9 ways small online businesses can generate website traffic without breaking the bank

 

Drive traffic to your website

We all know how tough it can be launching a small business online. More often than not we are constrained by a tight budget and lack of resources. Driving traffic to your website is essential in order to attract potential customers.

In this post we take a look at how to get visitors to your website when faced with a limited budget and when the only marketing resource is yourself.

9 straightforward and cost-effective ways to drive traffic to your website

We’ve outlined nine key actions to help you generate more traffic to your online business and grow your potential customer base. It will mean time and effort on your part but all the actions are straightforward to implement, will help in the long-term success of your business and won’t break the bank.

1. Content

We’ll kick off with content. Content is the linchpin to everything that you do and if you only take one thing away from this post then it should be the importance and value of having high quality content on your website. Your content should be;

Relevant: Your content should reflect the needs and interests of your audience.

Engaging: Does it read well? Is it interesting? Will it catch your reader’s eye with an easy to follow layout, supported by interesting images (try Pixabay for sourcing great images that are free for you to use).

Shareable: Your content should inspire people to share it with others. 94% of people who share posts do so because they think it might be helpful to others.  

Try enhancing the content of your site with visual content. Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images. Think about implementing:

  • Images and photos to support text
  • Videos
  • Infographics

2. Blogging

Following on from content, blogging is one of the best ways to ensure your website is being regularly updated with fresh, relevant content. This is key to driving traffic to your website. Every time you publish a post it provides additional opportunities for your business to appear in search engines results pages. As nicely put by Hubspot – “The only thing blogging costs you: your time.”

 

blogging

Blogging also has the added advantage of offering long-term benefits. Each post you publish will  continue to pull in traffic for months to come. Indeed, Hubspot notes that 70% of the traffic it receives each month to its blog comes from posts that weren’t published in the current month.

3. Referrals

The great thing about referral marketing for small businesses is it inexpensive  and effective. Essentially you are getting current customers to help drive traffic to your business by using word of mouth to promote your products and services to friends and acquaintances.

The key things when it comes to successful referrals is:

  1. Ask your customers. Interestingly, the majority of customers who have had a positive customer experience would be happy to refer a friend and yet only a small proportion do. So you need to actively encourage your customers to recommend your business to friends and family.
  2. Make it easy. You don’t want make your customer jump through hoops to make a referral, so make it as straightforward as possible for customers to refer a friends. Try introducing a refer a friend scheme that incentivises both the customer that provides the referral and the friend they refer.

4. Search Engine optimisation

44% of online shoppers begin by using a search engine. 

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) essentially involves making your website search engine friendly and people friendly. It involves researching the right keywords and phrases to generate traffic and improving your site structure to make it easy for search engines to find their way around. Much of it links right back to ensuring your content is relevant, engaging and shareable to your customers.

To find out more about getting starting with Search Engine Optimisation then checkout these two comprehensive guides to getting started with SEO.

  1. MOZ: SEO: The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization 
  2. Google: Search Engine Optimization Guide

5. Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)

OK, PPC such as Google Adwords will involve you parting with some money however, with pay-per-click advertising you can set your budget to what you can afford to spend and you only pay when someone actually clicks via the advertisement to your website. The key to successful PPC advertising is spending time researching the best keywords for your business – they need to be specific and relevant. Google’s Keyword Planner is a great free tool to start with (you just need to create a Google Adwords Account). It will help you identify keywords and phrases and let you know approximate cost-per-click.

With a bit of playing around and practice Google AdWords is pretty easy to use. Checkout Google Adwords Support will help guide you through the basics of getting started.

 

6. Social Media

80% marketers felt social media increased website traffic 

social networks

 

Social media plays an integral, supporting role in driving traffic. It is a great way for you to promote your content with customers and in turn, makes it very easy for customers to go on and share that content on with their social media contacts.

It is a good idea to start out establishing your business profile on the main networks such as Facebook then concentrate your efforts on the key social networks used by your target audience. For example if you business is jewellery you may find your focus on more visual networks such as Pinterest or Instagram, whereas if you are professional services you may find more of your target audience using LinkedIn or Twitter.

Remember to add social media buttons to your website, blog posts and email communications. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to share your content with their friends.

7. Email

Email is one of your most cost-effective tools with a healthy ROI. Use email to stay and front of your customers and drive traffic to your site. Share content such as promoting your product and services, blog posts, news articles, infographics and events – all linking back to your website. Focus on building up a quality email list of relevant and permission based contacts as ithe quality of your data will reflect the effectiveness of your traffic :

  • Create a newsletter sign-up form on your website (think about incentivising sign-up to boost response).
  • Gather names through events you attend, run quizzes and contests offer promotions.

8. Mobile responsive

Ensuring your website is multi-device compatible is essential for getting more visitors to your website. Your website should display equally well whether it is being viewed on a desktop, tablet or mobile.

responsive design

More and more people are using mobile devices to search the web. Indeed research shows that 60% of web searches in 2015 were conducted from a mobile phone or tablet. Put simply if your website doesn’t view well on a mobile device, people simply won’t take the time to engage with your website. Added to this, if your website is not responsive then it will effect your search engine ranking on mobile searches.

9. Share your URL

Finally make sure you share your website URL at every opportunity. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it is overlooked. Display your website address wherever you can – no matter how insignificant it may first appear: For example;

  • Advertisements
  • Brochures
  • Flyers
  • Letterheads
  • business cards
  • Email signatures
  • Invoice and order acknowledgements
  • Promotional material
  • Packaging.

Of course everything we’ve mentioned in this post will entail time and ongoing effort on your part, however they are all effective and inexpensive ways to drive traffic to your website – with long-term, sustainable results.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experience of driving traffic to your website, so please do leave a comment.

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Small business guide to successful content curation

contentcuration

 

We all know just how important creating unique, fresh and relevant content is for your online business. However for small business owners content marketing can be a real challenge due to time pressures and lack of resources.  Content curation can be a great way to support your overall content marketing strategy and help maintain a successful online presence.

What is Content Curation

In a nutshell content curation is the collating, organising and sharing of other people’s content. It  is usually third-party content  relevant to your audience’s interests. First things first, content curation is not the same as content marketing and in no way replaces it. Content curation should be looked at as a way to enhance your existing content as part of your overall content marketing strategy.

And don’t worry, by sharing other people’s content your audience won’t think you can’t create interesting content of your own. On the contrary, it shows you are relevant, understand the industry you are in and are confident enough in your own small business to share ideas and information from a third party.

How can Small Businesses Benefit from Content Curation?

Saves time. Content curation helps support and maintain an active online presence. Especially if you don’t have time to continuously create your own original content.

Helps establishes you as an expert.  Overtime content curation can help build trust and establish you and your business as an authoritative, go-to expert on a specific topic.

Offers value to your audience. If you are offering information that is interesting and of value to your audience, then they are more likely to opt-in to your newsletters and follow you on social media.

Supports SEO efforts.  65% of marketers use content curation to boost ranking. Lots of relevant links will help increase your visibility in SERPS (search engine results pages) 

Builds your brand. What you share is a direct reflection of your brand and can help build your credibility as a business.

How to introduce content curation to your small business:

The key to successful content curation is to put some organisation and strategy behind it rather than the ad-hoc retweet or share here and there. You may already do some basic content curation already, like I say I’m sure you’ve retweeted or shared posts on social media. However to really get the benefits you need to take it to the next level by including a personal touch.  Add value to what you are imparting.  For example include your own comments, insight and thoughts on the information you choose to share with your audience.

Social Mediasocial media content curation

76% of marketers use curated content on social media

Content curation is a great way to keep active on social media and provide your customers with links to information they may find interesting. Retweeting someone’s Tweet on Twitter, RePinning on Pinterest or sharing someone’s post on Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn are examples of social media content curation. This is a great starting point and a good way to maintain an active online presence – especially when you’re pushed for time or lack resources.

However as we mentioned earlier content curation becomes even more effective when you bring in your own personal slant on what it is your sharing. For example if you are sharing someone else blog post on social media, add in a few words about what you are choosing to share and why you think you audience will be interested in it.

Newsletters

Content curation can work really well in your company’s newsletter. For example in addition to your own content, you could do a weekly round-blog posts you think your audience will like or a weekly round-up of industry news and views. By picking out the most interesting and entertaining articles and presenting them in a digestible format, you are saving your own audience from having to spend time searching around the web. And, if your audience know they can get great information direct from your newsletter then they are more likely to read it and stay subscribed.

Here is a great example of content curation from WriteMySite’s marketing newsletter.

content curation newsletter

Blog Post Curation

In a similar vein to your newsletters why not try posting a blog post that is a weekly or monthly round-up of useful articles, interesting trends or news relevant to your industry? Organise the content into a theme, add in a great headline,  your own supporting commentary, a call-to-action for your own business and you have a great post.

Look at curated blog posts as offering a valuable service. By collating the information yourself you are in short saving your audience time by negating the need for them to research out the information themselves. Always keep your customer in mind so all your hard work collecting and collating is focused on the right information – information that is of value to your target market.

Collecting and Organising Content

content curationSo where do you start? How do you go about sourcing interesting, high quality, relevant online content that fits the needs of your audience? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Sign-up to relevant content specific newsletters
  • Subscribe to industry relevant online publications
  • Follow related shared content on social media

If you are collating lots of different information from various sources then it will make your life easier if you can organise all the information in one place. There are a number of marketing tools that can help you collate,organise and publish content such as – Feedly, ScoopIt and Storify.

If your just starting out then Pocket is a great ‘save for later’ tool.  Connecting the Pocket button will enable you to save to your Pocket account straight from your computer. You can quickly collect links to interesting information with and group and tag articles  for easy reference.

In order for content curation to be successful always keep in mind that it’s about adding value. Ensure;

  • content is high quality and matches the needs and interests of your audience
  • post regularly
  • add a personal note,
  • remember you are sharing information not plagiarising – always give credit to the original source. 

 

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences of content curation, so please do leave a comment.

 

 

 

 

 

How to use online video to improve your content marketing

online video marketingThe last few years have seen online video literally explode onto the scene and its popularity doesn’t look like it is going to wane any time soon. Indeed somewhat mind-bogglingly, researchers predict that by 2019 it would take an individual 5 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks each month.

Online video has become an increasingly important component of successful content marketing and as such it is something that all small online businesses should be thinking about incorporating into their online presence.

Interesting video statistics include:

  •  Website visitors are 64% more likely to buy a product after watching a video about it.
  • 7 billion videos are watched each and every day on Facebook and YouTube.
  • 4 times as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it.
  • 56% of consumers believe that if a company has a website, it should have video.
  • Posts with videos attract three times as many inbound links as plain text posts.
  • Globally, consumer internet video traffic will be 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2019.
  • 55% of people watch videos online everyday.

Benefits for small businesses

At a time when we are drowning in online information, video can convey a message in a format that is easily digestible and naturally engaging. As a small business this can help you stand out from the crowd and get your message heard. In addition:

Low production costs. You no longer need a hefty budget or in-depth technical knowledge to produce high-quality videos. Some excellent videos have been put together using just a Smartphone.  Online video creation services such as Animoto, GoAnimate and Stupeflix offer reasonably priced business packages that enable even a complete beginner to quickly and easily put together professional-quality videos with their pictures and video clips.

Helps with SEO. Search engines love fresh relevant and original content as Video. Research has shown that websites with video content are 53 times more likely to rank on page one of Google.

Made for sharing. Videos are more likely to get shared than other content. Indeed, 92% of mobile video viewers share videos with others.

Build your brand personality.  Clever use of video can help bring personality to your business.  You can use it to develop an image of how you’d like your business to be perceived.

5 tips to improve online video content5 ways to enhance your online video content

To help improve your content marketing efforts we’ve come up with a few online video ideas to get you started.

1. Showcasing. Use video to showcase your products in real-life scenarios or situations. Your audience will get a better feel for a product which in turn gives them the added reassurance that what they see is what they will receive upon delivery. Many online clothing retailers use video to help reassure customers. For example take a look at how Boden uses video.

2. Demonstrating. Video is a great way to demonstrate how a particular product or service works. ‘How to Guides’ and tutorials can impart complex information in an easily digestible manner. Indeed 4 in 5 consumers say a video showing how a product or service works is important. Here at ShopIntegrator we use online video tutorials to help clients set up their online shops.

3. Personality building. Meet the team’ or ‘about us’ videos, are a great way to build brand personality. Take a look at Stella & Dot’s ‘Our Story’ video. They successfully use video to give their audience a real feel for the people behind the business and its brand values. A short 60 second video about what makes your business unique can be a really powerful sales tool.

4. Customer testimonials. Customer testimonials are a helpful tool in the sales conversion process, they add credibility to your business and offer customer added reassurance about potential purchasing decisions. Whilst text only testimonials are fine, think about capturing some testimonials from your customers on video. Videos are more engaging and visitors will get a better understanding of the kind of business you are from your customer community.

5. Online advertising. Don’t forget about using video in your online advertising. Online display advertising is rapidly on the up with Forrester predicting spending will nearly double by 2019. This rise will be primarily driven by video advertising. Research indicates that consumers are very receptive to video advertising and are 27 times more likely to click-through on online video ads than standard banner advertisements.

share videos on social media
Top tips for successful online videos

And finally, we’ll leave you with a few helpful tips to ensure successful online video content.

  • Try to keep your videos as short and sweet  as possible. Nearly 2/3 of people prefer videos of under 60 seconds so aim to keep them as short and as informative as you can.
  • Always go for quality over quantity. It is better to produce fewer, relevant and well executed videos than churning out lots of unprofessional, immaterial offerings
  • The beauty of video is its shareability.  People like sharing videos so make sure you make it easy for people to do so by including social sharing buttons. Try also including  a clear call to action such as ‘If you enjoyed this video please share it with your friends’.
  • Post and promote your videos content on a variety of platforms. Social media is the perfect environment for video sharing. Indeed, since June 2014 Facebook has averaged more than 1 billion video views every day. And, from January this year iPhone and Android Twitter users can actually capture, edit and share videos of up to 30 seconds duration on Twitter.
  • Use video links in your email communications. Not only are you promoting your videos, your emails are more likely to get opened if they include a video. In fact, customers are nearly 50% more likely to read email newsletters that include links to video.
  • Spend time on your title. Your video title is important. In the same way you would take time to craft a good headline, create a strong, relevant title for your video using appropriate keywords.
  • Always keep you audience in mind. When you are creating your video content, just like any other content marketing, remember your audience. Think about what information will be of interest to them. What would they like to see?
  • Include your URL. Use your video to drive traffic to your site by including your business’ URL in both the video and your video’s description. . Remember people will be viewing your video on a multitude of different screens so make sure it can be viewed equally well no matter the device. In fact, are now on mobile devices
  • Multi-device friendly. Remember people will be viewing your video on a multitude of different screens so make sure it can be viewed equally well no matter the device. In fact, half of all YouTube views are now on mobile devices.

As a small business owner, you really can’t afford not to include video in your content marketing in some shape or form. It is far more accessible now and doesn’t cost the earth to produce professional, high quality video.  Hopefully we’ve given you a bit of inspiration and some helpful tips to get you started.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on using online video content, so please do feel free to leave a comment. 

 

 

How Content Strategy Plays a Major Role in Your Branding Efforts?

content marketing

Does your business have a content strategy yet?

If it doesn’t, you are losing out on a wonderful opportunity to improve brand awareness, reputation and authority. It is important not to confuse content strategy with content marketing although both are connected.

While content marketing is the process of placing quality content in front of your target audience to build deeper relationships, content strategy is a ‘mindset’ that according to Kristina Halvorson, the founder of Brain Traffic includes “planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content”.

Without a content strategy in place, there is very little chance your content marketing efforts will succeed. Your content strategy helps your business create a framework wherein your business and the needs of its customers are constantly evaluated to improve content production and the content processes that help produce this content.

The whole idea behind drawing up a content strategy is to ensure that the content is able to drive your brand‘s engagement with its target audience and takes your brand interaction to the next level.

Content Strategy and Your Brand

84 percent of marketers who aren’t finding success with their content marketing efforts say they do not have a documented content strategy in place.

Learning – Content strategy is of critical importance to brands if they are serious about their content marketing efforts.

Think about content strategy as something that helps you maximize the potential of your content. There are businesses/marketers, who think just writing content (high quality content) will help you rank in search engines, enhance the reputation of your business and help people identify your brand.

They are wrong.

You need a content strategy in place to leverage the immense potential of this content. A well-defined content strategy gives your content a sense of purpose and its own personality and identity. You must know who your target audience is and the kind of content they are looking for. A strategy is also needed to ensure your content is aligned with your business, its products and services and still caters to the needs of your target audience.

Content strategy also determines your writing style, choice of content format and how you will market this content to ensure your audience finds it when they are looking for it.

Not Just Content Strategy but an Effective Content Strategy

Not Just Content Strategy but an Effective Content Strategy

A content strategy is as good as its comprehensiveness. The components of an effective content strategy include the following:

  • Defining the Objectives

What are your objectives with respect to your content? Are you using it to build your brand’s niche authority or as a means of boosting your search engine rankings or something else? Also, what is the content format you want to use; will it be videos, blog content, online magazines, tutorials or pod casts amongst other formats?

You need to pick a format that your target audience can easily access and consume.

  • Defining Content Creators

Who will create the content? Will you have an in-house content writing team or outsource your requirements. If you do choose to outsource content creation, you will need to ensure you zero in on the right writer/team of writers.

  • Who is your audience?

Identify your audience, but don’t just identify the audience, you also need to understand them and what they expect from your content. You must also make sure your audience doesn’t receive content that overlaps with your existing marketing communication.

  • Distribution Strategy

How are you going to bring your content in front of your customers?

There are plenty of channels you can choose from, but more often than not, it is the content format that determines the channel you use. Explore the various channels available; make sure you know the strengths and costs of each and also ensure that your customers are active users of these channels. This will help you make an informed decision with respect to the content channel you choose and guarantee you make the most of it.

  • Identify Content Performance Metrics

How do you know your content strategy is working or not? This is where content metrics enter the equation. You need to zero in on the performance metrics of your content that will allow you to measure your success or failure. You must know whether your content is helping satisfy the needs of your customers and if you’ll need to refine your strategy.

At the end of the day you also need to take strategic inputs from every important stakeholder in your business to come up with a content strategy that delivers on your expectations.

Benefits to your Brand

  • Brand Reputation

Your customers are looking for high quality content. The kind of content that is useful, relevant and actionable. They want information that helps solve a problem and if your brand can provide a solution that enables them to take informed decisions, they’ll become loyal followers of your content. What you are also doing is using content as a means to trigger personal interactions with your brand. If they’ve come across a content piece they like and feel strongly about, they’ll comment on it, which can give rise to interesting discussions on your comment feed.

Your content acts as a bridge between your brand and its customers. Your brand comes to be identified with its content and if you consistently produce and publish content that adds value to the lives of your customers, it will be reflected in the enhanced reputation of your brand. Your content will be the ‘go-to content’ for a target audience looking for specific information.

  • Taming Search Engines

Google’s incessant efforts in improving search quality for users have meant it is not business as usual for webmasters and SEOs. They cannot get away with everything that they could get away with, a few years ago. Quality is the name of the game now.

Gone are the days when they could just fill up content with keywords and build links from just about any source and get away with it. What’s more, there was every chance their website would be rewarded with high rankings on SERPs.

Things have changed.

The focus is now on quality and earning natural links from authority online sources. And the one thing that helps make this possible is great content. The more high quality content you publish, the more backlinks you can attract from reputed websites/blogs. And this results in higher search engine rankings, which in turn means more website traffic thus improving your website’s chances of conversions.

And all this because of content!

  • Content for an Active Social Media Presence

sm

Social media marketing is the buzz word these days and why not. Just about every brand is using social media to boost its branding efforts and it is shareworthy content that lies at the very root of every successful social media campaign. When readers like your content, they want to share it with the people they know so that even their friends and family can benefit from this content. This means your content is shared, re-shared and then shared some more. Your content represents your brand, which means it’s not your content but your brand that is essentially going viral.

It’s all about compelling content

Your content strategy will go nowhere if you don’t have a sub-strategy to create compelling content in place. Compelling content is the kind that readers love going through. It’s not about creative excellence but about content excellence.

You need a certain kind of mindset to produce such content. You need to say to yourself that you want to be the leading provider of niche related information to your target customers. If you aim to play a leadership role as an information provider, you will make the necessary effort to satisfy the needs of your customers.

Think of your content like a product and judge its usefulness.  It needs to be high up on the utility scale if you want it to succeed. For this to happen, you’ll need to understand the kind of information your customers are searching for. You need to listen to the conversations happening around your domain (social media networks are great listening posts) and create content that revolves around these conversations.

To create compelling content you must be in sync with what your customers want. So make sure you know everything about them.

Tips to Keep in Mind While Implementing a Content Strategy

When you work out a content strategy for your brand, the next step is to implement it. But before you do, you need to keep a few tips in mind:

  • Content strategy requires different sections of your business to work as a team. Whether it’s your web design team, copywriting team, web development team, the public relations team or your marketing team – every single one of them should work together to make a decisive impact.
  • Understand that you are in it for the long haul and immediate results might not be forthcoming.
  • Make sure your writing matches the understanding of your target audience. The literacy levels of different people that belong to the same target audience group are different. So choose a writing style that can address the least common denominator in your audience. Writing not only includes the way you write but also the ideas you come up with and the research you do.
  • Make sure you stick to your strategy and not veer away from it during implementation. Otherwise it makes your job more difficult.
  • Your style must be your own. The tone and voice you adopt to make your point must reflect your brand personality. Do not ape somebody else’s writing tone or style. Create one of your own and work towards refining it every step of the way.
  • Mix up your formats but make sure you focus on your strengths. If you do not have the expertise to come up with some solid video content, don’t.  On the other hand, if your forte is topical white papers make sure you get one out on a regular basis. The idea is to not make any half-baked efforts with respect to the content you publish. Your customers are looking for the best information available and which makes good use of its content format; you need to be able to deliver the goods all the time. So don’t take chances.

To Conclude

Content strategy and your branding efforts need to keep pace with each other. In fact, for many brands it is content that is acting as the main fuel of their marketing efforts. It is a purely content driven marketing strategy and more often than not it is delivering the results they are looking for. Content helps your brand come out looking like an expert and somebody who has the ability to deliver on the expectations of its customers. This in a nutshell is why content strategy needs to be a part of your branding efforts.

Image Credits: 1, 23

How to use images to improve customer engagement

Hand pointing at online streaming of imagesThe use of visual imagery is becoming an increasingly important part of online communication. The meteoritic growth  in social networking sites like Pinterest and Instagram illustrates just how significant images have become in increasing engagement and interaction amongst consumers.

Indeed, research shows that articles containing an image have, on average, 94% more total views  than articles without an image, indicating the power of a good image.

Psychologically, consumers love imagery, and seeing visually appealing things creates positive emotions. Most people — between 65 and 85 percent — also describe themselves as ‘visual learners,’ forming meaning and organizing thoughts based on what they see more so than what they read.” Trend Reports

According to Forbes, image-centric marketing will be one of the top online marketing trends for 2014. Therefore, understanding the potential benefits of images and using them effectively on your website and in your marketing can increase engagement and interaction amongst your customers. Images can help:

  • Grab people’s attention
  • Convey meaning quickly
  • evoke emotions
  • Illustrate a point
  • Make text-based articles more visually appealing by breaking up reams of text
  • Convey complex information in an easily digestible format (think infographics)
  • Showcase a product effectively online.

How to make the most of images online

Your website

The use of visual imagery on your website is essential. Not only are images valuable in terms of SEO, they are central in terms of engaging customers. Nobody is going to find a solely text-based website enticing. Using photos, illustrations, graphics, icons, infographics and videos are all great ways to improve the content of your website and as a result, increase its appeal to customers.

Your product pages are a key area to focus on, since images are one of the most important elements in a customer’s decision-making process. So, ensure you are using high-definition images and spend time thinking about how to showcase your products to their full advantage. Research shows:

  •  67% of consumers say that the quality of the image is very important when they are purchasing a product.
  • 63% of consumers  saying a good image is even more important than product specific information.

social media like imageSocial Media

Social media and images go hand-in hand, just look at the phenomenal success of Pinterest in recent years. Think about how you can use images to enhance your presence on all your social media sites.  For example,  when you are posting an update on Facebook, always  include an appropriate image, be it an update about a new product, service, staff change, industry news, special promotion or competition. Including an image will make it far more likely for your update to capture people’s attention and in turn generate more likes and comments.

Blogs

Putting an image right at the beginning of your blog post is a great way to pull readers in. A relevant  image can help readers understand what your post is about, help illustrate a point and stir-up an emotional response. Images are also a great way to break up text if you have a long blog. And don’t forget, images can also be used when you promote your blog post on your social media sites and in your email newsletters.

Infographics also work really well in blog posts. They’ve grown in popularity over recent years as they present statistics and research in an interesting, relevant and engaging way.

Email and Online Press Releases

People tend to skim through emails and online press releases, picking out the salient points. Therefore, using images is a great way to help you get your message across quickly, break up text and create engagement at the same time.

You Tube on ipadVideo marketing

And finally, don’t forget the moving image. Using video  is a great way to boost your search engine rankings (search engines love video).  It’s format is engaging and it is a great tool to use  if you need to educate or explain something to your customers – think product demonstrations and video tutorials. Just remember to put it up on YouTube as well as on your website.

What makes for a good image

Where possible try to avoid using staged business photos as you are more likely to capture people’s attention and get an emotional response by using real people, real-life situations, humour, interesting visuals or stunning photography. Take a look at which boards get the most re-pins on  Pinterest  and you’ll get a real feel for the type of images that really work.

Make sure you  add Alt Text to your images. This is essentially a concise and accurate description of the image and is used as alternative text when the image can not be displayed. This is important as:

  1.  it makes the image accessible to all users, including those that are visually impaired as screen readers can read the alternative text provided
  2.  it one of the factors that can help improve your SEO performance.

Sourcing images

There are plenty of low-cost  and free images available on the web, but if you are not using your own photos or images then you must be careful about copyright and get permission from the author. Look for royalty free stock images that are for commercial use. I’ve listed a few of the low-cost and free websites we use for images and they’ll  tell you whether an image requires an author credit or not.

FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Stock.XCHNG

Dreamstime

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment

Image streaming image courtesy of  nokhoog_buchacon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Like button image courtesy of tungphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

YouTube on Tablet image courtesy of Winnond at Freedigitalphotos.net

Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning Part 4: Tactics

Soccer tactics on chalkboardOur Small Business Guide to Marketing Planning has been looking at how using a simple marketing framework like SOSTAC can help guide you through all the elements needed to make a marketing plan a useful and relevant tool for your business.

  • Part 1 discussed the value of marketing planning for small businesses and looked at SOSTAC as a planning system.
  • Part 2 examined situational analysis and the importance of understanding where your business currently stands.
  • Part 3 talked about how to write SMART objectives and formulate your marketing strategy.

In Part 4 of our marketing planning guide we look at tactics and the communication tools we can use to achieve the targets we have set our business for the year ahead.

Tactics: How EXACTLY are you going to get there?

So, the market analysis you’ve undertaken means you know where your business currently stands and consequently, you have formulated your goals and objectives. You should have good idea of where it is you want to be. Your strategy has looked at how you are going to achieve your objectives. So the next step is tactics – how exactly are you going to get there? What digital communication tools are you going to use to support your strategy in order to achieve your objectives? The tactics element of your marketing plan is really the detail of your strategy;  it is here you outline the tools you are going to use.

Benefits of digital marketing tools

Digital marketing has brought with it a number of benefits for small online businesses, making it possible (with a bit of investment in both time and effort) to market on a more level playing field with some of the bigger competitors. Digital marketing offers SME’s the benefit of:

  • Lower costs: there are a number of digital tools that small online businesses can utilise without the cost associated with some of the more traditional marketing methods. For example social media, SEO and email  are all tools that smaller business can use without having to incur high marketing costs.
  • Creativity: digital marketing has made it easy to be creative with your marketing – social media, video, games etc. can all be used to pull in potential customers through engaging online content.
  • Interaction with customers: the interactive nature of the web has provided an excellent environment for developing customer relationships. For example, blogs, discussion forums and customer reviews have all made two-way dialogue with customers far easier. Rather than just throwing out messages,  digital tools enable you to pull customers into your site and engage in more meaningful communications.
  • Easier measurement: the digital environment has meant the introduction of online tools like web analytics that can help you measure your performance with more accuracy. Web analytics are simply the tools we can use to measure, collect and  analyse data to better understand our online presence. By using metrics such as traffic source, conversions, bounce rates and so on, small business can more effectively measure the performance of their marketing activity.
  • Immediacy: if you’ve got something exciting to say, you don’t have to wait to shout about it to your customers. Email and social media can be instantaneous. For example if you have something that is time sensitive sending an email promotion to a customer is far quicker (and lower cost), then its offline direct mail counterpart.

Digital Marketing Tools

Obviously the digital communication tools you decide to use will depend on your objectives and strategy alongside available budget and resources. But as a small online business, the key digital tools you may want to consider are likely to include:

  1. Search Engine Marketing (SEM):  the process you go through to increase your page ranking on search engines in order for you to increase you business’ visibility and drive traffic to your site. SEM essentially divides into two,  increasing your ranking through SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and through paid advertising (PPC). Search engine optimisation requires time, effort and commitment but is an essential part of building your business’ presence online.
  2. Online PR: sending out press releases to relevant media can be a great way not only to promote your latest news and developments, but also keeps fresh content coming into your website for SEO purposes, increases inbound links to and builds brand awareness.
  3. Online advertising: interactive online advertising essentially means you advertise your business on a third-party site through a banner ad. Although there are likely to be costs associated with online display advertising, it can be a useful way to increase awareness of your brand and generate direct response from potential customers.
  4. Email Marketing: email is an essential channel for both acquiring new customers and retaining existing customers. Despite worries over the increase in spam, email remains an effective marketing tool. The costs are low (in comparison to direct mail), response can be immediate, it can be quick to deploy, and can be tailored to specific customer segments easily.
  5. Social Media: Engaging with your customers though social media is a great way to give your business and brand a personality. Used thoughtfully, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites can help promote your products, help you gain valuable customer insight and help drive new traffic and increase inbound links to your site.
  6. Online sales promotion: Online vouchers, discount codes and e-coupons can be a great sales promotion tool. They can help increase sales, drive traffic and reward customer loyalty.
  7. Content Marketing:  We’ve mentioned it over and over again in previous blogs, but content is the cornerstone of online marketing – it is absolutely central to everything you do. Think about ways to keep content on your site fresh, up-to-date, relevant and interesting. Perhaps look at ways you can increase your content such as through blogging, video demonstrations, customer reviews and competitions. For ideas, I suggest you take a look at a The Content Marketing Matrix from Smart Insights.
  8. Online partnerships: Identifying ways in which you can work in partnership with a third-party to promote your online services can pay dividends by opening your business up to a stream of new and relevant customers. This could be with affiliates, suppliers or complementary businesses and associations.

The final part of our marketing planning guide will be looking at Actions and Control the final two elements of the SOSTAC marketing planning framework.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment.

Soccer Game Strategy image by Kromkrathog at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

The benefits video marketing can bring to small businesses

videos computer keyVideo looks set to continue in popularity, as consumers increasingly engage with brands visually – think the meteoric rise of Pinterest and YouTube. So what benefits can video offer you as a small business? We take a look at how you can successfully add it into your online presence and make it an important part of  your content marketing strategy.

“We’ve seen a consistent trend in 2013 toward sharing through image and video, rather than text-based content. Visual content will increasingly become a critical piece of any solid content strategy” Forbes – The Top 7 Social Media Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2014

The growth of video as a marketing tool

We only have to see the massive impact a successful online video can have to realise how video is becoming a more and more important channel for communication. Take for example John Lewis’ Christmas 2013 Bear and Hare video. in its first week it shot to the top of the Viral Video chart with 155,106 shares in just seven days. And, within just one month of going live, it can boast over 9, 787, 194 views on YouTube.  Of course, John Lewis had a multi-million pound budget and the help of a top advertising agency, but it clearly demonstrates how brands are increasingly realising the importance of video marketing.

Benefits video can bring to small businesses

Research shows that a customer who watches a video is 85% more likely to make a purchase . Getting on board with video marketing brings a number of benefits to your small business.

1. Content

Having relevant video content on your website can be an essential part of your content marketing mix.  Creating fresh, relevant content helps with SEO, since search engines consistently rank websites with videocontent higher in page rankings than websites without.  Indeed,  research shows that a website with video content is 53 times more likely to appear in page 1 of Google

2. Cost

Video marketing doesn’t have to cost the world.  You don’t need to rely on a production company to produce a good video – there are lots of DIY options out there. You can make your own video with the use of a decent camera and video editing software such as iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. There are also plenty of online video creation tools available  such as Animoto or WeVideo.

3. Educate and explain

Video can be a great way to convey potentially complex information to customers. For example demonstrating to customers how to use a product visually can be far more effective than to try to explain it by written word alone.

4. Brand personality

Using video is a great way to bring personality to your brand. People like doing business with people so using video is a great way to get your brand personality across. For example showcasing your staff or your premises can help customers feel that there is a real person behind the face of the business.

5. Increase Customer Engagement

Video helps increase customer engagement since video is one of the most popular forms of media content that people share. According to a report by Zuum, video is the most shared content type on Facebook.

Use video across all your online marketing channels

You Tube on ipadThe great thing about video is that it can be effective across all your media channels. It should be up on your website but is also really effective on your social media platforms, your blog, in email communication and, of course on YouTube.

Remember YouTube can boast –

Examples of using video effectively

In order for video marketing to be effective, you need to create content that adds value and enhances your customers’ shopping experience.  For example value added content could include, product demonstrations, video tutorials, customer testimonials, instructions and how to guides. We’ve highlighted below a few examples of how different businesses have used video to generate relevant, useful content for customers.

Useful resources

So now you’ve seen the importance part video has to play in generating quality content, we’ve found some useful links to help get you going.

How to make a video

Tips on using a video camera

Online video production tools

What makes good content for a video

Uploading your video to you tube

Videos Computer Key image courtesy of Stuart Miles at Freedigitalphotos.net

YouTube on Tablet image courtesy of Winnond at Freedigitalphotos.net

We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment