Attract new business this year by employing these actionable tactics
The Internet has evolved incredibly over the last 20 years.
If you’re looking to stay ahead of your competitors, and hope to attract new customers online, you need to have a web presence that establishes you and your business as a trusted authority.
And these days you need more than a simple brochure website. You need a website that presents a simple and seamless experience for your visitors. You need to include the right tools to effectively reach and convert your target customers. But, if you’re like most small businesses, you wear around 17 hats, and digital marketing is just one more thing that keeps you up at night.
We don’t want you to lose sleep, so we put together this list of 5 digital marketing musts for your small business. These suggestions are all timely, actionable and will keep you ahead of your competition.
1. A Responsive Website
This last April, mobile users exceeded desktop users for the first time ever and if you’re older than 30, this might be hard to believe. It’s time to rewire our brains in a way that favors a mobile-first approach when connecting with customers. Following more recently, Yahoo Finance disclosed that over 36 percent of the 2015 Black Friday eCommerce sales were transacted on mobile devices. That’s incredible; and the trend will only continue this direction.
Still not convinced? Google announced that mobile-friendly websites will have a slight advantage in the search engines. This makes sense: if more people are using mobile devices to consume their content, it’s in Google’s best interest to prioritize the results with content that is comfortable to read on smaller screens.
The solution is a responsive website. “Responsive” quite literally means that the layout of your website responds to the size of your browser window. If you’re scratching your head, grab a hold of your browser and see the changes of this website as you make it smaller and larger. You’ll notice that the layout adjusts: objects disappear and reappear again; columns are broken down and stacked.
It’s worth noting that a responsive design is not the same as a mobile “version” of your site. You may have noticed newspapers or other publications that redirect you to a different location (oftentimes m.mysite.com) when they detect you’re on a mobile device. For a small business this is not recommended because it creates more maintenance and content management work. Instead here are some suggestions to get you rolling into the responsive future.
If you already have a website, connect with your current web designer and ask what platform (or content management system) the site was built on. If it’s WordPress, ask your designer about updating to a premium theme. WordPress has an incredibly large third party ecosystem, wherein you can discover fully built, fully functional templates to give your site a design refresh, and a responsive layout to boot. I personally recommend Genesis themes from StudioPress, but a quick search on Google will get you moving in no time.
If the site was built on Joomla, Drupal or .net — and you have a good relationship with your developer — by all means work directly with them to update your existing site. However, if you’re a small business you really don’t need to look any further than WordPress and Squarespace. If you run an ecommerce site, I would add Shopify to that list as well. Those other platforms are great, however they can be awfully robust and overkill for the typical SMB.
As you make the leap into the responsive update, be sure to keep an eye on your website’s speed. Nobody likes to wait around for a slow website to load — especially on their smartphone — and if responsive technology is misused, it can definitely slow your site down.
So, remind your designer that you’re looking for lean and efficient code, optimized image sizes and scripts that are added to your site. If you’re really into performance testing, use Google’s official speed test tool to diagnose any issues you encounter.
SSL or Secure Socket Layer refers to a layer of security that facilitates the transfer of data from one website or application to another. This is advantageous for any website that collects data from Internet users, but SSL is especially important and required for e-commerce websites.
In fact, if your small business collects non-public data (payment information, social security number, etc) from your website visitors, you’re required by law to install an SSL certificate.
Beyond ecommerce, SSL certificates are a smart choice for any brand that wishes to look professional. Like many other forms of social proof, an SSL certificate helps show that you are a serious business, and ahead of the technical curve. At a price point of as low as $100/year, it’s a very small price to pay to keep your customers feeling safe.
Maintaining an SSL certificate can usually be done through your business’ hosting site in addition to sites like these. Contact your host today to discuss setting up your website with an SSL (HTTPS) certificate to protect your business and your customers.
Google even announced that SSL will be used as a ranking signal in the future, and I love killing two birds with one stone.
Using social media as a way to digitally market your small business can be extremely effective if done well. According to one study, 83 percent of marketers indicate that social media has made an impact on their business.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn are among the most popular social media channels for personal and business use, so let’s take a quick look at each. The most important (and often most difficult) step when committing to a social media strategy for your business is determining which networks are most applicable to your industry and culture.
Facebook has a business “How-To” page that goes through how to successfully use the site for business. These tips range from consistency in posts to connecting with the right people. Generally, I would say every business should get involved on Facebook, regardless of their industry. Facebook has one of the most sophisticated tools available to discover your target audience, and with more than 1 billion active users, you’re sure to gain traction if you spend an hour or two each week learning how to use it effectively.
I’ve always used Twitter as a tool for consuming industry relevant content. In many ways it has become my digital marketing news feed. With most social networks, we tend to think that our presence needs to be front and center. With Twitter, you can follow a select list of interesting people and just listen. Not sure who to follow? Use a tool like Followerwonk to discover influencers in your niche. Before you know it, you’ll have something to add to the conversation — it happens rather naturally.
If you want to be a power user, consider visiting search.twitter.com and seek out conversations that reflect your industry FAQs. When applicable, answer these questions. It’s a great way to establish a following, and it will surely set up the building blocks towards creating your social authority.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and networks like Instagram and Pinterest are incredibly effective for products and services that lend themselves well to visual storytelling. From the Instagram business home page: “If you could express your business visually, what would you create?” If you’re having trouble seeing how your product or service would be expressed through pictures, consider using your staff and culture as the muse.
LinkedIn is the only tried and true network for B2B social interaction, so if your business focuses on professional services, you should pay the most attention here. For full power, you’ll need to upgrade to a premium subscription, however even the free plan will give you access to valuable networking opportunities. If nothing else, take the time to completely fill out your profile using language that most reflects how a layperson might search for you (avoid technical jargon). Also, ask your professional network to write a recommendation to your LinkedIn profile, and offer to do the same for them.
Forty four percent of email recipients made at least one purchase last year based on a promotional email.
Email marketing remains one of the most important digital marketing efforts for small businesses.
There are two steps to successful email marketing:
- Getting target subscribers.
- Converting those subscribers into customers.
To get more subscribers take the following steps:
- Start a monthly email newsletter where you share stories, tips and news as it relates to your industry, your business and your community. Feel free to repurpose the content from another source, like a blog or conversation on other social networks.
- Collect email addresses as part of every transaction, including in-store if you have a physical location.
- Periodically, ask your social media followers to subscribe to your newsletter.
- Participate in local events with other local businesses and organizations. Collect email addresses (via business cards) at the event and promote your monthly newsletter. Keep in mind that when you collect email addresses from in-person events, they are not “opting in” to your marketing emails, so be sure to ask if it’s OK to reach out.
To send effective emails take the following steps:
- Invest in a modern newsletter distribution service like Mailchimp, that offers professionally designed, mobile responsive templates.
- Along with your monthly newsletter, send promotional emails for your product or service. Start with one per month. Pay attention to your open and clickthrough rate, experimenting with different days of the week, and different times of the day.
- Invest in quality photography to really sell your product or service. Even for your regular newsletter, quality photos can make an email more engaging to subscribers. If you don’t have access to unique media, use a service like shutterstock or iStock.
- Have someone aside from yourself proofread your email. There’s nothing worse than a campaign that is designed beautifully, with professional photography, and yet has horrible grammar. Get a second set of eyes!
5. Marketing Automation
Finally, use marketing automation tools like Infusionsoft or HubSpot to help move prospective customers through the “buyer’s journey.” More often than not, your sales process has a bit of unique complexity to it, and these tools give you the ability to visualize this process, so you can see what is working, and what is blocking movement like a bottleneck.
The first step is to document your sales process. Create a flow chart that illustrates the sales pipeline from start to finish. Be as granular as you can be and consider the following pieces of information:
- The required steps a prospect must take to complete a purchase.
- Which steps are being completed manually by staff.
- Which steps could “theoretically” be replaced by software.
- Common questions your prospects ask throughout the sales process.
- Current software that is necessary for the sales process to work (reservation systems, POS, etc).
Once you have that documented, seek out a free consultation for Infusionsoft, HubSpot or any other tool that offers marketing automation, and present your flowchart to them. Trust me, they’ll be happy to show you how their tools can take over the grunt work. The best part is that once it’s setup, you’ll have a digital salesperson working for your business 24/7.
Digital marketing has changed the way we do business in many ways, but it still comes back to the basics: targeting customers, explaining your unique sales proposition, answering their questions, earning their trust, etc. However, you now have infinitely more tools at your disposal to help you reach an infinitely larger audience. Take these five tips and start to dip your toes in just a bit. Once you see a bit of traction, you’ll be mentally equipped to make the most of your time promoting your business.