Question: I hear about innovative marketing techniques all the time. My head is spinning thinking about how to implement them in my small business. Any thoughts?
There are eight vital parts to any marketing plan today. We looked at three of them last week and the remaining five below. Go to capecodtimes.com/business/columnists to read last week’s column.
Get found online. When buyers are looking for something, the first thing they do is a Google search. It has become almost second nature. Your website is your gateway to driving new business and the result of an online search. But if you are not visible in the search results, it’s like not having a website. To get noticed, you need to consider SEO — search engine optimization. This is the process of setting up your site so search engines notice it through the use of keywords and phrases on your site. Every page is ranked for keywords. The higher your business ranks, the better. Why does this matter? Your website is a business driver and SEO is an essential tool to accomplish this.
Boost your online visibility. One the most effective use of marketing dollars is to ensure that your business has buyer awareness. Your business’s name, address and other contact information needs to be seen in as many places as possible. You need to be in as many directories (not Yellow Pages) as possible. There are at least 50 online local business directories. What are some directories where you might be posted? Angie’s List, Google My Business, Foursquare, Yahoo Local Listing, Hotfrog, Local.com, The Business Journal. One of the most important is Google My Business. Google remains the dominant search engine and will most likely remain so. Listing on Google My Business means you will also appear on Google Maps. Online reviews are also another method for generating increased awareness. Once a sale is complete, it is OK to ask customers for an online review. Let your customers know you take their reviews seriously. If you get a negative review, respond quickly. It might feel like a punch in the gut. You cannot please everyone all the time. Responding quickly and positively helps you retain customers.
Stay connected with email marketing. We all know that email marketing is inexpensive and delivers an amazing return on your investment. Email marketing can be one of the most effective ways to drive business. Just think about how many times a day you check your email. Consumers actually like to receive email offers. How do you build your email following? 1. Include a sign-up page on your website and an opt-in on every email. 2. Collect email addresses in person when you deal with customers — at the check-out counter. 3. Use social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter to post a link to your email sign-up page. 4. Make signing up a contest. Give customers something for opting in. 5. Don’t give up on bounce-backs. Ask customers if you can update your email list if you get bounce-backs. So what kinds of emails work? Welcome emails, newsletters, promotions, surveys, and reorder or new inventory messages. If you don’t want your emails to get ignored, consider these elements no-nos: sloppy copy, buying an email list, spamming readers, sending from a “no-reply” email address, novel-length emails, not enough or too many links, and not including an unsubscribe function. As with most marketing initiatives, don’t forget to measure the results. Looks at delivery, open and click-through rates.
Find more fans on social media. Social media is a remarkably widespread form of communication, not only for friends and family. It is a business marketing tool. Millions of people use Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter every day to interact with their favorite brands. Small businesses that are active on social media can compete with larger, more expansive sellers. And the key word is active. Start with the three most active platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Other platforms to consider are Pinterest, which is a visual-driven channel; Instagram, also a visual media platform; YouTube, which allows you to post video, the fastest growing communication vehicle; and Snapchat, where users send and post messages, photos and videos that disappear in 24 hours. Getting started on social media platforms is relatively easy and takes little time. What to include: email address, user name/handle, profile icon or photo, company information and website URL. Posting depends on your business and your customers’ wants and needs. The most successful posts are entertaining and engaging. They tell the story of the business and it’s value proposition. Yes, calls to buy are the reason for posting, but you need to include more than promotional posts. Remember you are creating an experience in the mind of buyers that links their needs with your offer. You might consider video from a company event, a customer poll, a photo caption contest, promotional posts featuring seasonal events or sales, product photos, video tutorials, event announcements, links to blogs and memes. Mix them up to keep your posts interesting. What do you measure to ensure you are on track using social media? Engagement, impressions and reach, web traffic derived from social media posts and market share/share of voice. Don’t forget to used paid social campaigns to improve visibility. It is relatively low cost for the added reach.
Don’t forget print media. This traditional approach is essential to nearly every business. It is the easiest way to spread the word about your offerings. Print and online work together in an integrated marketing strategic approach. Print media has durability and reinforces your online marketing initiatives. What are we talking about? Business cards, brochures, postcards, letterhead, stickers, retail packaging, promotional items and apparel. Why does print work? You can hold it in your hand. The act of touching and feeling increases memorability of the brand offer. It is easy to target your audience. Print media lends itself to geographic segmentation and focus. It is mobile. One of the best attributes of print vehicles like business cards, brochures and stickers is that potential customers can take the promotion with them. They can carry around your message or display it on the rear window of their car. And it avoids the communication clutter or radio, TV and the internet.
— Contributed by Marc L. Goldberg, certified mentor. Sourced from Small Business Guide/Marketing Fundamentals — Deluxe & SCORE Foundation. To get free and confidential advice on marketing for your small business, contact SCORE Cape Cod and the Islands at capecod.score.org, [email protected] or 508-775-4884. We go where and when you need us. If you are interested in giving back to the Cape’s small business community, we are seeking volunteers. Contact us at [email protected] Want to give back to the small business community by volunteering? Let us know and we’ll find an exciting role at SCORE Cape Cod and the Islands.