By Ed Munro
Red Rokk Interactive
Q: How can a small business find the time to stay competitive with online marketing?
Start by creating a realistic schedule, and then sticking with it.
Making time for online marketing and participating in social media has become a reality for many small businesses, while others are still watching from the sidelines. As a result, there has been much discussion from the small business community expressing concern about the time it takes to be successful with their online marketing efforts.
Your customers are online—you should be there to greet them.
For some perspective, ask yourself: When was the last time you used Google for a search query? Now ask the same question about the last time you reached for the Yellow Pages.
Not surprisingly, you and most businesses are likely using Google most of the time while searching through the Yellow Pages is declining rapidly.
Now ask yourself this question: Are you putting enough time and effort into promoting your company’s online activities? After all, this is where everyone is “gathering.”
The most common issue we find is that many businesses continue treating their websites, and to a lesser extent their social media activities, more like a static ad rather than an active portal where the flow of information and conversation with customers happens on a regular basis. Yet, despite this reality, there are still many businesses that are do not actively use social media.
For instance, USA Today recently reported the following: According to a recent survey from Manta, a social network for small businesses, about 61 percent of small businesses don’t see any return-on-investment on their social-media activities. Yet, almost 50 percent say they’ve increased their time spent on social media, and only 7 percent have decreased their time.
So ask yourself another question: What are the main reasons preventing you from dedicating more effort into promoting your company’s online activities when this is the place where everyone is?
Do any of these reasons to not market online look familiar?
– Too busy/not enough time.
– Not sure where to begin.
– Not sure social-media marketing works.
– Online marketing doesn’t apply to my business.
These are indeed legitimate concerns, but they can be resolved.
1. I am too busy. It’s true, being busy with everything else will always prevent you from dedicating the necessary time for online marketing. However, if you sit down and look at your weekly schedule and see where you’re spending your time, you can begin to figure out where opportunities exist to engage with social media, write blogs, send emails and create inbound marketing promotions.
Many online sources can help you become more organized and set your priorities. The main point is to set up a schedule where you will write blogs, engage with Twitter and develop inbound marketing campaigns.
2. I’m not sure how to get started. The first step is set your goals and work from there. Do you want to increase your website traffic, increase brand awareness or have more people call? Ultimately your goal is to acquire more repeat customers (whether you’re an e-commerce website, driving people to your physical location or having more B2B business).
So, what is the best online marketing approach that will attract these potential customers? Start by using Google Analytics to see who is coming to your website and from where. These stats will also show you the bounce rate and what pages are most popular (or not) and a lot more.
Then take another look at your website, and ask if it is up to date. What are you asking the viewer to do? Look at how many areas on your homepage are trying to gain the viewer’s attention. Ask yourself if any of these items can be prioritized and put into tabs, because keeping your home page simple and focused on one or two call-to-action items is best.
Also, be sure that your website is fully compatible on mobile platforms, as these are quickly becoming the preferred screens for online viewing.
3. I’m not convinced that social media marketing even works. True. However, the same can be said about getting a gym membership. Having a gym membership does not guarantee success. You need to invest the time to see any results, and the same is true for social media marketing.
The main thing is to listen and engage with people online and to start making this a habit. The fact is, results do come to those who make social media an important part of their business procedures. It may seem difficult at first, but once you start getting customer reactions on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you will find that the chore of participation becomes a habit.
4. Online marketing doesn’t apply to my business. Sure, we hear this often and to varying degrees, this is true, as some businesses are more predisposed to online marketing than others. Remember, the example of who is using the Yellow Pages still applies to those who believe online marketing doesn’t fit their marketing plan.
Most people under the age of 45 are using online search as their primary tool for gathering information. This means even if your business is a specialized business-to-business enterprise with an established network of people who are not heavily involved with online activities, that will trend not remain forever. Again, look at the younger generation and you can be sure whatever industry they are in will involve social media and online marketing. The answer is yes, social media marketing is applicable to all businesses and will only become more so in the near future.
So, stop procrastinating and make online marketing a part of your business routine and if you do it right (like a good workout program at the gym), you will see results.
Ed Munro is a marketing and communications consultant at Red Rokk Interactive, a marketing and advertising agency located in Bellingham. The company specializes in developing high impact campaigns that create awareness and drive sales. Columns from the Red Rokk Interactive team appear monthly on BBJToday.com. Red Rokk is online at www.redrokk.com.
Send questions to the Red Rokk Interactive team by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.