10 Tips to Grow your Business Online

It's not easy running a small business; keeping ontop of operations, finance, HR to name just a few. It's no wonder that marketing and finding new customers can slip to the back of the list. Contrary to what you might feel, you don't have to do everything, just the right things. We run through 10 must-do's for any SME, startup or growing local company looking to reach new customers online.

1. Website healthcheck

If you have't yet got to grips with some of the key analytics of your website, this is the first place to start. Understandably, many small business owners simply don't have time to invest in this area. If you can create time to do so, or outsource to your digital marketing team, the results should more than make it worth your time. Some of our top tips include;

  • Set up Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. If these are already set up and you need to understand some of the insights, try reading some of the helpful resources on Moz and the Google Analytics blogs. We like Moz's Whiteboard Friday video series;
  • Running a crawl test of your website can be one of the most useful things to do for your website overall health and Google ranking. Screaming Frog offers free website crawl tests, which highlight particular weaknesses and areas which will cause the rankings in Google to be limited, so are well worth fixing.
2. SEO audit

Using software like Moz (especially if you can get one of their free trials!) is worth testing for your website presence, to give you a good overview of your local & national search presence for your chosen keywords, as well as an insight into other areas that may be affecting your Google rankings. Sites like Majestic are also useful to track links of your site as well as competitors.

If the technical side isn't your thing, enlist the help of a digital marketing consultancy (we're currently running a [special offer on your website and SEO audit].

For any company operating one or more local businesses with a bricks and mortar presence, Google my Business is a must. This allows you to upload your contact details, address, opening times, photos, as well as showing reviews (star ratings) to build trust in your brand and encourage visits.

Google My Business

3. Competitor audit

You may well have a good idea who your competitors are, what their products are, and what their price point is, but how recently have you audited their marketing activity? By reviewing their position in search (in section 1), checking out their social media activity and 'mystery shopping' their email campaigns, you'll have a much better idea of their digital marketing strategy and how you can use that to your advantage.

You may also find through your other activities, that your competitors may not be who you thought they were. SEO reports can show unexpected companies ranking for your keywords, and Facebook affinity pages can show companies in other categories bidding for the same audience you are. All of these contain useful information for the business owner or marketing manager.

4. Marketing objectives & plan

Our recommended approach is that all marketing activity needs to route from the delivery of strategic marketing objectives. It's all too easy to get involved in the latest social media trend, without due consideration for channel selection. Is an Instagram campaign really the right approach for a lead-generation goal, for example? (We'd usually suggest at least two other approaches first!) Pinning everything to your topline goals helps with prioritisation, forward-planning, helping to ensure time and budget are spent in the right areas, and allowing enough time tracking back from deadlines to meet important milestones.

5. Content marketing plan

Create your communications plan, to address the other 9 elements in this list, across your website, email campaigns blog and social media. This is one area where business owners often over-estimate what is needed in terms of content, but it doesn't have to be an onerous task. Assuming your objectives are around bringing interested and keyword-relevant traffic to your site, concentrate on a keyword-based blog plan, where channels such as social and email can promote blog posts to targeted audiences. Use storytelling to take your audiences through a journey with your brand, rather than just focusing on one sole objective with every content piece.

6. Niche targeting & keywords plan

Your SEO audit (in section 2) should pinpoint keyword opportunities to target, and together with niche marketing work on your USPs as part of section 4, which can be used together to create a complete keyword plan. Google Keyword Planner is your friend in calculating keyword search volume, competitiveness and formulating your ideal keyword targets.

Google Keyword Planner

7. Sales funnel / lead generation

If you're looking to grow your business online, you'll need to have a solid plan on how to acquire new customers, as well as serving your existing ones. Some examples include email address collection via Facebook or Twitter lead generation ads, co-marketing, and generating opt-ins for exchange for 'free' information, e-books and whitepapers, to name but a few.

8. Channel strategies

Once you have your marketing plan, you'll need to narrow down on which channels are right for the brand, industry, budget and audience. Contrary to how you may feel, it isn't necessary, or even the right approach, to have a high presence on every social media platform, for example. Effective marketing channel planning will help identify which should be your primary social media channels, and which should be secondary. Time and budgets to be utilised in each channel plan should be adjusted to match. For example, we currently see Twitter and Facebook advertising as primary channels, and LinkedIn,  organic Facebook and Google+ as secondary channels. We only occasionally update our company Facebook page, and given our strategy this is perfectly ok! You might find it useful for your marketing consultant to provide a social media audit of your current activity.

9. New and existing customer strategies

Did you know it costs a business about 5-10X more to acquire a new customer than it does to sell to an existing one? Not only that, but on average, current customers spend 67% more than new customers. Hubspot, 2015

Here's where customer service and customer satisfaction strategies really come into play. Consider all aspects - from the very first interaction you have with a potential customer, every touchpoint they have on their journey prior to purchase, the purchase process, as well as long-term customers and gaining loyalty and advocacy. How can you adjust your methods to increase the number of customer referrals, or reward customers who return for example? Hubspot have a useful article on this.

10. PR & promotion

Although it can be difficult to get right, creating and selling in press releases in theory are low-cost method at gaining publicity. PR agencies will tell you that the press release needs to be newsworthy, relevant, and focused on others and not as much on your own business. Sharing insights from your latest research, the launch of an innovative new product, or growth of the business into new markets are all potential opportunities. Digital marketing and social media offer new forms of PR, with the growth of blogger and vlogger endorsements, as a campaign or long-term relationship, as long as the relationship between the brand and the influencer is made clear and in line with CMA rules (see recent warnings as reported by The Drum).

If you'd like to discuss how these tips can benefit your business or need to contact the experts, get in touch for your initial free and confidential 30 minute consultation.