Marketing Tips For Small Businesses for 2019 And Beyond
The following marketing tips for small businesses for 2019 and beyond are intended to help businesses, especially startups, understand the importance of laying the right foundation for their success in the digital space. It is now a well established fact that no business can really survive without an effective digital marketing strategy. This is even more critical for startup businesses. In this article, I am going to share with you a few tips that can help you understand some of the very simple things you must consider to avoid falling into some of the traps that caused many startups to fail within the first 2 - 3 years of existence.
It is generally reported that almost half of all new small businesses fail within the first five years of existence. There are many different statistics published by various sources. It is not my intention to delve into the merit of such statistics. If you are interested in such analysis, please go to Small Business Failure Rates/. My focus here is to share with you a few critical things that you need to have in place early in your business to set solid pillars and a foundation to give your business a chance to not only avoid failure but to thrive and succeed online.
Many factors certainly contribute to the failure of startups, such as lack of adequate funding, failure to conduct effective market research, which can result in launching a product or service that is not needed on the market, competition, not having the right partners to help balance the strengths of the founder(s), a lack of the right pricing strategy, etc. (Read What Percentage of Small Businesses Fail And How Can You Avoid Being One Of Them by Forbes).
My focus in this article is primarily on digital marketing. Therefore I am addressing what I believe to be the primary reason any business can face certain death: lack of sales. Lack of sales is generally caused by the absence of an effective lead generation process and strategy. Before you launch your business, you must have in place a process and strategy, as well as resources for generating high quality leads consistently, flowing through your funnel resulting in high volume conversion rates. You need to have a roadmap for navigating the journey in the early stages to reach specific goals, including growth goals. You must set things in place to help you to scale through every milestone that you set in your planning.
One of the mistakes made by many small startup businesses is to think that marketing is for large businesses. Because the majority of small startup businesses start from the home, most lack a clear plan and strategy. You can check some of the Key Statistics on Startups for more on startup statistics. When a startup business owner has to focus on operations to meet clients' demands, they generally don't have enough time to focus on marketing and sales. As a result, it is more likely that within a couple of years, the lead pipeline may dry up and the startup can go out of business. Starting a new business is definitely an overwhelming thing and juggling all the responsibilities can be too much for one person. The lack of a compatible partner who complement a business founder is cited in the Forbes article as one of the causes of failure. While one is focusing delivering to the clients, the other one may focus on marketing and sales.
LACK OF LEADS AND SALES
In addition to all the causes of failures that have led many new businesses to close within the first 5 years, I want to focus on lack of sales. The marketing strategies required by a startup business are the same as those of a large business but the tactics may be different. In the digital age, you must implement certain digital marketing strategies in order to achieve your business goals. In fact, as a small business, you have a much greater need to maximize your effectiveness online as the Internet offers you a worldwide opportunity for exposure globally when you set yourself up properly on the web.
I have written about the importance of generating organic traffic and small and startup businesses should take advantage of this tactic to generate traffic and quality leads that have high conversion rate potential to help them scale at a relatively lower cost. In this article, I want to share with you some tactics and strategies to help you set yourself up by building an effective and strong digital foundation upon which you can scale your business through the first five years. I am going to share a few things that you can either implement yourself or hire a third party to do them for you, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the two options.
As a new business, your hands are understandably full. Many of the strategies and tactics that I am going to describe - the things you need to have in place in order to ensure smooth scaling of your business - can be time consuming. They also require a level of expertise that you, as the new business owner, may not have. Most small business owners are already working long hours to meet their customers' demands, I am not sure that adding the ongoing requirements of digital marketing is workable for most of them. My advice is that you need to have these things in place from the beginning. I you have already started and have not yet built the foundation, it is not too late. But waiting until you are in a crisis to start building the foundation is like someone starting to build an effective roof over his or her house during a rain storm. I believe you know what will happen.
FULLY OPTIMIZED WEBSITE
Whether you provide products, services, or simply information, and whether you are a B2B or B2C business, your website is your digital foundation upon which you will build your digital strategy. There is no success online without a fully optimized website. It is your business front online. This is where visitors meet your business, and therefore their first real experience with your business. This first experience will determine whether they will continue exploring to further learn about your business and eventually take your desired action (fill a form, purchase your products or services, sign up to your Email List, etc.).
Many startups and small business owners make a fatal mistake with this. You need to recognize the importance of a well built and scalable website and invest time and money to build it. Your website is your most important real estate on the web and you need to get it right. I wrote on the importance of a website for every business in a previous article. If you have good skills, you can build it yourself. But most likely your best option is to bring an expert to do it right for you and tighten it to carry your business through your first phase of growth, probably through the first 2 - 5 years. Be prepared to invest around US$1,000.00 all the way to about $15,000.00 or more depending on your business and how much customization is required for your website, to get a really good job. This may already make you start to cringe but it is a vital investment into your business.
Talking about the cost of a website design / development, this is an area that many small business owners can easily get confused. If the focus is excessively on not willing to spend, one can end up with something that is not effective. A good website development process takes about 30-50 hours to complete. If you consider the average hourly rates that a good web developer should earn ($50.00/hour - $100.00/hour), you can see that the total cost of a good website can quickly rise. Developing or designing a website can be time consuming. Getting the right images, editing them to fit in specific places, working on logos, doing research to develop content for the website, performing any needed customization on the website, etc.
These things can easily take a lot of time. So, if you have wondered why it would take 30-50 hours to develop a website, let me just say that some websites may take less time than that, but generally, unless one wants to "cut corners", a well developed website takes time to build. Many business owners are also not aware of the hidden cost of having a website. Website Maintenance for your website, dealing with security (website security is like your insurance. Whether it is health, auto, house, when the disaster hits, in the middle of the night under the rain on a dark isolated road, and you need roadside assistance, then you suddenly will appreciate how useful such a service is. Such a disaster can disrupt your business and cause you major losses. This is an investment that is crucial for the success of your business.
When you get a Digital Marketing Agency such as OnMax Host Digital to do the job for you, we implement a lot of SEO strategies that you will need into the design of the website. Because of our experience, we also implement tactics that your competitors and larger businesses implement and that help them dominate the industry so that your website can perform at optimum level. If you do it yourself, you may have to spend a lot of time studying, through trial and errors, and eventually, this will lead to frustration. A number of our clients have come to us after wasting lots of time and resources.
As you just start your business and acquire a new domain name, it is important to understand that your domain name has no domain authority. Domain Authority (DA) is a ranking metric that was developed by Moz and that predicts how well a website will rank in SEPRs. It is one of the most important industry standards used in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategy. It is measured on a scale of 1 to 100 and the higher on the scale you get, the higher your website is likely to rank in Search Engine Results Page (SERPs). It is one of the factor that makes search engines to trust your content and push it high in rankings. Domain names of large and well established businesses have built strong authority that when content is published on them, search engines instantly trust that this is a good and relevant content. For you as a small business, you need to work hard to build this authority and also perform many tactics to increase your content visibility. These activities are time consuming for you to juggle building your business, keeping your customers happy, building your domain authority (for upgrades, security, updates, etc.), manage your website, and perform all the other marketing activities both on and offline. I will explain more on this in the next section about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) must be strategically integrated into the design / development of your website. This is one of the benefits of having the job done by a Digital Agency that brings multiple expertise and experience and a strong understanding of business and industry. You need your website to be built strong to accomplish not only the things you need today, but also be built in a scalable manner that enable your business to scale on it for the next 2 - 5 years without any significant additional cost. There may be a need to updates, upgrades, customization as needed, but overall, when your SEO is incorporated into the development of your website, it can carry you through and build your online presence even with a limited budget.
Whether you are a local business with a physical location, or a franchise with multiple location, or whether you are a service business, you need your website development to incorporate such things as Google Mobile-First Indexing Strategy, the ability for the visitors to navigate smoothly from one page to another, the ability for the visitors to take actions such as purchase, book an appointment, find your business hours including special holiday schedule, call your team, sign up to your Newsletter, find answers to their frequently asked questions, or find your physical local and driving directions.
For local businesses with physical locations such as a retail store, barber shop, beauty salon, chiropractor, restaurant or dental office, the ability for users to locate you on their mobile devices to contact you and find driving directions with a click of the mouse is more critical than for a business such as a B2B that does not need foot traffic into the door. Research shows that e-Commerce website get approximately 70% of their traffic from mobile devices. You will also need to implement effective strategic SEO tactics to help rank your business high in SERPs and drive high quality traffic to your website, as well as building brand awareness. I have come across a number of business owners who never thought about these factors. They came to us when the lack of these things became a hindrance to their performance. Generally, at that stage, it may cost you much more to fix and / or build a new system when your business has now become more complex than when you first started. And yet many business owners believe because they are just starting, they do not need to make such an investment.
Again, you can perform all the SEO activities to rank your website high and draw traffic, or you can outsource this. When you use a Digital Marketing Agency such as OnMax Host Digital, you will get the benefit of experience and expertise. From website development to implementing these SEO strategies and tactics, you will save a lot of money. We also offer A La Carte Menu SEO Services that you can choose from to focus on specific aspects of your digital strategies. We also provide a proprietary SEO & Social Media Dashboard to provide you with ongoing performance monitoring with weekly and monthly reports and free consultation meetings.
You may have heard about Omni-Channel Marketing Strategy - people today connect with businesses on a variety of devices (game consoles, desktops, laptops, tablets, smart phones, etc.) and channels (social media, emails, apps, website, etc.). You need to reach your audience on multiple devices, on multiple channels, and at specific times. Your approach, methods, content types on each device and channel must be contextualized. Facebook is really not where people go to look for something to buy.
It is important for you to know how people access your website in your industry. For most of our B2B customers, about 70% of their website visitors reach them on desktops (and laptops). For retailers and e-Commerce websites, a greater emphasis must be placed on mobile device optimization, especially for local businesses with local physical locations that people need to visit, such as restaurants, beauty salons, dentists, etc. For more on this, you may also read my recent article: "Understanding your website traffic source in 2019".
SOCIAL MEDIA OPTIMIZATION (SMO)
Social Media offers businesses probably the greatest opportunity for building brand awareness at minimum cost. If you have the skills and the time to do it, you can get this done free of charge. You need to choose the Social Media platform that is relevant to your targeted audience. When done properly, you can accomplish a lot by being consistent on social media, posting regularly content that your targeted audience needs. Just like with the other digital marketing aspects, you can do it yourself or hire an Agency. Either way, there is a cost.
You also need to understand the differences between the various social media platforms and how to maximize your effectiveness in each one of them. For instance, people go to Facebook for three things: LIKES, ENGAGEMENT (COMMENTS), AND SHARING. This is what you should target for the purpose of brand awareness. And Facebook promotes what people collectively like. So, the more engagement (comments) the better for you. Facebook algorithms are designed to hide things that have no engagement.
The types of content that are effective on Facebook include INSPIRING/EDUCATIONAL (25%), FUNNY (17%), and ENTERTAINING (15%). These three types of content represent over 50% of what drives engagement on Facebook. Remember, organic reach on Facebook is dead (It's about 1% - 3% in the US and it continues to decline). If you publish a post, only about 5-25 of your followers will be reached, even if you have 5000 friends. The secret to reaching a wider audience is in understanding how each platform works. I have singled out Facebook Marketing because Facebook is the 1000 pounds gorilla in the Social Media Space.
YouTube is actually a search engine. It is the second largest search engine in the world. If you watch many of the videos on YouTube in your industry, you can learn what to do and what not to do. Videos are increasingly becoming the most effective marketing tool. I advise every business owner to plan and invest in having a video-grapher in-house or work with an outsourced solution. There are some rules you need to keep in mind with videos. I will go in details about this later. But let me just mention one thing: BE AUTHENTIC.
A number of business owners are still struggling to appreciate the impact of their social media activities on their revenue goals. At OnMax Host Digital we implement an effective attribution model that helps to correlate your results with the activities undertaken. This will enable you know where to invest your limited resources to maximize impact.
You may have heard it: Content is King! I like to say, "Relevant Content Is King!" Not just any content. You need to have in place a content marketing strategy that you can adjust at every stage of growth. You need to identify the type of content that is relevant to your target audience and the delivery schedule and approach that work for them. It is also important to consider the type of content that your targeted audience consumes.
Content Marketing offers you the best method to demonstrate your expertise and authority in your industry. Through fresh regular content, you have an opportunity to answer the questions of your audience and provide them with knowledge they need to solve the challenges they face.
Here are the types of content that you need to consider:
- Video Content: Video content has risen to the top of content marketing in recent years. Videos dominate the social landscape. Video production is relatively more cost effective. With technological advances, your smart phone is now a powerful marketing tool. You can take yourself a video to share online. Just keep in mind that some platforms may require you to hold your camera in portrait and for others landscape mode works better. The same thing can be said for images. Don't worry about having to spend tons of money to hire a professional camera. The more natural the video, the more appealing it is to the audience because it appears to be more authentic. Such videos tend to generate more engagements. Videos produce 1800% engagement rate compared to other types of content. Every business must begin to plan and put a system in place to produce videos. I will write more about Video Marketing in 2019 and beyond in a subsequent article. Let me simply here state that you should consider producing and publishing the following types of videos: How-To-Videos, Frequently-Asked-Questions (FAQ) Videos, Product Videos, etc.
- Blog Articles: A lot of people still consume content in written mode. Even when you publish content on videos, I recommend that you also use the transcripts to create a blog article. Remember that search engines reward articles that are thorough because they believe searchers are likely to find the full answer to their queries. You may have heard that you must publish blog articles every day. But I suggest that you are better off taking all the time necessary to research a topic and produce one article that can rise to the top and remain there for a long time. Such content may take as much as a month to produce. One article that can be the best and drive traffic to your website for a long time. The key is always quality over quantity. The more engagement your article generates, the better and the more search engines will place it at the top of SERPs.
- Email Newsletters
- Public Relations Article
- Comprehensive Guides
- Case Studies
- Demo Content
- Product Descriptions
- Product Reviews
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
You can do this yourself. But make sure that you are consistent with relevant content through all your content distribution channels. The content you publish on Facebook will not work on LinkedIn. This is just an example. You must format the same image differently to be published on Facebook and Instagram or LinkedIn. Culture heavy content is more suited for Facebook but is not a good fit for the LinkedIn audience. This is time consuming. You will also will have to monitor each platform and be active in engaging your audience on multiple platforms. When you work with an Agency, they will help run everything from scheduling to publishing your content from one place. And we also give you access on our proprietary dashboard to monitor performance.
Content distribution is a part of your link building strategy. Today, high quality link building is highly critical for any brand that wants to thrive in the highly competitive digital environment. Links help search engine crawlers discover other pages and also determine how to rank the page in SERPs. Effective strategic link building is a powerful tool for brand building. I will write more about this, but let me say here that in order for the backlinks to truly benefit your business, they must be earned. I have mentioned the difference between "link building" and "earning the links". This task of earning links involves many factors including producing and publishing high quality content that others will be eager to refer to.
Like everything else I have discussed in this article, this will take time. Consistency and relevance are two important attributes that you must remember in this process. Both quantity and quality are required. As you are engaged in your business operations, I am not so sure how much time you will have available on your hands to invest in this process. Working with an experienced Agency like OnMax Host Digital can help you.
Your link "earning" process must be at the heart of your digital marketing. Producing and publishing high quality content that is relevant to your targeted audience. It must answer the questions of the searchers and provide the information they need. This involves research, planning, scheduling, and strategically choosing the publishing channels.
MORE MARKETING TIPS FOR YOUR BUSINESS
The following are just an non-exhaustive list of things that you can do to get your name out there. Just remember that in most of these things, you are not going to sell. Focus on connecting.
- Build Your Brand: Your brand is not simply a logo and colors. Your brand represents the sum total of goodwill generated by your business in the community. It is the sum total of the emotional responses generated by your business in your audience. It is the response that the mention of your business name evokes in them. Branding is not only for larger businesses. It is the first thing you must plan even as a startup. It is your story. In everything you do, you are building brand awareness.
- Networking: Attend networking events. Remember, you are not going there to sell but to connect. Don't be afraid to initiate contacts. Everyone there came for one purpose: to meet someone new. Offer to speak or lead a discussion, etc.
- Facebook Groups: Facebook is now promoting groups aggressively. Join a group, but whatever you do, create your own group. Establish strict rules against self-promotion and enforce it. Encourage sharing ideas, tips, referrals, etc.
- Sponsor an Organization: When you sponsor an organization, they will almost certainly give you many mentions both online and offline. That gives your business free exposure to a new audience and you never know who else is sitting there.
- Support a Social Cause: Supporting a cause is not only a good thing to do to help others in the community, but it also gets your name out into the community. You can also sponsor a group of students, for instance, or a program at a local college and have your name displayed freely.
- Form Industry Partnerships: Find another business in your local area that provides services to the same group of customers. For instance, a chiropractor and a local gym owner can come together. You can agree to display your respective flyers in each other's facility, refer customers to each other, etc. You can offer a special discount to customers referred by your partner. Because your partner's customers already trust him or her, these referrals come to you with a high degree of trust already. In this way, you are not competing against each other while have access to a new customer base that you did not have access to before. And it is free.
- Join Local Events: Go to Meetup and find a local chapter that focuses on your industry. Offer to speak at the event. This will put your expertise on display.
- Start A Podcast: You can either start your own podcast where you discuss a variety of topics where you share useful information on your industry. If you open a phone line, callers will reach out to you with their questions and issues. This is a great way to demonstrate your expertise and authority in your industry and generate leads. If you can't start your own podcast, you can appear as a regular guest on podcasts that speak to an audience that may be interested to what you do.
- Public Speaking: You can do this easily and it is one of the best ways to display your expertise. From my own experience, most people attending public speaking events will request the speaker's business card, flyers, phone number, website address, etc. That is fresh traffic to your website.
- Develop A Customer Referral Program: When you know that your customers are happy with your services, you need to capitalize on that goodwill. "Ask and it shall be given unto you." Most of them are already talking about you. Take advantage of this. This is how you turn your customers into your advocates.
- Email Marketing: Send out a regular email to your email list subscribers with useful information for your subscribers.
- Contests: Organize contests. These attract the public.
My goal in this article has been to help startups and small business owners understand the importance of having a practical strategy and tactical ways to grow your businesses from the beginning of your journey. The first thing that you need is to have the right mindset, total dedication, persistence, and patience. Strategies that yield durable results take time and resources to execute. Like with everything else in life, overnight success is generally an illusion.
It is vital for you to outsource key aspects of your marketing strategy to an experienced agency. You must avoid SEO tactics that simply rely on taking advantage of search engines loopholes to rank you and bring traffic to your website. There is a real difference between implementing a real strategy based on a deep understanding of your niche and industry than simply exploiting loopholes in search engine algorithms. This is what many SEO freelancers do. Your digital marketing strategy must pinpoint a prediction of the results of your marketing efforts with predictability and a high degree of confidence. You need to know what the customer journey map looks like for your business.
It is also important to understand that your marketing approach and strategies need to be contextualized and localized. A local business that operates within a specific geographic area will implement SEO in a different way than a company that is targeting a national audience. From your keyword strategy to your content and link building strategy, to your Social Media outreach, you must have a clear understanding of how every channel works and how to connect with your audience.
Understanding such will help you create a strategy that is relevant. An experienced agency can also help you plan, schedule, and deploy digital ads efficiently. With minimum resources, you need an experienced team that can help you maximize your ROI (Return On Investment) in everything you do. But your first step is to get a well designed and fully optimized website. And then you need to strengthen your online presence with SEO strategies and tactic that are based on research, experimentation, analysis, and planning ahead of time to always be ahead of your competition.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: Please watch my video for more on Marketing Tips for Small Business.
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