With the New Year under way, now can be a good time to refresh some of your business strategy. One option is to make effective use of online marketing. Gareth Edwards from the National B2B Centre, at the University of Warwick, designed the Interiors & Lifestyle Futures' online marketing workshop. Here are Gareth's five top tips to get you going on the route to online marketing success.
1. Plan thoroughly The first step is to do some planning. When planning or updating websites or using social media it is really important to make sure that you are clear what you are offering to customers, why they should buy and how they can buy from you. This sounds basic but in reality many small businesses make assumptions about what people do and don’t know about them. In the online world we all tend to scan information before reading it or viewing it more detail. That means you have to be very clear and upfront with your messages.
2. Analyse your website The planning process is immediately helpful in improving the performance of websites. You might need some technical help editing what are called meta page title tags and meta page descriptions to help with search engine optimisation (SEO) but what they say should reflect your knowledge of what words customers are actually using in searches. Equally you can now tighten up the way you describe what you do on your web pages and make sure every page has a call to action: a command or suggestion that tells people what to do next – like “add to basket” or “phone us today” or “download the article”.
3. Utilise email newsletters For businesses that already have customers and contacts then the planning process will have uncovered things that you can talk to them about in the form of email newsletters. Maintaining a relationship with past customers can be tricky when you are working on your own but a newsletter is a way of telling people about new products and new customers on a regular basis. It’s perfectly acceptable to just send in text format but as you get more confident and have more people to talk to then html emails with enhanced graphics are easy to set up using services such as Mail Chimp (http://www.mailchimp.com/) or Constant Contact. If you are sending out to more than 200 people at a time then using these types of services can help avoid getting blacklisted as a spammer.
4. Use appropriate social networking channels Talking about building relationships you can use the technology to build up new relationships using Social Networking sites like LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/) and Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/).
LinkedIn is like Facebook for business people. So, if you are selling to the trade, it is a good way to find relevant people and link up with them. You may find groups on LinkedIn that have been set up precisely to talk about your specific sector or type of business.
Facebook is more consumer oriented. If you are selling to the public then it makes sense to set up a business page to highlight your products and services. Facebook requires more effort than some people realise and it makes sense to use your upfront planning to create a list of interesting topics and a schedule of posting that you can commit to before using it. You need to say something interesting, pose questions that people want to respond to or make specific offers, to draw people to your page and get them to click on a link to your website or get in contact.
Twitter is much the same. It does require some effort to use it successfully but it can be very effective if you have good offers or interesting content. Photographers, for instance, have found it a useful platform because they can post links to photos – which are quite compelling.
5. Tell your story Fundamentally online marketing is about having more places to tell your story. It makes sense to find the places where your potential clients might be and then say something that’s relevant to them, of course. The great thing for businesses in the interiors and lifestyle cluster is that they always have great products to show off, or interesting services and experiences to relate.
National B2B Centre