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Expert tips for getting started with a digital marketing strategy

Website on computer screen

With so many tools now available in the digital marketing space, it’s understandable that many SMEs don’t know where to begin. This step-by-step guide should help.

Each year, Sensis commissions an e-Business Report study into how SMEs use technology and the current report shows us that 60 percent are concerned that they lack expertise or knowledge when it comes to digital marketing. 62 percent don’t measure the return they are getting from their advertising. And only 16 percent have a digital strategy. But SMEs can no longer avoid this space – it’s so important to understand the potential sources of leads that digital offers, test and trial new things and monitor the performance of different channels. Here are a few tips I like to share to ensure a business has the basics covered.

Websites – the foundation stone of digital marketing.

Getting your website right sounds basic I know, but I can’t underestimate the importance of this. A website can be the make or break for many potential buyers – if they don’t like what they see or don’t get what they need from it, they’ll move on.

The fundamentals must be right: Write your website in a way that people understand. How you speak out loud is how you should write it for the web. Write for your audience. Include basic information such as opening hours – this makes it easier for your customers to know when to contact you. Include your contact details upfront, and include detailed contact information, not just the ‘head office’ number. Include details of any awards you’ve won, customer testimonials and industry website links – this gives credibility. Consider including FAQs – anticipate common customer queries and answer them clearly in this section.

Video is becoming increasingly popular.

Online video puts a face to your business. It allows you to give a consistent message to potential customers, and answer potential questions they might have about your products and services. Video brings the features and benefits of your product or service to life and it allows you to tap into channels like YouTube and a host of other video sharing sites to increase your exposure. Video is becoming cheaper and more accessible.

For example, services will now shoot the video and do the SEO for the video, upload it to YouTube and share it in a number of ways online for around $500-to-$1,000. Remember: good videos should be between 30 seconds and five minutes long and always in a high-resolution quality

Make the most of search – SEO and SEM

Alongside a strong website, search engine optimisation (SEO) should be at the forefront of any online marketing strategy. It improves the performance of your website by enabling it to be found via search engines, one of your most important sources of leads.

For the uninitiated, when you type a search into a search engine like Google or Yahoo, the search engine indexes web content to find relevant content to list in the results page. SEO involves ensuring that the HTML coding of your website, as well as the keywords used in the content, make it as attractive as possible for search engines to match the website to the search and rank it as high up as possible in what is know as the ‘organic’ search results section.

Some tips for improving your SEO:

  • Name your pages
  • Name your images
  • Write for your audience
  • Include quality links to and from your site.

Search engine marketing (SEM) allows you to bid on certain keywords relevant to your business to improve your ranking. When someone performs a search in a search engine and uses those keywords, your business will appear near the top of the page as a sponsored listing. It’s really important that businesses understand SEM and don’t miss out on the market opportunity available to them – having a website without SEM is like opening a shop and not putting any signage up – nobody knows you’re there.

Some things to consider when it comes to SEM:

  • Consider your budget carefully
  • Select the most valuable words
  • Target the right customers
  • Find the right service provider
  • Measure performance.

Ignore social media at your peril

Believe me, social media is having a significant impact on businesses, and it’s here to stay. Facebook is second only to Google as the most accessed website by the Australian population. That’s basically telling us that a vast proportion of consumers are using it in some way or another. As far as a business Facebook presence is concerned, some of the most effective ways to engage with consumers are:

  • Encouraging the sharing of ideas and information
  • Inviting opinions
  • Leveraging the crowd with votes, polls etc
  • Offering incentives.

Company Facebook pages that work really well on a marketing level feature:

  • Welcome tabs and fan-gating (encouraging users to “like” the page before interacting)
    • High fan numbers
    • High engagement on their wall
    • Good use of custom tabs and features
    • Effective competitions
    • Well thought out and planned conversation starters.

Twitter is ideal for real-time communication with consumers, and effective at driving an audience to a website. Beyond product promotion and lead generation, Twitter is an increasingly important customer service and reputation management channel, but you need to continually update feeds and posts. More importantly, you need to ensure we use these channels as listening tools.

Make sure you can be found on mobile

How important is mobile? Internet usage on mobile phones has been growing strongly and in our last Sensis e-Business Report we found that half of Australian consumers are using the internet on their mobile phones, but only five percent of SMEs had a website that was optimised for a mobile phone. Some 57 percent of these consumers used the internet on their mobile phone to search for suppliers of products or services. Ensuring your business can be found via mobile and smartphones is becoming more and more important to driving leads.

As many of you may know, it can be quite difficult to navigate a website on your mobile that has been built for online. This is because of the differences in screen size and shape and different capabilities of the devices. Ideally, you want a mobile marketing presence that is contextual to all devices so that your business information can be found quickly and easily by a customer on any type of mobile device when they are on the go, and very importantly, offer the ability to click to call. Other features consumers are looking for in your mobile marketing presence include:

  • Maps and directions to take them to the door; and
  • The ability to send the details to someone else via text or email.

Be found on tablets

Following in the footprint of smartphones, tablets have been held out to be the next potential game changer for digital marketing. Twelve percent of online Australians have already adopted tablets and a further 15 percent were expecting to get one in the next 12 months (2011 Sensis e-Business Report). A Nielsen study reports that the screen size of this device is already attracting a slightly different pattern of behaviour to that of a smartphone. For example, tablet owners are much more likely to watch online video on their device compared with mobile owners. There are so many new iPad apps hitting the app store each day and these devices are set to become very popular. iPads are just one kind of tablet on the market – there are many more coming on the market and that just means more ways to drive leads from this emerging channel.

Consider quotation sites

Quotation engines like Quotify are another source of potential leads to your business. Consumers enter selection criteria which helps determine the type of service required. Information is processed and sent to the service providers via telephone, email or SMS. The consumer is then contacted and provided up to three separate quotes for the requested service. Quotify, which joined the Yellow Pages network last year, currently receives large volumes of traffic. Quotify provides post engagement advice including a feedback mechanism and a log-in section so consumers see a suppliers rating before they choose to use them. Quotation engines are another potential source of online leads that you can consider.

Finally, what really matters in all of this: getting a return on your marketing dollar. No small business can afford ad wastage, and what every small business wants from advertising at the end of the day is qualified leads and customers through the door. Your advertising service providers need to offer you a service that:

  • Consolidates the performance of all of your marketing channels into a single report
  • Gives you the data you really need – such as the leads, appearances and interactions you are getting from each advertising source.
  • Quentin Aisbett

    Great post Jane. Good to see a blogger putting the whole landscape in perspective instead of segmenting and leaving readers not fully understanding the role of digital marketing.

  • Travis Ehrenstrom

    Thanks Jane for the help! I work for a small non-profit in Oregon and I have been screaming and yelling about how important our website is. Our marketing is in tip-top shape but we are directing people to a hardly useable website. Have you found any way to effectively track an inefficient website? I’d like to prove somehow that we are losing potential clients. The only solution I’ve come up with so far is to show our ratio of site visits vs. sales. Any thoughts on this? Thanks for the help!