You know you need to do something about online marketing, but you don’t know what. You’ve heard all the buzz terms: social media, search engine optimization, content marketing, online marketing, email marketing, digital marketing, blog; but you have no idea what they mean, and how to use them for your business. You’re not alone; we talk to business owners and managers every day who are in the same boat. They know their business needs the online exposure. They know it is the wave of the future as statistics repeatedly show that more people are using online to find local businesses—and not the phone book.
Increasingly, we’re finding more and more of our job is to educate business owners about these tools; they know they need them, but they don’t know why or even what they are. We’ve addressed why in past blog posts, but here’s the what of digital tools and, more importantly, how to make them work for your business.
Search engine optimization is just what it says—creating an optimal website for search engines to browse and rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). There are three different ways to optimize your website:
- By creating regular and fresh user-friendly web pages/content users want to read.
- By using search engine optimization tactics on your website such as writing accurate headlines and excellent content on each page.
- By hiring a search engine optimization firm to optimize your website and use specialized SEO technology to target your local customers and get to the top of their search engine list.
Local search engine optimization technology can get you in front of search engine listings in towns and cities within a 10, 20 or 50 mile radius. Even if you don’t sell products online, or have any interest in e-commerce, you need to integrate search engine optimization into your marketing strategy because people are looking for products, services and information online—a lot of people. More than 90% of users turn to search engines for information, and local SEO technology—like KD Interactive’s—can get your business website in organic search engine listings using long-tail keywords your audience searches for.
Content marketing is creating and sharing content. One of the most effective content marketing tools we have found is a blog. A blog is a website filled with content, such as written articles, videos, photos, podcasts, infographics—the possibilities are endless. The goal of a blog is two-fold:
- To give your audience what they want. The #1 rule of marketing is to know your audience. If you are a sports retailer, your audience is going to be different than a spa or wedding venue’s customers. Find out what your audience wants to know and give it to them. How do you figure that out? Ask them. Listen to them on your social media sites. In a way, you’re using a business blog to provide customer service.
- Build trust. If you give your customers and potential customers what they want: entertainment, answers to their questions, knowledge, you can earn their trust. In the old days, this trust was earned over the phone or in person. Now, customers are using search engines to find information. They’re cruising the web because it’s convenient and easy to find what they need, both in information, services and products. Or they’re clicking on links they receive in their email. A business blog gives them the information they’re looking for on the internet, and gives them links to find more out about products or to contact a business. A second part of this goal is that regular content builds trust with a tool that more than 90% of online users turn to for information: search engines. Top search engines gauge your website’s validity and the strength of your pages based on the content of your website pages. By posting regular blog posts, you are showing search engines that your content is updated, quality and relevant—three criteria they use to rank websites for search engine users.
A business blog is full of content that should be shared via social media sites, emails to your customers, as guest posts on other blogs, even as customer service when a question is asked.
Successful business blogs contain relatable and regular content. What does regular mean? Regular means that you post content once, twice, or three times a week, or twice a month—whatever you can manage—without gaps in content posting. Unfortunately, many business blog writers start out with best of intentions and lose steam. If you don’t have time for a business blog, contact a content marketing company that can keep your blog updated with content specific to your business. We’ve said it before: there’s no shame or blame in outsourcing. Use this list of do’s and don’ts for outsourcing, and remember that you still need to allocate time to give input to get maximum content marketing results.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is using a social media network (or networks) as a way to communicate with your customers and potential customers, and for them to communicate with you through posts, comments, and reviews. This is a two-way street! While you may be on social media networks for sales conversions, this is your chance to listen to what your customers want and give them relevant resources to help solve their problems (and no the answer to their life problems is not always your product or service!). Social media marketing also gives your business other benefits:
- Ability to provide excellent and prompt customer service (with an emphasis on prompt!). Studies show that customers expect a response within two hours, and that number is dropping. Respond promptly, because studies also repeatedly show that customers come back to businesses who have delivered quality customer service in the past—even if their product or service costs more than competitors.
- Unsolicited testimonials. Customers can leave reviews or comments about your products on your social media sites. Obviously, these reviews can go both ways, but you can also turn those negative comments into a positive. Start by not deleting negative comments or reviews. Instead, embrace the opportunity to show your business can provide excellent customer service. If the reviewer is particularly angry, use these tips to defuse the situation.
- Chance to sell your products, and your company. We’ve seen businesses where the customers messaged to set up appointments. We’ve seen other customers comment on pictures on social media and tag their friends because they really like the product.
When choosing what social media network to join, determine where your audience is online. For example, if your audience is predominantly female, choose a social media network with a strong female following. Also factor in the amount of time and commitment you have for the network or networks. Many a business has signed up for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and the works because they want to be everywhere and everything, without a thought about the amount of time it takes to properly maintain each social media network. Each network has its own audience and way of doing things. If you’re not playing by the “rules” on each social media network, you’re not going to get the results you signed up for. A solid social media presence has:
- Regular posts (the definition of regular is dependent upon the social media network)
- Relevant resources for your customers
- A customer-centric presence, not a business-centric approach
- Prompt replies to customers questions and comments (excellent customer service)
If you want to cash in on the benefits and opportunities that come with social media but don’t have the time, outsource your business social media page or profile to experts that can manage your social media network(s). Remember, don’t measure your success on the number of followers, but on the number of engaged followers.
Statistics have repeatedly shown that using emails to communicate with your customers and potential customers gets results. A staggering 66% of online users made a purchase as a result of email marketing. To get started in email marketing, you need emails of interested customers. Note the catch: interested customers, so don’t start buying random email lists. Even worse, if you “steal” emails, such as sending numerous emails to an email account without proper consent; you run the risk of getting your server blacklisted after the email user flags your emails as junk. So what’s the best way to create a valuable list of interested customers?
- Give them an incentive. Offer your customers a one-time discount if they sign up for your email list.
- Create a graphic or pop up on your website or blog. Chances are, if the user is interested in your website or blog articles, they want to know to more. This is your chance to deliver with emails that contain valuable information and discounts.
- Include your ask in your pitch at tradeshows and events. Train every salesman or staff member to incorporate a request for a prospect’s email address in their sales pitch. Take the opportunity to keep the interest of potential customers with valuable information (not just sales pitches) and relevant discounts.
- Give your customers the option during or after their purchase. Add an opt-in option for customers making on-line purchases. Put a card in your shipments asking customers to keep in touch.
- Ask your customers for their email addresses on social media. Create a social media contest, and include a request for their email in the contest. Just make sure you are honest about what you are asking; you don’t want to lose your customers’ trust.
Once you’ve got a reliable email list, make sure you don’t just blast out emails with sales offers. Take the same approach you take to your social media marketing and content marketing efforts; be sure to include all the significant parts of a successful email:
- Create great subject line. All great email headlines speak to your audience. Whether that is through an attention-grabbing headline (e.g. 5 things you’re doing wrong) or a title that speaks to their pain point or entertains them. Don’t produce a headline to get their attention, or uses all the key words that your audience is looking for, and doesn’t deliver any value. Remember, the best way to sell to a customer is to build their trust. Misleading them has the opposite effect.
- Use different media and visuals. Don’t use a one-size-fits-all mentality when planning and selecting visuals for your digital marketing efforts. Create videos and graphics for every different preference, or purchase them.
- Craft a strong call-to-action (CTA). The definition of a CTA is not always about a purchase. A call-to-action can be a graphic, asking your audience to contact you with questions (remember you want to build trust) or inviting their input (about a product, a funny picture, anything).
- Keep testing. Test out what email captures your audience’s attention, keeps it, and drives them to purchase.
Remember that all these digital marketing tools are most effective as part of a digital marketing tool box. Always make sure that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing; create a schedule to make sure that you are taking full advantage of your digital marketing efforts. If you don’t have time, find an effective marketing company that can; outsourcing can be the solution that guarantees that your business is getting the most out of your digital marketing tools.