The internet is a level playing field, yet there is huge divide between many smaller businesses and their larger competitors when it comes to online marketing savvy.
Bigger businesses can invest in digital teams, internal education and outside agencies to own their space in www-land, while some smaller competitors feel a sense of achievement in at least getting a website up and (barely) running.
I consult with both solopreneurs and small business owners, and I’m surprised at how many believe that online marketing amounts to just that – having a website.
Your website certainly is the hub of your digital marketing strategy, but it isn’t the whole of it. There are countless websites out there doing nothing but consuming internet bandwidth.
Quite possibly the owners of these sites aren’t sure what to do with them once the initial investment has been made. It can be overwhelming to think of running a profitable business as well as an effective website and an ongoing online marketing campaign.
That would involve a consistent effort, an important part of which would be making sure that the website is well maintained and can be found by the target audience – in other words, optimising it for both the search engines and for social media.
Unlike a bricks-and-mortar business location, a shopfront in the virtual world is a malleable thing – it needs to be constantly updated, adjusted, and tested for effectiveness. That’s just the nature of the space it exists in – a disruptive environment where change is constant.
Many small business owners I meet are not yet used to that environment. It’s come upon them so quickly and aggressively that it’s either beyond their budget or their head-space.
In upcoming articles I’ll show how to create a workable online marketing strategy that can be run by small teams and be seen as a fun and profitable part of daily business operations.
But looking briefly at the website, my first bit of advice is this: whatever you build must be very clearly branded if it’s to compete for attention amidst the ever-growing noise online.
Before laying the first virtual brick, define exactly who you are.
That’s putting the horse before the cart, as they say.
You’ve told your banker what your business is about, and all those people you talk to at networking events. But could you switch on the light in a web designers head, or make a short, powerful brand statement on your Home Page?
If you have more than one brand, each will need its own unique identity on the internet in order to be found for that particular thing.
Jeff Goins has a simple formula for creating a powerful Brand Statement:
- I help ______ (identify exactly who you help – your ideal customer)
- (Do) _______ (the specific product or service you offer and what it does)
- So they can _______ (what your product or service does for your customer)
Here’s my Brand Statement: “I help business owners and companies create remarkable content for their brands so they enjoy a profitable return on their marketing spend.”
This is your business’s mission, and it’s where your story will spring from. Make sure that all the content you publish supports your Brand Statement in some way.
Your website can now be built around who you are, what you do, and how you help your target customer.
And since this is your unique location in the world wide web, it should be built on your own virtual real estate – i.e: your own domain on a platform that you control.
This is what’s different about the internet – you and your largest competitor both have equally good locations – a www-address – so there is no unfair advantage as there might be in the physical world.
The advantage is gained by what you do with your location.
What does this website of yours look like? Is it nice? Would your customer want to come on in? Does it give off the feel of who you are and what your business is all about? Has it got personality?
When a visitor enters your site is it easy for them to find what they’re looking for? Online shoppers usually search for something specific, and if your site is a confusing jumble they’ll exit as quick as a click.
But if it’s nicely organised and things are easy to locate, they might just stick around and browse for a while, then possibly buy something or get in touch for further info. At the very least they’ll bookmark you for a follow-up visit.
The ultimate job of your website is to convert visitors into customers, whether they buy now or in the future.
The days of the brochure website are gone. An effective digital marketing strategy drives visitors to your website where they are converted into prospects and customers.
So all the information on your site should ultimately point prospects to take some form of action, such as clicking the ‘Buy Now’ button, filling out the Contact form, or signing up for your newsletter.
It’s the same principle as a physical shop – when a potential customer walks in the door everything within those four walls must direct them to the checkout.
In an uncertain digital world, your website is the one thing over which you have complete control. You own that space and the days are here when your business will be measured by how effective your website remains.
As a business owner in the 21st Century it’s just as important to maintain your online property as it is to keep your books and submit your tax returns.
It’s the world we now live in, and the age-old saying, ‘Adapt or perish’, is as true today as it ever was.
About the Author: Robin Kirkley helps business owners and companies create remarkable content for their brands so they enjoy a profitable return on their marketing spend.