I was thinking about the marketing and client issues I see every day. It kept me awake for hours. But why, I asked myself? Is it that fact that what I learn is outdated so quickly? Is it that the marketing tools we use are constantly changing? Is it that clients think they can do it themselves or are told they can? Or can it be that what I share is in fact current and appropriate but doesn’t seem reasonable to them? Perhaps I didn’t explain it well enough or avoided jargon so it seemed too simple.
Experts make the complex look simple. Keeping current along with a compilation of years of knowledge and practical experience is what a professional brings to the table. We also fight against the myriads of scammers who offer ‘a shiny penny’ then bill their customers an exorbitant price for little scope of work done. Even so, many small business owners still put a marketing plan in place based on what used to be done and what used to work. Still others, up to 80%, don’t have a marketing plan at all nor do they budget for one. Now do you see why I’m losing sleep?
Experts versus novelists
If the expert can barely keep up and stay current with the ever changing digital online marketing, how can a novelist? With the rise of DIYers and marketing platforms promoting self service to bump their profits, consumers think they can do it themselves. But when the actual results of their marketing efforts come in, that is even if they’ve put something in place to gage their results, and their efforts are not realized, client frustration sets in and budget money is often wasted.
Observations and suggestions
Watching from the sidelines and listening to many client experiences, I believe what really needs to be done is for clients to set aside a little each year to create a marketing plan, set a budget and seek expert advice (not a sales pitch). Keep in mind that a business needs to spend about 10% of annual revenue on marketing to stay where they are and 15% to grow their business. It’s worth paying an experienced, in-the-know marketing expert who will advise their clients with no obligation to use their services or services of affiliates. They will teach you what current marketing methods will be suitable for your business in an ever changing marketplace and demographics.
So by listening to the experts, setting a budget so that together you can create a marketing plan you can sleep at night….and so can I.
Strategic marketing may be marketing jargon to many, but perhaps this blog will explain it more clearly. In a recent chat over a hot cup of coffee on a cold, snowy winter day in a local coffee shop, a good friend of mine introduced me to a colleague of his. She had some great questions about starting up her new business. During this discussion, I found myself sharing the same message I have repeated numerous times with other clients. I really didn’t mind, but after having many of these similar conversations; sharing about what is required for small business marketing, I thought it might be a good idea to pass on these words of ‘strategic marketing’ wisdom with you.
Strategic marketing today
Marketing your small business today is really not much different than it was over the past several decades. Much has stayed the same, but much has changed too. The current tools have changed, perhaps the market is more competition and marketing is focused on in-bound rather than push marketing. Similar aspects in marketing over the years are that we need to watch out for the scammers and charlatans trying to take our money, not providing the results we asked for and simply making a beeline to and laughing all the way to the bank.
Small business marketing
The intent in this post is not to provide a list of best of brands and my own marketing services, but help you understand that marketing is about a process not products. Today’s small businesses and owners need to have a clear path, follow a planned process and make time for honest reflection so that going forward, your moves are strategic not random.
Therefore, begin your marketing with a strategic marketing plan based on your objections and work backwards figuring out what processes and tools need to be in place to make your plan successful. Once this has been thought out and written (typed) down, It’s important to note that setting up your process is all about how to attract your online traffic (inbound marketing). You want to provide the leads required to close your business and increase revenues/profits. How you do that depends on your business model, your company mission and organization philosophy. Having said that, I recommend multiple channels of attraction, monitoring results and allocating funds on the most desirable channel that has the best results per $ spent.
I recommend your process should include a current mobile friendly website that tells your story well and including organic SEO setup to make sure your website gets found. Social media pages can improve your branding, but paid ads and search advertising will improve your lead generation. Email marketing and automation will save your time and will proactively increase sales revenues reaching out to existing customers and educating potential new ones. After all is said and done, regularly reviewing of your results, analyzing the successes and failures and tweaking ongoing efforts is a step not to be missed or your efforts will just simply be in vane. It’s all about strategy.
So what’s next?
If you have not done so, the new year is a good time to look at your marketing planning process and review. Keep it simple and execute it well. Perhaps hire a marketing coach to have a third party objectively look to find areas that have been overlooked or seek troubled areas that need improvement.
Your thoughts? Or should I say Your Move?
As a small business owner, marketing can be tough enough. Yet understanding common marketing terms and acronyms can be down right confusing. Here’s some questions you might be asking: So why do I need to know these marketing terms anyway? Can someone at least explain the common terms? When do I use them? What ones should I use for my small business?
The reason you need to know marketing terms as small business, is that as you work with a marketing expert or whether you do it yourself, you need to understand what they are talking about. This way, you don’t get caught in the myriad of marketing scams.
A Few Common Acronyms
SEO (search engine optimization) this is referring to the organic or unpaid search results on the web once settings are made on websites and typically submitted to Google Webmaster and Google My Business for ranking.
SEM (search engine marketing) is paid website traffic which happens when your business purchases ads through search engines like Google or Bing. It’s also known as paid searching. There are different types within this marketing tool. PPC (pay per click) or PPC ( pay per call) CPC ( cost per click)) and CPI ( cost per impression) All are performance based on a bidding system and you only pay for what is used. The most well know name is Google Adwords.
SSM ( social media marketing) This refers to marketing your products or services through your social media pages such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram etc. Your social media strategy can be done in many ways; from simply making regular postings of words and media to paid advertising through these channels on a PPI (pay per impression) bases. You may see SMO ( social media optimization) that refers to the promotion of your website through social media channels.
EMA This is better known as email marketing or marketing automation. This type of marketing is still the most affordable and highly effective marketing tool. Email marketing starts with sign ups usually with a “carrot” to attract subscribers. This allows you regular sending of email campaigns to educate, inform and promote. Extending EMA to marketing automation allows trigger emails which are a series of emails sent over time, and include but are not limited to, birthday emails, abandoned shopping cart reminders, relevant or personalized customer emails based on website activity and so on.
Which and when do I use these?
When to use these online marketing tools depends on you business type and where you are in your online marketing journey. Having said that, it’s always a good idea to combine all online marketing channels for the best results.
If you are a new business or just built a new website, then you must make sure your business is found online by search engines like Google as a start. Using social media marketing for regular posting is free, but you may need a little push by using paid promotions to get known. Remember that likes and followers don’t bring in business, but they do provide a platform and audience to share your message.
Email marketing and using an attraction of a free offer, is highly affordable and effective marketing. If your business is online with a shopping cart for purchasing, then email marketing automation is a must to communication with your customers and encourage more sales. Start building your list of subscribers early in the game.
If you have the the budget, paying for online ads will give you the boost your website ranking needs rather than gradually getting found through Google searchers. Most small businesses don’t start here, but use these paid tools to boost existing sales.
The most important message is that you need a marketing plan in place to map out your strategy and set your marketing budget for your business type. Using an affordable and experienced marketing expert will provide better results with better return on investment.
What are your thoughts?
It’s a rapidly changing world in marketing. Learning what is a fade or what’s a trend can be tough if you want to be on the leading edge and not the bleeding edge. This last year we have seen lots of changes for websites on the security front. If you have been reading my blogs, then you know the year started off with websites needing better hosting. They required faster loading times to keep viewers engaged. Websites also needed daily backup ups for safety and then malware scanning and removal for security.
So why is SSL security necessary now?
Recently SSL security certificates or https have been highly recommended to be added to your website. Why? Because it may seriously affect your business and your revenue. This change I’m referring to is about messages in the URL (www.yourdomain.com) ) showing up in browsers like Google as non secure which potentially will scare away your viewers and reduce your website traffic.
As of October 17th, 2017, Google recently updated its’ Chrome browser to warn visitors when a site they visit isn’t secure. Research surveys discovered that 82% of visitors abandon websites that aren’t secure or that provided these new warnings. On top of these warnings, Google’s search algorithms now lower your search rankings and results for websites without security certificates.
So what is recommended for your business?
If you have an ecommerce website, then it MUST have SSL security (https) for transactions to take place. Your ecommerce website needs to keep customers purchasing and keep you customers information and credit card numbers safe. However, a majority of websites are non secure (http) so I strongly recommend adding a SSL security certificate (https) to ensure no loss of visitors or lowering of website SEO ranking.
What are the associated costs with SSL security?
The SSL certificate requires an additional annual recurring fee and the time for you or your website designer to secure every page and media file if you have an existing website. If you are starting a new website, make sure you purchase hosting with SSL security. It’s not a matter of adding more expenses to your online marketing or to your small business budget. But one must ask themselves, “What’s the cost for my business of losing viewers, customers or lowering my existing search rankings?
So this coming year, keep your website secure, your customer’s information safe and website traffic increasing with your SEO efforts by adding SSL security.
Website Design Today
So you have a small business and you want to get a new website design or refresh an old one. But you want to make sure your internal staff or your website designer have all the right features and components. Perhaps you are asking yourself these questions? What are the latest trends? What is required for better SEO? What does my business need? What’s not good to have anymore? What does my target audience want to see? These may be just a few of the questions you may have. However, there may be questions you don’t know to ask. I’ll try to address the key areas to make sure your website is the best it can be.
When considering your content, keep in mind for your website, ‘Content is King’. That being said, you need to know your home page for search engines like Google, are heavily weighted at about 80% so focus on that page the most. Understand your target audience and be able to convey your story clearly by introducing each section. Keep in mind you need a minimum number of words for good search ranking. Additionally, your copywriting needs to free of jargon; So, identify your keywords and phrases and make sure your readability meets industry standards. For those few people that like writing, remember too many words can be a deterrent for most viewers. Remember less is more. Choosing the right words and phrases make good copywriting for readers.
Your colours should be based on your branding and logo. Remember simple things like primary colours, secondary colours and your contrast colours. Colours create thoughts and emotions so choose wisely. Photos still speak a thousand words and like colours, they create emotions more powerful than you really think. Stock photos are a good place to start, but original professional photos are best if you have a budget. Videos are key today whether produced, animated or testimonials. Some may argue uploaded and others social media embedded for better search results, but you must have video to capture attention. Sliders (motion timed photos usually across the top of a website) are hot items right now encouraged viewer engagement combining text, photos and video. Podcasts may be a consideration depending on your business model as well. It’s a best practice to make sure that either video and podcast do not autoplay ads because most viewers consider that annoying.
The latest is animation, text sections or photos. Website design today must not be just static, but need to be highly engaging to keep viewers on your website. Speaking of engaging, your website must be responsive to grab viewers who use various sizes of devices. It’s not just to keep them on your website but to improve your search rankings with Google and Bing. Social media icons are pretty much a given. However, newer features like chat boxes, pop up signup forms and booking widgets should be considered for your type of business.
The following are a few best practices in this area because I certainly do not have the space to write out everything. Here’s the most important: Always start with good hosting with backups and malware scanning. Starting in the new year your website will also need SSL security (https) with your domain to get better Google search results. If you are a DIY person then choose best of brand website builders. Beware, there are less expensive builders to build your website on but they come with a cost. Often they have compromised features and questionable search friendly platforms not to mention your own possible lack of marketing design knowledge. Today’s growing platform for most small business is the WordPress platform with about a third of the world’s websites and blogs resting on it. Why? Because they are a good user content management system and Google’s search engine likes to find a word based platform. That being said, your website pages have must external links to related topics or businesses.
Your website needs to have good onsite, offsite and local SEO to be found by search engines like Google and Bing. “Build it and they will come” is not a good philosophy for websites. It’s a waste of money to build and not get found. Equality along with that, your content must stay current. Just don’t build it and leave. Having new and fresh content should be part of your SEO strategy. Your website should always be a work in progress. Regular blogging is a good way to increase SEO and stay current. Hiring a ghostwriter if you are not a writer is a good investment. Offering promotions or freebies also works.Your viewers and potential clients will thank you.