logo graphic cutYou had a great idea and now you’ve turned it into a small business. Suddenly you’re the CEO, the book keeper, the admin support, the sales team, the marketing executive and there’s barely time to concentrate on the work you actually set up your business to do. Leisure activities and sleep are a thing of the past.

Perhaps you feel that nobody can understand your business as you do, or perhaps you’re keeping a close eye on cash flow to control business overheads so you’re trying to do as much as possible “in house”.

It’s a tension many small businesses can identify with, particularly in the area of marketing a business in an age where it is crucial to have an online presence.

Marketing consists of the strategies and tactics used to identify, create and maintain satisfying relationships with customers that result in value for both the customer and the marketer.”
Well, that seems simple enough – we find out what you want, give you good reasons for buying it and you buy it.

Except that when you start looking into it, everything gets so much more complicated and time consuming. Keeping up with the latest must-do marketing tactic can become a nightmare.
Yet we can’t ignore our marketing if we want our businesses to succeed.

Online marketing – a bit of history

Marketing techniques have developed and changed rapidly in the last ten years. The focus has shifted from what has been called “push” or “outbound” marketing – such as advertising, leaflets, flyers and cold calling, to “inbound” marketing.

Inbound marketing is about creating content on websites, blogs and in social media that entertains and informs to build relationships with customers and clients. It’s time and labour intensive and takes skill.

These are just some of the tools that have developed over the last decade or so:

1. Networking – business breakfasts, networking lunches, online networking via social media, an enduring technique for building trust but takes time, commitment and listening skills

2. E-newsletters – regular communications with your clients and potential clients, endures as one of the best performing means of engaging with them if done well

3. Article marketing as part of SEO was an early technique of putting articles rich in relevant keywords for your business into online publishing sites to encourage visitors to websites in the days when Google and others assessed them on the basis of visitor numbers. Less effective as Google’s assessment has shifted from quantity to quality of websites and articles have been copied from reputable sites to others that are known as article farms.

4. Videos – provide a welcome and a personal “face” if done well. They were a “must have” and widely adopted as the “new marketing tool” but too many are just plain awful – talking heads shouting “we can… we are… we offer….” for way too long with no switch-off button

5. Blogs, white papers, briefing sheets and case studies – all great techniques for inbound marketing as long as they are interesting, useful, relevant and well written

6. Social media, eg: LinkedIn, facebook, you tube, google+, pinterest, – all great tools for engaging with customers but they need a proper strategy, regular input, constant attention and writing skill.

7. Infographics – a means of presenting statistics and other information in pictorial form.
Central to all of this was, and is, SEO:

SEO – is about making sure a website is properly set up and acceptable to search engines like Google to appear as high on its lists as possible. Techniques are changing and it is still important but it’s a big subject. Beware those who promise to get your website to top of page 1 in Google in just a couple of weeks. Just think how many websites you’re in competition with. How can they all be number 1 at the same time? It’s likely that promises like these use techniques – known as “black hat” – that Google regards as cheating and could get your website blocked.

Content Marketing is the only marketing left
according to Seth Godin, an American author, entrepreneur, marketer, and public speaker.

Do the research:
Many of items in the list are content marketing techniques that are part of SEO. Have you noticed how many require both a clear strategy and content that is well written to engage consumers, to generate dialogue and deliver relevant and useful information to achieve your objectives?

Be selective
Marketing strategy needs to be thought through after careful research about who your potential customers are and where they are likely to hang out. It needs to be targeted, holistic and findable by making SEO an important part of a content-led strategy. So while using social media may be necessary it doesn’t mean you have to post everywhere.

Measure the results
Having defined what results you want to achieve – is it more visitors to your website? More phone and email inquiries? More leads? To position yourself as an expert? To create dialogue with your customers? – and planned your strategy you want to know whether it is working. There are plenty of online tools, such as Google analytics, that will help you to find out how well your marketing is doing its job. They will help you tweak, amend and refocus your marketing activity if required.

Need expert help?
Do you have the knowledge, the time and the skill to keep on top of all this? Would you like to find a trusted partner to produce your marketing content and leave you with more time to focus on your core business activity as well as time for a life?