How Small Businesses Can Succeed with Digital Marketing: A Q&A with Steven Lord of Digital Next

How Small Businesses Can Succeed with Digital Marketing: A Q&A with Steven Lord of Digital Next

Coming up with a digital strategy can be challenging for brands that are starting out. Expert Steven Lord shares some tips on where to begin.

By Francesca Nicasio 16 February, 2021

The digital marketing landscape can be quite overwhelming, especially if you’re new to the game. With so many channels, tactics, and gurus out there figuring out the right approach for your business can be a confusing task. Which platforms should you spend the most time on? How much should you budget? How do you know if your efforts are working?

Digital Next marketing manager Steven Lord

To answer these questions, we caught up with Steven Lord, the marketing manager of leading digital marketing agency, Digital Next. Currently working with household brands such as Kogan, Bissell, and MYOB, Steven has over a decade of experience developing and deploying digital marketing strategies for businesses across UK, Australia and New Zealand.

As a digital marketing expert across SEO, web design and digital strategy, Steven oversees user experience initiatives at Digital Next, maximising revenue for clients with each campaign the company undertakes.

Check out what Steven has to say below.

There are plenty of digital marketing channels out there. What's the best way to decide which marketing methods or platforms are best for a business?

Digital marketing can be simple with the right information at your disposal. First and foremost, study your target audience. Understanding your customers values, what provokes spending and where they like to hang out is vital to digital marketing.

This means going beyond your basic demographics such as age, gender and interests. It means creating buyer personas which provide everything you need to know about your customers. By blending consumer insights and ecommerce data to fuel strategies, you are off to the races. Not only will data and insights allow you to make informed decisions, they will also guide you when selecting which marketing channels are best for your business.

Once your research is compiled, it’s time to start with your first campaigns. Although you should eventually deploy campaigns across all core digital marketing channels, your product range and consumer insights will determine what channels will be most effective short-term.

For example, you are a distributor of new and ethically sourced skincare products. You know they are great, your close network has provided positive reinforcement and you are excited at the prospect of running your first ecommerce venture. But how do you convince a market dominated by big pharma and already proven remedies?

For you, social media advertising will be critical. Why? Because consumers of skincare are extremely loyal and require total buyer confidence before adopting a new routine. With social media, you have the perfect platform to create a buzz about your products. By driving home product benefits, consumer case studies, testimonials, explainer videos, skincare tutorials and free guides; your credibility is established. Remember, put the needs and desires of your customers first so you can reap the rewards later.

Today, you simply cannot expect modern-day consumers to search on Google, find your website and immediately purchase your product. 43% of global shoppers use social media to research products found via Google and 81% of online shoppers take at least one extra step to research the product before finalising a purchase. That tells you everything you need to know about offering much more to your consumers than just a cheeky coupon code.

How can ecommerce sites leverage digital marketing if they have a limited budget?


If you are on a limited budget, you are not out of the race. You just need to realign your expectations and promise to continually reinvest back into successful formulas.

Firstly, the school of YouTube (once you skip the cat videos) is a wonderful place littered with educational guides from seasoned professionals. Here, you will find guides on how to market your business for free, how to alleviate funds to create bigger marketing budgets and hundreds of step-by-step tutorials on how to do the basics. Just be sure that the presenter you are watching is qualified and well-documented. Don’t be afraid to upskill when trying to save some money. This is your dream future, right?

Secondly, should you be seeking professional help, you can always start small with an agency or use a freelancer. There are many agencies now offering ‘performance-based’ marketing models and marketplaces such as Fiverr or People per hour have some extremely skilled professionals that charge less for time. Again, be sure to do your research and be prepared to fail before you get the right mix. You will find an agency or freelancer who is passionate about your journey and willing to put the yards in to see you grow.

Lastly, carefully consider and understand what each digital marketing channel offers for your business. Too many startups fail with this and are under the guise that every digital marketing channel can drive immediate returns. For example, if you are really on a tight budget, then channels such as Google Ads will offer immediate visibility to ‘near-ready to purchase’ customers. Pending your campaigns are well architected and your website is geared up to convert customers who are already part way down the purchasing funnel, you stand much greater chances of yielding immediate returns.

Again, it comes down to your dedication. Your ecommerce business will take some time to get off the ground and therefore, every dollar you can save by investing time into your dream will pay dividends in the long-term. The most successful startup ecommerce businesses even go as far as cutting out personal expenses to invest into the business. An extra $100 towards your advertising budget (especially via social) could result in your adverts reaching an additional 1,000+ potential customers.

What are some of the biggest digital marketing mistakes you see small ecommerce businesses are making?

Worldwide, the biggest digital marketing mistake ecommerce entrepreneurs make is being naive to what it takes to be successful, and I don’t blame them. After all, you only have to go to your Facebook feed to be flooded with ‘get rich quick with ecommerce’ adverts amidst pictures of your friend’s adorable puppy.

I cannot count the number of times I come across a startup ecommerce business that presents poor product photography, a slap dash website, limited information about the products they are trying to sell and just an overall lack of care. Have you ever been shopping online and something just did not feel right before checking out? That’s exactly how your potential customers could feel about your business.

Yes, setting up an ecommerce website is actually very easy. But operating a profit making ecommerce marketing campaign requires much more than just a ‘presence’.

You have to remember that ecommerce strips away all of the benefits of a retail store. Everything you find within a retail store is purpose built. From the pleasant greeting at the door to best-sellers in the shop window and low-ticket consumables at the checkout; the design encourages spending. Online, the experience is totally different. There is no subject matter expert to help you consider your options and very little human interaction as a whole. However, that does not mean you cannot replicate a similar experience.

The moment a visitor arrives on your website, ensure that your best selling products are front and centre. Then, make sure your primary navigation bar intuitively helps visitors find what they are looking to purchase. Do everything you can (without overburdening the customer) to describe and explain your products and why not go one step further and introduce live chat to answer any quick queries your customers may have. During 2020, in the USA, live chat gained the highest customer satisfaction level from 73% to 81% compared to 61% of email and 44% for phone according to Econsultancy.

With the false guise that ecommerce is simple, it comes as no surprise that 80% of ecommerce businesses fail immediately. How can you break that mould? Ask yourself, what do your customers need to consider before making an informed decision? Answer critical questions and create positive change within your business.

Can you give an example of an online merchant that is doing well with digital marketing?

An ecommerce business that particularly stands out for me is CartridgesDirect; an independent retailer of printing supplies and ink cartridges. If you thought that printing supplies were dead, Simon Williams could prove you wrong. As the perfect example of a businessman that constantly strives for new and better ways to optimise marketing and operations, Simon understands and listens to his customers.

From sourcing high quality products to offering seamless customer support, printing tutorials, new product reviews, free ink cartridge recycling, same day dispatch, free shipping and extremely intuitive website features, Simon maximises the reasons why customers should purchase from CartridgesDirect over larger operations.

Just like any business, CartridgesDirect also competes with national chains such as Office Works. Where CartridgesDirect loses on physical store presence, they make up many times more in completely understanding online consumer needs. The business is centered around giving back to consumers, and this is executed in many ways. From building smart website tools which enable customers to quickly find the correct printer cartridge to becoming the first retailer within Australia to offer completely seamless and free ink cartridge recycling, the leverage CartridgesDirect creates for itself within the marketplace is strong.

It’s the perfect example of going that extra mile and being completely passionate about your business, your customers and bigger issues such as sustainability.

As a result, through this dedication, CartridgesDirect grew 37% through online consumer sales during the pandemic and a 112 day lockdown in Victoria. Given the vast office closures and nationwide shift to digital documentation over printing, this is testament to a business that is proactive with change.