Search and Social – THE Marketing Priorities – Really!

It’s not just about getting people to your site

When people start to talk to us about marketing, the opening subject is usually either SEO (Search Marketing) or Social Media. These are seen as the priorities when it comes to marketing your business.

This implies that getting your message out there, and getting people to your site, are the most important elements of marketing. However, I would argue that whilst these are vital elements of the marketing mix, they are by no means the end of the story.

In this week’s Marketing Matters Podcast, we discuss website promotion, how important it is to communicate the right message and to get the right people to your site. This is just the first part of the process. To turn these people into customers, they have to like what they see when they arrive on your site, and you need to have processes in place to lead them on the path from discovery to sale.

Whilst we will talk about future steps in coming podcast episodes, you first have to get the right people to your site, so using the right message and the right mix of platforms is imperative.

The Right People

The first question I would ask someone who is starting out in marketing their business is “Who are you looking to sell to?” or “Who is your target market?”. Invariably the answer I get is very general and all-encompassing.

To use our own business as an example, the answer might be “I am selling Marketing Services, and all businesses need to market, so my target market is anybody who will listen”.

Whilst I am taking the point to an extreme, the fact is that in general, the fear of losing a potential sale causes people to cast their marketing net far too wide. Whilst it is true that our services could be relevant to pretty much any business, the reality is that our strengths will mean that they will add real value to a much narrower market. It is therefore this narrower market that you are trying to attract with your promotional activities.

In our case, whist we really understand marketing, our strengths play to working with owner-managed SMEs who know they need to use technology in their business, but who need help to understand the best way to convert technology into real business value. So the “right people” for us are owner-managers in the SME arena.

The Right Message

But “owner-managers in the SME arena” is still far too broad. Whist we are playing to our strong suit working with these people, targeting the marketing message goes further.

With this in mind, the next step is to think of the message we are communicating to this group.

As David wrote in his last post Our real value is delivered when we link Technology and Marketing together.

When we ask people why they use us, we get answers using phrases like “Trust“, “Taking the time to understand the business challenges“, “Making things happen” and “Finding solutions to challenges“. The message we are trying to communicate is that rather than selling technological solutions or presenting marketing strategies:

We take the time to understand a business,
to identify the technologies that can add real value,
and to work with clients to implement those technologies
to add that value to their business

For us, communicating this message is key. If people don’t get that or don’t see the value that this approach can deliver to them, then we are not that interested in them visiting our site.

My point here is that developing an effective marketing message requires a deep understanding of your business, the value you add and to whom!

The Right Mix of Platforms

The final part of the promotional equation is knowing what platforms and tools to use to communicate your message. There are literally hundreds of platforms that you can use to get your message out, and everyone will insist that it is essential!

Search Marketing

The reality is, I would suggest that there is only 1 “essential” platform, and that is Google! But even here there are different aspects of the search engine:

  • Natural search – SEO
  • Paid keyword advertising
  • Paid product advertising
  • Local search – Google My Business

Which of these is best for you depends on your business. I would simply offer 3 pieces of advice:

  1. Don’t get hung up on SEO – whilst it may seem “Free” doing it properly is far from free, and requires a lot of time and effort creating content. My advice would be rather than focus on SEO, focus on creating good relevant content that communicates the right message, and then use a tool like Yoast to make sure the content is search friendly
  2. Don’t ignore paid advertising – Paid ads, or product ads if you are running an e-commerce site, can be very effective. They can get your site listed quickly, and if managed effectively, can be very cost-effective.
  3. If you have a physical presence, set up a Google Business Listing, and encourage customers to leave reviews (good ones hopefully!)

Social Media

The other key set of tools is social media. Here there is no one answer as to which you should focus on. The important thing is to establish which platforms your customers/potential customers use and focus on these. If they hang out on LinkedIn, then use LinkedIn. If it’s Facebook, then use Facebook! If your message suits video, then use Youtube. As with SEO, the number one priority is to start by creating good content that tells your story!

Bringing it all together

Bringing everything together should start conversations with the right people. Coming back to our own situation, this is still only the start of the process.

There is one essential thing that we are looking to deliver in our client relationships: Trust. Trust is one of the key reasons our clients use us and stick with us. They have confidence in BSA. This is something that only comes with time. For us, the marketing process described above starts the conversation. Then over time, as we get to know each other, opportunities arise. Often it starts small with something like hosting their website. Then as trust and understanding grows, we find other ways we can help. This is a process that takes time and one that rarely goes as planned!

If you would like to find out how we may be able to help you in your marketing, then we would love to get to know you.

e-Business – Am I bothered?

….you should be!

What is e-Business?

If you engage with the internet as part of your business, you are in e-business. These days, this means pretty much every business is (at least in part) an e-business.

Without e-business it would be more difficult to find customers, more difficult to manage your business, more difficult to deliver products and services – and more difficult to get paid!

Does it matter to my business?

Think about the times when the internet goes down, or even when you were in a dead spot for your mobile signal. Suddenly there is so much you can’t do!  Without the e-business part of your business, communication can be difficult, sometimes even impossible.

The same is true of business marketing. It is, after all, just another aspect of business communication. e-Business delivers a suitecof marketing tools that can be immensely effective – when they are implemented properly!

But this reliance is also part of the problem. e-Business is so ubiquitous. We need the technology to work so we equate e-business with the techies who know how to keep it running. They may know how to keep the systems running but this doesn’t mean they know how to make e-business work for you.

It’s not technology, it’s business

Technology is the means to the end, not the end itself. You may rely on your local garage to keep your car running and fix it when it breaks down, but you don’t expect them to help you decide where you want to go in your car, or how to get there. It’s the same with e-business. It is vital to recognise the difference between what the technology can do and how best to use it to help you achieve your business goals.

A joined-up approach

A sustainable, successful business builds strong, mutually beneficial relationships with its customers and markets. Reliably delivering these relationships calls for a joined-up process across four distinct phases:

  • Attract
  • Inform
  • Engage
  • Retain

There is no doubt technology has opened up opportunities for SMEs across the whole of this process. Nevertheless, the fundamentals of planning your business process are still essentially as they were in pre-internet days. The goals are the same, it is the ways to achieve them that have evolved.

Technical & Business advice – never the twain?

I have been working with SME business owners for over 30 years – precisely the period during which e-business has emerged to be the powerhouse it is today. Yet throughout this time, I have also recognised a constant. There are technical consultants who really understand e-business technologies and how to make them work, and there are business consultants who really understand the process of building and running a successful business, but it is incredibly rare, particularly in the SME world, to find someone who can deliver a truly joined-up approach.

Larger businesses, including larger SMEs, may have independent resources focussing separately on planning and implementation. The senior management team then brings these together to deliver the coherent process. However, in smaller companies, or when you are working by yourself there simply aren’t the in-house skills to do this – and trying to bring in and manage separate external resources can be extremely challenging.

Consequently, across most SME businesses, the processes of developing the plan and implementing it are simply not joined-up. The focus is on one or the other. Often this leads to frustration through either having a good plan that doesn’t get implemented or having a lot of activity but no real focus on business goals.

What a joined-up e-business approach can deliver

To build a successful and sustainable business, a well thought out and structured business plan is key. Having a solid grasp of internet technology in the context of a practical business framework is the most cost-effective way of implementing efficient communication and data management, and through these, delivering on your plan. Only when planning and implementation are joined up as 2 elements of a coherent process can you realise the maximum benefit and build a successful, sustainable business through which you can achieve your objectives, both personal and commercial.

e-Business – 3 Key vitals

  1. E-business is part of every business – including yours
  2. Understand how e-business and business strategy/planning integrate across your own business
  3. Recognise the differences but keep things joined up as elements of an overall process of planning and implementation.

If you are looking for a joined-up, intelligent approach, do get in touch.