You invested a ton of time and money in a brand-new small business website. It looks great! You have all your products and services neatly organized. You got first-page ranking in Google.
But it will fail.
Sound like a dire prediction? It is, but I assure you it will come true if you continue to think the same ways you did last year about your online marketing. In this age of personalization, media saturation, and marketing automation, the odds are stacked against you.
It sounds pretty pessimistic, I know. But never fear, I will offer some solutions too!
Why you’re failing at online marketing
- You are relying on outbound marketing and SEO. The main difference between outbound marketing and inbound marketing is whether you are “pushing” your products or service to everyone expecting to reach some of your audience, or whether you are focusing your marketing like a laser-beam on speaking to the right customers with the right offer and “pulling” them in toward your business.
Just following good SEO practices on your website isn’t going to do that. Sure, you may position yourself at or near the top of desired categories (if you have the dedication and time to do it – it’s not that easy), but if you aren’t trying to pull your best customers to your site and engage them with a great offer right away, they are going to ignore you.
You can even run targeted advertising, but if you are relying on advertising alone (a “push” technique), you will still not generate enough traffic to pull qualified customers to your site.
It doesn’t matter if you are generating tons of traffic, if it’s the wrong kind.
So, the thing to remember here is that you need to rethink your marketing strategy from what you may have learned in school. Think “pull” not “push.”
- You are not personalizing your message. In this data-saturated world, you must cut through the noise and reach your potential customers (unless your brand is a household-name). Your brand strategy and message should be adaptable to be able to speak one-to-one with them like real human beings.
When visitors are coming to your website, they expect to be treated as a unique person, and deal with real human beings. They are not just “customers” or “users.” Your brand and offer needs to fill a real human need that they have. Even great User Experience (UX) does not make your business feel human. Using your technology to extend real human connections will.
No longer can you rely on a one-size-fits-all kind of branding. Or a website that acts mostly as a brochure all about you and your products and services. You must think carefully about each customer, speak to them one-on-one, and solve their specific problem. Think of your website as a communications platform rather than merely an “online presence” or “brochure.”
- You aren’t communicating enough or providing valuable content. If you are like many small and medium-sized businesses, you know that you need to develop relationships through your online efforts. You know you need to engage people on social media and by delivering great content on your blog.
But you aren’t doing it.
I know this because in a recent Pew Research study (referenced here: http://mashable.com/2010/12/15/generations-internet-infographic/#7HM_Ot8xrSqJ ), and another survey produced by Roundpeg of 151 small business owners (you can read it here: http://roundpeg.biz/lpd/internet-marketing-survey-results/ ), pointed out that only 53% of companies have a blog, and only 26% of companies blog at least once a week. That is stunning, because blogging can increase your lead generation efforts by 67% per month! (Reference: https://blog.hubspot.com/insiders/inbound-marketing-stats ).
One of the keys to connecting with people is to get to know them well, and to begin a dialogue with them around mutual interests. We all know this instinctively, at parties for example, but we seem to forget this fact when we use our most powerful and cost-effective communication tool – the website.
A major often-overlooked component of delivering a personalized message is to provide valuable content to your visitors that can begin a dialogue. That means you need to listen first. You can do that by blogging and engaging with social media, doing some simple testing, and even surveys. Practically for free!
Now that I have your attention, some solutions!
I hear you grumbling to yourself, “So OK, these are the problems, what are the solutions, Mr. Smarty-Pants! I run a gutter-cleaning business (or: carpet-cleaning, home restoration, accounting practice, law firm, party-planning, you-name-it business). I don’t have time to blog. Or post stuff on social media!”
Yep. I get it. I run a business or two too. It does seem sometimes like a waste of time to think about these things, but I also know that I cannot afford to just let it slide and hope on dumb-luck or word-of-mouth-marketing.
- Begin by thinking carefully about the problems your customers have, NOT the products you want to sell. Who cares about your product or service if it doesn’t address a real, felt-need that your customers have. Who cares if they can’t learn about it quickly and easily, from their cell-phones for example. (Cell-phone web users surpassed desktop-computer users in 2014: http://www.smartinsights.com/mobile-marketing/mobile-marketing-analytics/mobile-marketing-statistics/ )
I see a lot of business owners go into business because they have a passion about something or skill. Great! Now, identify the problems that passion or skill can solve before you think about telling the world about it. Then figure out how to draw those people, who have that problem, in.
- Figure out how you can address each customer with each web page or offer. Start to talk about the value that your product and service can provide for them. Do it on specific landing-pages that speak to ONE problem and offer your unique solution. Even if you only sell one product or service, you will find that it probably speaks to the needs of a pretty diverse group of people somehow. Begin to construct your website’s content (the “information architecture”) around that.
For example, if you mow lawns and do yardwork, then what specific problems do your customers have that you can solve? Do you want to speak to commercial building managers or homeowners? Do you have specialized knowledge of certain kinds of grass, landscapes, shrubbery or gardens? In your area, do you know of specific problems that are unique to your climate?
If you think about it, you can probably create very targeted offers, landing-pages and online blog content that will begin to provide real value to individuals. You can also position yourself as a leader in a niche – one of the keys to any successful business. You might be able to focus on a group of customers in need of your knowledge that can pay more for your service than just anyone who needs a lawn mowed!
Then, offer that knowledge with an “offer they can’t refuse.” Make it free – just make sure you capture who took advantage of the offer so you can follow-up with a personal phone call or email.
And don’t be concerned about “giving away the store” either. There is a lot of practical value in altruism and it has a very positive effect on your business — and your happiness! The universe smiles on generosity.
- Hire someone who can help. I know you don’t have time, and you can’t spend all day writing blogs, even if you have the technical skills. There is such a thing as opportunity-cost: “A benefit, profit, or value of something that must be given up to acquire or achieve something else.” (Read more: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/opportunity-cost.html ).
Spending a bunch of time learning new skills, honing your writing and design-chops, and dealing with technology headaches is probably NOT appealing to you. It will cost you a lot to do it yourself in opportunity cost if not bottom-line cost – probably MUCH MORE than hiring someone whose business is focused on doing that one thing.
There are a lot of really great writers and awesome designers out there who would love to help you! I happen to be one of them, by the way, and I would love to listen to your problems and help you solve them. Folks like me can save tons of money for people like you by getting to know your business, producing content that sells, and making it simple for you to speak to your customers. I have been helping small (and some big) businesses for more than 28 years.
Here’s to Your Success!
I hope you received some real value from this article, and that your website will NOT fail in 2017 because you put some of these ideas into practice. Even I struggle with some of these things too! But I am confident you can succeed!
But hey, if you need help with your branding, blog or website, don’t hesitate to call me at (970) 599-1517 or shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org I can also be reached through my website at http://jonwretlind.com too!
And, here’s MY can’t-refuse offer!
Tags: blogging, content marketing, Marketing, small business, websites
To top it off, I am offering a FREE 300-word article to the first 5 people who respond to this blog post! That’s a $50 value! Just mention it when you contact me, and I will get in touch with you to get started!
This post was written by jcwretlind