If you take a look at what you eat, where you shop or even what you wear, you’ll discover that the most effective brands and businesses in your life are successful because of their ability to keep you trapped in their rotating doors. You’ll buy that same beverage maybe twice a week, and go to that same supermarket at the end of each month- all because you’ve convinced yourself you like the design on the plastic bags, and the staff are friendly. Actually, there’s more to it and I’m about to tell you exactly what that is…
You frequent a brand because it grows with you and becomes something that understands you. For example, after McDonalds understood the issue the population began to have with societal obesity, they reduced portion size (although I blame inflation) and boosted the nutritional value of the food through the choice of ingredients used. This became acceptable to parents, who then were more inclined eat there with their families.
An example of an industry that arguably did not readily embrace evolution and suffered greatly as a result, is the music industry. After the birth of the digital age of music, illegal downloading and iTunes, the archaic business model of selling CD’s showed a huge decline in sales. Failing to catch on quickly enough meant that some artists suffered (and the customary private jet was downsized to a regular limousine).
Whatever your line of business, you need to understand the importance of evolving with the customer, if you sell tube-socks and make a great profit in winter, introducing a pop-sock range for the warmer months would mean that you have something to offer customers all year round. Alternatively, if your business is to provide SEO services (and you are doing this well) – then perhaps you could suggest Pay Per Click (PPC) services too.
Integrating, and actually wanting customers’ opinions…
When listening to a friend or colleague talk about something they care about, you always feel that little bit of gratification when they ask you your view on the subject and genuinely care about your answer. Imagine this never happened – if people talked at you, telling you their views and never asking about yours…you would get tired of listening to them, and they would eventually emigrate to a world of bias where only their opinion matters.
Feedback is a wonderful thing, and to guarantee any kind of success you need to be engaging the people whom that success relies upon. There are many ways this can be done such as market research, comments sections and incentives.
Personally, I dislike the emails I receive asking me to ‘spend 2 minutes’ of my time filling out a feedback form, but interestingly, when shopping online – the reviews section about the product I am interested in, is the first place I look before pressing the ‘checkout’ button. If you struggle to get feedback, try using incentives in exchange for it, offering a discount or a token for free software after a few important questions are answered, is a ‘quid-pro-quo’ way to dig out helpful information that could help you better your business.
Nestle’s chocolaty awesomeness is far from limited. Nestle offer a range of sweets and treats making them one of the most popular and wealthy brands in the world. If Nestle was limited to just one chocolate bar, sure that bar of chocolate would taste good to those that enjoy it, but after years of just a milk chocolate bar, people would stray – they’d try praline, white chocolate, plain chocolate – and so on. If Nestle weren’t the ones to provide these different types, they’d be losing out on possible revenue and brand awareness.
The power of a brand comes from its ability to churn out good ideas and give people choice. This isn’t limited to types of product or service offered, your business alternatives should extend to forms of payment, methods of contact and more. Yes this is 2011, but believe it or not, some people prefer to send a postal-order or a cheque rather than use their credit or debit card online. Similarly, some people like to mail a letter to you rather than send you an email – and some people like to call you on the phone, instead of using Skype.
Being savvy is important, but it is important to remember that you could alienate a whole market simply by not catering for it. If you sell online, offer WorldPay, PayPal and the ability to pay by card – by doing so, shows customer consideration which is exactly what you need to do!
An unexpected text message from an old friend, is often the perfect segue for reconnecting, because sometimes it’s the subtleties in life that we enjoy the most. However ‘broadcast-message’ after Facebook invite from that annoying person you’d probably cross the street to avoid, will never get the attention they want. This is because there is an important difference between the two – in the first example, you feel as though that person put thought and care into the message and in the second, you feel undervalued, someone just making up the numbers.
Your business works the exact same way, its quality over quantity. Flooding prospective customers with emails about what their missing might cause them to report you as spam, and maybe even tell others to do the same. However, providing them with worthwhile information they may not already have gathered, might prompt them to subscribe to your blog, or enquire about your business.
Many businesses have cottoned onto the positive effects of personalisation, sending out post with only your first name as the title as if they’re your buddy, addressing you with “hi” rather than the traditional “Dear” and sending out seasonal gifts and confectionary. Even if it’s slightly corny and obviously not based on some fantastic rapport you have with them, they do it in hopes that you’ll feel appreciated causing them to stand out.
Even if a thousand others receive the exact same gift, unlike the Facebook invite example above and more like the Google+ invite in its beta stages – it makes you feel all special. Using this method is an added charm, especially if the customer is new to you; it works almost as a reminder to them of their importance to you. Consistent use of this technique might eventually convince that customer that you are important to them, because you obviously ‘care’ about them enough to remember them personally.
Customers will keep coming back if they are fully catered to. Whilst I am not suggesting that if you are not doing all of the above perfectly, you will fail – including these tips into your already operating mode of business, will help boost ROI and customer satisfaction. A ‘win-win’ outcome!
Blogging regularly is important for many reasons. The most obvious being that if your want to retain a degree of professionalism (assuming your blog is not a personal one) then it looks better if you are continuously finding new and interesting things for your audience to read.
Honestly, how eager are you to get involved with a company or a business through its website, when you visit its blog and see that the ‘most recent’ entry has a date stamp of 6 months ago…?
Besides, there are some little gems you may be sacrificing if you neglect your company’s blog – such as:
Being fresh and innovative!
A blog post is an article that varies in length, can be about anything you want and is usually beneficial to the target audience it was written for. Through blogging, you can use it to encourage people, persuade them or simply to entertain them. Why lose out on something this beneficial? If you are a company or a business that has something you are trying to sell, your blog is the place to do this!
If you want to improve your chances of being visible in search engines (and you do) then well structured posts are essential. A great post can start to rank in search engines over time and could potentially bring in web traffic to your website. (For tips on how to write a great post you can read my earlier article titled ‘Successfully guest posting on A-list blogs’)
Being communicative & media savvy!
Simply because blogging and social media marketing must coexist when it comes to marketing a business, communication is essential.
Social communities, such as Twitter, Digg, and Facebook among others, can be used as a platform for your blog, and so being a consistent (but quality) blogger could create the opportunity for more traffic to find drive its way to your blog. Perhaps most importantly, through these social networks you could gather new business opportunities.
Blogging is a way to explain to your readers who you are as a company. Distancing yourself from the competition is what your brand and your website will attempt to do, but a blog can add that extra panache needed to make your business really stand out. Much like a chronicle, your blog can be how you document the goings on in your company – which will give allow it to develop a voice and a personality.
So blog & blog often!
Search engine optimisation and digital marketing for small business isn’t easy. For big-brands people love linking to them without them having to ask, even without them deserving it in many cases.
Small business don’t have that luxury, that’s not to say that the smaller guys can’t compete, they just have to work harder and smarter to get their share of attention online.
Some of my favourite small business SEO tips are below, some are mine, others are from people who volunteered their own ideas on Twitter.
- Optimise for local search. Figure out who are the authoritative citations within your city – ie touchnottingham.com via @APSG
- Concentrate on local search and longer search terms as these give more of a chance with a smaller budget. Google Maps add is a must in your town! via @StuartFlatt
- Be active online. Forge relationships with blog owners, find journalists on Twitter. These contacts will be invaluable when it comes to getting coverage.
- Write content that’s relevant to your business and your customers & keep it up to date. via @picseli
- Get your analytics package in place as early as possible. The more data you have the more you’ll be able to analyse your marketing decisions.
- Utilise your current relationships – reciprocal linking is not perfect, but still has a good effect on local search (imo) via @CMaddison
- Brand yourself as an expert. Write informative articles about your industry. Post them on your site, ask to have your work published on others.
- Try to focus on conversions rather than rankings. Too many small business owners are obsessed with being first, rather than focusing on profits. via @CMaddison
- At the very least ensure your page titles are unique and relevant to the content on them.
- Don’t scrimp on your website, a less than satisfactory site may save cash in the short term, but it’ll cost you in conversions.
- Build your list – capture customer data, segment it, test it and contact them regularly (not too regularly) with useful information, articles, links and offers.
- Consider using Adwords for initial data collection / keyword selection – find your best converting/most profitable keywords for under £100 via @CMaddison
- Build trust – make sure you’re easily contactable, make sure your site has a prominent address and telephone number on each page, explain why your buying process is secure.
- Find out who your competition is, then find out who links to them using Open Site Explorer – get those sites to link to you.
- Setup Google alerts for your business name. Make sure you monitor these, it’s a great opportunity to ask for links when people forget, or to network with people who are already talking about you.