If you are a small business owner, I have absolutely no doubt that you understand just how important marketing your business is. You are probably doing it regularly already, whether taking out an ad in the Yellow Pages or booking a slot on the radio. However, marketing yourself online is an unmissable opportunity to boost your sales and leads.
Today, I wish to introduce you to the idea of marketing yourself online. I want to show you just how important it is. I want to show you some of the methods that you can utilise. Basically, I want to help you decipher the world of digital marketing, and I will be sharing this information from the perspective of a successful small business marketing consultant.
As you go through this guide, I hope you will start to see just how important it is to market your business. I am not just talking about marketing on the ad blitz front but working with a decent small business marketing consultant and a web designer. Combine the two, and not only will you be able to attract traffic quickly, but you can convert it once it is on your website.
Marketing your small business or start-up online
In the following sections, I want to discuss the main methods for marketing your website online. I won’t be able to talk about all of them.
There are dozens upon dozens, and one of the main jobs your small business marketing consultant will have is determining which one is right for your website. After all, no business is the same.
In order for a lot of these methods to work, you do need to have a professional website built. While you can do a bit of marketing with a relatively basic website, your job will become a lot more difficult.
Any small business marketing consultant you work with will recommend that you work with a quality web design, to begin with. This way, your site can be built up with the various marketing methods in mind.
Not every client that comes to me here at Sanders Design is looking for their very first website. Do you feel that your current website fails to attract the right type of customers? This is where I typically help business owners create new sites that drive more income by drawing the correct type of customers.
Why is it important to market your business online?
If you ask any small business marketing consultant, they will likely give you several answers to this question. However, they will pretty much always boil down to the same thing; to get your website found online.
Let’s say you come to us here at Sanders Design. We create the perfect website for you, the same as we do for our other clients. If you managed to get hits on it, then your site would almost certainly convert. The problem? You won’t instantly get hits on it.
Contrary to popular belief, you cannot just put a website up online, and expect it to be found. You could share the link to your website with your current customers as part of your marketing strategy, but the only people that will have their hands on your site’s address will be your existing customers.
The whole reason why you are having a website is to expand your horizons and generate even more income for your business.
A small business marketing consultant’s job is to devise strategies that will help your website get found. I will be expanding upon this over the next few sections.
However, I find the best way to imagine it is that your website is a small town. For a small town to get visitors that aren’t willing to jump through hoops, there need to be roads leading into that town. The more roads leading into that town, the more visitors it will get. The job of the marketing consultant is to help build those roads.
When you market your website correctly, sales will increase. It is natural. Quality marketing, coupled with a decent website design, always leads to increased sales. You just need to know how to do it properly.
SEM search engine marketing
Have you ever ‘googled’ something and noticed paid ads at the top of your search results? Well, that is known as search engine marketing, or SEM for short.
SEM is the process of paying for ads to appear in the search engines.
If you have marketed your small business before, then you will likely have taken out adverts. These adverts were probably a ‘fixed fee’ e.g. £200 for an ad in your local newspaper. SEM works in a slightly different way.
With SEM, you will not be paying a fixed fee for your ad to appear. Instead, you will be paying per click on the advert. In fact, the name for these ads is fairly descriptive. It is ‘pay per click’, or PPC for short. You will be able to set the amount that you pay for each click. It could be as low as a few pounds or as high as several hundred pounds (your small business will probably never need to take out ads this valuable!).
Now, you may think that this way of advertising is a little bit odd. However, I can assure you that this is one of the best ways to bring traffic to your website. To explain why, I am going to have to be a bit critical of those print ads that you took out before.
Let’s say you took out an ad in the local Cornish West Briton newspaper or any newspaper where you live. Once your ad is placed there, the price is based upon the number of people reading the West Briton. The problem? Not everybody seeing that ad is going to have any interest in the product or service that you are offering.
This means that you are paying for eyes on your ad that will never convert into paying customers. You are throwing away money.
SEM and PPC ads are different. Assuming that your small business marketing consultant helped you to plan your campaign correctly, the only people that will see your ads will be those that have shown an interest in what you are offering. The only people clicking those ads will be those that are probably in the mood to buy. This means that you are only ever spending money on people that are interested in your business. Therefore, it is cheaper.
If you have a quality SEM campaign coupled with professional web design, you should convert many people who click your ad into paying customers. A well-designed campaign will never make a loss.
What is SEO?
Let’s go back to those search engine results.
If you look below the adverts, you will notice other results. Ever wondered how they got ranked like that? Well, it is through a process known as search engine optimisation, or SEO for short.
There are many different elements to SEO, and it is a rather complicated process, so I am going to make things as simple as possible here when I explain how these sites are ranked.
SEO is all about increasing the relevance and reputation of a website. The more reputable and relevant a site is to a searched keyword, the higher it will appear in the search results. To build up the relevance and reputation, your marketing will need to take two approaches.
You have off-site marketing. This is where you build up links to your website. There are several different ways in which you can accomplish this. However, the process is to build up as many relevant links to your website as possible. The search engines see sites that have quality links pointing towards them as more reputable. This is why it will be quite difficult to beat your major competitors for certain searches online. They will often have thousands upon thousands of links pointing towards them.
The second is on-site marketing. You will work with your web designer for this. Their job will be to build up a site that is relevant to the keywords you want to be found for.
They build up a site that is functional (especially on mobile devices). All of the techniques that I focus on with my web design are in place to help your SEO efforts. I want to ensure that any site I design is SEO-ready. I want all of my clients to be found quickly online so they can start to generate profitable sales.
Your on-site marketing isn’t just going to end with the web design, though. You will need to be building up your site’s relevancy and reputation continuously.
This will often come in the form of content marketing where you include useful content on your website. Basically, your content is telling the search engines what you are all about, as well as helping to build up your site in the eyes of your site visitors. Which, in turn, leads to increased sales.
Ideally, you would try to rank in the search engines as quickly as possible. After all, you will not be paying for the clicks if you are an ‘organic’ search result. However, as quickly as possible probably still mean months, even for the simplest of keywords.
This is just scratching the surface of how SEO works. It is a rapidly evolving process which changes daily. However, what I can tell you is that I have never seen a business website be successful in the longterm without using SEO. It is almost impossible. So, make sure that you have a good website designed and get your SEO efforts off to the best possible start.
When to use PPC?
In my opinion, you should always be using PPC marketing. Any small business marketing consultant will likely tell you the same.
PPC marketing will deliver you a consistent stream of traffic to your website. When the right campaign is planned, then it will always be profitable too. Therefore, you have absolutely no reason not to be using it.
While I would strongly advocate the use of PPC in every situation, there are two situations where I 100% recommend that you put it to use. If you don’t, then you won’t be found online.
Newly launched websites
The search engine optimisation that I talked about before is a fantastic technique for giving you traffic. The problem is that it is prolonged. It will take months and months to really see any real traffic from your SEO efforts.
The thing is that you now have a shiny website that nobody is visiting. PPC gives you a quick way to get people searching for a business like yours to your website.
While SEO will take months, you could feasibly start getting clicks through the search engines within mere minutes of launching your campaign. Your very first sale could be a short few hours after.
To target competitive keywords
SEO is a great way to bring traffic to your website. The problem is that there are some fantastic keywords that you will never be able to rank for in the search engines. These will be the most-searched-for and best-converting keywords. You could try, and your small business marketing consultant may help you out, but you will be competing against larger companies with budgets many times yours.
Many people will target these highly searched keywords. While these ads can be expensive, they convert a little bit better. More often than not, your ads will appear above your competitors too. It makes your company seem a bit more reputable.
As your SEO campaign starts to take off, you will likely change up the keywords that you target in your PPC campaigns.
The best PPC companies
As you browse for places to start your PPC campaign, you will notice that countless sites offer a service like this. In my opinion, there are just two that you need to be focused on:
Until you have a budget to splash on marketing, I really do not suggest that you venture outside of these two. It will allow you to make the best use of your funds. Over time, however, you can start to look into other systems such as Facebook. However, this will be best combined with social media marketing.
Other marketing methods
Depending on the time of business that you are running, a small business marketing consultant will likely want to employ a few other techniques to get the traffic rolling in to that website.
Perhaps the most common of these will be social media marketing. Here, you will build up profiles on major social media websites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and marketing to your followers. It is tricky to build up that initial following, but, once you do, you will generate a lot of business rather effortlessly.
Email marketing is another method that a small business marketing consultant will use. With email marketing, you will be encouraging your site visitors to sign up to your email list. Once they do so, you will be able to email them special offers or filter them through your sales funnel. It is a very effective technique, and you will find that every major business in the UK will use it to a degree. This is because it works.
Make sure that you talk with your small business marketing consultant to find out exactly which techniques are right for your business.
While all of this marketing could probably be done inhouse or by yourself, I really wouldn’t recommend it. A small business marketing consultant will likely have spent years and years plying their trade. This means that they will be able to accomplish in weeks what would take you years. While working with a decent small business marketing consultant will likely add a small amount to your budget, you will make money from your site quicker.
Combine optimised web design and a quality marketing plan, and your small business will be able to hold its own against some of your major competitors.