The methodology behind reaching customers has changed dramatically over the turn of the last century. The reach that the mass media has (such as television, radio and print ads) is rapidly diminishing and being replaced by online sources. It’s likely that if you’ve got a few years under your belt you’ll remember what this is:
It’s also just as likely that if you’re under 20 years of age you have absolutely no idea what the printed Yellow Pages is. It used to be a holy book for advertisers. Divided up into industry subheadings, you’d flip through the pages and find local businesses that could deliver whatever service or product you needed. Those days are long gone, but a new player stepped up to the plate:
It’s estimated that around 90% of people searching for a product or service are now using an online search engine. These search engines are essentially the modern day Yellow Pages, but with infinitely more potential. If someone is looking for a nearby restaurant it’s only a search a way. Instantly restaurants in the area pop up, accompanied with reviews and their locations on a map. It is simplicity at its finest.
Results are instantly delivered with minimal effort on the part of the user. The internet and the advancement of social media has also made it easier than ever for companies to connect with individual customers. Everything from Facebook, to Google+, to Twitter are viable platforms for businesses to reach out to new potential customers and deliver great customer service.
So, there are all of these new tools available to small business owners to market and connect with customers; how do you take advantage of them?
Establish Your Online Presence with a Website
The first and most essential step for any small business is to create a website. A website is akin to a virtual window into your business. It lets customers know what you’re about, it helps generate leads and it can be used as a virtual store to sell products/services. A great example of this are the Virtual Offices at TheCodeFactory. A simple page set up to allow future customers to pay for the service online in seconds. Even if you don’t intend to sell directly from your website (though I think that should be a goal for any small business!) it can be used as a portfolio or filled with customer testimonials. A website is an awesome and powerful tool.
Optimize your website (with Search Engine Optimization) and track its data.
Awesome, you’ve got a website now. There’s just one small problem: people aren’t finding it yet. You can still use more traditional marketing approaches and direct people to your site, but you should also want it to generate leads on its own. This is why optimizing your site with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques is a necessity. SEO has changed a lot and still continues to change rapidly as Google updates its search algorithms, so a lot of older “tricks and tips” aren’t very effective anymore. One such trick was generating as many back links (links from another website to your own) as possible. Now Google punishes low quality and irrelevant back links, making this practice obsolete. Another trick that had been commonly used was “keyword stuffing.” This was the practice of filling up web content with repeated uses of keywords that the user wanted to be found with. Google is now punishing that practice as well.
So what do you do? How do you increase your ranking?
Write great content!
Stay active with your website. Google’s goal with its search engine is to bring users to high quality, relevant content. So instead of thinking about how to game the system, spend your time creating pieces with substance.
Just as important as creating good content is monitoring your website’s statistics to know what’s working and what isn’t. If you write a post that generates a ton of page views and has a rather high average time on page then you know you’ve written something that people are interested in and would like to spend more time reading. Now I’m sure you’re asking yourself, how do I monitor these things? Well, luckily Google has given people an amazing tool to do just that. It’s called Google Analytics. Hook your website up with Google Analytics and watch the statistics roll in. The only way to create better content and make your site more navigable is via usage statistics. Spend some time and learn how to maximize your website’s potential!
Advertise with Google Adwords
You’re set on your path now, you’ve got your website up and running and you’re generating great content! It’s still going to take time to move your way up the rankings, however. Optimizing a website to rank well is not an overnight venture! So let’s go about getting some visitors to your website right now.
How you ask? With Google AdWords.
AdWords is a platform that allows you to place ads on Google search results, as well as the Google Display Network (GDN). Ads that are placed on the search network will show up as such:
Use Social Media to Build Brand and Reach Customers
Social media is an immensely powerful tool as it will allow you to connect with your customers individually. Remember all of that content you were working on when we were talking about SEO? Social media platforms offer the perfect solution to help share your content and receive feedback. The larger your network, the more people you connect with and the easier it becomes to share with others. The great thing about social media from the customer’s point of view is that it gives them a direct avenue to speak with you. If they had a great experience with your business they may share it with their followers, offering you a great opportunity to thank them!
Likewise, if they had a negative experience or are having issues they may reach out via social media, giving you an opportunity to help resolve them.
A happy customer is a good customer and social media gives you a lot of opportunities to put smiles on faces.
So What Does it all Mean?
The world of advertising and customer relations has changed dramatically. You have unparalleled access to your customers and they to you. Establish your online presence, sell products/services online and keep your customers happy. I truly hope this article has brought some value to those who are new to the digital marketing game. If you have any questions or comments please get in touch. I’d also be more than happy to help you establish your business’ online presence.
President, Go Cloud Based