In a previous piece on marketing your SME we pointed out the vital importance of having a coherent and focused marketing plan set firmly in place before your SME gets off the ground, and detailed some of the off-line, ‘traditional’ methods which could be utilised in order to hone a message and make sure it reaches the right people. In this piece we’ll take a look at the online channels which can be utilised, in recognition of the fact that any truly effective 21st century marketing plan simply has to embrace both the on and offline landscape if it is to punch through and make an impact. The plus side of online marketing is that it represents a level playing field; the smallest SME has access to millions of prospective customers via the World Wide Web, just as the largest corporation does. The negative aspect, of course, is that the average SME will only have the slightest fraction of the online marketing budget of a large corporation. Clever use of existing channels and a willingness to embrace the flexibility and speed of movement which comes with being smaller, however, will allow a growing SME to utilise online channels in a responsive and effective manner.
Your SME will need a website to propagate its brand image and to act as the first point of contact for many customers. The good news is that anyone can use WordPress technology to build their own tailored website free of charge. In time you may wish obtain the services of a professional design team in order to fine tune your site and add the custom features which will truly capture your ethos and offer, but the initial creation of a WordPress site will not only put your SME on the online map, it will also provide an invaluable opportunity for considering and focussing upon the message and brand which you want to put out there.
Purchasing a domain name such as firstnamelastname.com will give you a degree of control over your online presence. Whilst social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook offer hugely powerful marketing potential, it should never be forgotten that any content posted there is ultimately under the control of the parent organisation and not you. Supposing (and it’s happened in the past to seemingly invulnerable online presences) your social media of choice were to suddenly cease to exist, or dramatically change its terms and conditions, having your own site or blog allied to your domain will allow you to maintain control over your online presence and the marketing messages you’re creating and transmitting.
Having created a website, it’s vital that you get people to visit it, and this is something which is going to be achieved by placing your site at or near the top of any search engine listings. Plugins for WordPress such as Yoast can be utilised in order to analyse the content of your online presence and ensure that you’re focusing on the kind of keywords that search engines will be looking for. WordPress itself is also optimised for SEO and, as your online presence strengthens, you’ll become increasingly aware of the power of content.
Content marketing consists of taking advantage of the maxim that ‘content is king’, a cliché which has become a cliché because it happens to be true. By making the content which you publish on your website, blog, social media or via email marketing relevant, original and useful, you’ll be forging an online identity which will draw visitors and prospective customers towards you and help to create a bond between you and your public. The increasing sophistication of search engines also means that well written and relevant content is more likely to attract higher rankings than the ‘keyword stuffing’ of yesteryear.
the main advantages of social media as a marketing tool are its flexibility and speed of response. From competitions on Facebook to publicity shots on Instagram, social media allows you to share and distribute marketing content quickly and easily. It’s also vital as a channel via which you can open up two way communication with your customers and create a genuine conversation. Customers who feel able to interact in this way will eventually form a relationship and bond with your brand which traditional marketing can’t replicate. The other advantage of social media is that it ties in with the flexibility inherent in the smaller scale of an SME, allowing you to respond to events and disseminate information instantly.
This is just a brief summary highlighting the opportunities of online marketing, to find out more about why search engine marketing is necessary for your businesses success you can find out more here.
You can read more posts within our business growth series here.