For many, the strategy of using the internet to promote your business and to generate revenue can be overwhelming – especially if your specialty is not web design or online marketing. Over and over, I hear the same thing: “I’m too busy running my business. I don’t have time.” Often I see people trying to be a “jack of-all-trades and a master-of-none,” haphazardly trying different internet marketing techniques, with minimal success.
And there are those who are paying hundreds of dollars for things that they could do themselves – if they just had a simple step-by-step plan…
Step 1 – Grab your business listings
97% of consumers search for local businesses online. If they don’t find you, they’ll find your competition. Make sure you are listed in the online business directories. People are more likely to contact businesses with a site, so make sure you have one!
Step 2 – Create a resource for your consumers
When people use search engines they’re looking to solve a problem or fulfill a need. Think about your target market. What questions are they asking? How can you help? Provide information that answers these questions. But don’t just talk about your specific products and services — provide useful information about topics related to your industry. When consumers see you as a valuable resource (even before spending money), it starts a “know, like and trust” relationship. Properly done, content marketing is an excellent way to drive traffic to your website.
Make sure that there is good information within your site pages and don’t skip an FAQ page, even if it repeats the information. Many people go directly to the FAQ’s. Plus, people don’t always read everything on a page and may miss the information they want. Also, the question-and-answer format is helpful for SEO.
Develop new site content using a blog. This creates a “resource” library that is relevant to your target market AND provides fresh content that will lead to higher page ranking (with more potential to bring new people to your website).
Step 3 – Develop a list of current and potential customers
First-time site visitors aren’t always ready to buy. When they leave, you don’t have control over where they spend their money. But you can take steps to maintain contact and develop a relationship, so that when they’re ready to spend they’re quick to think of you. The first step is to you ask visitors for contact information. Yes, it sounds obvious, but I’m always amazed by how many site-owners don’t take this seriously.
Because of the “abundance” of junk emails and spam these days, people may be hesitant to provide information. But if you offer something of value — that they can use right away — the likelihood increases. Develop a report, white paper, or e-book that you can can give them. Let people know the ongoing benefits of being on your list (coupon for next visit, information about last-minute deals, newsletter with helpful hints, special discounts, etc). Finally, only ask for information that you absolutely need. Studies show that the more questions you ask, the LESS likely people are to give it.
IMPORTANT: Do not rely on social media accounts as your only way of communication because you don’t “own your list” and if something happens with the account, the list is gone.
Step 4 – Use your list to build relationships for online marketing
Traditionally if you wanted to reach out to consumers, it required an outlay of time and money because it depended on print mediums. But today, online marketing strategies make contacting the people on your list quick, painless and low cost (even free).
Companies such as iContact, Constant Contact and Mail Chimp offer contact management systems that make it easy for you to send targeted information to your previous, current and potential buyers. You can manually add contacts and use forms that will automatically enter information into your lists. They provide simple templates for emails and newsletters – both of which can be tracked for effectiveness.
Use email marketing to provide a resource for your target market (remember step 2?). Don’t just send out sales promotions and product announcements. Put together a weekly or monthly newsletter that is relevant to their needs and interests.
Step 5 – Promote related but non-competing products
Think about your target market – what products or services do they use that are related to your business that you don’t sell or offer? No matter what you come up with, there’s a company that will give you a referral commission when someone makes a purchase after learning about them from you. When done correctly “affiliate marketing” is a simple way to monetize your website. For example, one of my clients owns a computer repair store. He doesn’t stock ink cartridges but places orders manually for customers through his supplier (a process that takes time with minimal profit). By switching to an affiliate link his client’s can get the same ink without any effort on his part.
Step 6 – Pick ONE social media account to start
When you get started with social media, start by keeping the “end in mind.” Think about your social media strategy in terms of the goals that you want to achieve – not just because “everyone” is doing it. Go with methods that are most related to what your business offers. For example, if you’re a freelancer who would benefit from showing off pictures of your work, Pinterest may be the perfect fit.
Ultimately you will want to use several different social media platforms, but unless you’re going to pay someone to manage them, I recommend starting with one at a time. A common mistake is signing up for every social media account available and sticking “join” icons on websites even before there is content. An empty or barely used social media page is actually worse than none at all. Learn how to use one platform effectively, create a content base and start building a list before moving on to another.
Did you know that a blog is a type of social media? As a matter of fact, it is THE most effective one for building relationships and driving new traffic to a website. So if you haven’t started one yet it should be your first priority.