Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Internet Marketing Tips for the Small Business Budget

If you run a small business, then I'd be willing to bet that you appreciate the potential power of the internet to drive growth in your business. Either that, or you're an ostrich sticking it's head in the ground .... which can't be true, because you're reading this post!
Savvy business owners recognise that one way or another, potential customers are either using search engines like Google to find a provider of their product or service - or are referring to their social media networks for guidance to help them with buying decisions.
I recently had the opportunity to connect with Jayne Day, who is a specialist in the field of internet marketing. Jayne is the founder and director of Webonize, an online marketing agency based in Newcastle, Australia.  Jayne teaches and consults with small business owners on how to get noticed online and attract more clients. I asked Jayne some questions about her experiences in running her own business - and also to share some tips on internet marketing ......
What motivated you to start your own business?

Webonize is my third business and my second business based online.  I like having the creative freedom and lifestyle that can be created from having your own business.  Webonize was founded due to the passion I have for assisting other small business owners with their online marketing strategies.
What do you find most frustrating or stressful about running your own business – and what are the rewards that have made it worthwhile?

Thankfully, I don't have many aspects of my business that I find stressful.  My major obstacle has been maintaining the high level of service that I aim to provide my clients while balancing the large amount of enquiries and clients that I am working with.  While I have a couple of people that work with me, I am very hands-on in the way I run my business because I like to do the majority of the work myself and all client consultation is with me. 
The rewards certainly out-weigh the challenges.  Although I do work long hours, I choose the times each day that I work and I regularly work late at night so that I can spend the afternoons with my children.  I have created the business so that it offers me the flexibility of being able to work around my family.

Jayne, you’ve consulted with many small business owners, advising them on their online marketing strategies – what are the common mistakes that you’ve seen?

Most small business owners that I consult with, don't have a strategy in place. They are just guessing as they go along.  Having a complete strategy in place will see much greater results for the time and effort. Everything you do online should be complementing each other - with the ultimate goal of driving more traffic to your website so as generate more sales.

Another common mistake is not being clear on your "ideal client".  Your ideal client profile should be very defined so that all your marketing messages are speaking directly to this particular market - in the language they speak and in the places they hang-out. If your messages are too broad, then you run the risk that you won't appeal to anyone.

What about SEO – what have you found are some of the things that SME’s typically overlook or simply don’t understand about how to achieve ranking success with their websites?
Keywords are the first, most misunderstood concept of SEO.  Keywords are the words that people type into search engines (eg. Google) to perform a particular search.  Most people guess what keywords they should be using and then try to rank for those keywords.  To be successful with your search engine optimisation, the keywords that you are targeting are the first and most important step in your SEO campaign.

Ensure these particular keywords appear in the Title tag of your page and also in the meta-Description for the page (you may need to ask your webmaster to make these changes). And also ensure that these keywords are woven naturally into the text and content of the page itself.

You want to make sure that you are targeting keywords that your ideal clients or customers are actually using when they enter in their searches.  There is no benefit at all in ranking on the first page of Google for a keyword phrase that no-one is using.  You want to be ranking for keywords that are actually going to bring in traffic to your website, and preferably traffic that will result in sales.  The sales might come straight away or they may come in the future.

The need for careful selection of the keywords you target applies as much to paid advertising as it does to ranking well for organic search performance. There may be some small business owners reading this who are as yet unsure of what I mean when I refer to paid results versus organic  performance

Let me explain this ....... An internet marketing strategy will often comprise some carefully selected paid advertising - which may include search engines and sometimes  Facebook (depending upon your target market)

For example, using Goodge Adwords pay-per-click online advertising means you might bid maybe $2.00 in order for your website to appear on the first page of Google search results for a particular search phrase. However, this amount is only paid if your ad (which contains a link to your website) is actually clicked. Whereas working on improving the organic (natural) search performance of your website means you pay nothing when your link is clicked on. The paid advertised results appear on the right side of the search results - and the organic (unpaid) on the left side of a computer screen. Premium advertising appears as "starred" results at the top of the page, which cost even more if they are clicked.

In addition to all of this, email marketing might also be considered as another component of your marketing strategy. You'd be surprised at the number of small business owners who are overlooking the potential treasures in their existing customer data-bases - and simply failing to leverage them when they initiate new promotions or are running a seasonal "sale". Mind you, there are still many small business owners who don't yet understand the importance of building a customer email data-base ..... and this is something we help them to do. 

For small business owners with limited time and equally limited budgets, what strategies and platforms would you recommend in building an online presence?
First of all, come up with a strategy.  Even if it is only very basic.  You need to know what you are doing and why you are doing it and how it is going to benefit  your business. This comes back once again to knowing your ideal client.  You want to know what is going to appeal to them and also where they are spending their time.  You don't want to be spending  a lot of time building a Twitter profile, for example, if your ideal clients don't even have a Twitter profile.

When first starting off, don't become overwhelmed with all the options.  Start small and gradually build on your strategy once you have one area or platform mastered.  So your first step might be Facebook marketing and once you have that flowing nicely, then move onto your next social media platform, which might be YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram for example.  But keep it all in line with your overall strategy aimed at engaging with your particular target market. Same with anything you do with your blogs, guest posts, videos, webinars - it's wasted effort unless it's helping you to connect with your target market

Another thing to remember is, social media isn't going to give you instant sales.  Social media is used to make connections and build relationships with others. You build relationships by providing them with value and good quality content. Once you have gained some trust and credibility, then these relationships begin to be established - and then your sales will naturally follow.

I know that one of the areas that gives you satisfaction is helping women entering small business – do you feel that women face their own particular set of challenges in turning their visions into reality?
I certainly don't like to generalise, but I do find that many women struggle more with confidence and the fear of failure when starting their own business.  I love being able to help women find the confidence required to make their business successful.  

Any final tips on internet marketing for either the budding entrepreneur or the small business owner seeking to grow and expand?

While most online marketing strategies come free, or with a minimal cost, keep in mind that your time represents money.  Make sure that the time you are spending is giving you a worthwhile return on that investment. Otherwise, consider outsourcing this function, so that you can focus on playing to your strengths in your business.

You also don't want to invest too much time creating profiles on social media platforms that you don't own and ultimately don't have any control over.  Make sure you maintain a very strong focus on what you do own in the online space, and that is your own website.  Spend time creating quality content that is regularly published on your website, that your clients will find useful. Ensure the strategy you have in place will drive followers from social media back to your website - otherwise your social media time investment becomes mere "fluff"
Thanks to Jayne, for sharing some of her internet marketing experience with us.
Other related posts - SEO Tips for Small Business and also Getting Found by Google
Digital Marketing Trends ....... see what you think of this short video

About the author
Brian Carroll is the founder of Performance Development, a training business in Melbourne, Australia.  He is an experienced management coach with a passion for helping people achieve their goals in life and business. You can find out more about Brian at his Google + profile