Let’s be honest, running your own business can be a nightmare sometimes and, inevitably, the biggest challenge is prioritising what’s important and what can wait.
When the inbox starts to overflow, it can be easy to simply set aside tasks that are deemed non-urgent for a later date and, for many, online marketing fall into this category.
But I’ll let you into a secret: clients (along with service providers, staff, suppliers, and so on) will never stop throwing curveballs. You will, however, learn to manage them with greater efficiency.
But the fact is that organic online marketing can’t wait — it takes time and the later you start, the later you’ll see results. Online sales are now forecast to make up 21.5% of the retail market by 2018, a rise of 8.8% from 2012. Without a hard-working online presence, you could be missing out on a substantial amount of potential business.
If you have set up a new online business then you’ve undoubtedly prepared an online marketing plan already. And you’ve probably also had lots of calls offering services that will guarantee your website a top five organic placement on Google within six months. Trust your instincts on these and steer clear of quick wins — as the old adage goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Online marketing is about earning trust and it will take time — that’s why it is prudent to start early and focus on the long term. While there are numerous resources available to support beginners with SEO (such as moz.com and our own Donut guides), the greatest challenge for small business owners is time.
Opting to work with a respected search agency can provide a more holistic approach — using their resources to manage multiple elements concurrently rather than jumping from task to task. Alternatively, many search companies will be open to completing certain elements of your own strategy such as social media management or content provision and dovetailing this with your own activity.
While this work continues in the long-term, an effective way to make more money and drive traffic to your website in the short term is to use pay-per-click advertising (PPC) such as Google AdWords.
In short, you create adverts to be placed on relevant results pages of Google. To do this you need to create adverts that Google deems good quality “answers” to search “questions”. PPC offers flexibility both in terms of advert content but also in terms of spend as you will need to ensure that you are targeting relevant phrases and bidding effectively to get a decent return on your investment.
As the name suggests, with PPC you only pay every time your advert is clicked on but if you choose the wrong terms and the wrong bids, your budget can disappear pretty quickly and with little to show for it.
Like SEO, PPC is a task that can be done by your team but, again, it can be time-consuming. And conquering Click through Rate and Cost per Acquisition through trial and error can be expensive. Many search marketing companies offer campaign start-up packages and monthly management plans, enabling you to get a strong presence in search results.
Copyright © 2014 Hannah Jackson, managing director of Search Marketing Group.
We’ve all been there — you’ve arrived early at the station and you’re waiting for the train to arrive. Suddenly you find yourself noticing all of the adverts that usually pass you by. We don’t realise it, but it’s at this moment that we are caught by wait marketing.
Wait marketing is a powerful form of advertising where businesses target potential customers during periods when they are waiting, attentive and looking for instant gratification. An eye-catching advert will catch attention and could introduce a new product or service to someone who has a few minutes to spare.
Wait marketing is also used online by many businesses. We spend an average of nine minutes a day waiting for pages to load — while adverts are normally an annoyance, more positive forms of interaction are welcomed by web users.
Creating a landing page to display on your homepage while it loads is a great method of engaging with users. These can include a welcome note, key information, offers, images and prompts to follow on social media or sign up to your newsletter. This allows you to advertise products and encourage more interaction.
Similarly, creating an eye-catching ‘loading’ logo with a message providing information is a great way to engage with customers on your site as they wait for the page to appear. You could even include an advert underneath. Users appreciate the thought behind this gesture — the mark of your unique small business ethos can be very effective.
It’s essential to include alternative text on every image your site has in order to display some content in case the picture does not immediately show up on a customer’s screen. Informative text prevents frustration as users wait for the image to load. Inserting a link can also increase interactions — such as saying “if this photo does not display, click here” leading to your contact page. This demonstrates your professionalism and can set you apart.
When looking for stimulation, many of us turn to social media. This is a prime opportunity for wait marketing. Schedule a regular flow of interesting posts across social media to capture your followers’ attention. Responding to comments with website links is also key, as it establishes a relationship with the customer which will build brand affinity. Small businesses rely on a sense of community to grow, so use social media on a regular basis.
© Emma Thomas. Emma is content curator for Media Street in Exeter.
If you’re still baffled by Google+ then worry not — you are not alone. Three years after it appeared, the network continues to create controversy and confusion. In fact, it’s easy to get lost on Google+ and spend hours roaming the site with very little to show for it. But help is here. We have compiled this beginner's guide to help you get the most out of Google+.
Once you’ve added your account, Google+ allows you to follow people, much like Twitter, and categorise them into Circles. These could include friends, work, interests and so on. You can share specific content with certain circles. People will be notified once they have been added to your Circles to prompt them to follow you back.
This is the Google+ home screen showing photos, posts, videos and everything else your contacts may be posting. On the left hand side you will see a drop down of all the areas within the Google platform, such as Communities and Events. Down the right hand side are your hangouts (which we’ll come to later). On the home stream you can +1 other people’s content (much like a Facebook like) share items or comment. You can filter the posts on your home screen via your Circles using the bar at the top of the screen, making it much easier to find what specific contacts are saying.
Like Facebook, when you share an update on Google+ you can choose who you share it with — a specific group of people or everyone. You can also tag individual companies or people in your posts to bring a topic to their attention; they will then get a notification letting them know that they have been tagged in a post. With this in mind, a post shared with a specific group of people acts much like a private message and only allows those specific few to read your update.
This is one of the most popular features on the Google+ platform and is the main feature that makes it stand out from competitors. Hangouts is where you can video call your connections, either as a group chat or as a private conversation. Google positions it as a way to turn one-to-one or group conversations into live face-to-face video calls with up to ten people. Now, with the new Uberconference app you can dial into your Google Hangouts from your phone and host a call with up to 100 people, making conference calls a whole lot easier.
There is a community for nearly everything, and we’ve certainly stumbled across some of the weird and the wonderful groups. This allows you to join in conversations with people with similar interests — whether it’s social media, travel, animals or fashion. All you need to do is request to join and you can create and join in the discussion.
This works much like a Facebook event and allows a business or individual to raise awareness about an upcoming occasion. And the best part? Being Google, this is linked to your Google calendar so you never have to worry about forgetting an event. To create an event, click on the left sidebar and when you get on the events page, simply click on create Event to get organising. If this is a secret do, then you can choose who sees the event, allowing you to share it with a specific group of people.
The Explore button on the top toolbar is another excellent feature. This section allows you to see what subjects, topics and hashtags are currently trending on the site. It also suggests similar hashtags for your future posts, as well as any communities or posts that it thinks you may be interested in. In an attempt to rival Twitter, Google+ really has gone all out with hashtags.
So, this is a whistle stop tour of Google+ to get you off the ground but it’s worth taking some time to explore the site further. You can also watch this great video from Chris Brogan about how Google+ can be used to really benefit your business.
© Emma Pauw. Emma is a social media writer at We Talk Social.
With over 255 million monthly active users sending an average of 500 million tweets a day, it’s no wonder Twitter is the first place many people turn to receive up to date news.
There are over 2.1 billion searches on the site everyday — which means it’s hot on the heels of Google and YouTube. However, unlike the other search engines, Twitter allows any individual to post news that will be immediately positioned in the public eye.
Twitter is often called the “information network” to distinguish it from other traditional social networking sites. And according to Twitter CEO, Dick Costolo, the new Twitter Search site “is complementary to traditional forms like television, because it adds the kind of real-time discussion we associate with the town square”. In other words, Twitter wants to become the ultimate breaking news platform.
It is not just Twitter that can see these benefits — journalists have been using Twitter for years to find breaking news. Now, they are turning to the site to post the news before they have even written the article. Twitter has heightened the competition between media sources to be the first ones to report news.
Twitter allows users to personalise the type of news they receive. By following certain accounts, users can pick and choose what they see in their newsfeed. We’ve all opened a newspaper and had to flick through to find the articles that really interest us. The Twitter List is great for collating news, allowing users to separate the accounts they follow into categories such as sports news or celebrities.
In addition to Lists, the almighty hashtag has allowed us to group together tweets from a specific subject, so we can view millions of first hand accounts and traditional news reports on just about any subject. The hashtag allows us to see and share everyone’s opinions.
Not only can you filter the news you receive but you can also receive it from a variety of sources. By following multiple Twitter accounts you can get a less biased take on a breaking news story.
Perhaps the greatest feature that Twitter brings to news reporting is citizen journalism. These 140 characters have given everyone a voice, allowing first hand accounts to be posted as well as traditional news reports.
The problem with Twitter as a newspaper, however, is that it is a huge rumour mill. Not everything that is tweeted is true. In order to find great nuggets of news on the platform we have to sift through thousands of false accounts and spam.
But can the same not be said for traditional media? As confidence in newspapers wavers, are people increasingly turning to social media for the real first hand accounts from the average Joe?
In an age where the media is grappling for the best headlines and as confidence in newspapers beings to falter, will Twitter becomes the ultimate 21st Century newspaper?
Many small business owners feel uncomfortable about marketing. Some positively hate it.
A new client of ours — the head of a very successful consultancy — has shied away from marketing for years because to him, it feels intrinsically wrong. In his eyes, markeing is putting on an act, pretending to be something you’re not. Like many people, he thinks there’s a dishonesty at the heart of marketing that doesn’t sit easily with the way he feels about himself or his business.
He’s not the only one. Pretending to be something you’re not is never a good feeling.
We all have a short fuse when it comes to being marketed at by pushy marketers — cold callers, spammy emails, incessant amazing never-to-be-repeated deals (until tomorrow, that is, when you get them again). And that means we don’t want to be that pushy person ourselves
We say look at marketing differently. When you approach marketing from the standpoint of ‘how can we help our customers better?’ rather than ‘how can we sell more stuff?’ it becomes easier. And, it works more effectively. It’s easy to switch off from a marketing message, it’s not so easy to switch off from something that genuinely answers a question that’s been really bugging you.
Right now, it would be impossible for me not to click on something that showed me how to get my 16-year-old son to revise.
You’ll stop seeing it as pushing, lying, or manipulation if you don’t push, lie or manipulate. Create marketing content that is genuinely helpful and you take the pressure off yourself.
Of course feel-good marketing is only possible if what you’re selling makes a difference. But that doesn’t mean you have to be Greenpeace, it just means you genuinely want to improve your customers’ lives.
Do good to feel good. That’s feel-good marketing.
Picture the scene: you’re having dinner on your own in a restaurant and the person of your dreams walks in. They come over to you. There’s good eye contact. You can feel a connection already.
Breathlessly, they whisper: “It’s great to meet you. Tell me about yourself…”
How would you respond? Like this?
“Great to meet you too. Luckily, I’ve got this book with me (you ceremoniously whip the book from your pocket). It describes my family history in full — how many of us there are, all our names, the things that are different and interesting about us. It really is a One Stop Shop describing what’s special about us… Hey, hold on, I haven’t finished yet… Where are you going…? Don’t go… Come back!”
Devastating. Your one chance to make a first impression — totally ruined.
Do you think that’s a weird example? After all, nobody would behave like that when first meeting someone, would they?
So, why is it that some people feel it’s essential to take a brochure with them to first meetings with potential customers?
They’ve never seen you before. They don’t want to be reading stuff about you. They want a chat — one that you both find interesting and stimulating. One you both enjoy. And one that — like a first date — if things go well, leads to something much better for both of you.
So, when you’re meeting someone for the first time, don’t take a brochure (you wouldn’t want to read theirs, so why would they want to read yours?)
Instead, prepare (in advance):
Since you’ve read this far, I guess you’re finding this advice useful? So, while I’ve got you, let me just quickly show you my holiday photos… No, don’t go… Please…
Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.