It’s a question we often get asked both professionally and personally by friends and family.
If your overall Digital Marketing budget to market a small business online is under €1,000 a month, our advice is simple. Stay away from agencies and up-skill yourself with the following. Otherwise you’ll be spending money without getting the results you really want, and when you’re a small business, every euro counts.
This is the most important thing to get sorted out, right from the start.
If you don’t know who is visiting your site then the majority of your decisions from here on in will be assumptions. To deploy a comprehensive, successful digital strategy you need hard data and research, in order to understand how to adjust it.
Google Analytics gives you a phenomenal amount of data. It shows where your visitors have come from, the pages they visit most, the ones they don’t, how long they stay on your site, what they engage with, products and services they purchase etc.
It should be the first thing you look at every single day.
But isn’t email marketing dead, we hear you say? Far from it. You may think that building an email marketing list is difficult, but it isn’t.
How many emails do you receive each day from different brands you’ve subscribed to? How did they get your information in the first place?
Now analyse your site and see if you have calls to ction to entice people to sign up. If you do, is it in the right place and noticeable enough. If not, time to make sure you get it set up in a place that is easily seen.
If you can deliver a personalized, targeted message to your prospects and customers, it’s worth every minute of the time you put into it. You have to make sure, however, that the content you’re delivering is providing value.
Email marketing is one of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to drive people to your services or products. Email is available across multiple devices – whether it’s a PC, tablet or mobile, which means you’re increasing the likelihood of greater engagement rates. Plus… it can be free (up to certain limits).
But you also have to be careful. Open rates have plummeted since Google segmented Gmail accounts into tabs such as those below. So you could find your promotions being filtered into a Promotions tab. And as you can see, that’s not accessed quite as often, which means your open rates could be low:
You’ve either invested time in your site or financially invested with a web design agency to build it. You’ve tested it. You’ve gotten your family and friends to test it. You all think it rocks.
Unfortunately, those closest to us are biased.
It doesn’t matter if you’re selling birthday cards or cloud software. The user experience is what truly matters, as your site is the first touchpoint that helps convert your prospects to customers.
Don’t be afraid to ask strangers to give you honest feedback on your site. Use your mailing list to conduct user-experience surveys. Use your social media accounts to ask for feedback. You’ll be surprised what small things will come back that can make a big difference.
If you haven’t built your site yet, take an afternoon out and sit down to learn WordPress on YouTube.
Is your site responsive? Can it be used easily across multiple devices? Is it intuitive? Is it fast?
All of these play an important part in your overall strategy. If your site is poor to use, then your marketing budget is being wasted driving people to a site that they will inevitably press the back button on. Focus on the user experience.
It’s amazing still to this day how many businesses I pass by that have eircom.net / gmail.com and hotmail.com email addresses directly underneath their branding. If you’re serious about your business, be serious.
It costs from less than €10 to register your domain name annually, that will also give you an email account. Add hosting to this (for your website) for another €50 per year and you’re now ready to have an online presence.
There are also a list of different services that provide websites for free. If you’re a small business that just needs a brochure site with some contact details, these are ideal. If you’re a more complex business such as eCommerce – not so much.
Taking the time to invest in your brand, not only adds credibility but also provides a memorable brand for people to use in word-of-mouth discussions both in person and online.
Outside of your domain name, check out www.knowem.com – to see where your brand is available on multiple networks. Then secure it across all of the available networks. You don’t have to use them all, but at least you’re protecting your brand name.
Engagement is free. Promotion isn’t.
The one mistake we see time and again are businesses using social media as a platform just to sell their products. Those days are gone.
Social media networks are communities of people that don’t want to be bombarded by your products or services with every post you publish.
They’ve liked your page and that’s a start. So you’ve captured their interest. Now it’s up to you to keep it. Engage with them. Take the time to talk to them. Post entertaining and unique content that has a synergy to your business. Then when you’ve got them to buy into the sentiment (positively) of your brand, show them your special offers, new products or services.
Aim for a ratio of at least 5:1. 5 posts of entertaining, unique content and 1 soft sell. That’s not to say you post all 5 entertaining pieces within an hour and then hit them with the pitch. Keep an eye on when your audience is online and spread it out evenly throughout the day. But make sure to take current events and seasonality into account.
If you just keep shoving your products or services into your audience’s feed, they’ll unsubscribe from you very quickly.
When looking at Facebook, for example, you also need to remember that approximately 1% of your audience will see your organic posts – if you have 3,000 followers, that’s only 30 people. So yes, you’re going to have to invest in some social media advertising as well – particularly if you’re looking to create awareness of your brand.
My lecturer used to have a great line anytime he heard ‘SEO is dead’: he’d respond with “60 trillion web pages; 1.9 trillion annual google searches; and SEO is apparently dead?” – That was 3 years ago. Imagine what those figures are today.
SEO isn’t dead. It’s just evolved. It’s how Google determines what to show up based on a user’s search query and it’s a long game.
You have to take the time to invest in it, but don’t expect any substantial results for at least 6 months.
Google is constantly changing and shifting its algorithms to improve the results that are shown, which affects pole positions. If you want to know more about the last 4 major shifts, do a search for ‘Google Panda’, ‘Google Penguin’, ‘Google Hummingbird’ and ‘Google Pigeon’ – you’ll see what each of them focused on since 2011.
And if someone tells you it’s all about keywords in your site – walk away quickly.
A big part of Google’s ranking algorithm for SEO is content (nowadays). The search engine giant wants to see that your website is consistently publishing high quality, informative and educational content that’s meaningful.
With everyone now putting more effort into content, you need to make sure that your content engages readers and provides them with some sort of value. Don’t create good content — it has to be great.
Visual content tends to have a greater impact than long articles, as more and more people have short attention spans and want to digest information quickly. Look at static and animated infographics, videos and other content to stand out from your competitors.
The biggest mistake we see with content is companies using their blog to talk about their services and products. That’s what the ‘Products/Services’ section of your website is for – you don’t need to duplicate it and push the hard sell.
Content should be likeable, shareable, have some sort of virality and more importantly provide value. It needs to have a synergy to the business, without directly pushing the products and services.
Paid Search (or PPC) can be a daunting tactic and a budget killer if not done properly as there’s a lot to learn and understand. From CTRs, CPAs and CPCs to conversion rates and quality score – it can be confusing.
But if you work with a specialist for a short time to get the ball rolling, it can work wonders. In tandem with this, you can also study Google Adwords for free to gain a better understanding of what’s happening with it and adjust accordingly when you need to. (Just Google ‘Google Adwords exams’)
Paid Search is the short game. You can have a campaign up and running in a couple of hours, depending on its complexity. SEO is the long game, but it’s not one or the other. Both should be incorporated.
If budget is an issue, choose your platform carefully. Display advertising is excellent to create awareness of your brand, products and services. PPC Search is excellent for intent (when someone has already decided what they want or are conducting research, eg, ‘Plumber in North Dublin). Decide what stage of your business you’re at, and choose your tactic accordingly.
Remarketing – also called Retargeting – is a form of paid search that allows you to stay in front of potential customers as they continue to do their online research. It’s excellent as an amplification tactic, but not something that should be deployed alone without the likes of Social Media advertising, PPC and Display advertising.
When you visit a site, a piece of code (or cookie) is dropped into the browser. This allows targeted adverts to be messaged to you on sites that you would regularly visit. Google Remarketing focuses on just the GDN (Google Display Network), whereas companies such as Adroll have partnered with the GDN, Facebook, Twitter and other channels. So, depending on your budget, you can target multiple networks.
However, even if your budget doesn’t allow you to use Remarketing now – install the code. It’s very simple. This will allow you to track visitors now and potentially target them up to 18 months later (depending on the age of the cookie that you set).
Do you know what they’re doing? Do they have social media accounts? Are they offering giveaways, discounts and special offers? How are they doing it?
Have you visited their site to see if they use certain systems that you too could explore and use?
If they are active on social media, keep an eye on how it affects their overall audience and brand sentiment. How are people sharing their content?
If they’re not active, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be either. There’s a lot to be said about first-mover advantage and breaking the mould.
Google “Ghostery” and install it to see what comes up on your competitors’ sites, as below:
The most important item of any marketing strategy – listen to what your customers are saying.
Your customers give you a different perspective and they often have great feedback for small business owners because they know you can adapt more quickly than the bigger companies.
Make sure you’re monitoring the comments on your social media profiles and have a section of your website where visitors can contact you to leave feedback and suggestions.
You’ll never get it 100% right from the start, so encourage your customers to help along the way.
At the end of the day, you may have a great business – but without a marketing strategy, people won’t buy from you if they don’t know who you are and what you do. We hope this helps.