Online marketing. Who needs it?
You’re running a local ‘bricks-and-mortar’ firm, so there’s no reason to invest in online marketing. Right? Wrong! Many traditional local business owners think like this and they couldn’t be more wrong...
By not implementing an effective online marketing strategy, many offline organisations are missing out on a massive market of active customers and a huge opportunity for sales and profit growth and putting their offline business success at risk.
A prerequisite of success for any firm is being seen where their target market is looking for them. It makes sense; if you want to catch fish, you have to fish where the fish swim! Today, over 90% of consumers search online or use some form of social media before making a purchase decision. And, with 9 out of 10 online searches resulting in some form of direct action, such as a call or a visit to a physical business location, your company’s success really depends on it being highly visible on the web if it’s to be found easily and included in the consumers’ decision making process.
Despite the rise in popularity of online search and social media, many owners of offline companies don’t yet employ digital marketing strategies and, few of those that do take the time to do it with any degree of success. So, a strategy as simple as updating and optimising your online directory listings could easily give your company an edge over many of your competitors and bring moderate success. But, if you really want to harness the full power of the internet and drive unprecedented offline business success, here are some of the tools and strategies you should use.
Social Media Marketing
Social media is the current darling of online marketing. To effectively use social media marketing in your campaigns, you need to understand which of the social media platforms will work best for your particular organisation. Bear in mind that having fans is great but real success is measured in how well your strategies convert your online followers into paying clients. Social media is about engagement: talking with your current and potential clients – not to them. It involves a two-way communication where you and your prospects interact online, for your mutual benefit.
Some of the social media platforms and strategies you might consider include the following:
With over 1.2 billion (yes billion!) active users worldwide and almost 5 billion pieces of information shared daily, Facebook is the ‘gorilla’ of social media and represents a huge opportunity for your online marketing efforts and, ultimately, your offline success.
Not only is Facebook the largest social media site, it is still growing: 5 new social profiles are created on Facebook every second. This means your potential audience on Facebook is not just growing, it’s growing exponentially.
In case you harbour any lingering doubts, let me make it crystal clear, Facebook is big… too big for you to ignore.
The initial step in marketing your organisation on this social network is to get yourself online and create a Facebook page for your company. This is the page that you will use to establish a professional presence on Facebook; a space where you can interact with you clients and inform them about your organisation. Once you have a page, build a solid professional bio on it that describes exactly what your company is all about; the services you provide, promotions, products and any information you deem crucial. Finally, search online for Facebook groups that represent your ideal target audience and an opportunity to engage with more prospects interested in your products and services.
With over 6 Million local company pages already on Facebook it is a crowded marketplace; but, you can’t afford to sit it out; the odds are fairly high that your competition is already there. The key to using Facebook as an effective element of your social media marketing strategy is to engage frequently (at least once a day) and make sure that, what ever you do, your efforts stand out from the crowd. Your success demands it.
Many companies have yet to discover that Twitter is a very effective marketing tool. The fact is, whether you like it or not, your prospects and customers are already talking about you and your competitors on Twitter, so it makes perfect sense to be listening to what they say and engaging in their conversations. Twitter is also an excellent social media platform to proactively promote your brand, generate leads, promote company events and success stories and engage with your customers and prospects in real time.
Here are three ways to get started using Twitter effectively as a part of your social media marketing strategy:
1. Promote your company with a properly optimised Twitter profile:
Use your logo as your profile picture. Use your brand name as your Twitter handle and your Twitter username.
Add your website’s URL to your profile.
Use your brand name as your hashtag and include it in all Tweets.
2. If appropriate, offer discount codes in your Tweets.
Twitter has also become a very effective sales tool whether you are selling to other companies (B2B) or directly to consumers (B2C). In B2B sales, Twitter helps you keep your name in front of prospects when you have a long sales cycle. In B2C sales, you can Tweet promotions and coupon codes to generate sales.
3. Build a Listening Post
With Twitter, you can easily monitor your competitors’ brand names and hashtags online to see what people are saying about them. Listen for comments about your products and services as well. Engage unsatisfied customers immediately so you can turn any negative sentiment into positive sentiment publicly.
Uninformed offline business owners have largely dismissed Google+ as a waste of time and ignored it in their online marketing efforts. They are wrong. This is an important social media platform that offers unique features and important SEO capabilities that must not be overlooked.
So, forget what you may have heard before and get started with Google+.
Google+ is designed with the business community in mind. It has positioned itself as THE social media site for making business connections and collaborations. It is fast becoming recognised as the place to reach a professional audience that tends to shy away from Facebook and Twitter.
A little goes along way with Google+. If your company has as few 100 followers with active engagement, it will have a significant impact on your search engine rankings and your ultimate success online.
Through what they call ‘Circles,’ this platform excels in getting your message heard by the right people. Google+ Circles make it easy to segment your audience by interest group, location, or audience demographics etc. And, your messages can then be tailored specifically for each group.
From a marketing perspective blogging makes a lot of sense – with both search engines and humans. Search engines love websites with a steady stream of quality content and reward them with improved search engine rankings. Humans love access to fresh new articles, resources and information on a regular basis and reward you with back-links and social shares that further help your SEO efforts and by continually coming back to visit your site.
Some points to aid success in your blogging strategy:
Integrate your blog into your company website and regularly (at least once per week) post content online that provides unique insight into the most pressing problems your customers need solved. If you don’t have time to write the content, hire someone to write for you.
Share your blog posts across all of your social networks, online feeds and mailing lists. Also, encourage your staff and customers to share them with their online communities such as their LinkedIn groups and social networks.
Use internal links to guide readers to relevant pages on your website; however, avoid creating content that is nothing more than a blatant sales and marketing pitch. A blog should never be used as a direct sales technique. Instead, focus on adding value for your readers and building community through your blog and the results will come. But, be warned, it takes time. Getting your content seen online is easy; getting it seen by the right people takes commitment and time. It can take up to six months, or more, before you see any significant results. But, they are results worth waiting for.
I can highly recommend this step-by-step guide to creating a fully optimised blog. When done correctly, a well thought out blogging strategy that creates meaningful content for your target audience, can really separate a your business from the pack and drive tangible success.
Email marketing may sound ‘old-hat’ to many, but it is still a very effective online marketing strategy; and, despite the importance and popularity of other avenues such as social media and mobile marketing, it should not be ignored.
Email provides you with a direct line of communication with your customers and it is a fantastic way to keep your audience engaged with everything that is happening in your organisation and what you are offering.
Email marketing is affordable and its easy to implement. Offline businesses that actively engage with their customers by sending newsletters and sales bulletins can reap a return of over $4o for every dollar invested in email marketing.
What do you need to get started with Email Marketing? Primarily two things, a mailing list and an auto-responder service:
1.0 Mailing List.
One of the aspects of email marketing that offline organisations find most challenging is growing a quality mailing list. Here, are just a few ways you can build your own qualified list of people who want to hear from you.
Leverage the WebEmail marketing is most effective when your subscribers request to hear from you. Opt-in forms on your website allow you to collect names and email addresses of people visiting your site.
Once you’ve highlighted your newsletter in your corner of the web, think of other places on the Internet where you can advertise your business. Identify other websites, social media sites, search engines, newsletters, blogs and other online spaces where you can promote your mailings.
Don’t forget offline promotion!
The viral nature of the internet makes it an ideal place to advertise your emails, but that doesn’t mean you should forgo opportunities for offline promotion.
Traditional ideas like placing a fishbowl on the counter in your brick and mortar to collect business cards/contact information still works, as does putting an offer on the back of your business cards, creating special customer clubs, offering discounts for referrals from existing customers… the list goes on! The opportunities to grow your list offline are only limited by your imagination.
Building an email list can be challenging but I like to think of it as being similar to building a beautiful garden; it requires time and care, but the results are priceless and you’ll reap the benefits for many years to come.
2. Auto Responder Service
Standard email accounts are not designed to bulk send messages and their limitations can significantly undermine the success of your email efforts.
For a small company sending frequent email updates to a growing list it is best to set up an account with one of the many service providers such as; Constant Contact, MailChimp, iContact, Aweber and Active Campaign.
Active Campaign is my number one recommendation for a number of reasons. ActiveCampaign is not just an emil auto responder service it also offers Email Marketing Automation & an integrated CRM platform. The power of a platform like ActiveCampaign is it’s not just about emails, but is really a platform to allow you to grow your business, automate your marketing and manage your clients too. Their support department is also fast, helpful and one of the best I’ve encountered in any industry.
Active Campaign isn’t free but they offer a 14-day FREE trial (no credit card required) and then it’s $9 a month for there basic service.
Mobile devices have become a mainstay in everyday living around the world and consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices to connect to organisations of all shapes and sizes. Even if you operate an offline business, your website must be mobile friendly; it must present your content in a way that your users can digest it easily while on the go. Done right, mobile optimisation will generate more online traffic, boost customer engagement and increase offline sales.
Here are 3 elements to consider employing in your mobile strategy:
1. Responsive design
Responsive design absolutely crucial for Web design today. Responsive design automatically adjusts the layout and content of a webpage depending on the type of device and size of screen it is being viewed on. It is a highly cost effective option for small firms because it allows you to to cater to a mobile audience without building a completely separate mobile website.
2. Create an App
Many smartphone users prefer ‘apps’ over mobile websites. You can create an app to carry out a multitude of marketing functions for your company: provide unique content, sells products or drives traffic to your website or directly to your offline location.
3. Leverage location sharing and check-in
Encourage your customers to use services such as location sharing to check-in and leave referrals. Offer them incentives for checking in; special recognition, discounts, and unique offers work well.Google+ Local.
If you are a local business with a serving a specific geographic location, establishing a Google+ Local profile is imperative; it will put your company, quite literally, on the map.
Local search results in Google appear in ‘prime real estate’ on the first page of the search results. By optimising your Google+ Local page, your can take advantage of this prime real estate and boost your business quickly to the first page of the search results.
Once your Local page is complete and optimised, your next task is to obtain as many positive reviews saw you can. Positive reviews are extremely effective at converting searchers into customers.
So, do the work necessary to convince customers to leave reviews for you on your Google+ page. Take care to respond to every review, whether glowing or otherwise, in a positive way. It only adds to the experience for potential customers.
Be sure to claim and optimise your online listing in other local online directories, such as Yelp, Foursquare, Yellow Pages Online, Trulocal, etc. But, be aware that it’s not enough to merely have a listing in online directories, you must make those listings work for you! Keep your information consistent and current across all directories, and update your online listings frequently with new promotions, special offers and news.
Online Marketing is the Key to Your Future Success
Online Marketing. It’s a must-have for any offline business today. Online marketing is constantly evolving and it can be hard to keep up; but, that’s no reason not to get involved. Online marketing offers tremendous benefits for any any progressive offline organisation. Social media marketing, blogging, Google+ and mobile marketing are all essential elements of any comprehensive online marketing strategy; they are a must-have for any business today, whether you’re online or offline, big or small.