Tag Archives: SEO

How Your Small Business Can Benefit From eCommerce

ecommerce-credit-card-exchange

Once again, we have teamed up with Kayleigh Alexandra, a content writer for Micro Startups, to guest write an article for our blog. We asked her to consider the topic of e-commerce for SMEs. Read on for her helpful thoughts on the subject.

“The decline of big high street chains has been well publicised in recent years. HMV, House of Fraser, Markers & Spencer, Game: are some of the big names who have suffered store closures. Though bricks and mortar retail still contributes significantly to economies, many pundits are predicting the death of the high street as we know it, in the long term. E-commerce, on the other hand, is on the rise.

If you’re a small business (SME), embracing e-commerce can offer you a wide range of benefits. But, it can also be daunting to know where to start — what about social media, logistics, websites, PWAs or mobile apps?

And even though e-commerce is a no-brainer for product-led businesses, it can also offer benefits for small businesses selling services or time.

In this article, we’ll talk you through the major benefits of an e-commerce model, and some tips you can follow to get the most out of it.

What is e-commerce?

Put simply, e-commerce is selling products or services online. Since the internet became commercially available in the early Nineties, more and more companies have moved their business partially or entirely online. Spearheaded by the likes of Amazon and eBay, e-commerce offered a world of possibility and not just for consumers either.

With reduced overheads compared to brick-and-mortar stores and the ability to reach a wider audience, e-commerce offers businesses of virtually any industry (including yours) significant benefits.

Whether you are selling coaching calls, bespoke bags, marketing services, an online course, or even flowers — the convenience of one-click e-commerce is yours for the taking. Easy software and low subscription costs make e-commerce technology affordable for even the tiniest of operations.

Moving from local to global

One of the biggest challenges for small businesses is expanding their customer base outside friends, family, and local word of mouth recommendations. This may mean you need to invest in pay-for strategies such as search advertising and online directories to spread the word about your brand.

This is where e-commerce offers huge benefits — expanding your customer reach and making your products available globally is a great way to find new customer communities. Finding fans is a big priority for small businesses (repeat business, positive social proof), and e-commerce can help you expedite the process.

Even if you’re mainly selling online or making the transition — you should still highlight your local flavour. By utilising Google’s My Business pages, you can enhance your online presence in local areas. This is particularly useful if you’re selling heavy goods that require collecting, or if you are targeting a set of local postcodes.

Google My Business image

Help customers find you with SEO

Search engines are the single largest traffic driver for e-commerce websites, ten times higher than social media. As such, it behoves you to optimise your website for search engines to direct customers to your site. It can extend your reach well beyond your local area with cleverly tailored optimisation.

SEO is a bow with many strings and it can seem daunting for the beginner. But there are plenty of online resources that can help you nail the basics (Moz has a particularly good guide to SEO here).

Another big plus is to ensure your website has a strong internal link structure, and it’s worth implementing a strong content marketing strategy ASAP. Create and regularly update a blog that provides useful content to your audience — not only will it provide value to your customers, but it will help you rise through the ranks on search engine results pages.

Use social to connect with your customers

E-commerce goes hand-in-hand with social media to form a powerful marketing strategy that lets you connect with your customers.

It won’t have escaped your attention that social is a hugely popular environment that virtually all your customers are active on. As a result, it pays to connect with them on a platform they are active on.

On social, brands can share content, provide offers and competitions, and even address customer complaints. A strong social marketing strategy helps to humanise your brand and increases engagement by sharing posts that will appear alongside posts from your customers’ friends and family.

And it’s also a chance for brands to sell their products directly through social as well. A number of social platforms include selling options, such as Facebook’s Marketplace or Instagram’s Shoppable posts. These let your customers make purchases without ever leaving their social app, taking your e-commerce further by going straight to the consumer.

facebook-like-buton-on-computer

Minimal overheads

If you’re a small business owner, you’ll know the pressures of balancing overheads all too well. Staff costs, building costs, utilities, furniture: it all adds up.

The nature of a bricks and mortar business requires footfall from customers or knowledge of your location. Often you need to rationalise paying extra for rent in a good location to ensure you’re easily found. This can make it difficult for small businesses to penetrate the high street.

E-commerce, on the other hand, doesn’t require a shop. It can even be done from home. All you need is a domain, hosting and an e-commerce website or mobile app. O’C&K have some sample apps here that you can have a look at.

Designing and building an e-commerce website or an app does require an initial investment, but it’s significantly less than the upkeep and maintenance of a building. And once it’s done, maintenance is extraordinarily cheap.

And you can even cut time and costs by buying an existing online business and repurposing it. This not only saves you the hassle of setting up the store itself up, but they often come with pre-made marketing channels that are ready to go instantly.

You don’t need staff to manage your checkout or in-store customer management. Your site does it all. From guiding customers through their buying journey to handling their payments.

keyboard-e-commerce

Analyse and adapt

Possibly the most beneficial aspect of an e-commerce website is its data collection.

By selling online and using a combination of your e-commerce platform’s inbuilt analytics, you’ll have access to a wealth of information about your customers’ shopping habits.

You can then start to build a knowledge base by highlighting key questions such as:

  • What are your most popular products?
  • Where are your buyers based?
  • What did they look at before they bought?
  • How many visits did it take before they bought?
  • What day of the week and time of the day do people buy the most?
  • How successful have your offers been?

When you have collated this information, consider how you can optimise your site accordingly.

online-data

With such a wealth of consumer data so readily available online, e-commerce makes it easy for brands to fine-tune their selling practices for maximum effect. Even simple things such as what time your consumers made a purchase can be leveraged to hone your online business.

Use a good analytics tool to know your consumers inside and out, and reposition yourself and your marketing accordingly.

There are so many benefits of e-commerce for your small business. Hopefully, this article has convinced you that starting an e-commerce site or mobile app can really add value to your business. Get started and feel the benefits of e-commerce today.”

Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to spreading the word about startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Visit their blog for the latest marketing insights from top experts and inspiring entrepreneurial stories. Follow them on Twitter @getmicrostarted.

“Thank you to Kayleigh for her input and to you for reading our blog post today.

If you require any assistance with your marketing including e-commerce websites or mobile apps do not hesitate to give us a call.

Cheers –  Aidan & Jim.

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Fortunately,There is No Cheating in a Content Marketing Strategy

black-hat-content-marketing-strategy

Those of us in the business world have definitely heard of it, and everybody, at some stage has been exposed to it. A content marketing strategy can include the use of video, social media, blogs, podcasts, email newsletters, white papers, SEO and landing pages, to mention a few.

The idea is that you provide informative posts for your audience so that they talk about you or share your content. As a result of this inbound attraction, (rather than outbound messaging), you become much more customer-centric than traditional methods and are favoured over competitors.

Easy right? Well no, because of the balancing act between a) being able to provide something useful for free, b) building trust and c) not overselling. And no one is saying that this is easy.

There are many prospective clients that we meet who want to ‘have’ a content marketing strategy in its narrowest form e.g. social media. Unfortunately, rarely will one form of content suit a marketing strategy and sometimes it might only be a mindset that needs to change. Look at it this way, if the real goal of marketing is to advance your business, surely all your marketing activity should be contributing to that goal.

Is Your Content Just Writing?

If content marketing is not facilitating the achievement of a business goal – then it is just writing. The only caveat is that it doesn’t become a constant irritant by way of a sales pitch. Fortunately with regard to selling, there is no cheating in a content marketing strategy because the very people you want to attract, will ignore a sales pitch. It might be argued that native advertising is content marketing, but that’s a discussion for another post.

Whatever way you look at it, a basic human trait is that we are constantly trading amongst ourselves. This may not be a financial transaction but basically, doesn’t everyone want to sell something to everyone else, even themselves? (e.g. personal branding).

So, if you decide that your business is going to develop a content marketing strategy, and you know it shouldn’t be used as a sales tool – that’s fine but bear in mind, it should, at least, market something.

Well, if it’s not just writing – what is content marketing? We believe, it is creating and/or sharing relevant and useful content for a specific audience. The long term goal is that you instill a sense of value and grow trust amongst a community of people, with a view to building a mutually beneficial relationship.

Should a business write their own content?

We have written in previous blog posts about how business success is built on a foundation of strong relationships. We’ve also previously suggested that relationships can only be successful if there is a two-way exchange of relevant value (in whatever form), manifested in suitable communication.

Your content, therefore, needs to be professional and solve a problem that your audience cares about – or, at least, is somewhat entertaining. Each piece of content you supply should really make them feel good in that it rewards your audience for consuming it.

Of course, it is easy for a CEO to say ‘let’s have a content marketing strategy’ and the minions start a blog and set up a few social media accounts. However, without a well thought-out strategy this will only result in tears.

WARNING: Sometimes business owners should not be allowed to write their own content. Despite the arguments that they would know their clients the best – here are seven reasons why they should be convinced to leave it to the experts:

  1. They can write content but doing so for online purposes is a different challenge
  2. They can’t write – sometimes even people who are great conversationalists just can’t write
  3. They find it difficult to write about themselves and is usually faster when done by a third party
  4. They won’t always have the time – e.g. the cobbler’s kids, not having shoes
  5. They might not have the skills for social media distribution or SEO.
  6. They don’t understand the significance of original content
  7. They are afraid to trust a third party and waste money by micro-managing.

In many respects, implementing a content marketing strategy can be likened to attending a networking event.

Bear with us here.

Think about it, both involve telling stories about how value can be exchanged, in an interesting way. Both require being in the right place at the right time and having good listening skills. And usually, a ‘once off’ meeting is rarely enough.

Tips and Timesavers.

Admittedly, content marketing has become a buzzword in marketing but, as alluded to above, it is not an easy task. Ideally, for it to work it should be part of a long-term business strategy. Here is a great chart from Curata that outlines approaches which may help you with your content strategy:

curata-content-marketing-strategy

  • Appoint or employ someone to create content from within the business
  • Encourage staff members, outside of the marketing department, to contribute content
  • Outsource externally to an expert agency
  • Obtain stories from ‘happy’ customers and build content communities
  • Some media companies license content that you can brand as your own
  • Curate content from experts and share with your own community (linked to the original source)

Conclusion.

The objective of using well-written and relevant content in your marketing activity is to build trust, credibility, and engagement. The trouble is, that these may also be objectives of  your competitors.

So here are some thoughts to remember – develop concrete content objectives (thought leadership/information/driving traffic etc.), do research on your competitors (audiences/keywords etc.), ensure that your content plan fits in with your overall marketing objectives and always track your progress (engagement rather than ‘likes’).

Sometimes the challenge is simply to adjust your mindset.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K

 

Why Getting to Know Your Audience is The Secret Ingredient to Effective Marketing.

audience-ingredients-peas in a pod

Change is inevitable but effective marketing is the same as it was 100 years ago. Of course tools, trends and attitudes might have altered but what has not changed, is the need for a business to know its audience. Why? Because, if you don’t – how can you communicate with them?

We can discuss aspirations, online campaigns, social media, lead generation tools or even outsourcing all we want. But none of them matters unless your communication is focused on an audience that may buy from you. You need to know where they work, where they communicate, where they play, what they like/dislike – ultimately you need to know who they are.

A lot of businesses skip this ‘getting to know you’ stage and end up using a scatter-gun approach to communication. Because let’s face it – it is easier. But, just like life in general – easier does not necessarily mean better.

Also, if you’re just spraying a message and praying that it hits your audience, you’re not getting the best return on your activity. Instead, if you put effort into forums, research, listening to feedback, monitoring online conversations etc. you can then build a relevant message.

It’s not just you – your audience has changed also.

Ah yes – back in the good old days we could all sit back and let word-of-mouth do its thing. Customers would come through the door based on a window display, press ads and lack of competition. Now the competition is everywhere and the ads have gone online – so has the window display. When, not so long ago knowing your audience was a competitive advantage, now it is the norm for survival.

We’re talking here about reacting to audience changes with your branding, going digital, being social and being smarter about your budget spend. It used to be that business owners (and some marketing professionals) used to wonder over the value of a website.

Look at where we are now – your audience ‘googles’ when it wants to search for something, on their smartphone. If your business does not show up when they do – you’re not even in the decision game.

Ok, let’s assume you have a web presence which provides information on you and your business. At this stage, everybody knows that the concept of ‘build it and they will come’ is a myth. This is because of SEO and social media. This post will not address the details of effective SEO but suffice to say, it is pointless having a website unless it is optimised for search engines and promoted on social media channels

Search engines rule the world and social media feeds them.

Search engines nowadays base their results on one thing – relevance. Quite rightly, they want to provide the best result for the searcher – their customer. Accordingly, the only way it can determine whether your business deserves to be made visible or not is by ‘crawling’ your website and social media activity for audience relevancy.

As such, therefore, social media channels themselves are secondary websites for brands. They also provide a direct means of customer engagement. The ultimate goal should be for your social media audience to do your marketing for you. So, just as you will have an SEO strategy in place for your website, you need to optimise your social media activity also.

These two activities have become the window display of yore. That is not to say that billboards, direct mail, radio, TV, press and promotional brochures etc. are not applicable. They absolutely are, and should be considered as part of a campaign mix, but only as based on your target audience.

How do you get a relevant audience online?

Whether it’s social media followers or blog subscribers, people will only be attracted to you if they see a value for their time spent engaging with you. Only these people will relish a true relationship. As a result, you needn’t be wasting your valuable time with others and ignoring an audience that might convert into clients. When building an audience it is important to find a common ground between their wants and your convictions.

For example, this O’C&K blog is generally written for three audiences – business owners, marketing managers and club / charity administrators. We focus it on providing readers with marketing tips and timesavers that might help them grow their organisation. This is aligned with our own business objectives of helping organisations be smarter about their marketing through outsourcing.

7 tips on growing your audience online.

Based on the saying “It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear”, here are some suggestions based on our own experience of building an audience:

  1. Share ideas that are educational, engaging or entertaining
  2. Speak the language of your intended audience
  3. Be consistent and credible
  4. Personalise and humanise the message
  5. Paint a vivid picture with your story
  6. Put it in context and make it relevant
  7. Make it easy for them to find you

Conclusion.

Growing your audience means doing the basics, well. Clearly understand who your service / product is for and know exactly where they hang out. Listen to what they say, think about your service, think about your competitors and even your industry, in general. Find out who influences them and when they become a client – treat them like kings and queens.

“We hope you have enjoyed our marketing tips and timesavers blog” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K

Digital Strategy is alive and well.

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

Get a bigger bang for your marketing buck.

It’s not only in business, you know. It seems like the world is going through a digital / technological warp. The general public, your customers, your family and all their equipment, have already connected wirelessly and now apparently we are entering the era of ‘the internet of things’. I have previously spoken here on these pages about the importance of an online presence, but in this post, I’m going to chat about why having a digital strategy, is necessary so as to avoid flapping around in this sea of social and search and getting nowhere.

I have been asked to give a short talk to a gathering of small businesses at the end of this month, and I think that this is the subject I am going to broach with them. I want to talk about it because I come across many SMEs on social media on a daily basis, that are there only to ‘advertise’ their wares. Even if they do write a blog, more than not, the channel chosen is viewed as a tool, solely to push the link. Rarely do I see a structured effort to engage with customers. Oh, and by the way, when I say ‘engage’ I mean a two-way activity. So what’s wrong here? I believe that many businesses will acknowledge that they do require an online presence but unfortunately they jump straight into using the ‘shiny new tools’ to garner followers, without proper thought – without professional help – without making it part of their overall business strategy.

Modern consumers do not like being sold to.

As I have alluded to before, if the consumer is now buying rather than being sold to, then an online presence should be part of the overall customer experience. If you’re not there – your customer may well ‘experience’ one of your competitors. However, when you do decide on a digital strategy, then remember that nothing is different online about your customers. They still want you to solve their problem in a timely and efficient manner. They still want a relationship. As I have said above, too often businesses act like kids with a new toy and just grow page likes, followers, friends and subscribers and then don’t engage. They don’t act like that offline – so why do it online. A digital strategy should be an integral part of your marketing activity and thereby a part of your overall business strategy. A co-ordinated plan of activity covering paid for, earned and owned digital assets should be aligned to reflect your business objectives and complete the customer’s 360 degree experience of your brand

I was reminded of this only last week when discussing a potential sponsorship strategy with a client. They were full sure that they would obtain a sponsor for a sports property they were involved with – because they had over 20,000 likes on their Facebook page. They were stumped when I asked them how they engaged with those ‘friends’ and how many of them were into sport. They had no idea. Not all was lost, I’m glad to say – we pulled together a sponsorship approach based on what the brand stands for, and who their target audience was. We matched those with potential sponsors and ….. Well, it was only last week but, hopefully they will get an appropriate partner, as a result.

So let’s say you do have a clear vision of what your business is, where it wants to go and who your customers and prospects are. Let’s also assume that you have a broad digital strategy that fits neatly into your business plans. Now we will look at 5 basic tactical areas that you should be planning for.

Tips and Timesavers.

If all this digital stuff terrifies you or you don’t have the time – just get help. There are many agencies out there that will create a plan with you or indeed you might well want to outsource it to a company to manage it for you. We have a Smarter Business Guide here on our website, that has ten questions on digital visibility. Have a look, it might give you a start or a steer on what to look for if outsourcing to an agency. Either way, at a minimum your tactical plan should include:

  • Search Engine Marketing (SEO), the rules change frequently so professional advice is recommended.
  • Social Media Marketing, you need to be visible to your audience at many, relevant, brand touch points.
  • Blogging, this works for search engines and of course your audience – if the content is appropriate.
  • Online newsletters/email, these are an excellent way of reaching customers in their personal space.
  • Measurement Tools, analytical tools are a must if you are to ensure that you are not wasting effort.

I cannot stress enough that if SMEs are to compete successfully with the larger companies in their industry, having a digital marketing strategy is not just good policy – it’s a necessary policy. Think of it this way – if you are smaller, you are more flexible. If you are flexible you can react faster to competitive situations. If your competitors are missing a trick, online – go for it. Create a blog, a video, a podcast, whatever gives you an advantage with your customers and prospects. Again, if all of this appears to be too much, outsource to somebody like us, (we too are small and flexible) or at least outsource the bit that you can’t do in-house.

To finish off here, in no way am I proposing that digital is the only way to market these days. Depending on your business type and customer’s personae, traditional methods may still be the most appropriate way of reaching them. What I am proposing though is that by being a little smarter and integrating online efforts into your marketing activity, you will achieve a bigger bang for your marketing buck.

If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K

Is your communication full of new tools and old tricks?

speak

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

Do you believe that if you build it – they will come

I don’t think the above sentiment is true, but observing how communication tools are being abused of late, I wonder if some people do actually believe it. I mean, has anybody noticed recently the number of small businesses who have set up a social media account (smart), that are increasingly ‘advertising their wares’ on their timelines (not smart).  How have I noticed this?  Take twitter for instance, other than the timeline being full with ‘non-engaging’ tweets, more and more of late, when we follow back on @oconnorandkelly, we then get an auto DM to ‘like’ on Facebook, an ad or a suggestion to download something from a website. Has this happened to you?

Of course many SMEs are just dipping their toes in social media networks but wouldn’t it be better to get it right first time? Unfortunately, some have been advised (sic), that a social media presence is a great new opportunity for customer acquisition and non-paid advertising. Accordingly, SMEs sign up for a Twitter or Facebook account and, as recommended by the gurus, commence posting opening hours, product features, special offers etc. Both Aidan and I (OC&K), have been in the communication business for over 30 years and in our opinion, these so called gurus, goddesses, mavens and pros are just about turning networks into the old fashioned, intrusive, marketing channels of old. And how do you spot these advisors? Easy – their timelines are full of similar type advertising.

Nurture the relationship.

The problem isn’t unsurmountable per se, because all a recipient has to do is un-follow, unlike, unsubscribe, block or ignore. However, the way I see it is that many start-ups and SMEs could be much smarter about how they use this excellent opportunity to build trust by communicating with customers and prospects properly, rather than advertising to them. Let’s face it, when somebody ‘likes’ your post they are not saying yes, please sell to me. No, they’re probably saying, OK, that’s interesting let me see what you’re like over a period of time. So what do we have to do? – nurture the relationship. Unfortunately, the business, who is led to believe that someone is listening to their ‘spam’, is in fact losing the opportunity for leads, never mind actual sales. In addition to that, when the opinions of just a few hundred people can impact the success of your business, knowing how to use social media marketing is critical.

Tips and Timesavers.

So, if you’re getting advice on social media planning here are some things to remember:

  • You do not have to be present on a specific or all networks
  • Email is not extinct
  • Social media has not replaced SEO completely
  • All your updates should not be automated
  • You should not auto DM your followers
  • Your prospects ARE online /using social media

I know there is no ‘right’ way to do social media, but there are definitely wrong ways to do it. Keep it social and have real interaction with prospects – then, they will come.

If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K