Marketing is a tough one. There are so many possibilities and varying costs that it can cause you to spin in circles. It also doesn’t usually show an immediate or direct return on the investment that you’re making, so justifying the costs can be hard.
We’re answering some of the tough questions – what do you do first? how do you know if it’s working? and the hardest question, what do you do second? We’ve pulled together advice on our own experiences and dropping some ideas for you to try out.
The hardest part of doing anything new is starting. As a small business, one of the most important things is to keep spending to a minimum and make your dollar go far. Because of that, we recommend that the best place to start is with what you can do for free or at a one time cost. But don’t be fooled into the claims of “just a few minutes,” you’ll need to put in a some consistent hours to see any results. The obvious places really are the right places to start – great website content, a helpful blog and engaging social media.
Your website is your business lifeline but it’s also one of the key components in your marketing toolkit. Make sure that your website accomplishes a few main things:
- Make it easy to convert – whether it’s requesting more information, starting a free trial or purchasing an item, put as few roadblocks as possible between the goal and the visitor.
- Give the people what they want – they found you because they were looking for something, so make sure you don’t disappoint. Be helpful, clear and concise. In a world of instant gratification, attention spans run short.
- Construct a technically sound website – Google gives you magic points (seriously, they won’t tell us exactly how they do it) that help you rank higher in search results. The first one is relevant content – not just a lot of keywords. Write as if you were sending an email to someone to tell them what you do, the shorter and more clear it is, the more Google will like it. It also has to be mobile – Google gives you more points for that. Lastly, and this might require some outside help depending on technical skills, it needs to be well built. Make sure you use schema.org, meta titles and descriptions, and have a well organized site structure.
For you blog, these same principles apply, but the content piece is a little different. Your content can be a little more removed from what it is that you do – instead it should focus on what your audience does and what they care about. Think of your blog as a “how to” or advice column – what does your audience do everyday, what are the challenges they face. The more specific you make your content, the more interesting it becomes. Avoid fluff pieces and clickbait, they have a negative effect on your SEO points and your brand.
Once you’ve created this great content, start sharing it. Social media platforms have improved their search capabilities and you should consider them another search engine to optimize for. Think about what people might be searching for and tailor your posts for that. Hashtags aren’t dead – but they can be overused. Only use them when they make sense or if there is a popular one that you have a relative story to contribute to.
Is it working?
There is no shortage of marketing and website analytics tools in the world today, and you can easily spend more than a senior employee salary on them all. But at this point in your process, you probably don’t need all that power under the hood. There are plenty of tools that you can implement to supplement your marketing strategy and is fodder for another blog post, but just to list the basics, make sure you can track things such as website visits, sources for your conversions, and engagement.
My recommendations to start are:
- Google Analytics – this is a powerful tool and the first one you should put in place. Make sure the code is on your website domain and your subdomains. Another good practice is to segment your traffic – you’ll want to be able to separate things like visitors to your blog, customers vs non-customers, and conversions. Spend the time to organize the data – it’s the difference between understanding where people are coming from and having a mess of inflated data.
- MailChimp – really, any sort of email program, I’ve just found MailChimp to be the easiest with the best deliverability. You’ll want to be able to send emails to customers and prospects so that you can stay engaged with them – whether it’s subscribing to your blog, sending out new content or a product update. You can also use tools like Zapier to get more functionality out of MailChimp.
- Salesforce – again, the goal here is to use a CRM system. I like to use Salesforce because you can customize it as you go more than other systems, so that it not only scales with you, but you can use it to hold off on other systems for a little while and defer some of those costs (such as a marketing automation platform – again, fodder for another blog post).
Make sure that your data is flowing nicely between your systems – passing the data through helps you track from beginning to end and will help inform whether your efforts are paying off. Things to look for to determine success at this stage of your marketing are:
- Time on site – are people engaging with your website? You want to make sure that you are sending the right traffic and that will consist of people who care enough to look around – it assumes a level of interest.
- Pages Visited – what content are they interested in? Can you expand on that to create more content that might attract return visits?
- Sources of Traffic – learn where people are coming from and think of ways that you can get more people from those sources to visit. There are patterns and trends that you’ll want to watch out for to see if they are indicators of someone who will become a customer.
- Sources of Conversions – you’ll want to know, not only how many people are converting, but where they came from so that you can go and find more people just like them.
Once you feel like you’ve got a good workflow for generating content for you blog, sharing on social, you are starting to rank for targeted topics in organic search – the next logical step is to find ways to amplify the work that you’ve done.
Again, I would start with the most obvious things – the first being retargeting. You’ve managed to increase traffic to your website, but not everyone is going to convert right away, that doesn’t mean that they won’t eventually. Try retargeting your visitors with display ads or on Facebook – experiment with different messages and images and see how many people you can get to come back.
The next step is to look back at your traffic sources – where are they coming from? Are there similar websites that you could advertise on that might attract similar audiences? The best idea to figure out what to pursue is to try to identify topics, websites and interests of your target audience. Where do they hang out, what do they like – find places where they might congregate and be there. It could even be a free channel such as Quora or other communities that you can participate in.
The most important thing to remember about any of these marketing activities is to be genuine and put real effort in. People don’t have time for bull….crap. They are busy and have short attention spans, if you aren’t looking to have a conversation with them about something they’re interested in, they aren’t going to pay attention.
Basically…. marketing is like dating. You can do it online, in person and through friends, but you’ve got to put in more than you expect to get out of it in order to have it pay off.