting in are, are put in in a way that can help them to the most of their abilities. So I found that that’s, it provides me a great amount of feeling of success and accomplishment and pride. Knowing that, you know, you’re helping some of these small businesses that don’t always have the resources that even a small business, perhaps in a in a bigger city, or even a large metropolitan area would have. So it’s great just to have that sense of community, I guess, even if I don’t even reside in that community, it’s just knowing that I’m still helping rural communities, with their economic development, and helping them to provide services to people in those areas that might not always have those services available.

Steffen: I think you just made an important point, which actually, I wanted to touch on, you just said, you know, small businesses in rural communities or, you know, rural communities, it’s still different to small businesses in bigger metropolitan areas, right? Um, how does the digital marketing strategy differ from, you know, small businesses in rural communities versus small businesses and metropolitan areas, and then even, you know, larger, larger companies?

Kayla: I would say, specifically, looking at larger companies, I mean, you’re talking about budget and manpower and having the bandwidth to have an entire team. When it comes to these smaller businesses, as I said more often times than not, it’s, it’s one or two people that are in charge of absolutely everything. One thing that I have found that far more successful when it comes to these small rural communities. And as it pertains to digital marketing, would be focusing more on the organic things, and even small businesses. And in larger areas, focusing more organically because the budget that they have is far more limited than that of a large scale business. So if you are going to do any kind of paid digital marketing efforts, what is the best platform to do that on, and truly, truly identifying who your ideal customer is, is going to help you identify where that platform lies. 

But one of the biggest things that I think is very much overlooked, when we’re talking about digital marketing, is not social media, social media is something that many small businesses are engaged with. But how to properly capitalize on that. And oftentimes, they get so overwhelmed with I have to create custom content, and put that out for my audience, although that is important. Building relationships within these platforms is going to provide you with a far better audience to deliver that content to. So even if you are posting every single day, and it’s custom content, making sure that you are still engaging with those people. And not just the people that are posting on your page or tagging you and a LinkedIn post, but going outside of that realm, as well. 

And identifying businesses that maybe you want to communicate with or collaborate with and start having some of those conversations, and an arena that is less intimidating, perhaps than just knocking on their door and saying, I would love to partner with you. What can we figure out, you know, just starting that relationship. So it’s not such a cold introduction. When that time comes for pitching, you’re pitching your idea or trying to sell your product or service or even your idea for collaborating with one another?

Steffen: Yeah. When I think about rural communities, I mean, you said earlier, you grew up in a town community with 1200 people, I would assume a couple things that apply to that there’s probably lower competition. Right, unless you unless you have a grocery store where it probably are several, but for for specialized businesses, there’s less competition than in kind of in a in a bigger city, right. You’re also talking to a smaller audience at the end of the day. How do those things impact the marketing message? Is there is there a different message that has to be used then you know, when you’re trying to create awareness attention to your business among a big pool of other companies or businesses that do the same thing.

Kayla: I think the biggest competition, whether it is rural business, or whether it is small business, even in a larger community, you’re gonna have kind of that big box store competition. You know, there’s, there’s small community members that I worked with that they have, I would, you could say, like a boutique kind of business, or they have a small retail shop with like home decor and that type of thing. One of the biggest barriers, or the resistance that they face is price points, because realistically, they cannot buy in the bulk status that Walmart can, or you know, any of these other big scale competitors. And the reality is, even if you live in a small town, you can probably drive an hour and go somewhere that has a Walmart or a larger chain grocery store. 

And maybe you have you have that that barrier, I guess, which is where building those relationships comes into play. Because when you build those relationships, those people want you to succeed. If you have client retention efforts in place where you got them in the door one time, what are you doing to retain them? Are you offering them some kind of continual customer reimbursement? I’m thinking of maybe like a punch card type of thing. And this goes outside of digital marketing. But one of those aspects of client retention, if you’ve got them in there, one, how can you get them to come back? When it comes to real businesses? Yes, you do have less from a direct consumer or direct competitor perspective within your town. 

But that doesn’t mean that your competition is limited to your, your specific town, whether they drive 15 minutes, and they go to another rural community, or they drive an hour and go to that big box store. I think that that’s something to consider and reinforcing, building those relationships, which, yes, you can do that on a face to face basis. But realistically, over the last year, we found is that that face to face interaction has significantly diminish. So moving that to social media has had a huge impact on rural businesses, because they’re not limited to the people that walk into their store. They can build those relationships with people not only within their particular community, but say, the five communities that surround them within a 20 mile radius.

Steffen: So what I hear from you is like building relationships, that’s probably that’s the goal these businesses should be focusing on. If that’s the case, how do you suggest they do that? How can they build a strong relationship with their community, and with the communities, communities around them to kind of overcome, for example, price disadvantages.

Kayla: I think one of their best platforms is going to be some aspects of social media. And I feel like I keep hitting on this repeatedly. But the, the aspect or the, the ways that we go about it with them, if I’m, if I’m going to sit down with them, and talk about building relationships, and the importance of that, and not only building new relationships, but fostering what they already have, they have clients that they are working with, or customers that are walking in their doors, how can they continue to reach out to them and nurture those existing relationships as well. So what we do is sit down and talk about who are those people? You know, who who do you already work with? And who is your list of perfect people that fit into your demographic? And once we can identify that list of perfect people, then we can identify what platform are they on? Are they are they 30 to 45 year old female? Okay. Are you selling a physical product? And what is that product? Is it something that we can promote on Instagram? Is that something that we should focus on Facebook for? Are you selling a service, in which case you should focus more on the b2b side and contact those other business owners that could freelance your service? 

Then let’s move to the LinkedIn world, and if that’s the case, then we go to where their audience is, I’m not going to encourage any small business owner to create a Facebook page, where that’s not where their audiences, because then they’re going to be working twice as hard to get leads drive an interest where they could switch that platform to say LinkedIn, and have that audience readily available for them. And they can start engaging within that realm. One thing that I encourage them to do is once they have that platform, to work on social media content, one day a week, create just like a weekly content calendar that provides value, it shows, it shows what that business has to offer, but it’s not a constant sales pitch, because that’s not going to drive a conversation. So taking the time to create this content once a week. And then all they have to do is plug that in, it’s not something that’s going to take them an overwhelming amount of time. 

But then also going in and reaching out to that ideal target customer list. who falls within that and how can you filter those people out of of that particular platform, and start connecting with them and engaging with them and having conversations and adding value to those conversations based off of what they can offer them within their business without being too salesy. I’m sure you have experienced the endless number of direct and mail messages on LinkedIn, or the cold messages through Facebook, with people that you likely don’t even know who they are. They’re just asking you to give me 10 minutes, I can talk to you about my business. But they don’t explain why they don’t make it personal. They don’t. They don’t do anything other than copy and paste what they sent the last person. And that’s exactly what I don’t want my my clients to do. They need to be personal. And in order to be personal, you have to start building those relationships.

Steffen: I mean, that sounds like something every business should do. Right? I mean, I think we’re all annoyed by the fact that we get tons of emails either through our email address, or LinkedIn or other platforms that are just, you know, a copy paste job or come out of a system that just automates everything. And there’s no personalization there other than Hi, Steffen, etc, right? When when you talk about, you know, building those relationships and reaching out to people, like how, again, how do you suggest your clients to do that? There is one means obviously of, as you said, developing social posts might content creation, that part which is the organic side, do you ever discuss with them the the paid social side? And how do you look at that for those smaller businesses?

Kayla: For smaller businesses, what I found is remarketing is the low hanging fruit. Right? So if you’re going to spend money on digital advertising, I always encourage them to go the remarketing route. Because whether it is you know they’ve been to your website or they’ve been to your your, your Shopify store or Etsy store, whatever that might be finding a way depending on the platform that you want to send those dollars within, right so say you want to your audiences on Facebook, you have your Facebook store set up you have that e commerce level aspect, setting up remarketing ads is going to provide them with the biggest bang for their buck. If they wanted to do something outside of conversion, right, because not all digital advertising is going to have an emphasis on conversion. 

They might be having different ideas, they brand awareness, they just want to drive brand awareness and they want to do digital campaigns around that then that would not be a remarketing thing. If their goal is to increase sales at an e commerce level, then I do not encourage them to set up a direct conversion campaign. Unless it was remarketing. If it was something along the lines of brand awareness, then depending on where what that platform is, again, you know, we I we target their ideal audience go to where they are. And we can do brand awareness through there.

Steffen: Interesting. Do you ever explore other channels with them? I mean, you talked strongly about social media obviously, does thus paid search, for example, play a role in, in the marketing strategy for those smaller businesses?

Kayla: Rarely, and the reason why I say that is because, as you mentioned, competition is incredibly low. So I, for instance, I was working with a, like an Airbnb place, in a particular region, and they were the only one within this particular area. So the way that they already had their Google My Business profile set up, if you Googled Airbnb, this particular town in the state, they would organically show up. So there was no need for them to spend advertising dollars when organically they were already the number one place listed. So I think that kind of goes back to what you had mentioned earlier with the lack of competition, if I’m going to look for a floral shop, in Laurel, Nebraska, Nebraska, one’s going to show up. 

And that’s it. So the idea of spending marketing dollars for these small brick and mortar shops and small areas, doesn’t make a lot of sense. If they’re trying to reach a larger scale audience. For instance, I was working with someone in Florida who their product is nationwide, it’s all sold online, they wanted to go into the Google Ads market. The issue that they were facing was their, their product lies within an industry where they are competing with companies that have hundreds of 1000s of dollars that they can spend within Google AdWords to bid on those exact same keywords, and have designated landing pages for particular ads. 

So their quality score would be far higher than this particular small business that has a webpage with a few sub pages beyond that. Strategically, it doesn’t make sense. If they were to do it from a branded perspective, than it would because you’re solely, you know, bidding on your own name and different variations of that. But it’s a newer business, and it lacks brand awareness. So that’s where we have to kind of take a step back and truly understand where are we, from a business perspective? Do we have the brand awareness for a branded campaign makes sense? And if we don’t, how do we get to that point? So then we can take that step? 

Steffen: I see. So since paid search, obviously, and then I mean, doesn’t matter whether you are local, regional, or or national, has become quite expensive. I mean, the early days when we paid a few cents per click are clearly far gone. But how important is organic search for for smaller businesses, for smaller rural businesses? Is that is that a consideration point? And if so, what do you recommend people do?

Kayla: I think it’s one of the most important things, you know, how often are we going to Google and searching for what it is that we want? If I’m going to, you know, if I say I had to go stay at a rural community for a business meeting or whatever, you know, I would, I would search that community to see what’s there. If I had a relative and a small town, and I wanted to send them flowers, you know, if if I wanted to do any of that, I’m going to search those things unless I happen to be from that area. Or even if I had family in that area, I’d probably still google it because it’s just really quick. And then I know what I need to do. So from an organic perspective, I think it’s incredibly important. If you’re not searchable, you’re not signed up. Right. 

So one of the I would say a few of the biggest things that I encourage small businesses to do is even outside of Google and setting up your Google My Business profile, and getting that with as much information as possible with your business hours, your phone number your address, pictures of your storefront and products, your website. All of that, once that’s set up, then you can just link that to things my places. And having having that available is going to be incredibly important to your SEO from a business perspective. Also, you know, if you’re going to do any kind of press release, so say you just open this business, do a press release on that, because that’s going to show up in the search results as well. your social media pages, although, although the content isn’t driving SEO, because that algorithm doesn’t take into consideration likes or shares or anything like that. But your your social media page will show up organically. 

So again, making sure that your organic SEO is going to display what it is that you want it to display. Like I said, if you’re if you’re not searchable, then they aren’t going to be able to find you. With many small businesses, a lot of it’s word of mouth. But as I said, if I’m going to a small town that maybe I’m not familiar with, it’s great to be able to simply search that and find what’s available within that community.

Steffen: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Kayla, we’re coming to the end of our podcast recording today. But before before we finish and one last question. So obviously COVID-19 has kind of hit businesses, whether it’s local, regional, or national, heavily. The impact on small business is probably much bigger, however. What advice do you have for smaller businesses that battle this current situation, and are trying to stay afloat, when it comes to marketing?

Kayla: I think one of the biggest things that I have encouraged a lot of my clients to do is move into the ecommerce space, they had focused very heavily on foot traffic. And that’s diminished significantly. They have seen a little bit of increase lately, but not nearly to the point where they were before. So during this time, I encourage them to look at how they can take their business to an ecommerce level. And even if it was a service related, you know, how can you do that at a virtual stance, whether that is using different tools like zoom, or Microsoft Teams, or whatever that may look like to still be able to execute some of those meetings. 

Again, building those relationships don’t use this time to stay idle. And from an ecommerce perspective, whether that’s adding the e commerce component to your website, is it you know, you have a strong following on Facebook, then open your Facebook store and start posting you know, pictures of your your products there and price points and offer shipping. And even if you can’t do the shipping, do a curbside service, just trying to think outside of the box a little bit. Because there’s, there’s certainly ways to try and reduce the pain or reduce the bleeding a little bit. But they certainly are suffering. It’s just trying to find a way to navigate during, during this time. And a lot of what they found the most success in is moving to an e commerce piece of that adding that to their brick and mortar option. And kind of going along with what other industries are doing with the curbside service. And when it comes to, you know, building relationships, like I said, a lot of that was done face to face, whether that was meeting with your local chamber or whatever that may look like still making sure that you’re still reaching out to those people, even if it’s through different platforms. 

You know, email them, call them, reach out to them on social media, whatever that may look like. But making sure that those connections and those relationships don’t just stop because you can’t see them face to face. 

Steffen: Yeah, I think that’s, that’s a great advice. Kayla, thank you for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your thoughts and knowledge on marketing for small businesses. If people want to find out more about you, how can they get in touch?

Kayla: Me you can go to ellconsultingsd.com or you can reach out to me via email that’s ellconsultingsd@gmail.com.

Steffen: Perfect. Thanks everyone for listening. If you liked the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter @symphonicHQ. Thanks again and see you next time.

Voiceover: Performance Delivered is sponsored by Symphonic Digital. Discover audience focused and data driven digital marketing solutions for small and medium businesses at symphonicdigital.com.