We’re fast becoming a digital world as products and services change so fast, and where we communicate and conduct business online now more than ever before. Businesses are storing their data in ‘the cloud’, social media is a primary communication device and we’re using our smartphones for everything, from making calls, to browsing the internet, to paying for groceries.
In order to build sales, businesses should be online where their prospects are doing their research. And, it doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming – much of it can be automated.
There are several elements that should be considered when developing an online marketing strategy:
1. Optimise your website
This is the central hub of your online marketing campaign. It’s where potential clients go to find out about you, whether they’ve had their initial contact through social media, Google or being referred by a colleague. Your business website lets people know;
Who you are
What you do
Your business vision and goals
TOP TIP: Use content to keep your website fresh. Visitors will return to consume your latest blog post, small business tip, or downloadable tool.
However, it’s important to remember that most people who visit your website probably aren’t ready to engage yet.
That doesn’t change the fact that even among all the other elements of an online presence – social media, Google business listings etc. – your business’s website is still the most crucial factor.
Questions to ask yourself
When analysing your business website, consider the following:
Is it different? In other words, what’s its point of difference that might make people choose you over the competition?
Is it credible? Can you live up to what you say you do, and more importantly – can you prove it? This is where case studies and testimonials play a vital role.
Is it authentic? Remember that people buy from people, so populating your website with cheesy stock images is not the way to go. If you have images of people on your website, they should feel genuine and of the people who work in or are associated with your company.
Is it findable? You can have the best website in the world but it’s pointless if no-one can find it.
The whole idea is to open a channel of communication and keep it open so that when they are ready to buy – when they’ve moved out of the research phase – your business is front of mind.
Web site tips
People are using their smartphones for everything these days; some business owners run their whole operation on them! This is especially true of their financial records, since cloud-based accounting is so easily accessible through their smartphone. That’s why it’s essential that your website is mobile-friendly. There’s a simple test you can take to find out if your website passes muster. If it fails this test, it’s time to talk to someone about getting your website optimized for mobiles.
Offer online payment options
If your business can take payments online it will speed up the collection of funds and offer immediate fulfilment to your customers. The following providers will help you bolt-on a payment option:
Shopify offers a professional online storefront, a payment solution to be ready to accept credit cards, and the Shopify POS application to power retail sales.
PayPal allows you to accept and make payments online through their platform.
Big Commerce gives you the features you need to build an online store and streamline your online business.
The whole idea behind CTAs is to make it easy for people to get in touch with you. This means having clearly visible contact details, good contact buttons and a visible, easy-to-use appointment booking system.
This is part of the human element – the personal touch. Research has shown that the team page is the most-viewed after the homepage, because potential clients want to see and learn about the people in your business. Remember – people buy from people.
Case studies and testimonials
Everyone knows that word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools available, and case studies and testimonials are the way to channel that. If you can get current clients to talk about your virtues in a way that can be illustrated on your website, you’re proving your credibility because people trust what other people say more than they do advertising.
Not only do blogs help enhance the ‘personality’ of your website, they’re also a great way to demonstrate your expert knowledge. The pain points that your clients have – and that you blog about – will be the same issues faced by your prospects, so they’ll be interested in how you approach them. Not only that, but you’ll be asked the same questions over and over again – you can save time by turning the answers into a blog.
2. Create lead magnets
Turn visitors into leads with ‘lead magnets’. These require less of a commitment from a website visitor than giving you a call or booking an appointment, but still provide you with way to get their contact details so you can start building a relationship. A great method is to give away some valuable content in exchange for their email address.
Some types of lead magnets you might consider using are:
Guides or reports: For example, if you own a bike shop, you might release a guide that weighs up the pros and cons of similar-priced bicycles you’re selling.
Video training: You could use video to demonstrate a new product or service you have for sale. For example, if you’re a hairdresser that sells a range of hair products and tools, you might release videos every now and then, which highlights your hairdressing skills while also promoting a few of your hair care products.
Free trial: A common lead magnet for businesses offering subscription services, such as a free 30-day trial for an online music service.
Discounts or free shipping: If you sell physical goods, discounts or free shipping can be effective types of lead magnets.
Many marketing automation tools use lead magnets to gain leads, such as Marketo’s lead management solution. You can also automate the advertising space on your site with ad services like Google AdSense.
3. Develop email campaigns
This is a method that shouldn’t be overlooked, even if it does seem a bit old-fashioned. The reason is that it works – it’s a really effective tool that actually outperforms other methods of online marketing, and that’s due to its ROI. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) estimates that you’ll get a $38 return for every $1 spent. Not only that, but it’s one of the most time-effective methods as well.
Building a qualified list of email addresses through your website and social media platforms is essential. Email might not have the ‘cool’ factor of social media or the flashy ‘tech’ appeal of SEO, but the fact is that it’s still the most effective.
Not only are you letting people know what you’re up to, what you’re offering and what’s happening in your industry, but it’s a vital way of keeping the lines of communication open. It’s a good idea to have one newsletter for your current clients – such as useful information on new ways you can help them – and another for prospects that’s similar but more engaging. Make sure you send them out regularly – a monthly schedule is good – and that you use proper email marketing software like Mailchimp or Constant Contact. Don’t just rely on Outlook. Keep the content snappy, interesting and entertaining, and make sure you include a booking facility.
These are great for highlighting promotions and events, since they’re one-off emails that focus on a specific topic, whether it’s a new product or an industry event. What’s important here is your list -if you’ve got a new service for your clients, send it only to them – don’t fire the blast at everyone on your list of contacts.
Send multiple emails
There’s a fine line here between trying to keep your message in the first page of your client’s inbox and becoming a nuisance. Essentially what you’re trying to do is make sure your message gets across before the email moves out of sight but sending it more than a couple of weeks in a row could cause annoyance.
Otherwise known as ‘drip marketing’ or client converters, this is a set of emails that are automatically sent out to a list of subscribers in a sequence over time. Software such as Mailchimp are perfect for this.
4. Build a social media presence
Because social media gives you scope to focus on more personal communications, it’s an amplified word-of-mouth tool. Social media is a great way of engaging potential customers, keeping in touch with current customers and forging valuable networking contacts within the industry.
There are four main ways to make the most of social media:
A good example is Facebook where you can profile possible customers via their profile so you can tailor your marketing strategy by targeting prospects by demographics such as age, geography and interests. It’s a great way for you to go to them, rather than waiting for them to come to you.
This is the way most people use social media. It’s important to be able to share content that has value to your customers, but be aware of adding too much noise. The last thing you want is to create an annoyance factor by clogging up people’s feeds, so keep your content in a business context and always make sure it’s relevant. Be selective – in other words, sharing a great video is more valuable than retweeting other people’s content.
The value of this component is often under-rated. You’re not posting content, but you are finding out what’s going on in the business community, your industry, and keeping on top of what matters in an up-to-date way. Social media is a great way to follow ‘thought leaders’ and industry influencers and tap into their knowledge and expertise.
Before social media, it was difficult to interact with people you didn’t already have a personal connection with. Nowadays, you can network with people you’d never have had access to in the past – look at how many celebrities are having personal conversations with their fans over Twitter and Facebook. Social media makes everyone more accessible, which means that it’s easier to start conversations with prospects, get involved with groups that are relevant to your industry and generally engage with people. If you gain their trust through personal communication and prove that you know your stuff, they’re more likely to convert into a client.
It’s important to pick your social media platform carefully. Do your due diligence, and find out what suits your clients and prospects the best. And while remembering that it’s a valuable marketing tool, don’t fall into the trap of spending hours on social media. Allocate a certain amount of time each day to it and stick to that.
5. Get to the top of search engines
The misconception about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is down to a misunderstanding about how SEO works. It’s not a bad thing at all to have a high ranking, but more visitors does not mean more clients. It’s what the website does once people have landed on it that’s important – lead magnets, nurturing leads, good CTAs etc. – than how you got them to the website in the first place. SEO should be seen as a major marketing tool, as long as you’re converting your visitors into leads. But if you throw a huge amount of time and money at it, to move up one or two places in the Google ranking, it’s possibly not a productive use of your time. Instead, you could be:
Writing a quality email newsletter to your already engaged clients, maybe asking them for referrals.
Emailing your prospect list you’ve nurtured over time.
Having conversations with people who are already following on social media.
Or just calling 2 clients a day, to see how they’re doing.
All of these are more likely to result in setting up an actual meeting, so exhaust these options before you focus too much on SEO.
6. Use Google Ads
You can improve your ranking with Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising through Google Ads. This is not strictly SEO, it’s more aligned to Search Engine Marketing (SEM), because there’s a cost involved. But it’s worth noting, since it’s an effective way to drive traffic to your website. You can design an ‘advert’ that appears at the top or the right-hand column of search engine results, when its relevant to a search someone enters into Google. You then pay Google an agreed amount each time someone clicks to visit your site. The amount you choose to spend can vary, but the more you're prepared to pay, the more prominent your entry will be.
To improve the return on investment target specifically who you are aiming at.
Make full use of your data – assess the customer data you collect to build a profile of your target customer. Can you determine their average spend per visit? Use any reliable data you can obtain through your accounting software, social media platforms, bookings or sales via your online website – or even information from phone calls or emails received.
Target your existing customers – you should have a database listing your existing customers. Importantly, build a record of what purchases they’ve made in the past so you can target them with offers, and even complimentary goods or services. This is, essentially, customer profiling – you’re discovering who are your best customers and where you might be able to find more like them.
Pursue new customers – from your profiling you’ll have built up a description of your target customers. Use this information to sell to new customers that fit into your target profiles.
Build a marketing campaign – use your sales data and trends to create a targeted marketing campaign that works together to gain more customers of the same profile(s). Think about ways your business can use the data once you have it, such as sending out an email campaign to increase sales, offering product suggestions, and texting special offers for certain events like birthdays or important holidays.
Online marketing is the method you use to forge the beginning of a relationship, not an entity unto itself. It’s how you engage with both prospects and current customers, and it’s a great way (especially social media) for helping to maintain relationships as well. But it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that it’s a tool with one goal in mind – getting people in your door for an actual, real human interaction.
That’s why existing clients are your best source of business, because it’s through them that the referrals are generated. And when people are referred, your website, emails, and social media presence should be ready to engage with them, always focusing on turning that visitor from a lead into a client.
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