Marketing for small businesses has shifted into a new era of engagement across all platforms. Predominantly, mobile technology and apps have changed the playing field. Building a playbook to succeed on the gridiron that is today’s competitive business environment will be determined in part by how well your passes connect with consumers and how well you utilize technology to get the play calls in before the play clock runs out.
The first down is important to get off to a good start and to make the second down more manageable.
1. The Pep Talk
People don’t buy products they buy YOU. They buy your passion for what you do and why you do it and believe that you will be able to solve their problem or fulfill their needs with your products or services.
People crave a good story. It’s the reason we sit through a three-hour movie or read a 1000-page book. Your story, your “why”, is the personal connection that makes prospective customers want to do business with you. It’s also what keeps you motivated to do business during tough times. Motivational speaker Simon Sinek explains this concept in his book “Start With Why”. He says a common thread among great leaders is “they operate from the inside out”.
The “why” is your belief in what you do. It is what sets you and your business apart from the hundreds of other businesses selling the same products or services.
What’s your why?
2. The Game Plan – Content Marketing
Content marketing isn’t new. For years, it has been left to major brands and companies, but in 2015 the small business owner can no longer let this pass them by. Content marketing plays a bigger role in reaching potential consumers this year than ever before.
Not only is it a way for small businesses to educate their consumers on their products and services, it allows the small business owner to build a reputation as an expert in their industry by sharing their knowledge in blog posts, social media and videos. This isn’t as daunting as it sounds. Keep things simple and remember you’re sharing content on a subject you already know and are passionate about.
Content Marketing includes: videos, blogs, surveys, infographics (interactive) and a marketing calendar including promotional events (i.e. National Pizza Day, Valentine’s Day, etc.).
Keep these tips in mind when creating your content marketing strategy:
- Share original content. Stand out by creating unique and personal content that is relevant to your audience’s interests.
- Become an expert video blogger. Share your expertise in short 1-3 minute videos on YouTube– it’s the second largest search engine, use it!
- Stay away from stock photos. Whenever you can, take your own photos, even if it is with your smartphone. That personal touch can make all the difference.
- Repurpose old content. Use updated information and visuals including videos and photos.
- Write better headlines. Use attention-grabbing headlines, lists, how-to’s or questions to entice your readers to click on that email or blog post.
- Optimize your content. Make it easier for your potential customers to find it. Without good search engine optimization, you may be the only reader of that great article you spent hours writing.
- Include calls to action. Use these for all content including those socially shared through Twitter, Facebook and blog posts.
Second downs are a fantastic opportunity to overcome a failed first or to set up a plan to have a huge third down.
3. The Mascot – Social Media
Once you have your content marketing strategy in place and are creating blog posts, you’ll need to share it with your audience. Think of your company’s social media voice as the mascot that gets the fans excited about your products. Share your enthusiasm, be creative and don’t be afraid to try new methods for reaching your consumers.
Social media will be a time investment, so choose your platform wisely. Instead of creating accounts on all channels, go with the one(s) that fits your audience.
Choosing a social media platform:
- Facebook: The most popular social media platform today, with 71% of online adults using it to connect with family and friends.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is increasingly being used in B2B marketing and popular among business professionals. According to Content Marketing Institute, “94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute content, making it the social media platform used most often (they also say it’s the most effective social media platform).”
- Twitter: Popular among the college educated, under 50 crowd with 23% of online adults using it.
- Pinterest: This is a visual social platform, great for sharing content that includes graphics and images. Appeals to women: 43% of online women users have a Pinterest account.
- Instagram: Great for targeting young adults ages 18-29.
(Source: Pew Research – Demographics of Key Social Networking Platforms)
4. Take The Ball and Run – Mobile Marketing
Consumers are moving to mobile. With mobile usage becoming the primary source for consumers to find information, there’s no way any small business can leave that 35% on the table. This would be like doing onside kicks every kickoff of the game. Get onboard with mobile-first thinking by updating your current website with a responsive design and tailoring your email templates for mobile-friendly viewing.
Getting to score on the third down is much more preferable than having to chance a turnover on fourth. Third down conversions are what separates the winners from the losers.
5. Home Field Advantage -Local SEO
Small businesses can hone in on their niche through location based SEO. Think about how you search for a service online. Let’s say you need a dry cleaner. Are you searching for a “dry cleaner” or is your search more like “dry cleaners in Denver” or, if on your phone, “dry cleaners near me”. Mobile technology – phones, tablets and apps – have made geotagging content an increasingly important strategy in 2015.
Where to include location-based SEO (City, State):
- Page Titles, H1, Content, Alt Texts and the URL.
(Source: Search Engine Land)
6. Give Them Something to Root For – Email Marketing
Now that you have your prospective customer’s email, you’ll need to get them to read your email and engage. How do you do that? Here are some tips to improve your email marketing strategy:
- Your Subject is your Headline. Write creative, fun and attractive subject lines to persuade your customers to click through.
- Make sure your email templates have a mobile-first design – 65% of emails are being accessed on mobile devices, according to data from the US Consumer Device Preference Report: Q4 2013.
- Build customer loyalty by including coupons or rewards in emails.
- Include reviews or testimonials and a place for the customer to leave their positive feedback.
Having been successful in first, second and third down means that there should be just a small amount of distance left to the goal line. Do not get complacent on the last down as winning the game is now possible.
7. Keep Fans Happy – Online Reputation Management
How much can a negative review impact your business? For some, that’s all it takes. With so much exposure online, small business owners need to be the PR guru of their company by managing negative reviews and press immediately. First things first, ask yourself if this is a legit negative review. If it is, you’ll want to address your ‘unhappy’ customer’s concerns and make them right. This is your opportunity to show accountability and that you care about your customers.
Here are some ways you can keep track of online reviews and press about your business:
- Verify and update your business’ information on major business directory sites including Google My Business, Facebook, MapQuest and CitySearch. Check out Siteber for a detailed list of directory sites.
- Set up Google Alerts for your business name and make sure to respond to both positive and negative reviews on the top sites such as Google, Yelp and Yellow pages. You can also use the Google Alerts to track blog posts, news articles or other online mentions.
8. Tracking Your Progress
Keeping track of how much traffic your content is attracting is important in maintaining good standing with your audience. You don’t want to keep writing about a subject that doesn’t capture the interest of your potential customers. Fortunately, free online tools like Piwik, Followerwonk and Google Analytics can help you keep track of who’s clicking on what.
Managing your 2015 marketing playbook is an ongoing effort that requires tweaking, reevaluating and changing strategies as the year progresses. Try new techniques, and if they fail, learn from them and move on to the next play.
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