Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, creating wealth and jobs for all those involved. Like any business, some are successful and some are not, and in many cases the reason for failure lies in poor marketing or a complete lack of marketing.
In this day and age, there is no reason why a small business cannot conduct a cost effective marketing campaign that drives both online traffic and in-store foot traffic.
Lets take a look at 5 ways to use the online environment, to benefit your small business:
1. Build a stable engaging web presence
Building a website is like building home base. If you are going to implement any sort of online marketing, home base needs to clearly impart a message that the consumer will easily understand, that will encourage them to buy online, or come into the store to buy. Don’t skimp on the design (perception is everything), and don’t settle for anything that doesn’t have an administration back-end. With the availability of open-source software , there is no reason why you cant have a world class website, with all the admin functions you need, at a reasonable price.
Ensure you have an analytics package installed. Google Analytics will do the job amazingly well, and will offer some great insights into the kind of traffic your site is getting…oh and it’s free.
2. Optimize your content
Writing copy for a website needs to follow the LCD (lowest common denominator) rule. If your content touts the fact that you sell “self enclosed light emitting battery powered hand held lamps”, don’t expect anyone looking to purchase a “flashlight” to show up.
It is imperative to understand that optimization is based on relevant content. If someone searches the word “flashlight”, that word should show up often in the content, in the page titles, in the menu titles, and in the keywords of your website, in order to rank well in Google. Relevancy is key. SEO is also affected by links that point to your site from other sites, corporate blogs, and social environments like Twitter and Facebook, as well as customer reviews on sites like Yelp. Sure, SEO can get more complex and in-depth, but this is a great start, and will build an excellent foundation.
3. Don’t be afraid to advertise
There are incredibly cost effective, very customizable and manageable programs available. Buying advertising on a CPC (cost per click) model is a very effective strategy. What that means is you only pay when someone clicks on your text ad or banner ad. If your website is doing its job, that lead will become a customer. Geotargeting allows you to target consumers in your immediate area, ensuring you are driving local awareness. Look at programs offered by Google and Yahoo, which have no minimum media buys, with user friendly admin areas.
4. Use social marketing
A local hair salon has implemented an amazing social media strategy. If you write two positive reviews about them on Facebook, Yelp, or any other social networking site, you get $25 off your next haircut. If you refer a friend, you get $25 off. The kind of word of mouth that this generates is incredible, and kind of SEO that the brand name is getting is awesome. Think about it, every time someone searches their name on Google, their website comes up first, followed by pages and pages of positive customer reviews. That is marketing that you can’t afford not to have. This leads us to point number 5:
5. Incentivize your customer
In these economic times, everyone is looking for savings. Good deals always draw attention. Lets look at our hair salon again. They geotarget their adwords message. One of the keywords they are using for their CPC campaign is Hair Salon and their zip code. A person searching for a salon in their area sees their ad. They scroll down the page and see great review after great review. They decide to click on the ad. The website does its job and they feel comfortable coming in. Once in store, they are presented with a welcome folder, along with a handful of discount cards. 5 of the cards are to be handed out to friends for a $25 discount, and one of the cards describes the online review process, highlighting the $25 discount for two positive reviews. Genius!
The online world is ideally suited to a small business and the entrepreneur. It is cost effective, and easily optimizable. Go to the bookstore and read up on the space. There are some amazing reads out there. “The Online Advertising Playbook” is a killer read, as is “The New Influencers”. Both are highly recommended. There are some great online pubs worth reading too. Take a look at www.iMediaConnection.com, and www.IAB.net. These are just two publications in a sea of hundreds that all offer worthwhile information.
The playing field has now been leveled, and effective marketing is available to large multi-national brands as well as small businesses and entrepreneurs. Go ahead and play.
Evan Lazarus is President and CEO of LazBro, Inc., a full service digital marketing agency based in Los Angeles, CA