Often when somebody contacts us, we hear something along the lines of “I know my business could be doing better and we don’t have much of a digital presence but I’m not sure exactly what my business needs or where to start.”
The underlying problem here is a very common one.
Many businesses were established when traditional forms of media were a larger part of the marketing landscape.
An owner runs a muffin store that was established in the early millennium.
Our muffin store owner does have a website.
Unfortunately, it is only focused around displaying the shop’s various products, and funnelling customers to their brick-and-mortar location.
Advertisements in physical media like newspapers or radio ads are how they find customers.
For many years these channels for marketing the store were adequate.
Muffins flew off the shelves as fast as our entrepreneur could bake them.
However, in the last five years, the business has started slow.
So what do they do?
Not only have larger baked goods chains seemed to become more popular among their customers.
A few other boutiques baked good shops have opened nearby and seem to be drawing in more sales!
Their core group still exists and is keeping the store afloat, but it is no longer thriving and now there are some months when the business loses money.
The owner suspect’s that perhaps their digital presence or lack thereof is to blame.
They have seen their customers on social media with direct competitors filling their feed.
Our owner has even seen both the other boutique shops and larger chains delivering on-demand.
Even when there aren’t many people coming in, sales seem to be happening.
The problem is the company that built the website for the muffin store went under a couple of years ago and our owner doesn’t possess the knowledge to build a website themselves.
What’s more, social media is not a strong suit.
They have no idea what the different platforms are, who uses them, what content would help the business grow, or how often they should post and let alone have the time to do so.
Not only that, but competition has a head start and has name recognition in this new space.
So how do they make up the ground?
Right about here a headache usually sets in and it’s very easy for business owners to decide that they can just keep doing what worked before and not embrace the digital age we live in.
This mistake can range anywhere from stale to fatal.
At Rycob we want to see businesses succeed.
One of the major reasons that small businesses in particular fail is that they either assume what worked before will work now.
Or business owners see that they need to embrace the digital economy and become overwhelmed and either make mistakes or have no idea where to begin.
That’s why this month we are providing you with a roadmap that runs through common digital services and compares them to pieces of traditional marketing.
In addition to pieces that would apply to a digital storefront like a brick-and-mortar locations front window.
Search Engines [the Yellow Pages]
The first stop on most people’s digital transactions is a search engine like Google.
Today people have access to the Internet from anywhere, most often a device in their pocket.
So, when they need a product or service the first stop is no longer the phone book or some other directory; but Google.
On Google they can simply type the product or service they are looking for and see a multitude of results for businesses that provide what they’re looking for.
Having your business’s website either not appear (or appear below many others) would be the equivalent of being near the back of the phone book or having a small, text-only ad space.
Any business this is true for runs the risk of being overlooked in favour of competitors that were noticed first.
Unfortunately, many of the similarities with traditional directories end with the fact that search engines are themselves directories.
Traditionally, alphabetical order and money for advertising determined your business’s placement.
However, thanks to search engines, this formula is obsolete.
The categories of traditional directories are essentially replaced by whatever your search term the user chooses.
And the search engine only shows the results related to what the user entered.
Alphabetical order has no bearing on the order of results as the search engines prioritize the most accurate and relevant information.
Logos and Design [your first impression]
Some things never change.
Even in today’s digital world, every store has a sign in front of it.
Assuming the potential customer found you when they were looking for their product or service the first thing associated with your business there are likely to see is your logo.
This, combined with your basic colour scheme, and any other graphical choices that are made become that customer’s first impression of your business.
Arguably, this is the part of traditional marketing that has changed the least and had the easiest transition into the digital economy.
As with any traditional sign and branding, this will be what customers associate with your business.
With that in mind it should be clear, simple, eye-catching, and if possible, give some idea of what the business is about.
Something like the plain text is boring and will be overlooked.
This is a good way to lose a customer before a transaction and certainly won’t make your business memorable.
Having too much going on or an ugly colour scheme can have much the same effect.
Even if it’s memorable, it should be memorable for the right reason not
“Look at that! What’s it supposed to be? What do they even do? It makes my eyes bleed!”
You want your logo to be famous not infamous.
Your Website [Digital storefront part 1]
We have reached the heart of our digital journey.
Your company website.
Your piece of ground in the digital economy.
Led by your branding this is the place where users become customers.
At least they should.
The website of our hypothetical muffin store from earlier will do a terrible job of converting website visits into dollars spent.
The mere existence of an online presence isn’t enough for a business to thrive in this space.
The main problems of the example are that it does not tell very much of a story about the business.
People want to know who they’re buying from and what they’re getting, not simply where they can get it.
It also does very little in the way of facilitating a transaction immediately.
Want to lose business? Funnel customers to the brick-and-mortar store in a time where products and services are being delivered on-demand.
Speed is Key
Today’s economy dictates that a visitor to a corporate website should never be more than 3 clicks away from any particular information.
Be it about the business itself, it’s hours, a short story of its founding, frequently asked questions, services, or anything else they may be looking for.
In our muffin example, it would be very convenient if they delivered and you could order muffins through their website.
In the case of a business that primarily offers services such as a hair salon; the transaction portion should probably include the ability to schedule appointments online.
The central point is that:
Any piece of content on your company’s website should either further knowledge about the company or facilitate the conversion into a transaction.
Not only that but this needs to be done quickly.
Long load times are equivalent to an understaffed physical location.
They make transactions less likely, less frequent, and the customer experience less enjoyable.
Fast load times are comparable to good customer service in the traditional sense.
Social media [Digital storefront part 2]
What about social media?
We find the most issues seem to arise here.
This last bit of the map is the most unfamiliar territory.
Social media can be an extension of any of the other three pieces discussed.
At its base, social media is another way your business gets found.
But it can be so much more than that.
Social media can act as your store window.
Especially if your product is visually appealing.
It can be an extension of advertising where offers and coupons can be discovered.
Most of all it can build a community where your customers congregate and come together.
Not only that; but social media outlets allow for a greater degree of engagement with customers regarding your business whether you physically see them or not.
Reviews, ideas for new promotions, contests, and simple appreciation can all be conveyed through social media platforms.
If the content is properly curated shines a good light on the company.
This, however, is a basic principle of any sort of marketing.
With the right content manager, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.
With this basic roadmap in hand, helping your business thrive in the digital space should be much easier.
Most of grasping the shift that business has taken is having a frame of reference to something familiar.
There is a saying:
“A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.”