Online Marketing Basics for Small Business

As you might remember not so long ago we had internet connections via a telephone line, we happily browsed our favorite websites waiting oftentimes a couple of minutes for images and long paragraphs with funky fonts and colors to load. Back in those days we did not have many options, for most people the idea of buying online seemed like a 70’s sci-fi movie.

Because of the high costs associated with creating a website in the early ages of the internet, this was a luxury item of larger companies; it almost felt more as status symbol. Nowadays as you already know many things have changed.

Today your website is probably one of the best sales tools your business can have, here’s why

It’s your best lead generation tool: in today’s market even the smaller companies can compete against the largest companies in the world for potential customers

It’s your most cost effective sales tool: forget newspapers, yellow books and old media, websites can take orders, accept new customers and much more 24/7 without having to have anyone waiting on the phone to take an order

It’s a fast marketing testing tool: with a click of a button you can change products name, prices, pictures, copy and much more to see what appeals more to your customers, “good luck trying that with a catalogue”

It’s your own retailer and sales person: setting up an e-commerce website today is not only easy but affordable, your website can take orders, payments and automatic process the orders and shipping if needed

Understanding online marketing and its process

Yes, your website is probably one of the most important assets in your online marketing efforts, however its far from being the only thing you need when creating an internet marketing campaign. Most small business make the mistake of believing that by just putting a 5 page catalog website together on the web will bring all the customers they had been waiting for. In today’s competitive marketplace this will rarely ever do anything for your company.

If you want to create a successful marketing campaign you have to create and follow a step by step process to run and grow your business online.

Step 1: Take charge and be consistent

You can achieve online marketing success if you put the time and dedication to educate yourself about the different online marketing strategies and take charge of your online efforts. If you put up a website, Facebook page and twitter account just to leave it alone and never come back to it, failure will soon follow you and most people blame some obscure evil internet god, where you think you got too late into the game, that you are not a 22 year old Harvard genius or that you are just unlucky. Believe me many people go through this, only to come back years later regretting all the success they would have had accomplished if they only had stuck with it.

Your online marketing needs a great image: starting from the colors you choose for your logo and the font you use in your website, your online marketing message has to be clear. Remember will all the clutter that most people see on the media everyday oftentimes less is more. Forget the flying color letters and loud funky music on your website, chances are its just going to get mixed with the sweet soft online radio station of your customer and you just made her close her browser as fast as she could. Remember to put the same creative elements on all your marketing materials as you do in your website so you can create what is called a business brand.

All about hosting and domains: today millions of domains are registered every day it’s not as easy as it used to be to find a good domain name for your business, keep in mind that there are many different online marketing strategies that can be improved by having a good domain name for example if you have a domain that includes the correct keywords for your business this will eventually help you with your search engine optimization efforts. Also keep in mind that hosting is very affordable nowadays back in the day I remember having friends pay over $50 a month for basic hosting service. Today you can get a great hosting service with all the necessary tools for your website at a low monthly cost.

Step 2: Establish your online brand

Website design: Don’t be fooled by some of the larger companies that tell you that web design is an obscure world of code wizards and design goddesses. With the advances in today’s online technologies is fairly affordable to have a great and effective website designed. Don’t take me wrong, I’m not saying find your 17 year old nephew to design your website as I’ve seen before, or to go to craigslist and find that $20 web designer that will create your online masterpiece, this will shortly result in online marketing failure. All I’m saying is that you don’t have to spend 5 or 7 thousand dollars to get a very effective and appealing website.

It’s all on the content: Don’t follow the same error of many small business owners when they start creating a website where they put all the time and energy finding the right colors, the perfect logo on all the awesome images for the website but they neglect to create the best copy and content for their customers to read, after all most people go online to find useful information. Not only this but shortly when you discover the wonders of search engine optimization you will rapidly find that the content on your website is a key factor in your online marketing efforts. If you don’t feel as creative as you were in your junior high poetry writing class, i highly recommend finding someone who can help you create compelling content for your site.

Communicate your offer: Many companies get distracted and use their website as a tri-fold brochure. Make sure you find the single reason why someone will visit your site and clearly give your visitors what you have to offer. It could be a simple contact form for more information, a sales video or a well put together sales page with an integrated online payment, whatever it is make sure you clearly tell your prospective customers what you offer and what action you want them to take.

Step 3: Build your audience

I could literally write 10 books in this subject and will definitely give you more detailed information later on, but this is how some say “where the magic happens”, here is where you could give up to have the best designed website, all the social media pages in the world and so forth if no one is finding you online there is just no point of losing your precious time and money on these internet adventures. Traffic=customers=sales

Search engine optimization: SEO or search engine optimization is probably one of the most important pieces of the online marketing puzzle. This is where if done correctly can take your business from a small pop and mom corner shop to a large online retailer. Basically millions of people search every day for services and products online trough search engines, SEO is what helps you beat the competition so more people will find you.

Social media: If by now you don’t know what Facebook or twitter is you must have been living under a rock for the past 5 years. As you know today almost everyone is connected online with their friends, family and colleagues trough some social media site. You need to take advantage of this by creating a social media campaign, just as I explained earlier about web design, you won’t do much by just putting up a Facebook or Google+ profile, you have to create a strategy to reach all those potential customers with which you can easily interact online.

Paid online advertising: Just as important as some other online marketing methods paid online ads can be a very effective sales tool. Between Google Adwords, Facebook and banner ads there are plenty of companies looking for you to spend your beloved dollars advertising with them, make sure that before you take your shiny credit card out of your wallet you analyze and understand where your money is going and how is it going to help your online marketing efforts.

There are plenty of other online marketing strategies to follow, for now I wanted to cover some of the most important basics that will hopefully guide you on the right direction. Please keep tuned for more tips and information to help you create or enhance your small business online marketing campaigns.

First Steps to Online Marketing

The first steps to work yourself through when you have decided to take the step towards online marketing there are a few things you need to think about.

-Why do I want to market online?

-What do I want to market online?

-What do I know about marketing online?

If the answer is “I don’t know”, today is your lucky day. I will share some of the steps that I have learnt about online marketing through endless testing and tweaking.

YOUR WHY

Why do you want to market online?

Is it to enhance your offline business?

Being able to make money without leaving your home?

or…

Online marketing is easier than marketing offline, because online marketing takes care of itself and makes you money on autopilot?

If it’s the last answer you’re in for a big surprise. There is no such thing as EASY or AUTOPILOT in online marketing. Well, sure it is but not in the way many think. Online marketing is simple but not easy. Which means, it takes a lot of work to set it up and you need to be constantly tweaking and testing to maximize your efficiency and profits. I hope I didn’t scare you off now. Online marketing is lots of fun and you could make friends all over the world.

YOUR MARKET/NICHE

So where do one start when you figured out why?

A specific market. Your Niche. Simple as that.

So, what is a niche and where do I find my market?

Well, there are a lot of places to find that. First of all. You’ll want to target a niche that is actually profitable. What you don’t want is to market a niche where no one is ever buying anything or a niche that pays very low. You want a niche that is in trend so to speak. It is what everyone is talking about and what people are interested in learning, using and purchasing.

For example.

Learning online marketing is a big niche with loads of people who are looking for information about it everyday. To find a monetizable niche you will need to look at the trends.

Ever seen the basket ball through the water hose?

Anyway, the trends is what people are interested in and what people are buying.

What are people looking for?

What are their main concerns?

When it comes to online marketing these are the most important questions to find an answer to. So you’ll need to do some research. Did I say some. I mean a lot. You could basically say that online MARKETing is all about MARKET research. If you know what you’re market desires you know what to MARKET to them. If you want to stay ahead in the online marketing game. Keep a journal on your daily activities.

1 year from now, you will have loads and loads of information that you could use. By then your online marketing business will be a lot different and you will have a different view on this. By then you will probably have forgotten what is was like when you wanted to learn online marketing. Why not keep a journal on you questions and utilize it when you decide you need to teach a spouse, friend or a new team member about online marketing.

What was the questions you had back then?

Well, it’s easy for you now. They are what you ask today. So keep them written down as research for a later project and take notes on your struggles, issues and short comings when learning online marketing. Now, this is just to get you started so you could use it in the future.

What about now? Now is when you have your problems. How do you solve them and get going with your online marketing business?

Here it is…

YOUR SKILLS

You have a set of certain skills, I’m sure.

Are these skills relevant to marketing and business?

If not, you might want to consider acquiring a set of those skills before throwing yourself into doing business. Whether online or offline. The first thing you should do is to assess your skill tree. A simple mind map could do the trick or just a list with what you know. Rank them on how experienced and good you are at a skill.

Circle the top 3 skills you are most proficient in. Are that very good? Great!

Are they at all profitable or monetizable. Meaning could they make you money (with a little fantasy and imagination) If not, pick the next skill. That’s your main focus to begin with. Now, underline the 3 bottom skills that you’re not very or, at all proficient in but still is in context with your top skills. Those are the skills that you should focus on learning. 1 should be online marketing.

Apply the same rule as with your top skills but with the little tweak, Are they useful and do they enhance your top 3?

NEXT STEP!

Now, you have some skills that you are good at and some that you are going to focus on learning. With time you will have 6 skills that you are very good at.

Go through this article again and apply the steps.

Getting Started With Online Marketing 101

If you’re looking to get your first online marketing efforts going, there is no time like the present to get started. With so much business generating from online and mobile searches, if you don’t have an online marketing strategy in place, you’re already behind the curve. Fortunately for you, we have the six essential online marketing steps that you need to take in order to get your campaign and efforts up and running in no time.

Six Vital Online Marketing Steps for Internet Marketing Success

Regardless of your product, service or overall intended outcome, these eight steps to online marketing success will help you bring your goals to fruition, from inception to the market, helping you increase your bottom line by bolstering your online sales.

1. Defining a Keyword Strategy. In the most simple explanation of how online marketing works, people use keywords to find your site which increases your sales. Of course, it’s much more complicated than that, but that does give you a sense of just how important your keyword strategy is. Keywords are the words that people type into search engines to find what they are looking for. If you’re a dog grooming company in Boise, some of your keywords will be “Boise” and “dog grooming”. But because you’re probably not the only groomer in Boise, you’re going to have competition out there for those keywords. That’s where your keyword strategy comes into play. The goal here is to find keywords that have a high search volume but low competition. This means that people are searching for these keywords, but your competition hasn’t optimized their sites for those words. By using keyword tools such as Google Keyword Planner from AdWords or Wordstream’s keyword tool (both free), you can research and plan your keyword strategy effectively.

2. Optimizing your Website to Increase your Online Presence. Once you have your keywords, it’s time to use them in order to optimize your website. Optimizing simply means creating a website that is more easily found by search engines. To do this, you’ll need to sprinkle your keywords throughout the content on your page, including video titles, tag lines, your URL, alternative text, in your subtitles, etc. Basically, you want the keywords to show up so that when a query is entered, when a search engine crawls your site and indexes your pages, it will understand that your site is relevant to those keywords, and in turn, your potential customers. The search engine will then direct traffic to your site, thus increasing the chances that you make a sale, which is the goal of online marketing.

3. Creating a Blog and Content Marketing. Part of the content on your site that can be keyword optimized will be your blogs. Blogs are a form of content marketing, or content that has the specific goal of driving sales. In fact, all content on your site should be driving sales as per online marketing 101, but it should also present some value to your viewers. This will keep them interested as well as attach value to your product, service or good. Plus, blogs have a few additional benefits such as creating fresh content (which helps you rank higher and stay relevant in the eyes of search engines and customers) and having the ability to go viral. An item that goes viral (most likely through social media, but sometimes email and other mediums), will increase the reach of your brand and message.

4. Promoting your Content through Social Media. Social media is a huge and free online marketing platform that is a must-have for anybody looking to increase their online sales. If you aren’t on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest already, you need to be by the end of the day. Social media allows you to connect and interact with fans and clients, tailoring and delivering your branded message for free while creating more in-roads to your website and keeping you fresh in the minds of your customers-and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The bottom line is that social media is the most popular online marketing tool nowadays.

5. Turning Leads into Conversions. Once you have leads coming into your site, you want to have a sales funnel structure that constantly pulls customers further towards making a purchase/signing up/downloading/etc. This is vital to the success of your online marketing efforts. To do this, your website should provide an easy-to-use customer experience that doesn’t distract them from the final goal (the conversion). The customer should receive increasing value at each step of the way, further pulling them into the sales funnel. The site should also make it clear what the customer should do through the use of clear and concise calls to action.

6. Analyzing and Refining Your Strategies. Finally, you need to constantly monitor, analyze and refine your online marketing strategies. You can do this through a number of free sites such as Google Analytics and Google Webmaster. Monitoring how successful your site is by analyzing your keyword strategy’s effectiveness and metrics such as your bounce rate will allow you to change and refine your online marketing strategies as you go, with the ultimate goal of optimizing your traffic and conversions in mind. You want your message to get more and more targeted to reach the exact customer base that you need to in order to maximize sales, the overall goal of all online marketing.

Furthering your Online Marketing Efforts for More Success

After you’ve implemented these six online marketing steps, most of your groundwork for online marketing success will be laid. Of course, it’s important that you understand online marketing is an ongoing effort-there is no passive action that can lead to true internet marketing success. You have to constantly analyze and refine your marketing campaign strategies, as well as provide fresh content if you want to stay relevant in your niche.

And while there are both simple and complicated ways to do these things, the bottom line is that they need to get done. Which path you take depends on your online marketing goals and the time and energy you wish to spend. Of course, you can always outsource these jobs, but regardless of whether you want others to do them for you or you want to handle everything yourself to cut down on expenses, there are some key points for moving forward with your online marketing efforts that you need to understand.