Let's be honest. The Internet isn't experiencing a shortage of blogs about marketing advice. It can be overwhelming. You might read an article today that completely contradicts something you read yesterday. It can be frustrating. Everyone is trying to offer you their secret Internet marketing sauce, but is any of it actually reliable?
Let's keep things simple. I asked a few of our operations leaders to provide me with their best Internet marketing tip for small businesses. Below, you won't find any cheat codes, secret recipes or magic tricks because usually, that stuff is about as real as Michael Jordan's Secret Stuff in Space Jam. Instead, you'll find 10 tried-and-true tips that will make a difference in your Internet marketing strategy.
My one piece of advice is to set clear and attainable goals for your business's Internet marketing efforts. Whether it's branding, consumer acquisition, exposure, or something else, goal setting is vital. Once your goals are set, do research to try and get familiar with the world digital marketing. Know the basics of the Internet marketing services that you’ll need to meet your goals. Also, look at how leaders in your industry are utilizing these services and pull ideas from their marketing efforts.
Don’t be afraid to brag about what makes you better than your competition. Online especially, it is important to differentiate yourself from other businesses. Today, more businesses are competing for consumers’ attention online. It is no longer good enough to simply show up, you need to stand out.
If your price point is lower than others in your area or if you offer a 10% discount to new customers, make sure prospects are seeing your unique selling proposition. Find something that makes you different and share it on your social media platforms, include it on your website and even send an email blast to your current customers.
Everyone loves superstars (just ask Cleveland), but Internet marketing is actually a team sport. And if you want to win at Internet marketing, you need to invest in quality role players. Don’t rely too heavily on your M.V.P.
Don’t assume that you know which marketing channels “work” and which ones don’t. Too often, people want to give all the credit to the marketing channel that a consumer last interacted with, but that doesn’t always tell the full story. You need to embrace the idea of cross-channel attribution. Cross-channel attribution is the idea that consumers will interact with several marketing channels before making a purchase.
Here's an example. Paid search may be your top performer, but what actions are taking place between the initial ad click and the subsequent purchase? Probably more than you realize. They're checking out your Facebook page to get a better understanding of your brand. They’re reading Google and Yelp reviews to see what other consumers are saying. They’re also signing up for your email list to see if you’re offering any discounts. If one of your channels isn't doing its job then you're not going to convert. Your M.V.P. is important, but what good is it to be the best player on a terrible team? Make sure your roleplays are always ready to contribute.
Be involved in as many digital marketing channels as possible. Customers want to be well informed before making a purchase and they have more avenues than ever to get the information they need. Whether it’s a search engine or a social network, an email or a blog, you want to make sure you are represented anywhere a customer may be.
Do you have a great company culture that you know people would love? Do you give back to your local community, throw great game day potlucks or have annual company events that everyone enjoys? Show it off!
Think about it. In today’s world, there are so many successful apps and online communities – Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest just to name a few – that have one major thing in common. Pictures. Snapshots highlighting these types of events show appreciation for those involved and give your business a personality that others can connect with to keep them coming back for more.
So often we come across business owners who are completely unaware of their online presence and even worse, their online reputation. The best advice I can give to a business owner is to know how your business is portrayed online.
How do you look to a potential customer? All the money you invested in creating the perfect logo with the perfect color and design scheme; can people see it? Can they relate the look of your physical store to the online portrayal? Or vice versa?
Does the online reputation match the amazing personal relationships you’ve built and tended to in your community over the last 25 years? Or is it being pulled down by one disgruntled client that came in 2 years ago and is insistent on blasting the experience on every review platform available? Be vain. Set a Google Alert for your business. Keep an eye on your business via the Internet just like you would the physical location. Be aware.
The best piece of advice I can give a small business owner just starting with online marketing is to be patient! Patience is the one piece of the puzzle that will lead to the most success. Don’t quit on a paid search campaign because it isn’t working yet. Yet is the key word to remember. Sometimes online marketing is all about being the right option at the right time for the right person who is searching for your products or services. There is no schedule for when you will be found. If you pull the plug early then you can’t be that option you want to be and fall further behind your competition.
Think about the human being. Have you ever been lured into a content marketing bait-and-switch? It happens like this: you find a perfectly titled blog article that exactly matches your search, you click and start to notice the article is laced with keywords and has no underlying point. The blinking banner ads assure you that you’ve stumbled into the all-too-unforgiving Internet marketing trap again. You lose trust and click the back button. This happens. It’s cheap content marketing.
You ultimately want to be the best option at the final decision-making moment. With that being said, know your consumers and understand how they search online for your type of product or service and then get your business there.
If you’re a "need-it-now" type of service (emergency plumbing, auto repair and towing, HVAC repair, etc.) you should explore paid search options and local search directories. If your business relies on repeat business or offers a product or service that follows a longer buying cycle (fine dining, auto dealers, tourist attractions, hair salons) then you should focus on validating your business by creating compelling content on your website, promoting it through social media and generating positive online reviews. And finally, don’t forget about building a strong foundation that includes a mobile-friendly website with informative and engaging content!
The Internet doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s important to have all facets of your online presence covered, regardless of what strategy you’re using to initially appear in front of customers. Lead generation is only effective with strong validators and vice versa. Make sure your online presence does both.
Expect consumers to do ample research before choosing your business over others, especially millennials. You should know the top validators that consumers use in your industry. Are they looking on TripAdvisor? Are they comparing prices? Are they looking on Yelp for user-uploaded photos? Make sure consumers are liking what they see.