Online marketing can go a long way to help small businesses stand out in a crowd and direct traffic to their door. This is done by generating a cycle of targeted marketing, brand awareness, and word of mouth marketing – each element working together to help guide people through the purchasing process. Small business owners can use social media to reach more people; use blogs to share their stories and build trust; use other content marketing (e.g., video) to be recognized as a valuable resource; and, use local search engine optimization to ensure that their customers can find them.
Here are ways online marketing can get customers in your door.
Search Engine Optimization
1) If you build it, will they come?
Just because you have a website does not guarantee potential customers will find it. People turn to Google to help them find what they are looking for, so it’s critical that your website is designed in such a way that Google can link the right people to the right website. This process is referred to as search engine optimization (SEO).
Website platforms, such as WordPress, provide plugins that help you design a website with the appropriate SEO elements. The basic elements include page titles, blog descriptions, and tagging pictures. Of course, the stronger your search engine optimization, the more likely your website will be at the top of Google’s search results; and the more likely potential customers will visit your site.
2) Who uses the Phone Book anymore?
People now turn to the Internet to find business contact information instead of the phone book. This includes such online business directories as the online Yellow Pages or niche industry directories; as well as “Geo-Location” websites such as Google Places, Yelp and Foursquare. It is very important that your name, phone number, and address are consistent throughout these listings. Ensuring your contact information is easily available (and consistent) not only increases the likelihood customers will find you; but, also helps with search engine optimization. Nowadays, SEO is not just about your website, but also about where your website and business is mentioned in relation to other sites and businesses.
Social Media Marketing
3) Let the world know Sally told John you’re awesome!
Social media marketing is a cost effective way to spread the word about your business, and build upon existing word of mouth marketing. In fact, social media shines at this form of advertising. The recommendation of one customer can reach hundreds, if not thousands, because of how easy it is for businesses to share selected comments and compliments. An important element is to consistently make efforts to engage with your listeners.
4) We’re here, how can we help?
Social media is a place where satisfied customers can publically share experiences, and give feedback about the products and services offered. It enables businesses to converse with customers before, during, and after “regular business hours,” and maintain a consistent presence in the minds of their clients. Negative experiences are publically stated as well; but, this shouldn’t be feared. Now, businesses can more easily respond directly to those experiences, allowing for damage control. Such comments can serve to improve the business if there is some validity, however small, that can be acted upon. In addition, taking a minute to apologize, or to acknowledge someone’s comments, can go a long way in maintaining the trust you’ve worked hard to earn.
Giving your customers a voice will strengthen business loyalty. They will appreciate the value of their comments being acknowledged; and in turn, be more willing to become advocates of your business.
5) Creating Buzz
The Internet is the perfect place to create more interest in your company. Enticing customers with snippets and sneak previews, gives customers a sense they are in-the-know. With short posts, engaging questions, photos and videos, social media is an ideal forum to dangle these carrots. Not only does this generate desire for your products; but, it also motivates people to spread the news. As a corollary to this, it pays to “Just ask.” Encourage customers to leave comments, share your news, and recommend you to others.
6) Go Community, Go!
Tying your social media marketing and blog posts to local events is one way to show your support and build a sense of community. Customers like to see that you’re involved. Showing a genuine interest in what’s happening in the community will go a long way to winning hearts.
7) What’s your story?
Content marketing is about offering content to your customers and supporters that is of value to them. At its core, content marketing is about establishing trust with your customers. Telling your story — who you are, the history of your business, your business philosophies — is fundamental to building trust. Customers want to better understand a product or service; and appreciate information that can help them achieve that end — especially via communication that comes directly from the owner.
8) We know what we’re talking about.
Content marketing is also about offering value beyond mere products and services. By writing insightful content, and sharing timely and relevant material, you become a respected resource for your community.
9) Our Door is Always Open
As well as maintaining contact with ongoing customers, email marketing remains a critical touch-point in attracting new customers. Staying in touch with customers reminds them that your “door is always open”. You are there for them twenty-four/seven. Informing these “very important people” about recent news, events, and promotions, helps them feel valued. In this way, email marketing also provides another opportunity to underline that what you offer is worthy of their money, time, and effort!
Services like MailChimp can help you create email-marketing campaigns with list-building techniques, and easy to use templates. Also, of import, is its tracking feature. You will be able to see who opens your emails, or visits your website, thus providing you with relevant data from which to analyze and improve your campaign.
As outlined, there are many ways to approach online marketing that will help your small business to grow. If you aren’t able to incorporate all these techniques at once, you may choose to focus on one or two steps. In short, the plan should match your time-table and expectations. Any of these actions can only serve to improve your business.
Where will you start?
Michelle Reid, founder of 9Likes Social Media, helps small local businesses build online communities through social media marketing.