Very few businesses can consider a marketing plan today without thinking about reaching customers online – via their smartphones, tablets or computers. This is known as digital marketing.
For one thing, a well planned website with good, well-written and engaging content which describes your business and its products or services, will help buyers find your business through search engines. Importantly, it also provides a gateway for potential new customers to get in touch with you.
How your website is found through search engines like Google, and minimising how many different search results it takes before your site listing comes up, is called search engine optimisation (SEO). Lots of different factors can affect your website’s SEO ranking: Google looks for things like engaging relevant content that is kept up to date, as well as what other sites are linking to it and how they perform. A lot of things that affect SEO and a good rank on search engines, can be controlled by you. But if your website is your main sales tool you may want to learn more about it or invest in specialist support.
Depending on your business your website may be a place where customers can actually buy products. This is called e-commerce and if you expect it to be your main source of sales it’s well worth investing time (and possibly money also) learning about this to make sure your customers get the best online buying experience.
Social media is a great way of signposting people to your website. Be aware that for lots of products and services you are unlikely to make sales via social media but it will help get your name out there. And with careful planning of what you post, when and on what specific social media platforms, it could help more potential customers seek out your website or look out for your products and services. You can set up a business page in as little time as an hour on a social media platform. Online tools like Canva are great for accessing graphics that will make your social media posts visually interesting.
One of the big potential traps of social media is that lots of us find it a fun place to ‘play’ – so it’s easy to spend a lot of time on there to very little true business gain. Another key consideration is making sure you understand what social media channels are right for your business. The most well known channels are Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and LinkedIn – but remember the right channel(s) for your business might not always be the same ones you find most interesting from a personal perspective: if you’re selling office supplies or looking for similar ‘business to business’ sales, the chances are your customers won’t be active on Instagram (they’ll certainly be harder to find on there – they’re more likely to be active on LinkedIn); if you’re selling jewellery then you may find that the photographic opportunities on Instagram help make your products stand out. You don’t have to be active on all channels. Avoid the risk of a time drain by focusing on fewer social media channels, only the ones that significantly contribute to your business’s marketing objectives, and then investing the time in understanding how to make your pages work as well as they can for you on those channels.
The only exception to this is that it’s a good idea to have an up to date personal profile on LinkedIn, whether or not it’s a priority for your business as a potential sales channel. It helps to position you as a professional in whatever industry you work.
Understanding how users engage with your channels is called analytics and accessing analytics information tells you how people are using your website and social media, including things like what pages they find most interesting, whether they are looking for something on your site and not finding it there and what social media channel(s) work best in attracting customers to your website. Google offers free online training so you can get the best out of your website. All of the social media platforms provide access to insights or analytics sections where page owners can find out more about their followers and the individual posts that audiences have found most interesting.