With the start of the holiday season comes the end to another year. Before you know it, it’s going to be 2016, and for any business that usually means new goals and new growth to be made for the new year. This means now is the time to start planning for those goals.
Right now, in 2016, it’s safe to say that traditional marketing (commonly referred to as outbound marketing) is slowly, but surely, dying out; while digital marketing (commonly referred to as inbound marketing) is growing by the second. In case you are not aware of the differences, let’s clarify:
Traditional marketing - also referred to as ‘interruption marketing’ - is a means of advertising that interrupts someone’s flow of activity in order to get their attention and get your message to them.
Inbound marketing - also referred to as ‘digital marketing’ - is a means of advertising that bring visitors in, rather than having to go out to get their attention. You earn their attention organically, without having to interrupt their path.
According to HubSpot, since 2006, inbound marketing has been the most effective marketing method for doing business online. Having worked with many small, locally-owned, service-based businesses, I’ve found inbound marketing to be the best channel for marketing their business. It’s not only cost-effective (for one, online advertising is significantly cheaper than buying media spots), but it’s also significantly easier to sell to someone who’s already gone out of their way to find your services.
If you are a service-based business, and you are looking into ways to marketing your business online, then you’re in the right spot. I’m going to discuss what you need to get started with online marketing, and why it’s important.
This seems like a given, no? I’m truly astounded every time I’m going out of my way to look for a company’s website, and it’s just MIA. Whether it’s a restaurant, a nail salon, a laundromat, or a local boutique- a lot of smaller, locally-owned businesses sometimes just don’t have a website. With the risk of sounding like a total millennial, in 2016, this is just not acceptable. Every business needs some sort of website - whether small or big, detailed or minimal - to discuss their offerings, and convince the potential customer that their business is the way to go over their competitors.
A decent website is better than no website at all, but you should still aim to have an awesome website. An awesome website (by Coalmarch’s definition) would include a clean design, simple navigation, places on the website designed to answer specific questions, strategic call-to-actions, and an easy way to contact you -- among many other things. Unless you have a web development team on-hand, chances are you’ll need to hire a web design company if you want a custom website. If not, you can use free, basic themes on Content Management Systems such as Wordpress, SquareSpace, Wix, Weebly, and many others.
You need a strategic website that functions the way you need it to.
You need your website to show your brand personality.
You need to demonstrate your expertise and differentiators through your website.
You need an easy-to-use, user-friendly website that anyone can navigate easily.
This one may be a little harder than it sounds. You have to have content on your website that answers people’s most common questions. The upside is no one knows these questions better than you---the people who talk to your customers every day. Try and think about what customers tend to ask you on a regular basis. For example:
What are their biggest concerns?
What type of clientele do you have?
What kind of price point are customers usually looking for?
What can you do for them?
How do your features relate to benefits for the customer?
Why are you better than your competitors?
Having pages that explain your services or offerings, and that naturally integrate these questions into the content is key. A big part of engaging users on your website is answering their questions, addressing their concerns, all while convincing them your solution is the way to go. You do this by having benefits-focused content that is personalized to the user. Be sure to use language such as “we” and “you”, rather than your company name and “customers.”
Instead of “About our company” say, “Your trusted team”
Instead of “Testimonials” say, “What people like you say”
Instead of “Why choose our company?” say “How we will help you”
Display customer testimonials throughout your website. (People love social proof!)
Tell them specifically why you are superior to your competitors and why they should choose you.
Be sure to call them to action -- urge them to take the next step throughout each page on your website. Want them to contact you? Don’t be afraid to tell them to.
Use benefits-focused language that appeals to their emotions and addresses their concerns.
It’s not enough for you to just have content on your site; you have to have content that is optimized for search engines if you want to rank well in Google. First, you have to figure out what keywords are most common for your industry. What are people searching for when they need your service? A good place to figure out exact terms that people are searching is Google Trends and Google AdWords Keyword Planner. Once you figure out what keywords you ideally would want to rank for, the most important part is incorporating these keywords into your content strategy.
Be sure to have pages on your website that are geo-specific. If you’re a service-based company, and you want to rank for your most popular service in your target market-- let’s say, carpet cleaning in Raleigh, NC -- make a landing page on your website dedicated primarily to carpet cleaning in Raleigh NC. By making a specific page geared towards that location and service, you are that much more likely to rank for that term.
A big part of making content for search engines is using the keywords you want to rank for throughout your content, without overdoing it. Use the keywords when it seems natural and organic in conversation.
Also, do not forget about your metadata! In case you’re not familiar, metadata is used to describe individual pages on a website, allowing search engines to understand what each page is about. This includes page titles and meta descriptions, which are the snippets that come up on Google. (See picture below).
Make your page title and meta description about the page itself -- and be sure to include your one main keyword in there.
Do not put more than one as that can be seen as manipulative and keyword stuffing.
Determine what keywords you want to rank for.
Create geo-specific landing pages for your services and target markets.
Utilize SEO elements such as page titles and meta descriptions.
Incorporate the keywords you want to rank for within your content and metadata.
Blogs are a great way to bring traffic - and potential customers - to your website. It’s also a great way for you to establish your authority in your industry. Make it a habit to jot down ideas or write about things that are time-sensitive and news-worthy in your industry. This will not only help illustrate your knowledge and establish your credibility within your industry, but it also helps contribute to your online rankings. The more that you update your website and the more content you add, the fresher your website is in Google’s eyes.
Don’t be afraid to share your knowledge or ideas with your existing and potential customers.
Make it a habit to add new content to your website at least every other month.
Regardless of the industry you are in, social media is a must. In this day and age with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram utilization higher than ever, it is imperative to use these channels to your advantage. Not only is social media advertising become more and more prominent, social media in general is also a great way to demonstrate your brand personality and company culture. It’s also a great way to engage with your customers and with influencers in your industry.
Use social media to demonstrate your company culture.
Share photos of your staff-- let your customers get to know the people behind the company.
Give your customers an incentive to follow you on social media- try giveaways or social media-specific coupons. Be sure to provide value to them!
Interact with your customer base--ask them questions, engage in conversation, and get to know them better. Build better relationships.
The truth of the matter is, there are a ton of things you can and should be doing to market your service-based company online that go beyond just these tips. These are just the very basics, and if you aren’t doing them already, you should definitely integrate them into your 2016 marketing plan.
Many companies don’t have the time to do this all themselves, understandably. If you need help marketing your service-based company online in 2016, Coalmarch Production can help. We offer a wide variety of web development, branding, and online marketing services that can help you grow your business in a cost-effective and efficient way!