Ready & Willing. Now What? - Marketing Tips For Small Businesses

mike

by Mike McKearin - @mckearin
on Oct 29, 2015

If you are like most business owners, you're probably excited about new customers. Obtaining new customers, mean more money, and this is a positive thing. We want new customers, sometimes we even yearn for new customers, but getting new customers takes a whole lot more than just wanting and yearning. It takes hard work, focused efforts, and a very clear understanding of who those customers are. It also requires a great product or service, the right price, and the best damn customer service this side of the Mississippi.

So, you're ready to head out on the fox hunt looking for those perfect customers. You are all set.

Now what?

How will you market to them?

How will you get them to notice you?

How will you get them to sign up for your service or purchase your product?

There are plenty of tactics to try. Like most people, we pick a few out of the virtual hat and take a stab at them. There isn't a very clear strategy or end goal in mind. Let's take a look at some of those common small business marketing tactics.

Common Marketing Channels

1. Common small business marketing routes

The most common web marketing trends for small businesses tend to be social media, local advertising, writing blog posts, email newsletters and that is about it. There isn't anything wrong with using these methods. It's more about how these methods are used that is the problem.

Most of these are fleeting thoughts, implemented without a strategy in place. Not only that, these tactics are disjointed and inconsistent.

You probably have experienced this before right? Blog posts written and posted three days in a row and then not posted for six months.  How about a monthly newsletter that only goes out only one month. We've all seen these or are the culprits of these in our businesses.

It's ok, you're not alone. But why can't we keep the ball rolling? Why can't we take these ideas that once seemed like the most important thing to do and keep them going consistently and directed by our goals?

Small Business Marketing Roadblocks

2. Common roadblocks

We have the best intentions in the world and then fall flat when it comes to implementation. The real reason is that often we don't see an immediate correlation between the effort we put into these new marketing channels and the new customers as a result of them. Many of these marketing channels take time also. Time to create and put together posts, ads, etc. Time for those to get in front of your potential customers.

Another reason these fleeting efforts fall flat is due to the bad orchestration of them. We don't maximize the opportunity posting has to offer. From posting blog posts on social media channels to sending a weekly newsletter highlighting a recent blog post, there are many ways you can recycle postings to ensure that your customers have a chance to see them.

Let's take a look at how we can put together a few items in our marketing arsenal that can pay off.

Small Business Marketing Opportunities

3. Opportunities

CONTENT MARKETING

First let's define what content marketing is. Content marketing is about delivering valuable information & media, through web-based channels, as an effort to build a target audience. Blogging is one of these ways to distribute content.

You should be blogging. Straight up. If you're like me, this can be a challenge (I'll come up with plenty of reasons not to write).

Time can be a challenge here, but posting is a solid player in online search. On average, posting articles to a blog on a regular basis can generate 67% more new customer leads each month versus those companies who don't bother (Source: Social Media B2B).

Need more? According to NewsCred, blogging gives your website 434% more pages that get indexed and 97% more links. What does that mean? Searchable content baby.

Here are some Spruce tips to help you out when it comes to blogging.

  1. Get into a schedule of writing posts and guard that time to ensure it happens.
  1. Keep an ongoing idea bank so you can work on some when inspiration hits. Use something like  Evernote, Google Drive or a million other options for web-based writing. Web-based writing is great, so you can access it anywhere. Not comfortable with that? You can use good old fashioned Word Docs also.
  1. Grammar & spelling not your thing? Me either. Use the tools available such as Grammarly or the Hemmingway editor.
  1. Please use excellent photos for your blog. People love great photos; the web has spoiled us all with an endless sea of incredible photography. What's more, if you use those terrible stock photos there are plenty of people who will judge your entire business on that terrible stock photography shot. Articles with images get 94% more views. (Source: Content+)
  1. Spend some time on these little gems, the payoff can be huge. Posts exceeding 1,5000+ words receive 68.1% more tweets and 22.6% more Facebook likes. (Source: QuickSprout)

Now you have some data to back up that gnawing idea you should be blogging on a regular basis, let's be sure not to fall into the 37% of marketers who say their content is not effective (Eeek!). If you need guidance with your content marketing and how to make the most of it, Spruce has a dedicated team of professionals who can help. Contact us to learn more.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Let's look at some stats. They blew me away so I figured I would share them with you.

People who click through from a shared link are five times (5X) more likely to purchase. (Source: Voltier Digital). The takeaway here? Make your links like shareable candy.

90% of customers are influenced by what their friends recommend. Takeaway on this one is to cultivate relationships with your customers.

70% of customers would rather get info about a brand from content instead of advertisements (Source: Content+). Content is often more authentic than ads. It's backed by sources and insight that has roots. People don't like to be pitched. Period.

Social media can be a bit daunting for small business marketers. It doesn't have to be, though! Think of social media as a testing ground for what your customers want and need. You can post small tidbits of information, ask questions, get feedback and then take that insight and turn it into new blog posts! See what I did there?

You're the expert in whatever it is you do. Your customers come to you because you help them find the answers. Social media channels should be used in the same way, acting as a springboard to find new interested visitors who you can help.

Social media channels can also extend your reach with your content marketing. When you post your blog posts to your social media channels, your visitors will often share that content with their network. Just make sure the content is helpful, inspirational, funny, or simply worth sharing.

Spruce tips for making social easier? Yes, please!

  1. Use the tools! Try out Meet Edgar, Buffer or Hootsuite. There are loads of others too, but those are some of the big dogs. The general gist of these services is that you fill a bank of social media posts, and they're delivered for you at optimal times during the day. If you post at 3 am in the morning because that is the only time you found to write a post, chances are you are not going to get as much traction with the post as you would during optimal sharing times.
  1. Test out topics on social media to see what gains interest among your audience. If you have topics that generate some buzz, then consider writing a longer blog post about it or maybe offering it as a service.
  1. Get comfortable with images & video. Images & video rule the day in social media land. Conveniently, our phones can handle most of this with ease. You don't need to be Ansel Adams to have a photo worth sharing. You just need a good photo or video. Check out Wistia for some great tutorials on how to not suck at shooting video with your iPhone.

SEARCH & BUSINESS LISTINGS

I'm not going to go down the road of search engine optimization on this post (we'll save that for another day). What I do want to cover are some search items at the local level. If you are a small business marketer who relies on people walking through your door, you can't miss this part.

The vast majority (well over 90%) of consumers read online reviews for local businesses and base buying decisions off of them. Ensuring that your business is showing up correctly on the local listings like Google My Business, Yelp, Yellow Book, and the like, require you to do some digging. Usually, this isn't too terribly hard, though. Just search for general businesses in your local area (e.g. plumbers in Asheville, NC). The search result will provide you with the initial list of companies in your area, and most likely if you've had a website for more than a year, you will be on that list. Make sure your listing information is correct.

You'll want to find as many of these listings and directories as you can and see if they are complete. Over 50% of people in the US have replaced phone books with web searches (comScore). Additionally, if you can add your logo, photos, video, store hours, web address, and phone numbers to them, make sure you do that. More than half of local businesses don’t have their phone number on their website. Make sure it's on your site also.

Heads up: Usually, you have to run through a verification process where they check to see if you are in fact the person who should be updating the listings.

87% of potential customers won’t consider businesses with low ratings (Source: Search Engine Land).

EMAIL MARKETING

Email is still the best channel for direct marketing. Quick story. When I owned a small brick and mortar for a specialty outdoor equipment, I was very easily able to capture email addresses. It's one thing to ask someone for their email address in person and another story altogether when you ask for it online. Capturing email addresses for qualified visitors means you can carry on the conversation. The benefits of email marketing are enormous. If you have a brick and mortar, keep an iPad with a quick link to your email capture page or at bare minimum, just write down their email address on a list.

Spruce tips for email marketing.

  1. Do yourself a favor and try out a few email marketing services. So many small businesses have had bad experiences with these because they have been using Constant Contact for the last hundred years. Just because Constant Contact was the leader ten years ago doesn't mean they are the best. We prefer MailChimp. They are simple to use, and you spend much less time fighting with layouts and more time eavesdropping on who opened your email campaign and how many times they did. Most services give a free trial, so it's worth a few minutes of poking around to see which one makes the most sense for you.
  1. Setup an email capture on your website. Most up to date websites can implement this with ease (you certainly can with Spruce - about 2min). Email captures take your email subscribers from your website (people who sign up on your site) directly into services like Mailchimp and the like. No more managing lists. Phew!
  1. Use the baked in templates and spend time on a quality photo or graphic. When it comes to email templates, simplicity rules the day. Go with a simple default layout for your email blast so you can focus on the content and less on the design. They will most likely be already optimized for mobile as well.
  1. Spend extra effort on your email subject line. Reason being, you have to get them to open the email before they do anything with it. Opening the email is the first hurdle at hand. If you sound like a sales pitch, most people won't open it. Think about which emails you sign up for and read the titles of those for ideas. I have been saving the email blasts/newsletters that I find interesting for a long time now in a special folder so I can learn from the successful ones.
  1. Take advantage of the built-in tools like A/B split testing. A, B what testing? Split testing subject lines of your emails mean that you can write two different subject lines for the same email. Each subject line is sent to a small percentage of the entire list. Once there is a clear winner (the subject line that leads to more email opens), the rest of the list will use that winning subject line. The best part about this, you don't have to do any magic here. Just write the two subject lines and let the service do the rest. Did I mention that MailChimp is free up to 2000 email addresses.
Measure Small Business Marketing Efforts

4. Measure Success

So now you have a handful of really practical things to implement on your site. Next thing to do is to follow up after doing these tactics and see how they measured up according to your goals. How did they stand up next to your key indicators?

By knowing what works and what doesn't you can further focus on the best marketing outlets and tweak or retest the others.

Spruce tips for measuring:

  1. Use the built-in tools for reporting.
  2. Make sure to implement outside reporting like Google Analytics and HotJar.
  3. When comparing marketing efforts print out a matching date range on all of your reporting options (e.g. Google Analytics, MailChimp, Facebook, etc.). See if you can find patterns, increases compared to new customers or whatever your key indicators are.
Grow your website

5. keep growing

Remember, you can't do everything all at once. A tree doesn't go from seed to a mountain top giant overnight. By focusing on incremental growth, you can sustain your marketing for the long haul and build up a  sustaining brand.

AUTHOR
mike

Mike McKearin

Mike is Co-founder and CEO of @sprucesites. He loves helping small businesses focus efforts on growth. Say hello!

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