We hope you find the following information useful and helpful as you embark on the digital marketing for your small business. If you have any questions on the following content, you can contact us anytime via the method you choose HERE..
1. Critique your Website
Your website is your online location. It's your store front (whether you have eCommerce or not). It should look professional and appealing on computers, tablets, and mobile. When your potential customers are cruising around virtual Southern Minnesota, this is where you want them to stop.
There are several different options to build a basic template website of your own or you can have someone do it for you. Wordpress and Weebly are options for building a website on your own. If you truly want it to look good, you will likely need a bit of HTML understanding, but you can create a decent website of your own for free. If you are technically inclined, there are several popular freelancer websites where you can find someone to design a website for you at a reasonable price or you can keep it local to Southern Minnesota and check out MankatoWebsites.com
Your brand is also very important here. It should be transparent to your vision as a company. I am a giant advocate for placing as much of your prices online as possible. If you have set prices, there is no reason you shouldn't be able to put your prices out there unless you are embarrassed of them, unsure of them, or they are ridiculously inflated. I recently found a fitness facility nearby run by a giant brand that I will not mention. They did not list their membership rates on their website. Using the contact us page, I asked what they were. 2 days later I had not received an answer, so I sent them a Facebook message from their very active Facebook page. They had integrated a Chat that gave sample questions including "What is the cost of your services?" 24 hours later I had not received a response. Normally, at this point I would give up. I was pretty determined being finding a place in that town was necessary, and their website and social media "looked" great and they were operated by that big brand. I called, the gal had the information I wanted, but she had to put me on hold to go get it and wasn't super friendly, then advised me they would be closing in a few months. Was I surprised after the experience I had so far? Not one bit.
Most consumers want to do a majority of their assessment of a company and its products/services online. Making them call you for information in a poor attempt to negotiate a better price or simply because it may need updated once in awhile is lazy and shady. Your potential customers will see thru that and run. If they "need" you, they will reluctantly deal with you, but only until something better comes along.
2. Get Found
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is going to become your favorite acronym. Or, possibly one you love to hate. Either way, there are a few basic best practices you can use to help your case in terms of where on the results page you land when others search Google for your services.
Go to Google.com right now and search whatever you want. There may be text ads that pop-up on the top or bottom of the page that are notated with "Ad". There are also possibly small ads with pictures that show up in the right-hand column notated with "Sponsored". These cost money. (That's another article.) Let's stick to what's essentially free.
There are 10 results that show up on that first page (and every page after that, for that matter) outside the paid ads. When was the last time you went to the second page of your search results? I'd feel pretty confident betting on it being awhile, if not never, unless you are in a line of work or school requiring some serious research. The goal, obviously then, is to fall in the top 10. (Most research shows that even falling below the top three makes it much harder to be clicked, but let's start with a goal of top 10.)
Who are your customers? What's your target market? What do you solve for them? These are questions answered within your full marketing plan (also another article). What are your customers searching to, hopefully, find you? These words are your keywords and your best friends. If you need some help with this, go HERE. Tons of free tools to use to identify your current common keywords and phrases as well as suggestions. Once you've identified them, use them on your website, especially within Titles and Headers (also handy to know a bit of HTML here to really embrace this). We could write an entire book on SEO and there are already many books, websites, and YouTube videos devoted to it. Take a look HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.
3. Embrace SMM
Depending on your industry, the ideal platforms to be on may vary a bit, but really, everyone should be on Facebook. And based on the way the trends are moving in the way of video, YouTube is a good choice for everyone as well. If you're specifically B2B or in a recruiting industry, LinkedIn is a good choice. Twitter is also a popular choice. Other popular options include Google+, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest round out the Big 8.
If you are starting from scratch on Social Media, start with one of two and research and test the best times to post in order to get the most engagement. Be sure to align your website with your social pages and vice versa. They should have a similar "feel" to them, but address their own audiences. This will come in time or with the help of a professional, but the key to using these is coming up.
4. Build Value
Based on those questions in #2, is where you should be focusing when building the content for your website and social media. This should be information that provides some of the answers to the problems that your customers have. My favorite example of this is a mechanic shop. A mechanic providing valuable content for their customers online might show a video tutorial on how to change your oil, an infographic for changing your tire, or take a poll and share finding for the safest car for your new driver. Most customers would still go to that mechanic for bigger projects like part replacement and maybe even their oil changes, but will build trust and show their expertise thru providing that valuable information for free.
Here's an important point: so many new small businesses are afraid of "giving away the goods" for fear they are missing out on money. However, in place of money, you are receiving gaining trust, building a following, and even possibly gaining recommendations and testimonials. This is far more valuable than one purchase.
Did you know that the average person has 350 friends on Facebook and when 1 person follows your company, you then have access to their friends? Did you also know that Facebook is the 2nd most visited website in the world, second only to Google? Facebook is a special search engine. Many users use Facebook as their search engine because they can see if their friends "Liked" the results. Wouldn't you rather try out something you already know your friend used and had a good experience with then ratings from strangers or none at all? Don't you think the long-term ROI on the efforts you put in to the valuable content you "giveaway" far exceeds that one potential "buy" you gave up? Think about it. It's kind of like the difference between companies that send you a note before a free trail ends or before a renewal is due versus those that bank on your forgetting about it to make a buck.
Find out what your customers need from you and give it to them! Do what you do best and spread it over the internet, strategically. You may not see immediate results, but if you don't see a change in sales in 3-6 months, you're doing it wrong.
This is something you can miss that will count as "doing it wrong." If you're not being consistent with your communication and valuable content sharing, you're not staying relevant. Being from small town southern Minnesota, I can personally testify that there have been several times I didn't try a local small business because they either didn't have a website, didn't have a Facebook page, or they had a Facebook page but hadn't posted anything since 2014. This is like telling the world "We are not listening!" "Call us to find out the times we are open and then drive to us to find out what we offer!" "You do the work!" "Our business is not important to us!" If your "location" online doesn't look clean and interesting, I don't want to imagine what your physical location looks like. You cannot convince potential customers to pay attention to you by interrupting them screaming "Buy this now!" or "Call us today!" Attracting consumers by building trust through an open conversation is the key to your efforts. This will return for you several times over in benefit over time.
Remember that fitness center story from #1? You can be consistent in content, but fail at consistency in communication. Nowhere on that website did it mention they were going to be closing. Obviously, nobody is consistently checking their email or facebook messages. Marketing is no longer a "talk at them" process. Its not "selling." You are starting a conversation about your industry. You are attracting consumers to your knowledge. You are maintaining conversations over time and building trust. From that, you have a lifelong relationship if you continue to nurture it.
The other piece of consistency is the posting on your social media. There are automation systems that can help you post across your pages. This allows you to sit down for a day and work hard creating and researching valuable content for your customers and scheduling them over the following weeks to post so you don't have to go on each page everyday. Note: Check the email that your website's contact us page directs to and all messengers everyday. If you choose to use these automation systems, it is vital for you to push all messenger communications to your phone so you see them real-time. The more consistent and timely you are in your responses, the more trust you will build with your followers.
6. Build Your List
Email marketing is the most important thing you can do for your business. There are several systems available for email automation. These are user-friendly systems that help you to create landing pages to solicit email addresses from your customers, help you create professional emails to send to your customers on a regular basis, and keep track of the success of the calls to action you placed in those emails.
MailChimp and Constant Contact are just a few and have very different abilities. These can also integrate with the social media marketing automation system you choose from above. So do your research on what will achieve what you desire and take advantage of any free trails and free versions you can so you can get used to what you like and works well for you.
Get started by having an official email address for your company. Pay for one and direct several aliases to your main email. For instance, with G Suite you can create email@example.com and aliases of social, billing, bill, mary, and so on, and direct them all to go to your primary email of firstname.lastname@example.org to respond from. This is perfect for the new small business that wants to look like a Pro. Go to https://goo.gl/Q2jYYd and use Promo Code 9AJ6YRX9LH43AW4 for 20% of a Business Plan thanks to our affiliate relationship!
I always struggle with whether to start or end here. Nobody wants to talk about statistics and analytics right off the bat, so I end with it. That being said, this is not really a step-by-step list, but rather a cycle. Without being aware of the traffic to your website and social media pages, it is hard to set goals or understand progress. There is also an abundance of free information to pinpoint and market to specific people who would love you before they even know you, if you know what tools to use, how to extract them, understand them, and use them.
Each social platform has its own way of assessing and tracking analytics or "insights." Get used to them. Google Analytics is a free tool you can use to track your website traffic and who is visiting. There are plugins for this on Wordpress and its pretty easy to add to Weebly websites. If you have your website designed, have your designer add it. The code is added to the back-end of your website in order to read the data.
Google Analytics has its own academy you can go thru for free in order to learn how to run your own reports to pull out the information you want. You can also consult with someone like us or possibly your designer in order to set up reports for you, if necessary.
A few times, I mentioned the order of these tips. The truth is, this is a cycle. A circular, never-ending list to revisit and reassess. The most popular social media platforms change. SEO algorithms change. It is a cycle to continue in order to stay a successful small business in southern Minnesota, or anywhere you might be.
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*Information pulled from the April 30th, 2018 blog at https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-statistics-for-social-media-managers