June 23, 2015
Our job is to focus on business. Customers will come if we do our jobs really well.
Well, this is the sort of wishful thinking that leads the majority of small businesses to remain just that – small. Yes, all you lawyers, doctors, professional service providers; I am talking to you.
Growth and eventually, success; comes from getting more and more customers to know, try and buy your products over and over again. If we were having this conversation in 1995, I would tell you to go out there and spend some money on buying a bunch of local billboards, investing in direct mailers or working on local cable TV ads to promote your local small business.
However in 2015, the marketing scenario has undergone such a vast change as to become nearly unrecognizable to your alter ego from the 90’s. Print advertising is shrinking, television is under threat from streaming entertainment services like NetFlix and there is a brand new player on the horizon – digital media.
As per the Adage Marketing Fact Pack for 2015:
Need more data? I guess not.
The writing on the wall is clear. Digital marketing is here and it’s only getting bigger by the day. The only businesses that will survive our planets next few trips around the Sun will be those that understand this fact and embrace it wholeheartedly to promote their brand.
At first glance, marketing seems like a pretty easy thing to do. After all, what’s there to it than coming up with a few smart lines of ad copy and publishing those ads wherever you think they’ll work best? Well unfortunately, the real world is not an episode of Mad Men.
Marketing today, more specifically digital marketing; is a highly specialized function that is tough to execute and even tougher to learn from scratch. You probably would have been able to wing it in the pre-digital era with a quick wit and deep marketing pockets. However, the vast majority of digital marketers out there are themselves learning the latest skills on the job. The fast changing digital landscape means technology that one is well versed in today, becomes useless tomorrow. Case in point – SEO practitioners who excelled in black hat techniques but had to retool themselves with cleaner, more straightforward SEO approaches with each new update rolled out by Google.
Since promoting a brand online and turning it into a commercial success, while constantly learning new marketing skills is a full-time job in itself; it makes a whole lot of sense to get a real professional to helm the marketing of your brand, leaving you enough time to focus on running and managing the business. Take a look at this interesting flowchart that was on hiring the right digital marketer the next time you need to get a marketing pro on board.
Find someone from your own industry? So much the better. Such a candidate will come with valuable experience that you can dig into right away and will have a shorter learning curve trying to understand your business.
Imagine this scenario. A strong lead is on the verge of converting and wants to meet you to close the deal. Would you consider inviting them over to your home office that you share with your three year old toddler and rambunctious dog? I thought not.
A good website performs the exact same function, but online. Don’t let potential buyers wander into a run-down, dowdy site that offers them no help in buying your products. Instead, let your online office be a shiny steel and glass building with a zippy elevator and clear directions about where every department is located.
There’s no single blueprint on designing the perfect website. Creativity, your area of business, the type of customers you deal with all have equal says in what your site will eventually look like. However, there definitely are some key elements that a good, functional website must have like,
Don’t panic at the thought of incorporating all of these things into your site. Setting up a new website or redoing an existing website has never been easier. DIY platforms like Spaces or Wix help you set up a fully functional website from scratch without breaking the bank. Even better, with these platforms, you don’t need write a single line of code either.
New website design has definite rewards. Leading UK newspaper, The Guardian launched its redesigned site in January of 2015 to some spectacular results. Website traffic grew by 14% month on month and 35% year on year. The shift was even more dramatic for their mobile site. Mobile traffic grew by 98% as compared to January 2014. Now, who would not want those numbers!
Know Your Digital Marketing Channels
Now that you have a spanking new website, it’s time to know how to promote it and get it to work for your business.
Digital marketing has some basic channels that every business, however big or small, needs to be on. These are:
Let’s take a closer look at what each channel can do for your business.
Good SEO is not about getting to the top of a search results page. Good SEO is about answering a user’s questions and solving their problem. If your website does that efficiently, it automatically gets bumped up to the top of search rankings. SEO is probably the most important channel that you’ll work on to promote your business. Studies show that an estimated 71% of all website traffic comes from organic searches.
A recent study of 442 marketing professionals tried to uncover the expectations of small businesses from SEO. The largest majority of respondents (61%) focused on generating more leads from SEO. This was closely followed by increasing website traffic (57%) and increasing conversions (54%).
This makes two things crystal clear. First, that SEO is a multi-pronged tool that can give you a variety of results. More importantly, it demonstrates that SEO is an extremely effective tool to put your brand in front of users and draw them into your business.
Implementing SEO on your website has two distinct aspects to it – on page and off page SEO. On page SEO deals with optimizing your website, its design, its code and more. On the other hand, off page SEO involves factors that website owners have relatively less control over, like backlinks to your site, authority and popularity on social media.
Maximize your on page SEO by focusing on:
Keywords also need to find a home in the HTML of your pages. For example, your page title, header tags, URLs, alt tags and meta data all need to contain relevant keywords in them. However, do not stuff these site elements with keywords either to avoid being blacklisted by search engines.
Off page SEO depends on:
Older sites are given more weight from a rankings perspective than newer sites. The fact that they lasted for years without going bust is a vote of confidence in their favor. Register your domain for as long as feasible. A one year domain registration is an indication to the search engine that you’re not sure how long your business will last.
One tool that I solidly recommend you invest in to stay on top of your rankings, keyword research, desktop and mobile traffic, backlink analysis, as well as get an in-depth sneak peek of what you’re competition is doing is SEMrush. When it comes to finding out how you’re faring with SEO, there’s little SEMrush can’t tell you.
Most Efficient SEO tactics adopted by small businesses
Did you know that 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine? That means, just seven out of a hundred internet users directly type a website address into the address bar of the browser or land on it via third party media like a banner ad or a social media post. If search engines are so central to life on the internet, doesn’t it make sense to put your money where the users are?
Search Engine Marketing or Pay-per-Click (PPC) Search marketing is all about capturing eye-balls in that all important search results page, even if you have to pay money for it. While SEO pushes your website’s ranking high organically for searches made by your target audience, SEM cuts to the chase and simply pays money to Google, Bing or Yahoo to appear at the very top of relevant SERPs.
You know those links that come at the top and the right hand side column of most search results? The ones that are labelled as ‘Ad’ in bright yellow? Yeah, those are your pay-per-click search ads. Every time a user searches for something in Google, Bing or any other search engine for that matter, he is shown a variety of paid results that closely match the search terms used. Take a look at the screenshot below.
I searched for “PPC search marketing tools” and these are the results I got. If you look carefully, each SEM ad has a combination of four elements in order for it to work. These are
Google being the largest search engine in the world, leads the race for SEM platforms, with Bing and Yahoo coming in a distant second and third. Hence it follows that Google’s AdWords platform is a key tool that any aspiring SEM professional needs to master to make any headway in paid search marketing.
Here’s what an extremely simplified process of PPC marketing involves:
The performance of SEM ads can be tracked from within your PPC account. Your analytics will tell you the total number of clicks your ads received, the click-through rate (CTR), your bids, total number of conversions, conversion rate, cost per conversion and more. SEM campaigns require a near-constant level of monitoring to manage bids based on competition’s movements, adjust budgets for different keywords based on their performance and so on.
SEM has some key benefits over SO that make it a great customer acquisition tool.
Every time we hear the words ‘social media’, we expect to hear ‘engagement’ right after. However, social media is not just about engaging with your existing audience. Building brand awareness is a key role that social media plays very well. In fact, the smartest marketers use social media as an effective top of the funnel tool, instead of expecting every Facebook or Twitter post to result in a sale.
Despite the temptation, don’t plunge right in and create a social media presence for your brand on every possible network. Not only will it be tough to manage, it may even be totally unnecessary from the point of view of your audience. Study your target audience and your direct competition to first figure out which social network will make most sense for your business. Facebook works for most businesses, as the overwhelming majority of all social media users tend to be active on the network. However, social media does not equal Facebook. Don’t be scared of experimenting with relatively newer social networks like Pinterest or Instagram if they make sense for your audience. Millward Brown’s research shows that 93% of active pinners use Pinterest to plan purchases, 87% said they’ve bought something because of Pinterest. Use this resource to decide which social platforms work best for you.
Begin with a combination of organic posts and paid ads on your chosen networks. Organic posts on social networks that talk about things your users are interested in are great to build an initial conversation with your target audience. However, the way each social network is now monetized, you will need to set aside marketing budgets to create paid social media ads that accomplish your goals more efficiently.
Some pointers to keep in mind while marketing your business on social media:
Here you see a great example of an awareness building ad on Facebook. Facebook’s Ads Create Tool allows you to build ads that target users geographically close to your place of business and appear inside users’ Newsfeeds to increase the probability of click-throughs. The combination of a key value proposition (organic food +unbeatable prices) with an enticing image of the store and a customized button to get directions to the store, make this ad hit every mark on the brand awareness board.
Want to learn more about Facebook advertising? Here’s a handy guide.
If you’ve been reading up on marketing in the last couple of years, there’s no way you’d have missed stumbling upon the term ‘content marketing’.
The fundamental principle of content marketing is based on ‘pull marketing’ instead of the traditional ‘push marketing’. Creating and publishing great content around your line of work attracts the attention of users in your niche and draws them in to your brand. By offering valuable content to the user, brands set themselves up as authorities in their field and enjoy high top of mind recall, conversions and brand loyalty.
The content created by the brand is published either on their own website or blog and drives traffic to the site without the need for paid marketing. In other words, the content accts like a magnet that pulls to itself backlinks from relevant sites hence boosting SEO rankings. Publishing interesting content on your social networks increases engagement with fans and followers and brings them back to the brand’s site, thus aiding in social media conversions.
There’s a whole range of content types that brands can create and publish to attract the right audience and convince them to convert. The content format chosen depends on the objective of the marketing activity – brand awareness, customer acquisition, repeat purchase, whatever. Some useful content formats to try out include:
Lauren Luke is a small time online seller of cosmetics who has become a YouTube phenomenon. She started out by re-selling other brands on Amazon and eBay.
Long before content marketing caught on as the mother of all catchphrases in marketing, Lauren had her own YouTube channel with wildly popular videos on makeup, grooming, and fashion tutorials. With over half a million subscribers and over 100 million views, Luke has carved a niche for herself in the world of video marketing.
From humble beginnings, Luke went on to create her own signature cosmetics line By Lauren Luke, now sold by a large number of beauty retailers. She also released Lauren Luke Looks, a popular set of “look books” on fashion and makeup, targeting teenagers.
This YouTube sensation’s popularity eventually made her part of the 2014 romantic comedy and Keira Knightley starrer Laggies.
That sinking feeling you get when you log into your email inbox? You’re not alone in that. With over 65 billion emails sent out just today, that daily email deluge is a very real and surprisingly widespread problem. A large proportion of those emails are marketing emails that promote various businesses.
Now you might think that in this age of social networking, instant messaging and live video streaming; who would really care about emails. That too from businesses? That’s where the channel totally surprises you. B2B Magazine found that 59% of B2B marketers vote for email as their most effective revenue channel. According to data from eMarketer, email marketing was named the most effective digital marketing channel for customer retention for 2014 in the United States.
It is also an extremely persuasive conversion channel. It was found that consumers who received email marketing messages spent 138% more than those that did not.
Given its advantages and almost zero cost of production and execution; it’s no wonder that building a strong email database is one of the first priorities of any new business. The captive audience of an email database allows businesses to reach out to them directly without paying any publishers or advertising agencies.
An effective email campaign is characterized by the following key features:
An example of a triggered email to salvage an abandoned shopping cart
Small businesses have the unique dichotomy of having too many things to do and too few people to do them. However, not making time to market your business, is the biggest disservice you can do to it.
Doing just one thing per day that contributes to your brand’s marketing is a step in the right direction. Here’s a suggested schedule that you can tailor to your needs.
Blog posts, Guest Posts – 1 Post per week
Pick a ‘topic of the week’ each week and create two posts around each. You could designate a day, like Saturday to write your posts. Publish one of the posts on a fixed day every week to build an appointment readership. I would avoid Mondays and go for Tuesdays or Wednesdays for my weekly blog post.
Similarly, post the other article on websites that are related to your line of work as guest articles within the same week. You could link back to your blog post of the week, which is on the same topic and gain some quick backlinks in the process.
Social Media Posts – 1 Update per day, daily interactions with fans
There’s no getting away from social media by looking at it once a week. Don’t go overboard with the number of platforms your brand is active on. Pick two platforms to begin with and go beyond only once you have mastered your original picks.
Users interact with your brand on social networks every day and expect prompt responses to their problems, questions or even compliments. Post at least one update per day. This could be a status update, a piece of your own content like a blog post or a video or a whitepaper. It could even be a curated piece, posted with proper credits to the original creator.
PPC Search – 1 Day per week
This is your aggressive customer acquisition tools that need to be up and running on a continual basis. Once you set up your campaigns for search marketing, make sure that you check in on how the campaigns perform at least once a week. When certain keywords perform well, you might want to increase your budgets for those. Non-performing keywords need to be weeded out regularly and new ones ought to be added in based on data from your analytics tools.
Email Marketing – 1 Newsletter per week
Ideally, an email marketing campaign is personalized and tailored to each audience member’s tastes, place in the marketing funnel and more. However, if that level of personalization seems overwhelming to you, at least send out a single newsletter that updates users of the latest about your business once a week. Not only is it free, it’s also direct communication to a captive audience who actually signed up to hear from you regularly. Don’t disappoint them!
Video Content – 1 Video every fortnight
Creating video content does not have to be a scary proposition. Most smartphones and tablets these days have great video recording capabilities and can stand in for expensive equipment anytime. Create simple videos – how-to guides, product demos, cool tricks to do with your product, whatever – and post them to your YouTube channel and social platforms at least once every two weeks. Video content, as mentioned earlier, is the fastest growing form of content on the internet. It may take more time and creativity than the rest, but it will pay off better dividends too.
Don’t just keep running on your marketing hamster wheel. Take the time to sit back and see what results your marketing efforts have brought to the business. Compare key performance indicators like leads generated, leads converted, sales growth, revenue growth, engagement rates, brand awareness – whatever works best for your business and see where you stand vis-à-vis past performance. Check what your competition is up to. How did they perform in the same period? What areas do you need to improve upon? Fill in these blanks before you dive back into your daily routine.
Once you have your answers; review, retool and rev up those engines once again to take on the big bad world of competition once again!