For most small businesses, time and money are scarce resources – and figuring out how to prioritize your digital marketing is no easy task. Your website, e-newsletter, and the enormous array of social media outlets are all potential places to put your time and effort, and it can be hard to judge which provide the best return on investment. In this month’s podcast, we’ll discuss which are most important and why.
Basically, the digital hierarchy looks like this – your website is most important, then your e-newsletter, and then social media.
Without a doubt, your website is the most important part of your digital marketing strategy. It is available to potential customers 24 hours a day, providing everything from basic contact information to details on the products and services you offer. Your website must:
Be mobile-friendly. This has become increasingly important with the incredible increase in mobile phone usage, but since April it’s more important than ever. That’s when Google announced that it will now begin to count mobile-friendliness as a major factor in search engine optimization. In short, if your website isn’t responsive (meaning that it looks and functions great on all devices) it will now appear lower in search engine results pages. If your website isn’t responsive, it is now harder than ever for customers to find you, even if they’re using a desktop computer. (Is it easy to fix? Generally, it’s difficult or impossible to make a non-responsive website into a responsive one. This generally means a complete web redesign).
Make it easy for your visitors to do what you want them to do – and make it easy for your visitors to find what they want to find (which is not always the same thing). What’s the goal of your website? Are you trying to generate leads, sell products through e-commerce, or what? If your website doesn’t make it easy to do those things, that’s a problem. Looking at your Google Analytics reports should give you some clues as to what people are looking at, and whether they’re finding what they’re looking for. In terms of e-commerce, clues that something might be amiss include that people are abandoning their carts before checkout. (Is it easy to fix? It depends on the issue. If your e-commerce section isn’t working well, that may indicate a need for a overhaul of the site – the best, most secure e-commerce sites are made using a dedicated solution for e-commerce like Big Cartel. But if your site information simply needs to be reorganized, that can be an easier fix.)
Look professional. Does your website present your company in a professional manner? What would you think of it if you had no affiliation with the business? (Is it easy to fix? Well, it depends on whether the problem is with your branding as a whole, or if it’s just that the website doesn’t look good. A competent designer should be able to help you evaluate whether a few tweaks will substantially improve the look of your website, or if a complete branding overhaul is in order.)
Be regularly updated. Do you have a blog or other regularly-updated content? Content marketing is a wonderful way to draw potential customers in. Google prioritizes sites that are regularly updated, thus improving your search engine optimization (SEO). Plus, whatever you write is likely to be rich in keywords, which also helps SEO. Potential items to add to a blog include company news, case studies, portfolio items, your take on industry news and trends, advice, infographics – anything that helps educate your customers, thus demonstrating that you know your stuff while helping your customers. (Is it easy to fix? Quality content generation takes time to produce, but from a technical standpoint, adding a blog to a website is usually pretty simple to do.)
If you can’t say that all of those things are handled on your website, you should probably prioritize getting your website in order first. But if you’re satisfied your website is top-notch, the next thing to consider is your e-newsletter.
We’ve made the case for the value of e-marketing elsewhere in the Learning Center. Suffice it to say – it is one of the hardest-working, lowest-cost marketing tools available to you. When you build your e-newsletter mailing list, you’re building a list of your best customers and prospects – and you can communicate with them directly at any time. Unlike social media, the rules of engagement will not change – email always works. Plus, it is cheap! Once you’ve got your email newsletter template, you can send whatever you want, whenever you want, absolutely free. That said, it’s important that your e-newsletter template is responsive (looks good on mobile as well as desktop) because of the increasing number of people who read their email on their phone – for many of our clients, the number who do so is over 50 percent.
Building your e-newsletter mailing list can take time, as you must get people to opt-in. This can be as simple as placing a signup sheet at the checkout of your physical store, for example, or collecting business cards at a trade show – but make it clear that people are opting in to receive your e-newsletter. Your web developer can also add a signup form to your website (and, depending on the e-newsletter provider you use, your Facebook Page as well), so interested people can sign up on their own. If appropriate, you can segment your list into different interest/customer groups, so they only get the e-newsletters of interest to them.
You can use your e-newsletter to drive traffic to your blog, share company news, promote sales and special deals, as well as educate customers about industry trends. Remember, though, that to be effective, your e-newsletter must be primarily composed of information that’s of use to your customers – you want to give them a reason to read it each month – rather than purely self-promotional.
(Is it easy to fix? If you don’t have an e-newsletter, you need to get a responsive template built that matches your branding, and integrate a sign-up form into your website. This can be accomplished with a relatively modest investment. Building your mailing list can take time and effort, as discussed above. But what if you have an e-newsletter, but don’t feel that it’s as effective as it could be? It depends on what you think the problem might be – whether it’s the content, something about your list, or the design. If it’s not responsive, that’s a good place to start.)
Once you’re satisfied your e-newsletter is beginning to serve you well, then it’s time to take a look at your social media.
For many of us social media is an important part of our personal lives, so it’s tempting to assume it’s equally important for business. Social media can play a role in your digital marketing strategy, and claiming your business’s digital profiles on social media is a good idea. That said, it’s easy to spend too much time on your company’s social media presence, and it is a bad mistake to prioritize social media over your e-newsletter or website. This is true for all businesses, but is especially true for business-to-business. Here are a few reasons why:
It’s relatively easy. Most of us use social media personally, and therefore find it easy to get started on social media for business, launching and tending a Facebook Page, Twitter presence, Instagram feed and so on. The problem with social media is that you’re building a house on borrowed ground – the rules of engagement may change at any time. Do not fall into the trap of working hard on your Facebook Page without having a good website (or worse, expecting your Facebook Page to serve as your website).
It’s free. You can establish a social media presence on any of the available networks absolutely free of charge, which is an attractive proposition for cash-strapped small businesses. However, the adage you get what you pay for applies. For example, the reach of Facebook business page posts is declining, as Facebook would prefer that you buy advertising (which can be a good idea for some types of businesses – but far from all).
People are not on social media to do business. Think about it – why are you on social media personally? Most of us are interested in seeing photos of our friends’ kids, find out what our high school chums are up to, and stay loosely in touch with our larger network of friends. LinkedIn is the only social medium exclusively focused on business, and Pinterest is the only social medium people use extensively to shop. If you’re a business-to-consumer firm, social media is a somewhat better outlet for you than if you’re business-to-business exclusively – but still, social media is not nearly as important as your website and e-newsletter.
(Is it easy to fix? Yes – social media is easy to use, involving an investment of time only).By Shelley Johansson. Read about Shelley on our Meet Our Staff page or visit on Google+.