Fairfax / Newcastle Herald column from November, 2014
A RECENT survey conducted by the Hunter Research Foundation shows that only 57per cent of companies questioned have a dedicated website, while just 37per cent of companies use social media to market their business.
Despite more than 70per cent of the companies surveyed using the internet to conduct business-related research and to buy goods and services, companies are still failing to use this same technology to enhance their own business.
In 2015 the need to have a serious digital marketing strategy will be more crucial than ever. Here are seven things you need to do now to compete and thrive.
1. Get serious about online
Your customers start their search for a product or service online. They want the best information available immediately. If they can buy or inquire online, they will. If they need to physically visit your location to do business with you, then:
a. You’d better hope your competitors are in the same boat.
b. You must give them enough information online to ensure they make it to your fine establishment, or your competitors will.
Unless you get really serious about online and make it central to your plans, you can start considering new career options.
2. Create great content
Potential customers aren’t looking for you; they’re looking for answers and solutions. They don’t Google “your name”, they search for “the solution your service or product provides”.
They also trust the word-of-mouth effect of social media and are more likely to visit a site recommended to them by a “friend” online.
The key to all this is producing good content.
Good content offers solutions. It’s helpful and useful. Its not about your business, it’s about your customer’s potential needs. Good content gets shared online. It becomes popular. It tends to rank higher in search results. It speaks to the customer.
You need to produce good content on your website regularly. Static websites don’t deliver business.
3. Use social networks
Australians spend more time on social networks than any other country in the world. We like to share good information and social networks have made it easier than ever to share information at the click of a button.
At the very least, you should enable sharing buttons on your website so that visitors can easily share that great content you are hopefully producing.
To really get social, you need to set up accounts and dedicated pages for your business with Facebook, Twitter and probably LinkedIn. Then you have to work those accounts. There’s no escaping this … it has to be done.
4. Optimise your website for search
Being found online in search engines is not just a luxury, it is a necessity. You need to immediately start optimising multiple pages of your website for important industry search terms. The more they address needs and solutions the better. In my experience, search engine optimisation has been the single greatest contributor to business growth in the past decade and can provide a significant advantage over competitors.
5. Track conversion
Attracting traffic to your website is nice, but converting traffic into fans, inquiries and sales is even nicer. PDF downloads, newsletter subscriptions, inquiry forms, free trials … these can all work to help turn visitors into customers. But it only happens if you provide the right call to action. What are you doing to convert your traffic?
6. Think mobile
The smartphone is now ubiquitous. You need to pay serious consideration to how your business will compete with the growth of the mobile consumer. Is your website mobile friendly? Should you build apps? Is there a particular aspect of your business that is more suited to mobile that you can build upon?
7. Learn about inbound marketing
Inbound marketing is about attracting visitors and converting them to customers rather than the old advertising approach of blasting everyone with the hope of hitting some potentially interested buyers. Inbound leads to higher conversion rates and better use of your marketing budget. The more you think “inbound”, the more you will be acting like a modern web marketer.