10 things SME operators must know about web marketing
Last week we looked at the 10 things SME operators needed to know about websites.
Without your website being as professional as you can get it, any attempts at the various web marketing techniques will be next to useless, as visitors will simply click away if they don’t like what they see when they arrive at their online destination – your website.
Conversely, if your website looks, operates and reads well, it will provide a constant source of new sales and/or enquiries.
Unfortunately, many business operators make the critical mistake of investing in a range of web marketing techniques, only to have visitors land on a sloppy, repellent dogs breakfast.
That’s the online equivalent of being served by a staff member with dirty jeans, bad BO and a fag on the end of their lip.
In other words, all that investment in getting you to the store is a complete waste of time and money.
But assuming your website is in good shape, here are the things small business operators then need to know about promoting their business online – in no particular order.
1. Social network pages do not replace websites
With all the gigabytes dedicated to the revolution that is social networking, some misinformation and misunderstanding is bound to occur. One I recently heard is that there is now no need for a website when you can have a business page on a social network.
But that’s a bit like saying we don’t need cars when there are planes. Social networking pages can be a real asset to some businesses (see below), but they are but a presence within one area of the internet that is restricted to the look, feel, navigation, rules and audience of Facebook. In other words, you don’t have the freedom to do and present whatever you like, unlike websites. So Facebook and other pages should enhance and point to your website rather than replace it.
2. If you're not prominent on search engines, you are losing significant business
No it’s not a conspiracy created by greedy geeks. Prominence in search engines is absolutely the biggest game in town when it comes to ‘pull’ marketing. But don’t panic if you are not number one for your category of business. Look for a sensible niche based on your location, specialities, brands or other aspects that you compete well in and you will soon generate great traffic and in turn enquiries.
3. ‘Adwords’ is a great way to compensate for a poor search position
One of the reasons for Google’s success with its Adwords (paid advertising) product is that it is performance based – at least more so than traditional media. Advertisers only need to pay when someone clicks on their ad – a great advance from the far less accountable means of assuming that just because you are reading, listening to or watching a medium, you have engaged with the advertising that interrupts it. Not only that, Adwords (and equivalents) allows you to have unprecedented control over the prominence, message and timing of your advertising.
4. Email is your secret weapon
As we keep spruiking in these pages, email marketing provides a return on investment unlike anything we have seen before. When else could you communicate with unlimited people for virtually no cost at all? Yes, it takes time to create the message, but time spent doing so is well worth the trouble. And of course the same content can be used for your website and social networking.
5. Social networking works brilliantly for some, poorly for others
Like email marketing, the capabilities of social networking can be nothing short of phenomenal. But contrary to what you may hear, it’s not for every business. If your product is low on perceived glamour, constant content and ‘passion’, and if you or your staff do not have much time to invest in creating and maintaining your social networking presence, you are unlikely to get much result at all from this seductive but generally still-to-be-proven technique.
6. Regular content is your key to viral and search engine success
Whether its communicated on your website, on your blog, by email, in social networks or preferably all of the above, the key to online ‘viral’ success is an ongoing stream of enticing and relevant content – whether it’s a one-day special or a piece of advice, both web users and search engines love fresh, tasty content.
7. Printed directories are dead
Sorry Yellow Pages et al, but the death knell has sounded for what was your cash cow just a few years ago. The final nail in the coffin was delivered by smart phones, which has made looking for a business in the old book just so last millennium.
8. Linkedin Groups are b2b networking gold
Social networking groups are a fascinating phenomenon, as like minded people gather in interest groups as diverse as the internet itself. But for business, LinkedIn Groups are like marketing manna from heaven.
Up to hundreds of thousands of like minded professionals who at some point may well be in the market for your product, all communicated to for nothing more than an enticing message and a few clicks of your mouse. The trick is though, providing a compelling enough reason for group managers to allow you into these often private worlds of wisdom.
9. Try doing your own deals
If you haven’t yet heard, volume deal advertising is the latest online success story as millions of web users cash in on deals for everything from restaurants to nail restoration, while lining the pockets of the providers. But you don’t need a TV station and massive mailing list to take advantage of this opportunity. With nothing but a reasonable list and an email broadcast system, you can start your own viral frenzy.
10 . Don’t put all your promotional eggs in one basket
A common mistake smaller business operators make is relying too heavily on one online marketing technique. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. The age-old notion of a ‘promotional mix’ is more valid today than ever as these online marketing techniques are added to the often still valid traditional ones. So it’s important to avoid isolating a single technique, instead combining old and new until you come up with the recipe that is right for your business.
Care to disagree? Tell us about your online marketing experiences by commenting below.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.