I have been building success for businesses small and large for more than 16 years. My focus has always been primarily on Internet marketing; but being involved in such a variety of marketing plans and strategies over the years has given me incredible insight into what works and what doesn’t.
I’ve gathered my Top 7 tips, which I believe will assure any business success. Take a look…
1) Website and Search Marketing Plan
If you don’t already have a website… what are you even thinking? The world lives on the web. I don’t care if you sell shoes, or if you mold bricks in your underpants… if you’re not online, your business doesn’t exist.
But it’s more than just existing. Have a plan. Specifically, have a content plan, which should also translate into an SEO plan. If you know what your topic is about, break it out into as many individual components as possible, and plan content pages for each.
As an example, I was looking at a roofing company website recently. The website was only three (3) pages. They had a home page, a Services page, and a Contact page. On the Services page they listed some of their services as follows:
- Residential Roofing
- Commercial Roofing
- Roof Cleaning
- Roof Tear-offs
- Roof Repair
- New Roof Installation
- Roof painting
- Gutter cleaning and repair
If this company were my client, I would advise them to create a content plan around every one of their services. Each of the items above should have its own page. Looking closer, each of the services above should have its own page within a ‘Residential’ category, and again under a ‘Commercial’ category. Why? Because that’s how we crazy humans like our content… and by the way, it’s also how Google likes it.
If you’re a residential customer, you will be looking for services related to your home roof. But it’s likely the services this roofing company offers are quite different for your home as compared to a huge office complex. The separation allows this roofing business to properly focus content and imagery to each unique audience.
Now, if someone types a search query in Google such as ‘residential roof cleaning’, your website might actually have a chance to show up in Google. But not just your website… the Residential Roof Cleaning page of your website.
This is important because the closer you can connect your customer FROM their search query TO a page directly related, the more likely they are to contact you. In fact, our own studies show that sending a visitor to a directly related landing page, like the example above explains, increases conversion by an average of 117% as compared to a generic page or home page.
Start by thinking of your services or products. How many different categories make sense for your content without being to myopic or narrow focused on each? Build your content, SEO, and site architecture plans around these categories and applicable subcategories.
2) Know Your Competitors
Understanding your competitors, how their focusing on your audience, and gaps that they may not be filling, can give you a great advantage in your marketing plans
We’re all human. We tend to think what we sell or offer is the best there is. But we’re biased. Often times the only feedback we get is in terms of a customer who came to you from a previous business. It’s important to view your business from the mindset of your customer, or potential customer, and also understand how they view your competitors.
Knowing your competitor depends on your business. If you own a restaurant, the best way to investigate is to frequent competing restaurants. Try their specials, order a drink, sit in the bar one day and in the dining room another. Listen to customers around you… soak in the atmosphere.
If you’re a service business, look at BBB or Angie’s List, or check online reviews. Also pay close attention to their advertising and what kind of message they portray (cheapest in town vs. high quality).
There are many online tools you can also use to dig into your competitors a bit. Depending on the competitor, some of these tools may be invaluable and uncover amazing intelligence. Whereas with other competitors (small focus, no web presence) these tools may not provide much help. But try them out and see for yourself.
Two tools I would recommend using for competitive intelligence are www.SEMrush.com and www.spyfu.com. Both offer basic research for free and just might uncover some great insight into what your competitors are doing online, and how well it’s working.
The goal is to know as much about your competitor as possible, and use this information to better position your business to your customer base.
3) Hand-in-Hand Partnership
This can be one of the most powerful opportunities a small business can have. My agency is full-service. But one of the only ways we can truly offer full-service is by relying on strategic partnerships with close allies that add talents and skills that we may not otherwise have in-house.
It also helps to strengthen your contacts and overall business community within your sector. Find others who compliment your business, or whom your business compliments, and look at ways to partner for either a stronger position in the market… or maybe just to fulfill a particular need or project. These partnerships can strengthen your business, but may also lead to considerable new business, from the partnerships themselves.
An example right out of my own portfolio would be a project from a partner agency of ours, who needed a complete redesign of all of their print collateral as well as full-scale traditional PR services. But along with these efforts they needed website redesign, as well as SEO and Pay-per-Click (PPC) marketing to compliment their offline efforts.
Our partner is an expert in marketing strategy, PR, Television, and design and print services. What they lacked was complimentary online services – so they gave us a call.
We worked in tandem to create a cohesive campaign covering all aspects of the client’s marketing needs and ensuring that all offline and online methods were matched in their design, direction, and messaging.
Thrive currently has 17 different strategic partners, each with their own specialty, be it television, custom app development, print services, sales and management consulting. You name it, we’ve got a strategic partner that we can bring to the table.
I’ve found that the single greatest place to find such partnerships is networking events and industry conferences. You’ve got to meet people, find out what they do, explain what you do, and let nature take its course. It can be a beautiful thing.
4) Be Nimble
Things move fast nowadays. You need to be prepared to develop a marketing campaign, but change it on a moment’s notice. Be careful about committing yourself to contracts, agreements, or any type of marketing campaign that may take months to prepare and launch, unless it too can be as nimble as you need to be.
Being quick on your toes is one of the greatest advantages a small business has over its large corporate counterparts or competitors. Stay nimble as long as you can. Processes are great, but when they interfere with your ability to swing or pivot as needed, they become a problem. Focus on minimizing processes that lock you in place.
When it comes to marketing, most online methods are excellent. You can setup campaigns and manage or adapt them real-time, on the spot. Many print-houses will design, print and deliver marketing materials within just a few days. Technology has opened a wonderful world for those us who can be nimble.
Television and radio, however, can often times lock you in to airtime contracts, as well as possibly scripts, talent, and other elements. There’s a time and place for this; but proceed with caution. I worked on a campaign a few years ago where airtime was purchased and television commercials were created and planned months in advance. But due to production and delivery delays, their product was not actually ready when the commercials began airing. The stations would not refund any money since the spots were pre-sold to them; so they ran the spots anyway, in order to get the exposure. But they lost out on tens of thousands of dollars of sales because of the debacle; not to mention lost advertising dollars. Had this been a more nimble marketing medium, they could have simply pulled out, and rescheduled when their product arrived from manufacturing. No lost revenue. No lost advertising funds.
5) It Really IS Who You Know
Being connected is very important. Unfortunately though, it can be a lot like a high school popularity contest. You may be connected to 2,000 people; but if none of them have influence or offer any great benefit to you or your business, then they’re not much help.
They might be great people… they just don’t help your business.
Conversely, you may have 5 super powerful connections and a couple other well-connected connections, and voila, your business changes forever.
My business is referral based. I do little-to-no outbound marketing. But we continue to grow and be successful because of all of the contacts we make through our referrals. I’m still waiting for that one contact that suddenly brings us a Billion Dollar deal. But until that day comes, I am thankful for the contacts we have. Without them my business would never be where it is.
If you’ve never watched Shark Tank (CBS), I recommend you tune in and watch a few episodes. You learn a great deal about business and connections. Some of the businesses that end up in front of the Sharks have amazing products or services; but they just can’t get beyond a certain brick wall. The Sharks however, with their dreamy list of powerful contacts, can make absolutely anything happen.
Turns out is really is all about Who You Know!
Unlike finding complementary partnerships, I do not recommend finding powerful contacts at networking events. Most of the types of contacts who can really change your business don’t waste their time at networking events. Why would they? They’re already well connected and doing well.
No, in this case its best if you directly target them. Yes that sounds a little stalkerish… but it is what it is. Find out what conferences they go to, where they might be speaking next, or even their favorite restaurant to dine at.
A simple introduction might be okay. But think of a game plan. What could you say or offer to this contact to gain their attention? Or who might you know who could introduce you? Remember that a warm introduction is better than anything you could ever hope to say on your own without the introduction.
6) Email Marketing
Email is extremely cost effective and one of the most powerful marketing tools available to small businesses. As long as you do it correctly!
First – never buy a list. This is a horrible way to build an email following. You want opt-in people who are actually interested in getting your messages. Purchased lists get the highest spam complaints and won’t likely do your business any good.
But how do you get a list then? You need to build it. Look through any email contacts you currently have. Email them and ask if you could add them to your own marketing or newsletter list.
Next, make sure you have an email signup option on your website. It should be clear and easy to see, and on every page. Don’t make your visitors search around through your contact page or about us page to find an email signup.
Another great option if it fits for your business, is to offer something for their email signup. It might be a 5% off coupon, or a free How To guide. There are lots of options, but people are naturally a little greedy and are far more likely to sign up if they get something for it immediately.
Building your own list may take a while. But in the long run this will become one of your most powerful marketing mediums.
In a recent client project, we designed their email marketing program. It was to be a once per week email. Most of the emails (typically 3 out of 4) were informational, newsletter style emails. We set up a content plan and calendar to tie in to their social media efforts as well.
Then, every 4th (or so) email we would send a sales promotion.
In doing so, we immediately increased our client’s revenue by 10-15% each month. The regular emails offered interesting information, keeping the customers interested and increasing open rates of the emails. Then the 4th or 5th email in a series would be more sales focused. Because we are building trust and interest through the non-sales emails, we have far better success with the sales-focused emails.
And by the way, in the example above, total email costs including design and content plans cost the client around $1200 per month – but the increased revenue amounted to $16,000 – $20,000 per month. Not bad for a “simple” add-on.
If you can’t afford $1200/mo. No worries. Look up Constant Contact or any number of email providers. Usually they offer a free option for small lists (usually 500 emails or less). They also offer self-help design options and templates. In many cases you can launch your own email marketing program for $0 – $50 per month.
7) Toss Out That How To Guide
Our final tip is a simple one. If you’re following tips, guides, or how-to-manuals from any source more than 6 months old – toss it out.
We live in an age of constantly evolving markets, competitors, and customers. Along with being nimble, we have to understand that everything around us is moving at lightning speed. If you’re still following that marketing manual you picked up two years ago, it might as well be an instruction book from the ‘70s.
Track your customers, watch your competitors, and quite literally keep your finger on the pulse of your market and industry. If you stray very far from this you will certainly lose step and give others space to push ahead of you.
There are 1,000 things you could do to improve your business and your marketing efforts. Start with these 7 tips, and I am certain you will enjoy the same success we have achieved for many of our clients!
Scott Orth is the Owner of Thrive Business Marketing and an independent contract Consultant focused on the stability and growth of businesses through online marketing efforts. His expertise in online customer acquisition and customer experience strategies has directly created over $100 Million in revenue for his clients in the past 5 years.