Having a solid online presence does not necessarily mean you must do all of the activities recommended here. It means instead to focus on having a consistent online profile that matches and reflects your business capabilities and skills. Still, if you’re like several small business owners, you probably have been doing ok without the need to invest heavily in online channels. That said, current economic times, sharp drops in technology costs as well as an increasingly competitive landscape demand for custom solutions that are also cost effective. Thus we decided to provide a starting point to boot strap your digital marketing efforts.
1. Build trust with a functional website
Think of a website like your own store front. Not many brick and mortars can expect to sell without an optimal and efficient store front. Although the nature of your business may not necessarily require a strong investment in a store front. You have to think long term. Thus, having a strong online presence begins with having a consistent store front. A door that’s open 24/7 for your current customers, as well as for potential partners or providers. Nobody will do business with someone they don’t trust. And trust begins with a functional website. There’s plenty of drag-and-drop solutions our there, including Wix and Square, although they might be a little hard to scale. But for custom built solutions with full functionality and an affordable price, Codesm Marketing has plans starting at 99$ a month. There’s no real reason not to start your marketing efforts today.
2. Start a blog
Assuming you already have a functional website, you should really really start a blog. As much as this concept seems tired, given it has been repeated over and over, you don’t want to underestimate it. Sharing current and valuable content with your customers can have a huge impact on your online visibility. Not only because Google, Yahoo, Bing or other search engines will rank you better, but also because your visitors will trust you more. Even better, potential customers, vendors and business partners in general will be most likely to do business with you. As a bonus tip, don’t be afraid to mix your personal profile on your blog. Real persons are easier to trust. And building trust in the online world is crucial, specially for small businesses or start ups. Suggested Tools: Wix, Square, WordPress, Blogspot.
3. Focus in one or a few social channels
Excellent to show your fun, dynamic and even human side, but also good to offer casual customer support. You’ll be surprised the level of engagement you can achieve. Of course it’s easier said than done. Social sharing and the need to push updates on a regular basis can easily evolve into nonsense rants or random posts that are irrelevant to your audience. But trust, thus more business, can only be built with consistent efforts geared towards credibility. It’s important to show you can be reached via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or other social networks, including Google+. After all, social networks have been ranking number one in web traffic for several years. Whenever I bump into a product or service that may interest me or my customers, but that does not have a lot of social proof (as in Likes, Followers or BLog Comments) I always go check their Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts. It’s surprising how much you can learn just by looking at their profiles and status updates. This might give you an idea of how promptly the company responds to customer requests. But also how well they have identified their market. Pro tip: At this stage, you might want to start thinking about a content marketing plan.
4. Build an email list
You may have your customers data, including email, on several spreadsheets or data sets, but maybe you haven’t really dived into it. By spending some time on building an updated customers database, you may be able to reach customers whom you thought were lost, or that may be looking for a service you offer, but have not really started looking. Even better, you may be able to reach customers that are not necessarily looking for what you sell, but would like to hear about you or what you have to offer. Keep your past as well as current email lists updated and segmented on the different products you offer.
5. Engage with your potential audience
If you have identified one or two people willing to share your content once, maybe you can potentially reach out to others with similar profiles. The easiest way to do this is using data mining tools such as FollowerWonk or similar in order to get a better understanding of your target audience and what motivates them. Even if you are not able to segment or identify specific traits or behaviors of your target audience, you may be able to get glimpses of knowledge or building a list of potential leads by targeting your advocates (or your competitor’s) followers. This strategy may require some manual work but definitely helpful to understand your audience.
6. Establish goals and metrics
In digital, as opposed to the physical world, almost any activity can be measured, thus improved. Like the old adage says, things that can’t be measured can’t be improved. It’s crucial to not only understand how to use web analytic tools, but to also understand how to translate that data into actionable insights for your business. Of course this requires an understanding of web analytics that goes beyond website traffic. At this point, you may to only want to measure success by sales, but actually by the growth of your email list, for example, how many people have filled up a contact form, how much time visitors spend on your site, how many pages they see before leaving or converting, etc. Given the purchasing cycle, people may show an intent to buy something by filling up a contact form. But for a sales closing to take place, you may have to invest some time identifying what are they really looking for.
7. Initiate a content marketing plan
Consider the nature of the web is organic, always evolving and adapting to new trends. Ideas can get tired way faster than if they happened in the physical world, thus it’s important to consider the future value you can create for your audience. If trust is the essence of online marketing efforts. Then content is the skin that holds that trust. There’s no better way to build trust than showing empathy towards your customers. Empathy shows knowledge. Empathy shows care. If you want to build trust in order to sell more, show that you care for what your potential customers will care during, before and after buying from you. If you can at least identify your customers current, past and future needs or problems. That probably means you are also able to fix them. And who doesn’t want to do business with a problem-solver?
8. Advertise your business
You can set up simple pay per click campaigns using Google Adwords, Yahoo or Bing advertising networks. You can also advertise your business on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. There’s no company that at any point will not consider advertising. You can only reach so much people through organic means (or word-of-mouth for that matter). But advertising also helps you reach people not necessarily looking for your product or service. In general, people and businesses will not really care for your product, but for the need you help them solve. Digital allows for hyper targeting. If you have identified the people whose need your product can solve. Then you obviously will want to reach out to them through any means. Suggested Tools: WhatRunsWhere, PerfectAudience, MixPanel. Now that you have identified the activities for a better online presence and in order to sell more. Maybe you are able to hire someone else to do it for you at a more cost-effective manner. Feel free to reach out to CODESM Marketing if you think you need a hand. We’re happy to help. We care!