Justin Staples is an entrepreneur who specializes in providing businesses with results-driven SEO, custom web design, and content development. Below, he offers a modern guide for any business to ensure their efforts are modernized and effective:
Growing a successful business is anything but easy.
If you want your business to scale, you need more than a good product or service. You’ll also need tried-and-tested processes to deal with anything from sourcing products, managing employees, dealing with customers, and more.
Beyond that, you also need to figure out how you can reach as broad of a customer base as possible, and that comes down to marketing.
There are a thousand ways to market your business. However, every day that passes, digital channels become more important. Now more than ever, customers are more likely to look up products online before spending a single dollar.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of digital (or online) marketing, now’s a great time to learn some basics, so let’s get to it.
A Quick Introduction to Digital Marketing:
Every type of promotional activity that involves electronic devices falls under the banner of digital marketing. However, some online channels are far more important than others when it comes to promoting your business.
Social media is the easiest example. Unless you’re a hermit, almost everyone you know probably uses it.
Perhaps the best thing about digital marketing is it enables you to reach a far broader audience than old-school approaches – such as handing out flyers, magazine ads, and others.
If you run a local business, you can use online marketing to gain customers from all over the country, and even the world (depending on what you’re selling!). It all comes down to choosing the right channels.
10 Must-Knows of Digital Marketing in 2019:
In this section, we’ll walk you through the key terms you must know to get started with online marketing and some of the best channels you can focus on.
Keep in mind – some businesses will find more success in some channels than others, and it all depends on who your audience is. By the time we’re through, you’ll have all the information you need to make some important decisions!
Throwing money at marketing without a plan might work, but it’s not a sustainable or scalable approach.
To reap the full benefits of online marketing, you need a framework, which is a fancy name for a business plan. Here’s what it should outline:
• What your goals are (i.e., finding new leads, getting more traffic, sales, etc.)?
• Who is your audience?
• What online channels will you focus on?
• How much money do you plan to spend?
• What process will you use for tracking your results?
Frameworks are the basis of a great online marketing strategy. By laying out all that information, you’ll gain insight into why some marketing approaches work while others fail.
2. Brand Story
Branding is essential for any business. It enables you to establish relationships and build trust with your audience, which can help transform them into customers and keep them around.
The concept of branding is often very vague, but you can boil down what your brand is by answering a few simple questions:
• Who are your ideal customers?
• What problem do you help those clients solve?
• How do you want your audience to perceive you?
To put it another way, the products and services you offer may be at the core of your business. However, it’s your branding, web design, and the value you bring to your customers that determines what they think about you.
Before you embark on any marketing endeavor, you need to have a clear idea of what your brand is or what you want it to be. That way, you’ll be able to keep things consistent throughout every channel.
3. Traffic Acquisition and Conversions
When it comes to online marketing, we often don’t talk about sales, sign-ups, or leads. Instead, we refer to those things as “conversions.”
The more traffic you can drive to your website using digital channels, the more potential conversions you get. Those conversions might not always lead directly to sales, but ideally, they’ll get you one step closer to that finish line.
At the end of the day, the value of your services is what convinces visitors to become clients. Digital marketing is just the set of processes you use to get them in the door.
4. Paid Ads
Most online channels enable you to pay in exchange for traffic. That includes social media platforms, search engines, websites, and more.
Depending on which channel you use, you’ll be able to run different types of ads. Usually, you’ll pay for clicks, impressions, or more specific interactions.
In online marketing, we refer to groups of paid ads as “campaigns.” Ideally, you’ll test different campaigns across marketing channels, figure out what works, and then scale upwards to get more conversions.
5. Email Marketing
When it comes to digital marketing, email is king.
To reap the full benefits of email marketing, you’ll need to build up a sizable list of subscribers and develop engaging campaigns. It’s a ton of work, but the numbers speak for themselves.
6. Live Chat
If you take a quick look at some of your favorite websites, we’re willing to bet a lot of them have live chat windows.
Nowadays, live chat is by far the most popular channel for customers to communicate with you. In fact, 44% of visitors say having someone that can answer their questions directly is a big factor deciding whether to make a purchase.
Once someone gets to your website, it’s your job to explain what your products and services can do for them. The best way to do that, by far, is telling them yourself, and live chat provides you with a channel that enables you to do that.
7. Affiliate Marketing
Think about affiliate marketing as a commission program for the digital age. In short, businesses that run affiliate programs pay end-users or marketers to promote their products.
These days, affiliate marketing drives over 16% of all e-commerce sales, which is a staggering figure. If you can set up an attractive affiliate program, it can become a cornerstone of your digital marketing strategy.
If you’re trying to grow an online business, then you need to learn how to love search engine optimization (SEO).
Search engines can make or break websites. If your business shows up on a high position in the search engine result pages (SERPs) for popular terms, they can drive massive amounts of traffic to your website.
The problem is, there’s no magic formula when it comes to SEO. What you can do is follow best practices, which evolve all the time as search engines refine their algorithms.
SEO involves a lot of trial and error, but it’s key to the growth of most – if not all – online businesses.
9. Public Relations (PR)
If you want to get people talking about your business, one of the best ways to do it is through good old-fashioned PR.
Traditional press releases, for example, can drum up a lot of interest if you can get attention from publications with a big following.
Nowadays, there are a lot of online tools you can use to build relationships, with leading online publications. What that means is that in 2019, you don’t need the help of a PR firm to get the word about your business out there.
10. Social Media
As a marketer, the only thing you need to know about social media is that almost 44% of the entire world uses it.
Some platforms are more popular than others, of course, and not all of them might be a great fit for your business.
What you want to do is identify which social media platforms are more popular among your audience, and then use them to promote your business. In most cases, that means running paid ads, setting up profiles to promote your content, and engaging with your followers as often as possible.
What Digital Marketing Will Look Like in 2020:
The main thing you need to know is digital marketing is only becoming more important with every year that passes. Over half of the world’s population is already online, and a lot of them use the internet to decide where they’re going to spend their money.
As far as specific trends go, 63% of online marketers say they want to focus on social media in 2020.
Mobile use only keeps growing as well, which means more and more people are using voice searches to find what they want. Making sure your digital marketing strategy is mobile-friendly is key to staying relevant.
Marketing amidst uncertainty: 3 considerations
(BUSINESS MARKETING) As the end of the COVID tunnel begins to brighten, marketing strategies may shift yet again – here are three thoughts to ponder going into the future.
The past year has been challenging for businesses, as operations of all sizes and types and around the country have had to modify their marketing practices in order to address the sales barriers created by the pandemic. That being said, things are beginning to look up again and cities are reopening to business as usual.
As a result, companies are looking ahead to Q3 with the awareness they need to pivot their marketing practices yet again. The only question is, how?
Pandemic Pivot 1.0: Q3 2020
When the pandemic disrupted global markets a year ago, companies looked for new ways to reach their clients where they were: At home, even in the case of B2B sales. This was the first major pivot, back when store shelves were empty care of panic shopping, and everyone still thought they would only be home for a few weeks.
How did this transition work? By building out more extensive websites, taking phone orders, and crafting targeted advertising, most companies actually survived the crisis. Some even came out ahead. With this second pivot, however, these companies will have to use what they knew before the pandemic, while making savvy predictions about how a year-long crisis may have changed customer behavior.
Think Brick And Mortar
As much as online businesses played a key role in the pandemic sales landscape, as the months wore on, people became increasingly loyal to local, brick and mortar businesses. As people return to their neighborhood for longer in-person adventures, brands should work on marketing strategies to further increase foot traffic. That may mean continuing to promote in-store safety measures, building a welcoming online presence, and developing community partnerships to benefit from other stores’ customer engagement efforts.
Reach Customers With PPC
Obviously brick and mortar marketing campaigns won’t go far for all-online businesses, but with people staying at home less, online shops may have a harder time driving sales. Luckily, they have other tools at their disposal. That includes PPC marketing, one of the most effective, trackable advertising strategies.
While almost every business already uses some degree of PPC marketing because of its overall value, but one reason it’s such a valuable tool for businesses trying to navigate the changing marketplace is how easy it is to modify. In fact, best practice is to adjust your PPC campaign weekly based on various indicators, which is what made it a powerful tool during the pandemic as well. Now, instead of using a COVID dashboard to track the impact of regulations on ad-driven sales, however, companies can use PPC marketing to see how their advertising efforts are holding up to customers’ rapidly changing shopping habits.
It’s All About The Platforms
When planning an ad campaign, what you say is often not as important as where you say it – a modern twist on “the medium is the message.” Right now, that means paying attention to the many newer platforms carrying innovative ad content, so experiment with placing ads on platforms like TikTok, Reddit, and NextDoor and see what happens.
One advantage of marketing via smaller platforms is that they tend to be less expensive than hubs like Facebook. That being said, they are all seeing substantial traffic, and most saw significant growth during the pandemic. If they don’t yield much in the way of results, losses will be minimal, but given the topical and local targeting various platforms allow for, above and beyond standard PPC targeting, they could be just what your brand needs as it navigates the next set of marketplace transitions.
The last year has been unpredictable for businesses, but Q3 2021 may be the most uncertain yet as everyone attempts to make sense of what normal means now. The phrase “new normal,” overused and awkward as it is, gets to the heart of it: we can pretend we’re returning to our pre-pandemic lives, but very little about the world before us is familiar, so marketing needs a “new normal,” too.
Advertising overload: Let’s break it down
(BUSINESS MARKETING) A new study finds that frequent ads are actually more detrimental to a brand’s image than that same brand advertising near offensive content.
If you haven’t noticed, ads are becoming extremely common in places that are extremely hard to ignore—your Instagram feed, for example. Advertising has certainly undergone some scrutiny for things like inappropriate placement and messaging over the years, but it turns out that sheer ad exhaustion is actually more likely to turn people off of associated brands than the aforementioned offensive content.
Marketing Dive published a report on the phenomenon last Tuesday. The report claims that, of all people surveyed, 32% of consumers said that they viewed current social media advertising to be “excessive”; only 10% said that they found advertisements to be “memorable”.
In that same group, 52% of consumers said that excessive ads were likely to affect negatively their perception of a brand, while only 32% said the same of ads appearing next to offensive or inappropriate content.
“Brand safety has become a hot item for many companies as they look to avoid associations with harmful content, but that’s not as significant a concern for consumers, who show an aversion to ad overload in larger numbers,” writes Peter Adams, author of the Marketing Dive report.
This reaction speaks to the sheer pervasiveness of ads in the current market. Certainly, many people are spending more time on their phones—specifically on social media—as a result of the pandemic. However, with 31% and 27% of surveyed people saying they found website ads either “distracting” or “intrusive”, respectively, the “why” doesn’t matter as much as the reaction itself.
It’s worth pointing out that solid ad blockers do exist for desktop website traffic, and most major browsers offer a “reader mode” feature (or add-on) that allows users to read through things like articles and the like without having to worry about dynamic ads distracting them or slowing down their page. This becomes a much more significant issue on mobile devices, especially when ads are so persistent that they impact one’s ability to read content.
Like most industries, advertisers have faced unique challenges during the pandemic. If there’s one major takeaway from the report, it’s this: Ads have to change—largely in terms of their frequency—if brands want to maintain customer retention and loyalty.
7 simple tips to boost your customer loyalty online
(BUSINESS MARKETING) Without a brick-and-mortar store, building rapport and customer loyalty can be a challenge, but you can still build customer loyalty online.
With many businesses – both big and small – operating online, there are less opportunities for building those face-to-face relationships that exist in brick and mortar stores. According to smallbizgenius, 65% of the company’s revenue comes from existing customers.
It’s important to keep in mind the different tactics at your disposal for increasing customer loyalty. Noupe recently released a list of actionable tips for increasing this loyalty. Let’s examine these ideas and expand on the best.
- Keep your promises – Stay true to what you’ve agreed to, obviously contractually, but stay true to your company values as well. Even if you feel you’ve built a good loyalty where there is room to take a step back, don’t rest on your laurels and be sure to remain consistent. If you’ve provided a good experience, keep that going. The only change that should happen is in it getting better.
- Stay in communication – In addition to the ever-so-vital social media platforms, consider creating an email newsletter to stay in touch with your customers. Finding ways to have them keep you in mind should be at the front of your mind. By reaching out and being friendly, this will help retain their business.
- Be flexible with payments – No, don’t sell yourself short, but consider installment plans for pricier items or services. This will help customers feel more at ease when their wallet’s health is at stake.
- Reward programs – Consider allowing customers to accrue loyalty points in exchange for a freebie. The old punch card method is still an incredibly popular concept, and is a great way to keep people coming back. The cost associated with giving something away for free will be minimal in comparison to loyalty you receive in order for the customer to get to that point. Make sure that what a customer is putting in is about equal to what they’re getting out of it (i.e. don’t have a customer spend $100 in order to get $1 off their next purchase). If all of this proves successful, this can eventually be expanded by creating VIP levels.
- Prioritize customer service – A first impression is everything. By prioritizing customer service, you can help shape the narrative of the customer and how they view your business. This splinters off into them giving good word of mouth recommendations to friends and family. Be sure to keep positive customer service as the forefront of your mind, as giving a bad review is just as easy – or even easier – as giving a good review.
- Value feedback – Allow customers a space to provide their feedback, either on your website or on social media. Find out what brought them to you and gage how their experience was. Be sure to thank them for their feedback and take it into consideration. Feedback – both good and bad – can be vital in helping shape a business.
- Avoid laziness – Stay sharp at all times. Don’t treat all customers as nothing but currency. Include personalized touches wherever you can. This will make all of the difference.
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