Digital marketing, today, is a gold mine for every kind of business. It is a cost-effective way to understand what your customers want. It is much easier to reach out to more and more customers through digital marketing. Especially for small and medium businesses, digital marketing can provide a significant edge over their competition.

Here are a few reasons why every small business out there needs digital marketing:

Marshall Evans launched his own social media agency over three years back by the name of Zen Media Social. His expertise lies in helping small and medium businesses (SMBs) take advantage of digital marketing. He has run several small businesses has been the marketing director at Spa Chain. We talked at length about how SMBs can leverage paid digital marketing. Here is an excerpt of our webinar with Marshall.

Hey, Marshall! Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I have a master’s degree in information technology and was an IT guy for a long time. But, I like to say that I was ‘fat, sick, and nearly dead.’ I weighed about 375 lbs. I was super stressed out. I had diabetes and heart disease. And I was only 30 years old. I quit my job and spent some time taking care of myself. I started working after hair school and was hired by a 3-location salon and spa. The first thing I noticed was that their website was ancient. They hadn’t claimed their Google listings, hadn’t updated their Facebook page in months. Being a ‘take-charge’ kind of guy, I just told the owners I would take care of it. We revamped the website; we started digital marketing. We started with Pay Per Click and a content plan for social media. The owners were not computer savvy. So, I worked a lot with them, during which time I lost 280 lbs.

Eventually, I decided I was going to open my own hair salon. I decided to hire a marketing agency because I thought I was too busy. But I realised that I was paying too much. They weren’t doing anything that was part of the contract. So, I decided to do it myself. I became a certified consultant with Mindbody, the world’s largest scheduling software for wellness. I then realised there is a real shortage of people who can do marketing for small and medium businesses. So, I started teaching online classes about marketing, and that was the birth of Zen Media Social.

A lot of small businesses are apprehensive about paid advertising, to begin with. So, I want to start this off by asking you about the basics.

What is the difference between Pay Per Click and social media advertising?

Here is a way for people to understand the difference. Pay Per Click is when you know you like doughnuts and are trying to find a place to buy some doughnuts. Whereas, social media advertising is when I make the doughnuts. I have a pretty good idea that someone like you likes doughnuts and now I am saying come eat my doughnuts.

When a small business decides to start paid advertising, what should be their first steps?

The foundation for any successful marketing plan is an excellent website.

Your website is like the foundation of a tower. You cannot build a tall tower based on a shaky foundation. Make sure your website has a clear customer journey, provides useful information, and is optimised for Google.

For example, the first thing you would see on a yoga studio website would be a ‘New Student’ or a ‘Get Started’ page. You would then introduce them to an offer, explain the benefits, and the objections. And this is a universal advertising concept, true of any business.

Also, I believe that simple website builders, like Wix or GoDaddy, limit your ability to do successful marketing. Even though these website builders provide you with a lot of tools, it is still hard to track conversions. Some of the tools are quite expensive, and the others are just plain hard to implement.

Here is how you can create a well-mapped website:

What is the best time for a small business to start with paid advertising? Before the launch or after that?

Start building awareness and excitement targeted towards your core consumer before you have even opened the doors.

One of the mistakes I made with my business was that I didn’t factor in enough money for marketing in my budget.

What percentage of your budget should go towards creating that initial buzz?

Every business is different. Every market is different.

You need to shell out more money if you are in a major metro area than if you are in a rural small town. Because there will be more people competing for the same eyeballs. But, a general rule would be to allot 15% of your overall budget to pre-launch marketing. Once you are settled in, re-invest 7% of your profit into marketing in the first three years.

Would this include everything – social media, paid advertising, print, etc.?

Yes, that’s right. However, splitting up your marketing budget amongst these different channels is very industry-specific.

On average, only 3% of your audience sees the content on your Facebook business page.

So, I don’t recommend paying someone heavily just to post on social media without running any promotions or paid campaigns.

Would it be right to say that businesses should spend 15% of the marketing budget on creating content and then 85% on promoting it?

Yes, that’s right. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to create good content if you are not going to promote it.

Beware of money-grabs like the boost button.

Instead, use sophisticated, target-oriented tools like Facebook Ads Manager and Facebook Pixel. The real power of Facebook lies in Pixel.

Install Facebook Pixel on your website right from the beginning. Its ability to create events and custom audiences is what propels your advertising forward.

How does Facebook Pixel help you? 

Facebook Pixel is the foundation of Facebook Advertising. It helps you track website visitors, submission of forms, the percentage of a video that someone watched on Facebook. It helps you see the complete buyer journey.

Less than 5% of your website visitors will purchase something on their first visit.

But, Facebook Pixel gives you the ability to say that this person clicked on your offer, so they have already gone through their awareness to consideration phase. So, you would then concentrate more on these visitors.

Once I place Facebook Pixel as the foundation, will it start learning who my ideal customers are? Would it suggest who should be targeted vs. who we are targeting at the moment?

It is not meant for that. So, I recommend to everybody that before you open your doors, you should write down your ideal client on a piece of paper.

If you try to get everyone, then you will get no one.

So, be as specific as you can when creating that persona.

Ask questions like these:

Who are your customers?

What’s their household income?

What do they do for a living?

What do they drive?

What kind of magazines do they subscribe to?

A clearly defined persona gives you insight into your customers. It gives you a foundation to write your blog content, to create media posts, to make videos.

Review your customer persona every so often.

You may sometimes find that your ideal customer is not who you thought they were.

And when you further refine your persona, your content and marketing become more targeted and more effective.

Here is how you can identify your customer persona:

Most businesses are not tech-savvy and do not have a Marshall onboard. How do these businesses go about implementing Facebook Pixel?

It depends a lot upon your website platform. If you are using WordPress, it is super easy as long as you have created your Pixel. I like the plugin Pixel caffeine.

For Wix or Squarespace, there are specific places for the header section where you can insert the code. Facebook has some pretty good guides for how to install it on different platforms as well. And you don’t need to be technically savvy to do all this.

Now, the basic foundation has been set up. What do the next steps look like?

When you are a small business owner, you are wearing 17 hats. You are managing employees, managing inventory, doing taxes, reconciling sales. You cannot spend more time trying to figure things out. So, it is always a good practice to engage a person who has the relevant experience, because they can give you a higher return on your investment. 

One of my previous clients was a women’s only, one-location gym in a large city. They had to let me go because of budget reasons. They have tried to do things on their own. But, I see their ads on my feed six states away, and I am a man. Their money is being spent on people who don’t need their services. So, utterly worthless targeting.

How can a small business evaluate the right partner to do business with?

For small and medium businesses, working with an individual or a small company like mine is more cost-effective than working with a big corporation.

Before partnering with someone, carefully listen to what they are saying. Listen for important words like conversion tracking, landing pages, split testing, funnels. These are key terms that any marketer would use when talking about their plans for you.

Let’s say you run a gym.

An ideal partner should ask you about your product, your competition, your ideal client, lead, and conversion tracking. If they don’t ask any of those questions, run in the other direction.

How do you get the source material for your ads?

I have seen people worry a lot about this. You don’t need to hire a $3000 videographer. We are very lucky to be in the age of iPhones and cheap, good-quality cameras. Just use a tripod and shoot some video. Don’t worry about it being perfect.

Let’s talk about how you create ads. I know you use InVideo to create your video ads. It would be great to hear how our customers use our tool.

I have tried every video platform under the sun. But some of them are quite expensive. And if they are not expensive, then the platform turns out to be a dud. You need a lot of flexibility to be creative. Otherwise, all your ads will end up looking the same.

That’s why I really like InVideo. It is pretty flexible, with a make-your-own option, which a lot of other platforms don’t have. And there is always some kind of innovation going on at InVideo, which in turn makes me an effective marketer.

Once the ads have been created, how do we go about leveraging them?

You should never direct someone to the homepage of your website.

Always direct your audience to a landing page specifically related to the offer that you are giving them.

If you are advertising for an introductory massage, then take them to a page that talks about that massage. Give them an opportunity to buy that massage at the introductory price. Otherwise, you are expecting them to go and find it. They are not going to do that, and they are going to bounce.

Once created, you should test that landing page. Create a custom audience on Facebook based on the people who go to that landing page. Remarket to these people for another 30 to 60 days to get them to take that offer. That is what a complete funnel looks like.

Building personalised landing pages and setting up funnels may seem time-consuming, but they give you a much higher return on time invested. So, it is worth the effort.

When it comes to landing pages, if I am using a tool, they usually go on a sub-domain. So, instead of it would go to How much does that affect my SEO?

Generally, I don’t think that landing pages should be indexed at all. Because then you have a hard time separating your page traffic from your organic traffic.

You have been doing this for years and have witnessed so many journeys so far. Could you give us a few hacks that are like low-hanging fruits?

Install Tools

Claim your ‘Google My Business’ listing. Install the ‘Google My Business’ app on your phone. Make sure that you have completed your profile and are responding to reviews, soliciting reviews. Install the Facebook Pages manager. See engagements from your Facebook Business pages, reply to comments and messages.

Maintain Reviews

For my hair salon business, 75% – 80% of people came because of the reviews. We had 88 5-star reviews, and we had only been in business for three years. Having those reviews and social proof is essential.

Psychologically, I believe that people will review you only once. They are not going to remember where they reviewed you but THAT they reviewed you. So, follow the pyramid of reviews – Google reviews first, then Yelp, then Facebook. These might have some fluctuations in different industries, but Google is number one.

Create a Content Plan

The other easy thing to do is have a content plan in place for your social media and email marketing. A plan would keep you on track and save you from any surprises.

Provide Consistent Information

Make sure that your directory listings and citations are correct. Keep your information consistent across Facebook, Google, Yelp. All the platforms should have the same website, same email address, same work hours. There is a tool on my website where you can scan your business and see where you stand.

These are crucial things that reap a lot of benefits.

Can you tell us how a small business can collect emails and get their marketing campaigns in place?

Well, the days of just having a button on your website that says “subscribe to our email list” are long gone.

Nobody wants more spam.

I am a big believer in optin lead magnet with something of value. For example, if you are a landscaping business, you can have an ebook like “15 ornamental flowers that grow great in your area.” So, you are not just asking people to do business with you but also giving out vital information related to your industry. This flow of information helps build trust and affinity towards your brand. It puts the people through awareness, consideration, and decision phases.

Also, a lot of people use email marketing services. I recommend having automation and drip campaigns. So, once you expose visitors to the initial optin, you can then warm them up to who you are and what your company is about. But don’t do it forever. On average, 10-15 emails spaced out over a few weeks with some more valuable content should be the way to go.

Everything you need to know about email marketing:

Could you also tell us a bit about some of your clients? Where they started and how you helped them create significant ripples in the business world?

The first step is to know your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). My ability to tell you where you are now is impossible if you don’t know where you were before we engaged together.

Let’s consider a yoga studio. If I don’t know how many introductory offers you sold on an average per month and how many of those you converted into a renewing membership, I can’t tell you the impact of what I did. So, every business should have a tool that tells them how they are doing.

One of my clients is a big yoga studio in Chicago, been around for 15 years. But, things were slowing down for them. They weren’t selling as many introductory offers as they used to. The number of people on their auto-pay was steady. But, the number of offers being sold per month was definitely falling.

Website redesign

We started with a website redesign to map out the journey we wanted the customer to take on the website. We put a “New Students” page front and center. The language on the website became a little bit more consumer-friendly.

Never let the language on your website be a barrier to entry for the consumer.

So, things like “must be redeemed in 7 days, no cancellation” shouldn’t be the first thing they see. Because to the visitors, this is scary. Put it somewhere else on your website, not right where you are trying to sell somebody something.

Ad campaigns

We started a Pay Per Click campaign. You can do a straight Pay Per Click, or straight social media campaign or you can do something that I like to call “cross-channel marketing.” So, if someone takes action from your Pay Per Click campaign, you automatically remarket to them on social media. Especially if they didn’t convert so that you can move them down the funnel. That’s what we did with the yoga studio, as well.

We made a comprehensive Pay Per Click campaign and a Facebook campaign. If visitors came from Facebook, we remarketed to them on the display network on Google. If they came from Pay Per Click search for the first time, we remarketed to them on display and Facebook. 


Instead of just saying “come buy our product,” we wrote blog posts like “these are the charitable things the company is involved in”, “this is how it is helping volunteers”, “this is how people think it is more than just a yoga studio, it is a community of like-minded people.” The strategy was to push them further into getting that trial offer.

Revamp Trial Offer

Another big thing that we did was we revamped what their trial offer was. The offer was not competitive. It was way more expensive than most of their competitors. I had to convince the owner that the trial offer was not a place to make money.

Setting-up A Cycle

It took about six months to get the process right. We built a well-functioning machine. We changed the creative on their ads regularly. We launched a funnel, and eventually, the funnel got more complicated. The remarketing would vary based on men vs. women, young vs. old, etc. We implemented an automated email drip campaign that was spaced out.


We got them up to selling about 40 to 80 intro offers per month. Their conversion for auto-pay increased to about 37%, which is an industry target for a yoga studio.

I see that it took a lot of deliberation and optimisation to get to those numbers. How often does a business need to go back and revise their marketing campaign?

Everything goes stale.

The reason you do not see the same ad from 1988 for Coca Cola is the same reason why you can’t keep using the same ads all the time.

Find a place in your funnel where there is a dip and ask, “what do we change here?” The answer comes from experimentation. Don’t make too many changes in your process or ads at once. Make just one change at a time and see what the impact of that is. Otherwise, you won’t know what actually caused the improvement. Make sure you measure the impact of each experiment.

Usually, when I run a Facebook ad, I wait 4-5 days before I even look at it. It takes time for Facebook’s mechanism to learn things and start figuring out who is going to respond to ads. So, go back after 4-5 days and have a look at how your different placements, headlines, and creatives are doing and turn off the ones that are failing, costing way more money.

One thing that struck me as necessary is that you A/B test your ads, which most small businesses don’t even think of.

Yes. I test headlines, videos, content, CTAs, landing page all at one time and then pick the things that worked.

An Instagram ad can cost you 4x as much as a desktop video ad. But, you won’t know this until you have tested.

I make a lot of different ads, and each ad placement has its own specification. An Instagram story, a Facebook in-stream ad, or a Facebook video ad, each has a different specification and aspect ratio requirement.

One of the things that I like about InVideo is that it lets me quickly chop out some scenes or take one scene and make that into a bumper ad or an in-content ad. Because, I don’t have to start over from scratch each time, things become a lot faster and easier for me.

Tell us more about how you can help different audiences, so that our folks can get help from someone like you who is so result-oriented and number-driven.

I consider myself a pretty full-stack digital marketer. I like to know what’s going on with the website or be in charge or have access to it. I do marketing end-to-end – website, Pay Per Click, social media.

There is no one grand solution for everyone. Everybody has different needs. For example, Pay Per Click may be a must-have for someone but maybe a good-to-have for someone else. However, I do think everybody should have a good Pay Per Click as part of their branding campaign.

If you are a B2B, then you need different places for advertising than if you are B2C.

Advertise where your customer is.

The only thing that I don’t like to do is day-to-day social media posting. The business owner or a person working inside the business has a better understanding of what customers and clients are going to respond to. And I think that they are usually more successful about it because they are physically present there.

They can click a picture of a student leaving a class or someone sitting in a dental chair or take a 30-second video and ask them what their experience was like.

What are some good benchmark ROI numbers?

It is different for different businesses. It depends on your type of transaction. Is it a one-time buy or are you a membership-based service, or does someone need to come back to you year-after-year like a dentist or a chiropractor?

Also, think about what your competition is. If you are in a major metro area like Manhattan, it is going to cost you a lot more to get those clicks than it is if you are in Billings, Montana.

In Billings, Montana, there are 3 yoga studios, and 2 of them aren’t running ads. So, if I am going to run ads for a yoga studio, it will be as cheap as 20-30 cents per click. But if you are smart about it, then you can get the clicks cheaply even in Manhattan.

It depends on how many people are trying to advertise through the same eyeballs or get the same Pay Per Click keyword as you. And on social media, you are competing on a national level. So, if you are a national brand competing for eyeballs, then you are going to spend more. But, if I were to, let’s say, advertise for InVideo. I would split test and keep New York separate from Manhattan or separate Chicago from Illinois and the surrounding area. Then you will be able to measure the conversion rates outside the metro area and inside it and see which one is giving you a better ROI.


Here is a great opportunity to collaborate with a digital marketing rockstar like Marshall. He has promised a free 30-minute consultation call to the first 15 people who book an appointment.