4 Small business Marketing Myths

There are many small business marketing myths that continue to be peddled online. Perhaps the myths are simply perpetuated by those who know no better. Or it could be more sinister and based on vested interest. Whatever the reason any small business falling for the hype is likely to end up out of pocket for no real return.

Myth1 – All I Need Is a Business Website!

Many businesses believe that all they really need for the enquiries to roll in is a professional business website. While there is certainly a credibility issue if a prospect types in the business name and no website is found investing in a new website build is not necessarily the best use of resources.

The questions to ask are:

  • How much of my business comes from existing customers?
  • How much existing customer business will I lose if there is no website?
  • Can I expect to obtain more business from existing customers if a website is in place?

With these answers in hand you can now turn your attention to new customers. Is it likely those prospects will be searching for your product or services online? As the answer will almost certainly be yes then how many website visitors do you need to secure a sale and what is the value of that sale? It is important to research these figures to establish how much can be invested in the website build and in making sure the website is found by target prospects.

To secure new customers via a website assumes those prospects can find the website. Statistics shows >85% of website searchers never go beyond page 1 of search to satisfy their information requirements. While these statistics can be misleading there is little doubt if a website cannot be found it is a waste of time and money.

Myth2 – I Need To Be On Page 1 Of Google!

Small businesses probably waste more on search engine optimisation than any other marketing activity. Yes a website needs to be on page 1 but that is only relevant if it is based on a relevant keyword search. Which search words or phrases (keywords) are prospects most likely to use and how common is that phrase (traffic) is a key consideration.

For a very specific keyword phrase a website may rank on Page 1 without any difficulty but does that keyword phrase (and its immediate derivatives) actually bring any traffic (prospects) to the site? Single keywords and phrases are less relevant to search than they once were and ranking on a single phrase is now of little use.

At least one post (probably more) is realistically needed to cover what follows but for now a quick, but important, summary will suffice. There are two major SEO myths to be aware of. The first states that backlinks (websites linking to your site) are no longer relevant. The second states that all you need is lots of relevant and engaging content on your site for it to rank high on the search engines. Both, taken in isolation, are utter rubbish.

Content is important, so are backlinks but to use one in isolation will not work. What is needed is both high quality backlinks and engaging content as part of a search engine optimisation process. Content then needs to be distributed appropriately to drive both visitors and high quality links.

Myth3 – Mobile Marketing Is The Way Forward!

In principle yes, there are lots of statistics to show that search traffic is moving away from desktop and towards mobile telephone and tablet but that is only part of the story.

A recent post from Graham Jones perhaps illustrates one of the major issues. We all tend to segregate our activities so the relevance of mobile is very much dependant on the product. Using mobile marketing inappropriately can quickly alienate a potential prospect base.

A quick look at Google analytics will show the relevance of mobile to your site. Click on the browser tab on the left and take a look at the percentage of current traffic coming from Safari and Android. Then ask around among your customers to establish what they use to browse to your website and why. This is far from perfect science but it does give an indication of the relevance of mobile (or not) to your business.

Myth4 – I Need To Be on Facebook!

Well yes if your customers are there and they are using Facebook to research your type of products or services then it makes sense. On the flip side for many businesses their customers are simply not there or they are not active users.

It is also important to remember the segregation issue mentioned above. Many use Facebook and the other social networks for social activities (there’s a surprise!) like keeping up with friends or gossip and not for business. Often, finding business information when in social mode is a real turn off and creates a negative impression of the business.

There is a common theme to all of the above and that is there is little point using any marketing technique that does not reach your target market. What do I sell, who needs that product or service, how do they decide on a supplier and how do I reach them are the key considerations. The marketing tools or techniques are secondary.

It is the big picture and process that matters, not the hype over the latest and greatest marketing technique or the small business marketing myths perpetrated by those who simply need to sell a product or service regardless of the ROI.

Related Posts You May like:

Outdated Marketing Tactics To Avoid

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In House Small Business Marketing

time available for DIY marketingIs in house small business marketing a viable proposition or is it always best to buy in marketing services? The answer, I am afraid, is not clear cut but depends primarily on the time available to the business owner or key staff to deliver the marketing process on an ongoing, consistent basis.

Can In House Marketing Succeed?

If the time and the will are there to take on raising the profile of the business in house there is plenty of evidence that those with little marketing education or experience can achieve results.

Despite what marketing agencies and freelancers may wish to portray the majority of online marketing is not particularly difficult but it is time consuming. If there is information available to point in the right direction and overcome the inevitable short term experience gap then it is possible for the small business owner to achieve real results.

 

DIY Marketing – The Basics

For any small business to make a success of in house marketing the key requirements are

  • Time
  • A willingness to learn
  • Persistence

Time to both learn the process and achieve meaningful results is perhaps the crucial ingredient. If the business is either desperate for short term sales or the time is not available to both learn and deliver marketing on an ongoing and consistent basis then it is best not to start the process at all and simply hire in the required services.

It is fair to say little will go as expected and there will be many times when the results obtained appear to be not worth the effort but this is normal. The will to carry on and a firm belief that the marketing process will deliver results in the medium to long term are vital to success.

Small Business Marketing Tools

To deliver a successful local marketing campaign requires appropriate delivery of

The website is the hub for all marketing activity. It must deliver the key company messages, act as an information hub, facilitate ongoing customer communication and ultimately convert visitors to customers.

However, if a website cannot be fouin house marketing processnd when a local prospect types in a relevant search term then it is of little use. There are various studies that show that over 85% of potential website visitors never go past page 1 Google when search for suppliers of goods and services. Appropriate, localized search engine marketing (SEM) is therefore crucial to success.

Link building is a vital component of search engine marketing activity but local link building requires a different approach. Local links are required and to secure those requires networking. More details can be found in this post from Hallam Internet

Finally, content is the fuel for the marketing process. It builds SEM, builds credibility, facilitates ongoing communication, builds relationships and has a significant impact on conversion rates.

In House Marketing – Useful Resources

So where can you find good quality education resources to help you build your own, in house, local marketing process? Unfortunately, it is not as easy as may be imagined. Best practice internet marketing develops at a rapid pace and books on the subject are often out of date soon after publication. There are a vast array of blogs and information online but it always important to check the date of publication and the source.

The vast majority of information online is either regurgitated from another source, plain bad advice or of little value. Some good, reliable sources I have found include

Local website design – this post may help you get started

Content Marketing – Some useful material here from Iconsive

Search engine marketingSearch engine Land

Google+ – Key to local marketing success – A number of useful posts from Daniel Sharkov

Social media tips and resourcesThe Social Media Hat

General online marketing tips and advice – from Kikolani

But there are many others that are out there to be found and utilise

In summary therefore, in house small business marketing can deliver results but those results will take time to come through. Time and persistence are required to learn a process, to make mistakes and to go again. However, if the time and energy are available then the savings over buying in services can be substantial.

The risks of hiring a marketing supplier who then fails to deliver on their promises are also minimised. It is an unfortunate fact that although there are many high quality suppliers available marketing does tend to attract those with little expertise, who are aware of the relevant buzzwords, who can talk a good game. It may be worth saving your hard earned cash and givivng in house small business marketing a try.

Related posts you may like:

Most online marketing advice is bad advice

The value of local link building

Search engine marketing – There are no quick fixes

Build A Joined Up marketing Process

Don’t shoot the messenger but the latest great small business marketing techniques you may have heard about won’t work. Now I have that off my chest let me clarify that statement – it will not work in isolation. Only a joined up marketing process will produce the required results but don’t expect it to be easy and it won’t happen overnight.

Single Tactic Marketing

Let’s look at the old outbound techniques first. Yes, many of them did work in isolation and that was why they were so popular. However, things have changed telemarketing does not work, the effectiveness of traditional advertising and direct mail have been in decline for years and sales orientated Emails increasingly end up in spam folders.

What about the brave new world of online marketing? The website salesman arrives at your door with what appears to be a compelling argument. A new website increases the credibility of your business, it raises your profile, allows you to deliver your message to the marketplace and presents the opportunity for you to jump ahead of your competition.

SEO as a key element of the marketing mixAll true, but what is the point if your great new website cannot be found online by prospects who may type in a relevant term to a search engine. Various search engine research documents show that 92% of searches never look beyond page 1 of the search results. So some method of ensuring your website is on page 1 is required but that really does open up a can of worms.

Historically, there were three main options, Pay Per Click, organic SEO or a combination of the two (SEM). Taking PPC first, yes it does work well in many markets (not all) if set up and managed correctly. Consistent results can be achieved in time but it does require an initial investment to build a reliable process. However, the amateur can waste considerable sums on poorly set up PPC campaigns.

Some research (GroupM and Neilsen) shows 94% of searchers prefer the organic results to PPC. Although this figure is extremely difficult to measure and the figure is unlikely to be correct it is probably safe to assume more searchers prefer organic results. SEO tends therefore to be the preferred route for many businesses and, in the past, there were many SEO agencies that could deliver results for a relatively low cost.

Those days have gone and good quality SEO services are far less easy to find. The costs today can seem much higher than in the past but that is based on the reality of the time and effort that is required to generate the required result. One thing is certain when it comes to SEO, if a deal seems too good to be true then it should be avoided at all costs.  It really is possible for a poor quality SEO supplier to more harm than good.

Marketing Strategy And Process

The number one reason any marketing activity fails to deliver results is a failure to think through both what a business wants to achieve and what makes the business different from all the rest. If a business cannot document why a customer should choose them then, unless all of their business is via recommendation, they are in a very dangerous place.

With the basics in place a strategy to deliver the required result can be assembled and this can be flowed down to the promotional plan. The process does not need to be complicated and a simplified marketing strategy can often be documented in a few pages. The time invested is usually refunded many times over as it prevents the waste involved in jumping from the latest marketing bright and shiny object to the next.

A Customised Marketing System

There are many possible marketing tactics (a colleague recently documented a total of 46) both online and offline. What matters is how those tactics are chosen and combined to achieve the planned outcome. Every business is different, their objectives are not the same and markets constantly evolve and change so it is not possible to produce a one system fits all system. Many have tried, and failed, to develop a standard approach.

content fuels the marketing processThere is however, one constant and that is the value of content. The amount written about content marketing is enormous. Although, it has to be said, a large amount is produced by those with a vested interest in content marketing services its value should not be underestimated.

Various marketing research studies show that up to 81% (GE Retail research) of consumers of items worth >$500 research online before contacting a supplier. Buyers in general are generally more resistant to the old push marketing tactics and much more likely to research a product or service before making a purchase. They are looking for credible information (content) to guide that process and are likely to value a supplier that delivers that information above the rest. Content, in its many forms, is the fuel for any successful marketing process.

Most small businesses are quite rightly focussed on the product or service they deliver and their customers. Marketing and promoting the business is often recognised as a key task but in house marketing expertise and resource can be an expense too far. Outsourcing can therefore be the norm, which is fine, if it remembered that whatever service is bought in fits with the businesses joined up marketing process and is delivered by those with the required expertise

 

5 steps to small business marketing success

Many of the marketing tools required for small business marketing success are low cost (or free) and, as relatively few businesses have recognised the opportunity, there is a short term window available to jump ahead of the competition and grow sales. So what is the process? What steps are required to raise the profile of a business in its local area and increase enquiries and sales?

Locally optimised website

Research shows that most consumers search for local suppliers of products or services online. It is therefore essential they find a website for the business that delivers the information they require and keeps them coming back for more. In many cases a simple website of only a few pages will suffice, built on a low cost website build package.

Google My Business page

Any new website will find it difficult to immediately appear on Page 1 Google for all of its chosen keywords. A carefully crafted Google my business page can give a local business a Page 1 presence (a mini website) on Google almost immediately and it points directly to the main business website.

Local Search Engine Optimisation

SEO a key element in local marketing successAlthough Google my business is an effective medium term solution it has its limitations which means it is essential to drive the main business website up the search engine rankings. For businesses with a local customer base interested only in customers who make a location based search this does not need to be an onerous or expensive task. The key is to keep delivering new and fresh content of interest to potential customers.

Local directories

Although the use of paper directories is in rapid decline online directories are still used and are a useful way to make sure a local business is found online. Choosing a select few local and major directories and building a consistent NAP profile can be a useful way to drive traffic to a business.

Reviews

The psychologist Dr Robert Cialdini and others identified social proof as a key determinant of human behaviour. It is natural for people to seek out the opinion of others before making a decision. This is why publishing positive customer reviews on Google My Business and the website is so important.

Any small business with a local customer base can implement a successful local small business marketing campaign for little cost and with minimal (if any) support. All that is required is the time to learn the tools and techniques involved and the ongoing commitment to drive the marketing process forward. Future posts will concentrate on each of the above elements in turn.

Outdated Small Business Marketing Techniques To Avoid

When trying to attract more customers It is all too easy to be seduced by small business marketing techniques that appear to offer fast results with little effort. In our experience there are several sales messages that should set alarm bells ringing, they are:

  • Any guarantee to deliver a Page 1 listing for a website on the search engines.
  • Anything ‘custom’.
  • Gold, silver or bronze anything (particularly SEO).
  • Websites with built in SEO.
  • Any individual (or business) claiming “every business should embrace social media.”
  • Any suggestion you should broadcast your sales message to a purchased Email list.

These sales messages are flawed because:

  • Page1 against what search terms (keywords)? If the keyword has low competition (few sites trying to rank against the keyword) it will be relatively easy to rank on Page1 against that keyword. That is great but if few people search for that keyword (no traffic) what is the point.
  • Custom tends to mean expensive, difficult to change, and locked in to a single supplier.
  • It was once possible (in principle) to deliver a set number of “standardised” SEO services each month to improve a websites position on the search engines but no more. The World of SEO has changed.
  • Websites with built in SEO can only deliver a small part of the solution. Good SEO is far more complex than any simple, out of the box, solution.
  • To suggest any small business marketing technique will work for all businesses is wrong. Social media may generate for some small businesses but certainly not all. If your prospects are not using social media what is the point. Research customers and the channels they use (if any) before diving in. Research shows less than 5% of all B2B sales leads are delivered by social media.
  • Email can be an excellent marketing technique for any small business but there are two key problems – the quality of the list and ‘sales messages’. Deliver pushy sales messages and even if the prospect reads your message it is likely to end up straight in the trash bin. Many purchased lists include general Email addresses that are unlikely to reach the target and also tend to have a very low open rate.

Unfortunately in the effort to find more customers there is no overnight solution. Only a solid plan based on the best set of small business marketing techniques for the particular business situation will deliver results over the medium to long term.