by Karin Aviles, Creative and MarCom lead at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @Karin_MktgSmart
You have a great reputation with your regular customers. But how can you establish a wider customer base and cultivate even greater loyalty from those who already know you? And how can you do that when you have a limited marketing budget?
Organizations, large and small, are building new customer bases using the tools available to them online — many of which are inexpensive or even free. Digital marketing might seem like an obvious path if you’re an online business, but it’s also important for more traditional bricks and mortar or mail-order businesses. And it’s about much more than just building an attractive website. It’s about using all the channels available to you in a way that’s right for your business.
Five tips for improving your online visibility
When you’re trying to determine the right approach, a good place to start is by looking at what other organizations in your field are doing — check out their social media or even sign-up for their email newsletters. But here are some digital marketing pointers to get you started.
Many SMEs aren’t using social media at all to generate new customers and clients — and that means they’re missing a huge opportunity. Today, when people are looking for tips for a great local restaurant or a reliable plumber, they take to the web. For instance, parents often turn to social media or local online groups for recommendations on rainy-day family activities or child-friendly restaurants — if you’re not online and part of that conversation, you could be missing out.
People expect your business to be online. And when they find you, they expect you to interact with them. So if you’re going to get the most from being on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, don’t just post content regularly, ask your followers questions and answer their questions — get social with them and extend your reach. And be ready to reply to the negative comments as well as the good. Think of that 1-star TripAdvisor review for the hotel you were thinking of staying at. It really put you off until you saw the owner’s response, which put the complaint into context.
Great digital marketing requires great content. A well-written post, blog or even an email can help drive potential customers to your site. If someone’s in the market for a new stereo, your online review of the latest models could send them your way. Your point of view on current market conditions could help develop their trust in you as a financial adviser. Your regular emails mean your dealership is in their mind when they come to upgrade their car. And of course, sending emails means you need addresses to send them to. A customer email list is critical to your digital marketing strategy and could be key to a wave of new business.
Be eye catching
Engaging people isn’t just about the quality of your writing. Paying a little bit of money to promote your post on Facebook, for example, can help you expand your reach and communicate with more potential customers.
And remember, pictures tell a thousand words. Rather than writing detailed customer case studies, some organizations are telling their stories with photographs on Instagram. If you want your post to stand out, accompany it with a graphic.
You should also consider the use of video. Improved mobile connectivity means that people are increasingly consuming short video content. And you don’t need a studio to shoot one — you can record an HD video from your smartphone. So instead of writing how-to guides or product reviews, why not produce videos instead. Many guitar shops are doing just that to promote the latest kit. And the best bit is that Facebook now prioritizes video content above posts with just images or text, so you’d be nearer the top of people’s feeds.
If you want to keep people engaged, you need to post regularly. But don’t overdo it. Providing a regular flow of helpful and insightful content will have more impact than overloading people with banal comments. They’re likely to switch off if all they ever see in their social feeds are posts from you.
Ideally, you’d know exactly when someone was planning to buy a new waffle maker or to book their next holiday. While mind reading is impossible, there are solutions that can analyze data such as customer behavior and purchase patterns to trigger notifications at the best possible time. They also enable greater personalization of content.
You’re using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But where are you sending your customers? What’s the state of your website? You don’t necessarily need an e-commerce solution. Your website might be informative and drive enquiries your way. And you don’t need all the bells and whistles — your site just needs to be easy to use and navigate. But what you do need is to be mobile friendly. Your new potential customer could be checking you out on their smartphone, and they’re going to lose interest pretty quickly if your site is difficult to use on a small screen.
You could grow from local to global
Don’t expect to see immediate returns from your efforts. Even the largest enterprises struggle to link downloads of their latest white papers to sales. But use the tools available to you and digital marketing could help you improve the visibility of your business and boost your customer base. That could even see you grow from a local business to a global one.
Happy Friday! Click here for five ways to tell your business story. If you joined this Wednesday’s live webinar (click here for the replay) Anita Campbell provided some great marketing tactics you can do to generate some awareness and buzz for your business (and at little to no cost).
She also discussed the importance of sharing your story with your customers and potential customers. It gives your business a human touch and helps to establish an immediate rapport. Anita also mentioned the importance of a website and how it is very easy to design one yourself today. If your business does not have a website, check out Verizon Websites powered by Intuit, it is an easy-do-it-yourself website building software. Regardless of which provider you go with, please get your business a website if you don’t have one already.
If you are looking to start-up another business, check out these top moonlighting businesses. Here’s a quick read on how to turn customers into loyal, raving fans.
If you missed it, we announced the winners of the Verizon Hardest Working Small Biz Mom contest.
Mark your calendars, our next live free webinar is Wednesday, July 27 and the topic is all about turning your employees into entrepreneurs helping you to take your business to the next level. Click here to register.
As always, let us know how you like our articles, which topics you want more information on or ask us a question concerning your business… we’ll be happy to help if we can.
Have a great weekend!
From my webinar today, “Marketing on a Shoestring,” below you’ll find the links to the sites and resources I referred to, broken down by the three major marketing approaches I touched on. To catch the replay of my webinar click here or go to http://bit.ly/pUmHUT.
Looking world-class on your website: Lisa Barone lists 5 “must haves” for your About page:
Content Management Systems: Use a content management system (CMS) to allow easy updating without getting your Website developer involved all the time:
- Intuit websites are updatable
- WordPress.orgcan be used for uncomplicated, non-commerce sites
- Large domain registrars offer updatable websites – Network Solutions, Verisign and GoDaddy
- Services like Edit.com will convert your existing website
- Drupal is another, although more technical, CMS
- If you want a CMS that is more customized, check list at:
Trust seals: Use them legitimately – don’t just grab them. Remember, they serve different purposes (business complaints, ecommerce, secure website, industry expertise, etc.). Here are some examples of trust seals:
- Better Business Bureau
- VeriSign Trust Seal
- McAfee Secure
- Industry association and Chamber of Commerce memberships
Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
Google offers a “Starter Guide” for SEO:
http://bit.ly/rfQuce (PDF file)
Great guide for bloggers to learn about basic SEO:
Local businesses: to improve rankings, try to get citations to your site from the most important places. David Mihm has a list from his recent survey: http://www.davidmihm.com/local-search-ranking-factors.shtml#citations
- Yahoo Local
- Niche Industry Sites (including TripAdvisor, OpenTable, and DealerRater)
John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing has an excellent book dedicated to developing referrals to grow your business: “Referral Engine”. There’s an accompanying website at http://referralenginebook.com.
Establish someone in your firm as an expert for speaking, articles, guest blogging: Pick someone with business expertise in your industry and/or your CEO.
According to the Edelman 2011 Trust Barometer
- 64% trust a technical expert within a company – 2nd highest trusted source after an academic expert
- 4th highest trusted source is the company CEO at 50%
Slide #21 – repetition matters, so the more you get your company people out to speak, in more places online and offline, the better:
- 59% of people will believe something about a business if they hear it 3 to 5 times. Increase the number of times, and even more people will believe it.
Becoming an expert for PR purposes: If you’re not an expert, how do you become one? Read: How to Establish Yourself as an Expert
The bleak international headlines contrast with a rising optimism at home among small businesses. In fact, less than 8% of small businesses plan to cut their workforce in 2011. Small business bankruptcies also are dropping in most areas. And, with consumer prices rising, business will raise prices to keep their profit margins stable.
Some small businesses are helping Japan by leveraging products via social media and otherwise. The silver lining right now as Japan recovers is that a weaker dollar can make for a better exporting environment.
The SBA is reviewing its definition of small business that may permit nearly 10,000 ‘larger’ small businesses to continue to be eligible for small business assistance support.
Small business owners are getting down to fundamentals by investing in their companies – it takes time and money. Do you know the #1 lost time concern for small business? Tech downtime.
The SBA is reviewing its definition of small business that may permit nearly 10,000 small businesses continue to be eligible for small business assistance support.
And here’s a reminder that social media is necessary or you’ll get left behind your competitors, so get in the game today!
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- small business SBA social media business trends
After several “hints” from mom, I took my parents out to dinner to one of their favorite Italian restaurants the other night. After all, the restaurant shaves 50 percent off entrees on Mondays. The first thing I noticed was all the buzz in the dining room on that chilly, drizzling Monday night and that they changed the bread.
Instead of the boring – but very good – rolls, the basket came with four different variety of breads… one almost in a shape of a croissant, the other with a little bit of sauce on it… how refreshing I thought. It got me thinking that this is what all businesses should do, but don’t do enough: change things up.
No one likes the same old, same old… yes, ‘same old’ is comforting and good, but make it your blanket – not your business. Dining at a restaurant is an enjoyment, a treat, a time to celebrate or a time to reunite, catch up or get to know someone. To change up the dining experience surprises regulars and may be the very thing that keeps them coming back – to see what’s new. And if the change is less than welcomed, a smart business owner turns that into an opportunity to engage their customers and ask for their feedback.
Changing the décor slightly; changing or adding on to the menu with “specials” – consider and interpret your customers’ historical feedback to help you shake things up a bit -- like the new bread. (Of course, the 50 percent discount helped get us in the door.)
This restaurant’s business has been booming since they implemented the discount years ago and a competing – also Italian restaurant a few doors down (no lie) – also offers 50 percent off its entrees on Mondays. On the way out, I noticed on their board that they had expanded the discount to two days, including Tuesdays now.
Bottom-line, if you are running a restaurant or any type of business consider changing things up. Perhaps change is a new website – to keep your place up to date and to give patrons, clients or customers a sense of newness. It doesn’t have to be anything drastic or huge… something as simple as changing the bread catches people’s attention. It caught mine and I was pleasantly surprised. Now, I’m wondering what they will change next. Who doesn’t like experiencing something new?
Tell us below what you’ve done to keep your business ‘fresh.’
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- business marketing
We tend to talk a lot about technology, websites and social media here because you can’t get away from it in business or anywhere else it seems. But, for a small business, all the posts and webinars we’ve offered are reinforced. Take a look at this story on the 2011 tech resolutions some small businesses have made.
No secret that mobile advertising can be as important as online advertising because mobile shopping has taken off. So, you also may need to rethink your website in a way that it’s easily viewable on smartphones for your existing and potential customers. Be sure you use an easy DIY product like Verizon Websites and WebListings to get yourself online, found and to easily integrate your website into Facebook and Twitter pages.
Of course all this connectedness anywhere, anytime means you need a good social media strategy. Why are Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp and their kin important? They are the new word-of-mouth. Here are 101 head-spinning statistics for you to mull over. And remember there are many social media geolocation services that can help you do some targeted advertising for your business.
So whatever you’re doing with your business this year, technology is the only way to grow!
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- advertising small business marketing tech technology websites