Digital and Internet marketing is growing by leaps and bounds and over the past year or so the marketing world around us has become very dynamic and is evolving and changing before our very eyes. It is an exciting time to be in business and also a bit scary as well, everything that we have known is either becoming obsolete or changing on such a scale that we no longer recognize it. For example, the traditional billboard that lines highways across the globe is something that has been around for many years, they are used to promote products and services or businesses themselves such as restaraunts, casino’s, hotels and more and are placed in high traffic areas and we are starting to see them splattered across highways all across the U.S. (Stay tuned for our next article on Digital Billboards). The marketing arena is changing and most large companies are changing right along with it, but how about smaller businesses that do not have the manpower not to mention the budget to keep up with all of these changes are they just being left in the dust or is there hope for them? The big question on everyone’s mind is can the small business utilize new Internet technologies such as a blog and social media. I have noticed that many small mom and pop type businesses do not even have a website, do they need one? Does the small business truly need all this technology, it is within their budget and does it make sense for their businesses to evolve along with the technologies of this modern age we are living in?
You have read my thoughts on many if not most of these subjects in previous articles so I thought I’d get the opinion of another professional. Dave Chaffey is a best selling author, consultant and speaker who specializes in digital marketing. I sat down with Dave around three weeks ago and asked him a series of questions on the viability of the small business utizlizing digital marketing.
Joe Melle: The use of Digital Marketing is hitting the marketing spectrum like a storm and like most things the small business isn’t always able to utilize many of the applications due to them being cost prohibitive. In your opinion are small businesses able to effectively use Digital Marketing?
Dave Chaffey: Absolutely! Digital marketing “levels the playing field” as we say in the UK, which helps smaller businesses use many of the same techniques that larger business can use. Small businesses also have the advantage that their more agile than larger businesses which means they can adapt the latest techniques to get an edge. Of course, every business has to make priorities and decide what will work best for them. In my books I outline the key digital marketing techniques that all companies should review. Here’s my take on their relevance for growing new business for SMEs with scores out of 10 for cost-effectiveness:
1. Search Engine Marketing (Search Engine Optimisation, SEO, 9/10 and PPC or Google Adwords, 6/10). But remember to go niche – don’t focus on the most commonly search 2 to 3 word keywords, instead try to attract more qualified traffic on the longer-tail terms of 4 words or longer.
2. Online PR (8/10 for article marketing and press releases which help with your SEO) and Social media (4/10 which can help if you can build a viral buzz around your posts). Both of these are effectively free, so rank right up there, they take a lot of time though and I see social media often workig better for gaining repeat visitors and sales.
3. Affiliate and partner marketing (5/10) – you need to be bigger to make it worth the while of affiliates promoting you. Still some smaller affiliates such as specialist bloggers may promote you to get a return. Affiliate marketing uses a paid commission, but all online businesses have the option to partner with businesses targeting a similar audience but not directly competing. Contra-deal marketing is one of the biggest opportunities for swapping content, links and contacts to name but some.
4. Display advertising (banners) (3/10). Forget it – banner blindness rules! Not generally cost-effective at generating click-throughs or branding. The Google network may be worth exploring though for targeting visitors on related sites.
5. Email marketing (4/10). Still one of the best techniques for marketing to existing customers, it’s less strong for gaining new customers since response is low and you can look like a spammer. The best option is advertising in someone elses Enewsletter.
6. Viral marketing (6/10). I’ve pulled out this one separately since to show it can be built into all the other techniques. Always build in viral agent to your online campaigns, thinking what will encourage others to promote you whether it’s humour or a great coupon offer.
Joe Melle: It is common for medium and large size businesses to engage in multichannel marketing, is this a viable method for the small business and can it be cost-effective?
Dave Chaffey: Unless you’re addicted to Second Life or World of Warcraft we all still spend more time in the real world than the virtual world. This means there are many offline opportunities to influence your prospects. I think some small business owners have blinkers to multichannel marketing. I know some online pureplays who spend 100% of their budget online, but would never consider a print, radio or TV ad to drive visitors to their website. To me, this is plain stubborn. Yes offline media costs and if you’re a startup with little or no budget for advertising then it’s not an option.
But if you’re an established business and can reinvest your profits to grow the business then you should at least test it. Web response is the name of the game. Use powerful multichannel offers to encourage visitors to go through to your site. Use a strong call to action, not just “visit our website”, but “don’t miss out on our unique online exclusive”. Look at the way Dell does this “Order online by 24/10 to Double your memory”
Joe Melle: Some small businesses claim that it serves no purpose for them to have a web presence, in your opinion is there any small business vertical in which a web presence would not be beneficial?
Dave Chaffey: Well I can’t think of a sector where zero percent of the target audience uses the web. Can you? Maybe in some sectors you don’t use the web to look for a provider – local businesses like a hairdresser is an example. You will know what’s available – you don’t look online unless you’re new in town. So in this case, maybe it’s not worth running and maintaining a website. But the website is only one form of web presence and today some of the other forms of online presence are more important. Keeping with our example of a hairdresser, these are all viable options, maybe all more cost-effective than a web presence:
* Facebook or Twitter page for updating existing customers on offers and news
* Listing in a Yellow pages local business directory
* A simple blog updating customers on new developments and pulling in some search traffic hopefully
* A local search listing in Google Places (formerly Google Local Business Center) if you have any premises
How broad is your online representation?
Joe Melle: Is social media important to the small business?
Dave Chaffey: Well, I’m not sure about “important” – I think it’s relatively unimportant compared with other techniques I mentioned above like Online PR, SEO or if relevant, affiliate and partner marketing. But it depends what you’re looking to achieve. I see social media as most important as a way of keeping in touch with past customers – these are the guys who are most likely to follow you on Twitter or Like you on Facebook. But past customers will also recommend new customers and the social networks are most powerful for their viral effect. If a member of your network likes what you’re offering whether its a humorous gag, a piece of good advice or a great deal, then they’ll thank you for it or recommend it to others in your network and for something outstanding it will ripple out further to friends of friends of friends of.
Joe Melle: Many small businesses have claimed they do not have the manpower to dedicate any one employee to social media full time, what is your advice to them in terms of making social media effective while using the limited resources that they have?
Dave Chaffey: The great thing about social media for the small business is that it’s relatively low cost and lends itself to quick experimentation. I’d argue that it’s a lot cheaper and less time intensive to run a Twitter account or a Facebook page than a blog. So experiment. I’d recommend starting with a Facebook account for most businesses since many more of your customers, I’d say 10 times, will use it than Twitter. But social media can be a time sink or a serious distraction if you’re not serious about it. It probably works best with a bigger business publisher mentality. To avoid wasting your time you need a plan where you think through:
* Goals – what are you trying to achieve through social media – new sales, repeat sales or customer service?
* Targeting – each social network tends to appeal to different types of people, so think what your priorities are for targeting these different audiences
* Value proposition and content strategy – what type of content and offers are you offering through each of the social channels. If you want to sign up people to different social channels, then you should think about the exclusive benefits for each – so if you have someone on your email already, they’re more likely to Like you on Facebook if you offer them a great exclusive on Facebook
* Editorial calendar – make a virtual or physical folder of all the different types of content you will offer and add them to the folder when you think of them and then schedule them so you already have something to publish it when you get the time to publish it
* Integration – how can you link together your social content with other content which you may have on your. How can you reuse your content across the different options?
Just to show it’s possible, my social media strategy uses Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and social media all integrated with a blog and good old email newsletter. And I also write books, train and consult. I say that feeding the content monster takes a long day a week though.
Remember that the main social networks are just part of your social network options. I’d recommend reviewing all the tools listed here – and the book by Tamar Weinberg.
I would like to thank Dave for taking the time to discuss these issues with me so that I could share his insights and knowledge with our readers.