Consumers are searching for solutions to their problems. Twenty years ago or so, they’d research products or services at brick-and-mortar retail stores. Or, they’d search for business contact information in a phone book. Now, with the Internet and its 24-7 availability, consumers are going online first to find information about products and services they need. Therefore, having a good website that clearly communicates who you are, what you can do for consumers, and how customers can reach you is vital for developing brand equity. Yet, simply building and having a website isn’t enough. Just because you put a website online doesn’t mean you’ll be found. You have to use online marketing to bring people to your business.
Special thanks to Gavin Baker of Baker Labs for his contributions to this article.
As a startup business, no one knows who you are. Creating a website that appears professional and that functions best in its class can draw consumers from the top of your sales funnel through the bottom of the funnel, as we talked about in Article #19. Your online presence, if done correctly, can convince consumers to take action. If your site makes a good impression on them, they could request an appointment with you. They might request a consultation or a quote. Or maybe, they’ll buy your product. Your website is one of the ways you “sell” your products and services. It’s a way you turn consumers into customers.
But how do you attract attention and drive traffic into your digital sales funnel? How do people find your website? Well, you use online marketing.
When consumers go to search engines like Google, Yahoo, or Bing, they’re typically searching for something specific. They’ll type in words or phrases to find definitions, information, resources, products, services, entertainment, destinations, and businesses. If they follow normal search behavior, they’ll type in their query. If results they wanted don’t show up on the first page, they’ll go back and revise their query. They’ll add another word to it, or they’ll modify their verbiage. They don’t go through the dozens of pages Google found to match their first search.
In order to be found on this first page, you’ll need to optimize site pages to be attractive to Internet search engines. Since Google accounts for the majority of the search market, most company’s invest in SEO on Google.
With SEO, you’re making a concerted effort to get Google to rank your website or pages from your website higher so they appear on the first page of consumer searches. In other words, you’re creating pages and content on your site to match what national searchers are trying to find, boosting your website organically, without paying for it.
Additionally, if you have a local business you’ll need to work on your local SEO… making sure your business’s “NAP” (Name, Address, Phone) as well as other contact information, hours, etc. are listed exactly the same in Google My Business, social media outlets, and listing directories like Yelp and YellowPages.com. This information is important, for example, when customers are using their smartphone to find your office or contact you.
Besides optimizing your website’s pages and blogs for SEO, you can create premium content online to draw people into your sales funnel. The more engaging, niche-specific, or valuable the content, the better chance you have of increasing your website’s viewership, subscriptions, or purchases. Although you can create all types of content, here are a few with which I have experience and recommend:
Because this content is much more valuable than simple blogs, you can ask people to give you something in return – typically their email address – which can later be used to connect personally with them.
Now that you have pages, blog posts, and value-premium content on your website, you can bring visitors and consumers to you by publishing links to the pages on your social media channels. Let your audience get to know your culture, and show-off your company culture. Give them the knowledge that helps them understand how to solve a problem or how your business can work with them to solve issues.
Design graphically appealing posts that entice viewers to click-through to your website for more information. Ideally, the more active you are on social media, the more interactive your audience will be with you. In turn, your interactivity will organically drive consumers to your online platform.
Organic traffic from SEO and social media can only take your online presence so far (especially since some social media channels block “salesy” posts). Eventually, you’ll need to consider paying for online advertising. If you can afford the budget, the quickest way to show up on the first page of Google’s search results is to buy ads. In very competitive industries, you’re just not going to show up on that first page. But, you can pay Google AdWords to appear at the top of certain search pages, which puts you ahead of people who aren’t willing to pay.
Social media ads work a little differently. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest users don’t have search intent; rather, they have a search history. If you go to Google, you’re usually looking for something. However, if you’re on social media sites, you’re not really looking for anything specific. You’re just looking for something to pass the time. Thus, social media ads, especially the ones on FaceBook, are targeted to consumers based on their online interactions. They’re 100% based on who people are and what they do. Therefore, if you pay for ads on social media, you’re targeting consumers based on their cultural, economic, and geographic demographics.
I don’t know about you, but doing those four things to drive people to my online presence seems overwhelming. I don’t have the time to be on social media all day long, to create new content constantly, and to match my content creations to online search keywords. Holy Batman! In the start-up phase of your business, you may have time to do some of this, but as you grow, you’ll need help. You’ll need to look at hiring internal or external team members to help you promote your business on your website and through social media.
Most certainly, you need a good website that explains who you are and showcases your business. You need to establish that online platform. You can create a website yourself through different builders online, or you could pay a reputable firm to create one for you. Typically, website creation starts at $3,000 – $6,000 and goes up from there, depending on what you want on the website and what you want the website to do. On average, though, companies pay an average of $8,000 – $12,000 for a great website. As a start-up business, you may not have that available, so maybe look at creating your website a phase at a time.
Marketing’s never-ending, folks. Create a marketing plan as we talked about in Article #16. Make an advertising budget, and use it to draw people to your online platform. You’re trying to establish a brand identity online, so help consumers find your company.
Be sure to look for my next article in this Starting a Business series. I’ll be giving small business owners a crash course on merchant service provisions and fees. You don’t want to miss it!