Times have changed. The new frontier for marketing is no longer the traditional media of print and television. More and more small businesses are now taking their business online because that is where their customers are.
Although it presents some new challenges, it also has huge advantages for small local businesses because compared to traditional marketing, the barrier to entry online is very small. That is why so many start-up businesses take the route into the digital space, as it is much more cost-effective and they can easily reach their target audience.
As a business owner, there are many different strategies that you can follow for a successful online marketing campaign depending on your niche, budget, and timeframe but there are some fundamentals that you need to follow.
Marketing online is all about creativity and figuring out new and exciting ways to get your message across. This article will help you avoid the most common and typical mistakes people make.
Internet Marketing is constantly evolving but the basic principles of marketing stay the same. The only difference is that the internet has provided such a different channel in which your company can express itself that sometimes requires a whole new learning curve.
There are 10 basic mistakes that all small businesses need to avoid. Some may seem obvious but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people are avoiding them, so let’s start with number 1:
Mistake #1: Having no vision and mission
Most major companies have a mission and vision statement. It clearly states the goal of the company. For example, there is this one from Apple Computers “Apple is committed to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software and Internet offerings.” Apple’s innovations such as the iPhone and IPAD make use of this particular statement as the driving force behind their success.
Even though your small company isn’t nearly the size of Apple, you have to remember that even Apple was just a small operation in Steve Jobs’s garage at some point in time. It is never too early to have a strong mission and vision statement. Your business needs to have a strong foundation in order to grow.
Perhaps you are wondering what this has to do with your online strategy and marketing. Well if you have got a clear vision of your business from the outset, it sets the right foundation for you to build your business. If you don’t have this then you will have a very hard time fixing the next 11 mistakes which will only harm your online success.
Mistake #2: Not understanding SEO
What is SEO? SEO stands for ‘search engine optimization’ and is a crazy arms race between the website owner and the search engine algorithms. The SEO’s goal is to ensure that you rank highly in the search engines when users search for your particular product or service. It takes a lot of knowledge and expertise to keep up to date with what the search engines are looking for from website owners. So should you just ignore the whole problem and not care about SEO at all? Definitely not. That would be a disaster!
SEO is all about optimizing your website. What does this mean for your website? The SEO will optimize your website so that when the search engine web crawlers come along and search your website they will do so on a perfectly optimized site and reward you by ranking you higher in the search engines so that your potential customers can find you.
So you can see how important SEO is and why your business needs to invest in it. Consider how much more traffic and sales you can generate if you feature on the first page of the search engines on your chosen keyword. Googling something is almost second nature and the average person will only take a look at the first few links. So not investing in an SEO expert is a mistake that your business can ill afford.
Mistake #3: Not blogging about your business
You might be thinking, “Well I already have a website so why do I need to blog about my product or service?” It’s a good question and here is the answer why: Blogs are an extension of an individual’s or company’s influence online and can have a huge impact on the success or downfall of a product or brand. Some blogs literally can make and break products because of their reviews. Blogs like Perez Hilton and Huffington Post have made internet celebrities out of their creators so don’t underestimate the power of the blog.
When someone is looking for what’s in and what’s not in fashion they read the fashion blog. When people want to know where the new hot destination is they read a travel blog. If they want to see what the hottest new mobile phone is they read a tech blog. In fact, they probably look at your website first then when they see a product they like they look at the blogs to see the reviews.
So you need to get your voice heard. You need to be the advocate and push the message you want out to everyone. One of the best platforms to tell people about your product is through your blog. In the blog, you can become one of the influencers out there.
However, make sure you do a few things first: make sure that your blog is hosted on the same site as your domain. That way your visitors will know it is an official blog. If you are blogging about a certain niche like technology, for instance, you cannot sound like one big advertisement pushing your products. What you need to do is spend time writing about things that people want to hear about. Your content needs to be informative and engaging.
You also need to interact with your bloggers. So when they comment make sure that you respond to them. That means that you need to respond to both negative and positive comments. This will show potential clients that you care about your product and those who are buying from you.
Mistake #4: Not being social enough
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google + are all social networks and are great places to do your marketing. Some businesses who don’t understand the importance of social media feel that Social Networks are a waste of company time. In fact, when they think of social media they are thinking of ways to block it and increase worker productivity. Don’t make the same mistake. What you can do is tap into social media to rapidly expand your internet footprint without spending too much money.
It’s vitally important for your business to invest in good social marketing as they can drive a lot of traffic to your site. Some of the more savvy companies have even started to address their customer service concerns on social media sites.
Creating an online community where people who enjoy your product can come together is also a big win. Creating fan pages, LinkedIn accounts or even tweeting on a regular basis shows that you are connected to your customers and followers and tells them that you are a hip and modern company that cares about them.
The best part about social media marketing is that it is mostly free. None of the major social media sites will charge you to create a site even if it is commercial in nature. You can also build your profile quickly with a minimum of investment and even use graphics that you have already created for your website.
Social media marketing needs to be consistent so you either need to invest in staff or outsource the work to get somebody to monitor your social media or do it yourself which can be time-consuming if you also run a business offline business too. Once you are involved in social media you cannot really just leave it alone like a static website.
If you do put a member of staff in charge of your social media accounts you will need to ensure that they are up to date with the new developments in the company as this is where people will often go looking for news. Consider creating a corporate communications function and depending on the size of your company make it a department or a single person.
Often you have to address concerns on social media sites and it is also a good place to check on feedback for your company. So learn to use social media to gauge where you are in the market and what people really think about your company.
Social media along with mobile marketing is incredibly valuable to your business so it is not something that you can afford to ignore and it will have a significant impact on your company profits.
Mistake #5: Not cross-promoting with other sites
Once you have built up a reputation for yourself, you should really take a look at cross-posting or guest authoring with another blog with a similar related product. Remember that your reputation is a resource and that cross-pollinating ideas is a good way to grow your network and get new customers.
Sites that may not be your direct competitor but are in the same industry would be a good target. Also, review sites or blogs that might be in your area of expertise might also be a good option. But whatever the case it’s important that you utilize this opportunity as much as possible.
One thing that this helps develop is name recognition not only of your product but also of yourself. It lets people know you are an authority in your field and gives them confidence in you and your product. So you should always consider your knowledge as a resource and make sure that you share it with as many people as possible.
Another benefit is that you can link back to your site which also increases the relevance and reputation of your site especially if the site that linked to you is older or more established than your website.
The downside to this is that you actually have to be a pretty good writer and write about relevant things that will interest your target audience. So you can’t just pump out a 250-word article that just summarizes other articles. The most reputable site wouldn’t take them and those that do will give very little benefit to your marketing strategy. It might even have a negative effect and should be avoided.
Mistake #6: Not creating ‘raving fans’
There are happy customers and there are raving fans of you and your business. Can you make a customer so happy that they will be a raving fan who will generate excitement and sales for your company?
The best way to do this has a testimonial page on your blog or website. It’s a perfect opportunity for your company to leverage on the goodwill of the customers by having them post their good experiences on your website. Even better is when they submit positive reviews on your business on third-party sites. For example, if someone is so happy with your product that they put a 5-star rating on Amazon. What this means is that whoever sees that becomes curious and might even try your product.
These happy customers might even create blogs about your products and create a loyal following. Customers who love your product are the best ambassadors as they will refer their friends and family to your product. The most important thing about this is that they are doing this because they are truly happy about their product and they are doing it for free.
So make sure that you create more customer advocates, as they are free and their word will really help convince people to visit your site and try your product.
Mistake #7: Not creating an affiliate network
Online advertising can be an expensive and inconsistent means of driving customers to your website, but there is an alternative. Affiliate marketing can boost traffic to your site and you only pay for visits that result in sales. An affiliate program is a process by which you make an agreement with other website owners or individuals who want to promote your goods or services online – or vice-versa. It means you can make sales from third-party websites, or ‘affiliates’. However, you only pay for the conversions the affiliate generates – in other words, every customer that actually buys from you.
One of the main benefits of affiliate marketing is that it enables you to broaden your customer base outside your own web-marketing efforts. It is all about getting in front of an audience that you may not otherwise reach. Hotels, for instance, could use a number of affiliates such as car hire firms, flight companies or travel insurers which share the same target market to promote their site.
Once successfully up and running, affiliate programs can generate between 10-30% of total sales so it is well worth setting up (this is something that we can help you with).
Affiliate schemes are also cost-effective as they work on a cost-per-action basis, meaning that you only pay on seeing results. So, unlike advertising, you do not incur any costs until a sale is actually made.
Mistake #8: Having no referral program
When you have a customer who is happy the first thing you have to think about is, who does he or she know that will also enjoy your product? On rare occasions and depending on your type of business the customer may offer to introduce you to their friends and family and boom you have a customer advocate. However, on most occasions, you need to ask the customer if they have referrals.
When a customer either receives the product or service it is the ideal time to have a questionnaire or survey for them to fill out and to ask if there is anyone that they can introduce you to. This can be sent by email, web form or done through social media. In most cases, if the customer was happy with the service or product they would be happy to introduce it to their circle of friends and family.
So make sure that happy customers have a system where they can easily refer new clients to the company. You can even reward them with incentives but either way, referrals are a great way to improve lead flow.
Mistake #9: Not using YouTube
Most major companies and corporations use video marketing to create viral marketing campaigns before the release of a big movie or product launch and YouTube is the platform of choice. It is huge.
Surprisingly, very few small businesses realize the potential that youtube has. You have to remember that Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube and many of its videos can reach up to 3 million hits. So why don’t businesses use YouTube more often? They are missing out on a powerful free marketing strategy.
Mistake #10: Having bad customer service
A lot of companies spend all their money on developing the right product. Yes, having an awesome product and marketing will sell initially but having terrible service will almost guarantee that you won’t get repeat customers. Not only that but each unhappy customer will tell three other potential customers about their bad experience and make it even harder to expand your market.
Great customer service might even cover up for an average product. You need to have multi-channel customer service and a thriving online community with people willing to help. For example, you would need someone to answer calls, answer emails, answer chats and answer questions posted on the forum. Covering all these channels is only the beginning. You now need to ensure that the service is excellent.
As a company, your customer service is a reflection of who the company is. Just by adjusting the company to be more customer focussed you should be able to improve the customer experience and make sure that people come back for more. Don’t forget one of the biggest costs is acquiring customers. So once you have customers why lose them?
It’s just the beginning
Internet marketing can be hard work and it does require an investment of both money and time but the return on that investment is enormous. However, if you avoid these 10 potential pitfalls, you will find that it doesn’t have to be difficult nor does it have to be expensive. What you need to have is the drive, the inspiration, and the creativity to think outside the box and create something new that people flock to – or have a team behind you that can do these things for you.
Your business simply cannot succeed without marketing, so it is important that you invest time and money in your online marketing campaigns. Products just don’t become huge hits by themselves. Clever marketing campaigns just make it look easy.