As I said in my last post, for the next few weeks I’m going to be posting the “What and Why” Series. This series will focus on explaining one internet marketing technique at a time, why it is important for your business, and give you some tips on effectively executing each tactic. However, before I post my first “What and Why” article, I want to repost a revision version of an article that I posted a few months ago. This article will allow you to see the main strategies involved in using internet to market your business before we drill down deeper the best to accomplish each strategy in the “What and Why” series.
Many small business owners still think that to market their business online, they simply have to put up an attractive website with some information about their business, products, and services. I’m sorry to say, those days are gone.
These days, you have to do more than just put up an “online brochure” and hope that people find it, read it, and are inspired to call you to make an appointment, place an order, or visit your store.
In fact, there are so many strategies and tactics that you can use (and should be using) to market your business online; it can make a small business owners head spin!
But don’t worry, The E-marketing Maven is here to simplify your options and guide you through the process.
When I teach seminars, I always explain that there are five key internet marketing strategies that all companies should use to generate more leads and sales. Then I list them the strategies in order that they should be accomplished. To be clear, there are many more strategies and tactics that you could use to market your business online, beyond the five steps described in this article, but I think that the steps listed below are the core elements of any successful online marketing efforts. I recommend making sure that you are doing these items correctly, in the order listed below, before you try using other techniques to promote your business online.
Do This First: Create a website that generates lead and/or sales.
These days, many businesses still have a “brochure style” website that looks nice and gives basic information about their business, but they do little to get your phone ringing and your door swinging!
While many people focus on social media marketing these days, I think that you should first ensure that your company’s website is designed to be profitable! No one knows what will happen with social networking sites in the future. It seems unlikely, but sites like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn could go down, decide to charge you an exorbitant price to keep your account, or simply pull your account for no apparent reason at any moment. While social networking is a great strategy to grow your business, I do not recommend putting all of your eggs into the social media basket.
Your website, on the other hand, is your property and it must not be ignored in favor of social media or any other strategy-du-jour.
On the contrary, you should be using all of your online marketing strategies, including social media to bring people back to your website, so that they can get to know your business better and you can capture their contact information (with their permission, of course) so that you can continue to build a relationship with them. Therefore, it is vitally important that your first online marketing project is to ensure that your website is set up in a way that it generates sales directly, moves your prospects forward in the sales process, and/or captures leads.
Do this Next: Make your website “findable” in the Search Engines.
Simply put, if your website does not show up on Page One of the search engine results when your target customer searches for information related to your business, it might as well not exist. Search engine users rarely make it to Page Two of the search engine results.
There are three steps involved in making your website “Findable” in the search engines. First proper keyword research must performed to determine you’re the best keywords to use on your site. Then those keywords must be place properly on your site, but on the page and in the code. The process of placing the keywords in the right places on your website is known as “on-site optimization”. Ideally, these first two steps should be performed when you create your website, not after-the-fact!
Once the on-site optimization is complete, you must obtain links back to your website from legitimate websites, so that Google sees that you are a legitimate, popular website that is used and referenced frequently. This is an ongoing process. In order for your website to get on page one of the search engine results, and stay there, you must obtain high quality links back to your site on a regular basis. There are many ways to get links back to your site, which I will describe in the upcoming “what and why series”. One of the most important methods of link- to actively use social media, which brings me to the next step…
And Then: Reach out to your customers, where they are online, and bring them back to your lead generating site.
Once your website is ready to caputure leads and generate sales, and it is search engine friendly, it’s time get out there and drive targeted visitors to your site. There are many ways to reach out to your target customers, but (arguably) the most critical method to use is social media.
You can’t ignore it any longer. You’ve got to establish a presence on at least one of the major Social Media sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube) and engage your prospects there.
According to comScore’s Local Search Usage Study (as reported by Clickz), 69% of consumers today say that they are more likely to interact with and use a local business if they can find it on a social networking site, and the trend continues to grow. Your target customers want to find you on social media, so you should be there. Period. If that doesn’t convice you, consider this: if you business isn’t using social media to promote your business online – you’re competition probably is. Enough said.
In addition to the relationship-building aspects of social media, active use of social media helps your search engine rankings in two ways. First, it creates high quality backlinks to your website, which help it rank higher in the search engines (Second, some aspects of your social media accounts (like your facebook fanpage) will show up in search engine results. If your accounts are set up properly, then these properties will also drive more traffic to your website.
There is no doubt about the time to get active on social media is NOW. (Assuming that your website is designed and optimized properly, that is)
Keep It Going: Consistently create high-quality content for your website and social media accounts.
Marketing your business online is like driving a car, if you take your foot off of the gas pedal, you may coast for a while, but eventually the car will stop moving. Similarly, when you are marketing your business online, if you stop adding high-quality content to your website/blog or stop updating your social media accounts, your search engine rankings will slide, you’ll get less visitors to your website, and finally, the number of leads and sales that you are getting will steadily decline. Therefore, in order to effectively market your business online, you must continually add high-quality content to your website and social media accounts.
If you don’t want to regularly write blog posts or add posts to your social media accounts — don’t worry, there are several ways you can put your content creation on “Cruise Control”. Naturally, I will discuss these methods in future blog posts.
Finally: Measure your Results, and Modify Your Plans Accordingly.
One of the greatest advantages to marketing your business online is that almost every aspect of Internet marketing can be tracked and measured. Your web designer should install Google Analytics so that you can receive monthly reports that show you important statistics such as search engine rankings, how many visitors you are getting, how people are finding your site, how long they stay on each page of your site etc. There are also ways to measure the effectiveness of your social media efforts. With this information you can determine the most (and least) effective parts of your marketing strategy so you that you can evalute your results, modify your plan and more effectively manage your time and money.
Those are what I see as the most critical online marketing strategies for small businesses. If most businesses just did those five things, and focused on doing them well, then I’d bet-my-bottom-dollar that would hardly need another form of advertising (like expensive newspaper, radio, tv, direct mail or yellow page ads).
I’d like to know what you think. Do you agree? Did I miss anything? Please leave a comment below!