Entrepreneurs and small business owners are often struggling to balance their need for great Internet marketing and their limited budget. In today’s post, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the marketing basics that business owners can use to drive results on a limited budget.
This blog post is geared towards business owners with a website, a solid understanding of their customers, a knowledge of your competition and a sense of your brand message. If you don’t have every one of these elements, conquer these goals first – and then return to this post. See Step 1 for an easy self-diagnosis for your businesses marketing maturity.
Step 1: Diagnose your Current Needs
Our first stop on this tour is to take some time for this 5 minute tour of the Internet Marketing Pyramid of Needs. This is an internet marketing maturity model that I built years ago after having worked with startups, small businesses and mid-sized businesses. (Disclaimer: I’m a partner in the business that runs this site, but I believe that using this model to gain a basic understanding of where your business stands vis-à-vis internet marketing maturity can be helpful in determining what you need.)
Assuming that you have already mastered the understanding of your business model, your competitive landscape and your product’s value proposition in the marketplace, you can move to working on your digital marketing.
Hubspot’s marketing grader is a good place to identify some of the holes in your Website and how you can improve your on-page SEO marketing. You can add some of your best competitors to see how they stack up against your business.
Step 2: Claim your Local Profiles
If you don’t know what this is, you need to. Google Places is the blocking and tackling of local businesses. Your most valuable searches on Google are going to be from active shoppers who don’t already know your brand. When they search on:
Chocolate shops in Wayne
Philadelphia eyeglass repair
Getting auto repair estimates in Berwyn
Your Google places page is one of the easiest and most potent ways to show up. You are, quite literally, placed “on the map” by Google.
Step 3: Enable Free Google Analytics
Google Analytics is free. It is an incredibly powerful Website tool built and provided to the world for free by the the $290 Billion behemoth that has been turned into a verb. Google wants to be as useful (and important) to you as air. So they've invested their money into their free search utility, their free email platform (gmail) and their free analytics tool (Google Analytics). In each of these 3 cases, they are so good that they are practically category killers. If you aren't using these free tools, you are losing ground to your competition.
In order to sign up for Google Analytics, you'll probably want a gmail account (also free). Once you've created the account, ask your Web designer or Webmaster to install the analytics code into the header of your Website.
If they don't know how to do this, find another Web designer or Webmaster.
Step 4: Give People a Reason to Interact with You
So you have a Website, but now you need a conversation starter. How to do that?
Make sure that your Website has a blogging capability. That is where you will announce the answers to your marketplace's problems.
What do you write about?
Solve a problem. Help the do-it-yourselfers. Give away some of your secret sauce. In the process, you will show people that your company is the go-to team for problems that are too much effort for them.
If you really answer the question, then people will link to your answer, +1 it and like it. Like all good answers, your answer will probably raise more questions in the reader's mind. This is the place to offer offer time to talk more in-depth about their specific needs.
Invite people to sign up for your newsletter at the end of the answer. Give people a way to contact you with more questions.
When sharing this kind of content, your primary objectives should be focused on:
- Build your house list. The house list refers to your database of contacts who have engaged with your business - or at least shown an interest in the past. A Sign up for our Newsletter! button or link needs to be a very visible call-to-action on your Website
- Drive sales. The Contact Us form can be used to collect prospect names, phone numbers and emails. Always make sure your phone number is easily found by the reader. Many businesses are still mostly person to person, phone-initiated sales environments.
This step could easily have been named Blog Your Butt Off. To get inspiration to do exactly that, check out this video of Marcus Sheridan from Postwire / Inbound 2012 conference.
Step 5: Email Marketing
Despite what your kids might tell you, the rest of the world still very much runs on email. Email serves an important function in the digital communication eco-system, so it isn’t going anywhere soon. In fact, seasoned digital marketers might not want to let you in on the secret. Email marketing provides the highest conversion rate of the digital channels - sometimes pretty dramatically.
Email Marketing is a big topic. Email marketing platforms like Mailchimp, iContact, Constant Contact and more have emerged to help business owners drive results from their “House List”. Take some time to research them before settling on one. Check out our post on comparing these powerful Email Marketing alternatives.
If you invest the time and effort to do these 5 Steps, then your business should see marked improvement over the next year! You may also be interested in checking out our 25 Nearly Free Ways to Market your Business post.
In the comments below, please weigh in with your own marketing ideas - or success stories with these techniques.