Online marketing can produce incredible results for businesses who are willing to learn the ropes, work at it, and put themselves out there.
These small businesses, whether they’re a florist, a pool seller, a roofer, a yoga studio, a real estate agent, a life coach or a craft creator, are the ones who have the opportunity to create a strategic advantage over their competitors.
It’s not always easy, but effort applied in the right places can really pay off.
How can you find out if you’re on the right track?
When going through digital transformation, take your domain name very seriously. You need to pick a domain name that represents your niche and your product to create positive mental connections between your name and what you do.
Namify is a great tool to find a great domain name, check if that name is available on major social media channels and even find logo ideas to establish your visual identity.
When setting up your site, make sure it is optimized for lead generation. Provide your site visitors with a way to subscribe to hear from you when you have relevant offers or updates. WP Forms is an easy way to set up your conversion funnels.
First, define your client personas; for example, a 55-year-old lawyer in the Midwest. Then, build an ecosystem around these personas.
Figure out who they listen to. What blogs, magazines and books do they read? Who and where are all their influencers?
Identify them right down to individual names of authors, bloggers, press and publications. That’s where you want your blog posts to show up – in those places.
Sparktoro, a project by Moz’s co-founder Rand Fishkin, is a great way to collect demographics data around your target audience, as well as understand who they are influenced by:
When people see your content around in the places they frequent, they conclude that you are on top of your game, very knowledgeable and an expert. Take social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, one step at a time.
Set yourself up on one site, figure out how it works for you and then move on to the next. Look beyond the major social networking sites. For example, a photographer might post to Flickr, a film maker to YouTube and Vimeo and a business to LinkedIn Groups.
Anyone can do keyword research and figure out a good content development plan. But only you can do what you do the way you do.
People can’t replicate your personality and what you bring to the table.
To generate leads, include your quirky personality in everything you do! The Internet is not a place people go to for dry and boring stuff. Your competition is colorful, like Facebook and Angry Birds.
Give blogging a try. You don’t have to commit hours every week to it. If you just post once a week or every two weeks, that’s enough to build up some genuine momentum for your business blog.
It’s a great way to bring in new clients, keep your current customers engaged for possible repeat business, remind everyone that you exist and occasionally let them know about a new service or product you have.
Don’t ever think you’re not good enough. Whether you’re good or not, you can improve. Blogging is really rewarding and good fun.
Initially, blogging will feel like you’re pushing a snowball up a mountain but remember that you will crest the mountain eventually and then it’ll go on its own.
I still produce content, maybe one or two posts a week as opposed to the two or four per week in the beginning. Today, our website is a cash cow. It generates a lot of leads. Manufacturers approach us all the time with offers to buy it.
Text Optimizer is a great tool to generate lots of content ideas. It uses semantic analysis to identify related concepts and angles that form your core topic. You can discover lots of relevant angles to cover on your blog as well as learn how to expand your current idea:
Pick topics and create content that’s a cut above anything else out there and that satisfies both people who like to share content and your potential customers. Address their pain points and fill in key information gaps.
For example, create a resource guide on some aspect of your business, a series of how-to posts or address industry FAQs. This will build your reputation as a resource and expert and increase the likelihood that they will choose you above someone else to help them when they need it.
For many business owners, the Web is almost like a phobia. Traditional blogging demands too much of them to be constantly creating original content.
For these folks, I recommend curation.
Content curation is the process of monitoring industry content and creating digests for your audience to consume. You can curate content on your own sites, email marketing or social media.
Content curation is also a great way to keep yourself and your team up-to-date with your niche, content your audience likes and trends that influence your customers’ decisions.
Writing for established publications is a great way to generate traffic, links and brand awareness. But don’t take that opportunity lightly.
Be respectful. Do your homework before you pitch a post and then submit the best possible content for the blog’s audience.
Don’t forget to thank the blogger afterward, and use the opportunity to get feedback and improve, build your relationship further and suggest future posts.
Keep regular columns at publications that were proven to send traffic and leads to your site. This is a great way to gradually build up your presence at sites that influence your target audience.
When you’re giving away a free report or free training, the worst thing is to give content that makes them feel like they’ve wasted their time!
Give them something of high quality, that’s actionable, and that helps them make actual progress.
Something that moves them one step closer to their ultimate goal or gives them an “a-ha” moment. Then they’ll be more inclined to want to know you and will trust your more.
Some people are more comfortable receiving products in the mail. Others are not yet familiar with the concept of downloading. Still others fear that they may lose all their digital products in a crash.
What’s more, they come in handy at live events, such as seminars; you can hold up a book or CD and say, “I made this” and you can sell them right after an event.
You can see what worked (and what didn’t) for other small businesses. You can learn where they focused their efforts, what tools they used and what they stopped doing. Avoid copying your competitors’ tactics. You can never get ahead of your competitors by copying them. Use their tactics as inspiration and do better than them!
Ann Smarty is the Brand and Community manager at InternetMarketingNinjas.com as well as the founder of ViralContentBee.com. Ann has been into Internet Marketing for more than a decade, she is the former Editor-in-Chief of Search Engine Journal and contributor to prominent search and social blogs including Small Biz Trends and Mashable. Ann is also the frequent speaker at Pubcon and the host of regular Twitter chats #vcbuzz and #myblogu.