Hub and Spoke Marketing – A Digital Marketing Strategy for the Rest of Us
Before we talk about the hub and spoke marketing model, it’s important to establish a key principle.
Understanding your customers—especially best customers—underpins everything we’re about to discuss.
Delight your best customers, and they will stay with you longer, buy more from you, buy from you without being bribed, cost you less to service, and bring in more customers just like them.
Fail them, and you have no choice but to focus on prospects to keep refilling the leaky bucket. New customers are definitely important, but your current customers rule.
Where are these ideal customers and prospects?
More and more, they are online. At least 3.5 billion Google searches are made every day – Internet Live Stats.
Where do these customers interact with your business? More and more it’s online, specifically, it’s your website. Your website is digital real estate that you own, it’s your hub.
You know where they are. You know who they are. You know how they interact with your business. The hub and spoke marketing model is a content marketing strategy that brings it all together. It’s a strategy that connects digital marketing tactics to maximizes value creation—value for your customers, and value for your business.
Online Marketing Is Hard
But digital marketing is hard, it’s a foreign language to many small business owners. On the other hand, you have to try. You know how your traditional channels work, but every day they are getting more expensive and less effective. This is a trend that’s been in motion for some time. The pandemic accelerated the shift and this genie isn’t going back in the bottle.
Many throw up their hands and say, “I don’t understand how digital marketing can work for my business.” We hear this frequently from small business owners. They understand that they should be using online marketing, but they aren’t sure where to start.
We believe that the hub and spoke model is a good way to start using digital marketing.
The Hub and Spoke Marketing Strategy
First, don’t get caught up in technology. Instead, look at the big picture. For a small business, online marketing has three parts: the website (the hub), the various online media channels (the spokes), and the messaging or content (the rim).
The Hub Is Your Website
In the hub and spoke model marketing model, all your marketing activities are spokes that rotate around your website, which is at the center of your plan.
If you own a retail store, you might think that your store is the hub. This was true previously when people considered the store as a source of knowledge and information. However, now consumers are doing their research online, so from the consumer’s point of view, the store is no longer the center.
Obviously, sales are essential. Your store delivers this functional benefit to your business and your customers, which creates mutual value. But your store doesn’t add value. What your store is selling and what your customers are buying is functional. It’s a transaction, and probably not that different from what they can find elsewhere.
If you consider the store as a spoke and use it to build online connections with your customers, you have the opportunity to use online marketing to create value that goes beyond functional benefits.
In the hub and spoke marketing model, the website is the center of this activity. It’s where even the smallest business can create incremental value that goes beyond the transaction and the functional benefits delivered by your store or product. This is especially important for your best customers. The customers who care the most about your brand are also the customers who matter the most to your business.
When you interact with your customers, encourage them to visit your website, sign up for your e-newsletter, and like your store on social media. When you do this, you’ll be strengthening your marketing “wheel.”
Why Creating Value for Best Customers Is Important
Your best customers are only a small percentage of all your customers, but they are a large percentage of your sales, and they’re especially important to your profits. Creating value is how even the smallest business can generate loyalty and competitive insulation among its best customers.
And where are your best customers?
They are online. This is even more true for local markets. Eighty-six percent of consumers rely on the internet to find a local business – BrightLocal
Online marketing and your website can capture and retain your best clients.
This makes digital marketing crucial for small businesses.
The Spokes Are Your Marketing Tactics
With an apology to George, when it comes to the hub and spoke model in marketing, “All spokes are created equal, but some spokes are more equal than others.”
Spokes are the activities, channels, and tactics you use to connect with your customers and prospects online. Spokes are also how they connect with your business.
Advertising is a spoke. So are social media and email marketing. Even your retail location is a spoke.
Each spoke connects your business with customers and prospects and generates sales. Sales pay the bills, and it’s said that the best way to build your brand is to have customers try your product. You can go even further with the hub and spoke marketing strategy for small businesses.
Use online marketing spokes to draw your best customers to your website. Use the website as a fulcrum to create even more value for your customers, value that goes beyond functional benefits. The spokes provide a conduit to generate sales and attract your best customers to the hub, where you can deliver additional value.
Content Is the Rim—It Holds Your Digital Marketing Together
Content, your messaging, is what holds it all together. It’s not a wheel without all three: the hub, the spokes, and the rim. You want the content you create to be relevant to what your customers are looking for. A basic principle of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is to create content that’s a match for search intent. You need to solve their problems.
Relevant content, content that’s useful to your customers, is your best path to value creation. The other guy also sells what you sell, but your business publishes articles about better ways to use the products. You send emails to your customers, telling them about the information. You share links to the articles on social media. This creates value above and beyond functional benefits. And it’s not that hard. You likely know a lot about your products. Share what you know.
How to Use the Hub and Spoke Model to Market a Small Business Online
Small business digital marketing spokes fall into three main categories: online advertising like Google Adwords and Facebook ads, organic or natural social media like Facebook and Instagram, and email marketing.
Online advertising is the most expensive, and it’s difficult to master. Facebook marketing funnels have many stages that each require management. Finding the right mix takes time and investment. When the puzzle is solved, it can be a highly efficient lead generation machine; a faucet that can be turned off and on to efficiently generate high-quality prospects.
Social media isn’t as expensive, and on its face, it’s easy, but it’s also a bit arcane; it has its own unique way of doing things. It can be efficient, but it can also be a waste of time and money.
Email marketing is the least expensive, and when used properly, it can be a very effective spoke.
Don’t Try to Boil the Ocean
Start online marketing by doing one thing well. For example, you could start with email marketing. Don’t believe the email marketing myths. It’s an efficient and effective way to focus on customers, and it can support the other channels. Get email marketing right first, then move on to other things.
The essence of strategy is sacrifice.David Ogilvy
Once you have email marketing down, social media advertising can be an efficient way to get a simple message out to a large audience. For example, the Facebook marketing funnel described above.
Social Media Marketing
Social media ads can target specific consumers in specific locations, which makes it an efficient way to fill the top of the funnel.
For example, a simple social media marketing funnel would be to craft content that adds value for your best customers and prospects like them. Then, promote the content using a Facebook traffic ad that drives interested prospects back to the hub, your website.
Then you can use the Facebook pixel on your website to identify people who visit the page, who responded to the traffic ad, and use remarketing conversion ads to target these people with an offer.
Traffic ads are less expensive. You can accomplish a lot with $10 to $20 a day. Conversion ads are more expensive, but you are only showing the ads to a small, warm audience.
The content lives on the website (the hub), and is presented to interested customers via Facebook ads (a spoke), that attracts customers because of the message, which resonates with their needs (the rim).Thank you, thank you, thank you! I used your hub and spoke marketing strategy and spent less than $100 in ads to generate over $3,000 in sales. – Dave S. #smallbusinessmarketing Click To Tweet
You could add an exit-intent popup to the page that asks for their email address in exchange for a relevant ebook. Then you can use email marketing (another spoke), to attract these customers back to your website (the hub), with relevant content (the rim).
Now your social media advertising is starting to roll.
The Email Marketing Spoke
Email marketing is excellent for marketing a small business online. It’s especially effective for customer marketing. And marketing to your best customers will always give you your best return. Your best customers are more likely to buy from you again, spend more, and recommend you to other customers just like them.
The best email newsletters are not sales flyers in electronic form. Marketing a small business online using the hub and spoke model means using email marketing to deliver relevant, valuable content to customers. An e-newsletter can describe, inform, entertain, reveal, and uncover new information and insights about your products and services. It’s a spoke that provides value that interests your best customers and attracts them back to your website, where you can create even more value.
For example, provide product information and insights into usage that makes their experience better, or you could give access to exclusive content, or advance notice on changes or promotions. There are many ways to create value beyond transaction benefits when you are engaged with your customers. Email marketing is a low-cost way for small business to do this, to engage with customers, which further insulates these high-value customers from the competition.
Organic or Natural Social Media
Organic or natural social media marketing is a relatively inexpensive spoke that you can use to nurture customers and attract prospects to your website. But it’s a long-term strategy that takes attention and time.
Social media is an efficient spoke that a small business can use to nurture customers. They are, after all, online. Social media can also be used to add value. Good customers want to be rewarded. Social media is a low-cost spoke that can be used to make announcements like exclusive offers and other value-add activities.
But it needs to be part of the plan. If social media is a spoke, then it’s very useful to the business and to the business’ customers. If it’s just something you’re doing because you’ve been told it’s important, then it’s likely a waste.
You may have noticed that we haven’t described Search Engine Optimization as a spoke. SEO, along with many other digital marketing tactics, is an important spoke and is a consideration. Still, for most small businesses, the investment in time and money required to use SEO effectively means it’s something to consider once you have mastered the other channels. Once you are ready for SEO, start with local SEO. This is another article that’s coming soon.
To get started with hub and spoke model in marketing:
- Design your content to attract your best customers to your website
- Use digital advertising to attract prospects to your website
- Make the website easy to use and easy for your best customers to connect with your business
- Use digital advertising to remarket the warm prospects (Marketing Funnel)
- Use email marketing and social media to nurture and reward your best customers
Marketing a small business using hub and spoke marketing takes the mystery out of online marketing. It’s no longer difficult and overwhelming. Each piece has a role. Working together, the pieces create a powerful tool that you can use to prosper.
Author: James Hipkin
Since 2010, James Hipkin has built his clients’ businesses with digital marketing. Today, James is passionate about websites and helping the rest of us understand online marketing. His customers value his jargon-free, common-sense approach. “James explains the ins and outs of digital marketing in ways that make sense.”
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