Monday, 31 July 2017

Digital Marketing for SMEs (2): Creative content to capture customers

Pic: Nick Youngson

Customer engagement is key in digital marketing. Leads are potential customers who need some good, old-fashioned nurturing before they buy your product or service. It is nothing new, people need to trust the seller or sample the offer before they open their wallet, not unlike the sales patter of a shop assistant or the free tastings you get at the farmer’s market.

The first step is to set up a website. But how do you persuade people to visit, foster their trust and convince them to buy? That’s where content marketing comes in… Here are a few suggestions on how to attract visitors and transform them into paying, repeat customers:
  • Blogging is perfect to disseminate up-to-date information on your business. You can tell your customers about new products, awards you won and pass on industry news that is relevant to them.
  • Blogger outreach is offering samples to influential bloggers in exchange for reviews and links.
  • Curated content are articles written by experts. You are sharing links you have specially selected to inform your visitors.
  • Videos are a great introduction to your company. Product tutorials are very powerful because they show how your product or service can be used. This is very important for new technology.
  • Podcasts are recordings that can be played over and over again. They are easier to produce than a video and work best as a series rather than a one-off.
  • Webinars are online workshops that showcase your product or service; they are more interactive than videos/podcasts and can be used to grow your email lists.
  • Slideshow presentations are basically PowerPoint files uploaded to your website or social media channels.
  • Infographics are a colourful snapshot of your business. They can include graphs, pie charts and other attractive ways to make data eye catching - especially useful for B2B companies.
  • E-books are the best way to share long-form content. They can include live links, too.
  • White Papers are relevant to companies that need to educate their customers about their products and services.
  • Free reports are popular with companies selling services. For instance, if you are into recruiting, a salary survey will go down well with job applicants and HR departments.
  • Reviews are essential for retail websites – think Amazon and John Lewis.
  • Apps are fun. You can have a free app, a paid app, a freemium app (free with paid extras). They are essential for mobile marketing.
  • E-newsletters are the cornerstone of email marketing. They inform, entertain and show how capable you are.
  • Last but not least, you need good photos – a high number of internet searches focuses on images only.

The next step is to use relevant social media platforms – your creative content can be tweeted, shared on LinkedIn or posted on Facebook – if your audience is on those channels. And if you have a case study or a story with plenty of human interest, you can get in touch with traditional media to get exposure in newspapers and periodicals – again, if that’s where your audience is. The scattergun approach wastes time, money and resources; put your strategic hat (or hire one) and find out where your customers are before you fire your first shot.

PS: the first article in the series (digital strategy) is here.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Digital strategy for SMEs (updated): 7 steps to digital domination

I originally wrote this series for an agency’s business blog back in 2012. When it was taken offline, I revived it on this blog. It is still the most popular post (see panel on the right), so I decided to update it. A lot of it still makes sense, hence the on-going interest, but I wanted to reduce the steps and cover the latest developments… This is part one... keep following to read Creative content to capture customersSearch Engine Optimization for SMEs and Social media: your launch pad for interactive engagement.  
Pic: Mr Fring

7 lucky steps to digital domination
Pic: Maxey
Research has shown, time and time again, that customers check out B2C/B2B products and services online before making a purchase. Having an online presence increases trust in your product/service, which is vital for small businesses with a tight marketing budget. 

The internet reaches a wider, cross-generational audience than traditional marketing. So here are 7 steps to create an effective digital marketing strategy from scratch and boost your SEO in the process.

Step 1 Research phrasal keywords & optimize your website
Keywords are old hat. People use multiple words to search, for instance 'cheap holidays in Spain', 'best digital cameras' or 'cheap cars in London'…  Google Keyword Planner can help you find the keywords. Do not just go for high matches, medium-strength keywords might work well too if they are a close match to your offer (product or service). There is no obligation to ‘buy’ the keywords if you do not fancy doing PPC (pay per click). If you do, consider a brief campaign to test the waters. PPC can be quite expensive if your market is crowded. Once you have identified your phrasal keywords, use them in your website’s back-end and naturally in your content - keyword stuffing is penalised by Google. Use them in body copy, headings and picture captions. A typical back-end code looks like this:
<meta name="keywords" content="phrasal keywords go here, separated by commas"/>

Step 2: Create a blog and other content
Everybody knows that content is king. Content is not just words but also pictures, videos, podcasts and infographics. Your website should be worded with your customer in mind and allow for the short attention span and time-poor behaviour of surfers. More in-depth information can be conveyed through a blog, e-book, video or podcast.

Step 3: Promote your content with social media
Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest are still the main social media platforms. Further platforms can be considered if you target younger audiences, mobile audiences, etc. As a rule of thumb, Twitter and LinkedIn are mostly used for B2B (business to business) interaction, while Facebook and Twitter are perfect for B2C (business to consumer). The difference between Instagram and Pinterest can be sex and age demographics (for instance, Pinterest users are mostly women). Other channels, such as Snapchat, cater for younger audiences. However digital divides often blur, with companies using all platforms and most firms jumping on Pinterest’s and Instagram’s bandwagons – a picture (or infographic) is indeed worth 1000 words. You can argue that a video is worth millions, so if you are a keen communicator, you should leverage YouTube as much as possible. There is plenty of free information online to keep you up to date with social media trends – Mashable, Social Media Examiner and Search Engine Watch offer excellent, free e-newsletters.

Step 4: Convert your website’s traffic into leads
Your website is ranking well, you have plenty of visitors, your blog is well received, but how can you turn your followers into customers? Don’t spread yourself too thinly, keep up with social media platforms and engage with your customers by giving away free advice, samples, consultations - whatever it’s suitable for your business to offer as an incentive to clinch the deal.

Step 5: Nurture your leads with email marketing
Email marketing is the 21st century's answer to junk mail – but not as we know it. Customer engagement is key - your registered users want to hear from you and are keen to receive your e-newsletters via email. Focus on their problems and offer solutions – a pull rather than push strategy involving building a relationship and earning trust. For instance, if you sell gardening products, potential customers could get emails with gardening tips, short tutorials for easy makeovers and seasonal advice to showcase how your products can enhance their outdoor living. Bear in mind that from May 2018 new privacy laws (GDPR) will become effective. You must make sure you have written permissions to email your customers/followers. In doubt, you need to clean your lists by emailing everyone, request their permission to email them information and allow them to opt out. Guidance from the UK government is here

Step 6: Be mobile friendly
Portable internet and wifi mean that some of your customers might be surfing the net from a mobile phone or a tablet, so check with your designer that your website displays well on mobile devices. Google Analytics can give you a helping hand by indicating how mobile impacts your business – you can get free reports showing how your visitors are accessing your website.

Step 7: Analyse and refine your marketing strategies Many businesses still think that once their optimised website is up and running and they have one successful social media campaign under their belt, they are there... Yes they are, but not for long. In the fast-changing digital world, new platforms are constantly created and trends come and go at the speed of lightning. Your competitors won’t be standing still either. Small businesses should review their website at regular intervals. Refresh your content, keep up with social media, regularly monitor your visitors with Google Analytics and use all the free tools and information available to improve or maintain your ranking. If you think you can spare some money from your budget, invest in marketing automation (Hootsuite, HubSpot, SEM rush, Buffer, etc).

Thursday, 20 July 2017

From the content brew to the SEO soup

One of my most popular PowerPoint presentations on Slideshare is Lucky 7 steps to digital domination, tongue-and-cheek slides that are still relevant in our ever-changing digital landscape. The presentation displays a great infographic about content, which I reproduce below as it has stood the test of time. Tea (and perhaps coffee) drinkers will get a kick out of it.

Now bear me with while I prepare the SEO soup... Bon App├ętit

P.S. I am rewriting the Digital Marketing Series for SMEs, popular since 2012!