I recently wrote about the many challenges small and medium sized business owners face while constructing and implementing a successful internet marketing plan. The often insurmountable challenges we pointed out were ‘time’ and ‘money’. Small business owners are consumed with what they do best; operating their business and making sure their customers are satisfied. In addition, many owner/operators also manage the marketing direction for their companies and do not have substantial budgets for advertising and outside marketing services.
There are still local businesses that have virtually no online presence, but most have tried at least a few forms of online marketing. For example many businesses have a website, built by a neighbor’s son or the local web design company and may have even set up a Facebook page. Perhaps they even have one of the large PPC (Pay-Per-Click) firms running a Google campaign for their company. Most small business owners have put together their online marketing strategy over a period of months or even years and have purchased a few services along the way from outside marketing companies. As any good business person would do, they try to keep the parts that are working and get rid of the parts that are not yielding results.
The inherent problem with this type of “hit or miss” strategy is that the success or failure of an individual online marketing strategy is often interdependent on the strengths or weakness of other parts of your online presence. Let’s discuss the four main components of a local online marketing plan.
The Four Pillars of Success: Marketing Plans for Local Business
Pillar One: Targeted Web Traffic
Having a business website posted on the web is not going to create traffic from prospective customers all by itself. Websites need to be marketed in order to generate a steady flow of traffic for your business. Many business owners have the common misconception that having the prettiest website is somehow going to translate into a successful website. If I had to choose between a gorgeous website not positioned to gather traffic versus a simple, perhaps even ‘ugly’ website, that is positioned properly to gather significant local web traffic, I would choose the latter.
What is Targeted Web Traffic?
Local business websites can receive targeted web traffic from a variety of sources and methods. Let’s first discuss what the term targeted traffic means. In the most basic sense, targeted web traffic could be defined as a web user who visits your site that possesses at least one criteria or characteristic that you believe would fit within your definition of a potential customer. An example could be as simple as their location. If your business sells pizza or dental services, you might be interested in any consumers that live within 5-10 miles of your business, but you would not be interested in consumers that live 1,000 miles from your business location. Another example of a targeted web user is someone that is specifically searching for your product or service or has previously expressed an interest. The point we are making is that your goal as a local business marketer, is to position your website to receive traffic from local consumers that have (or are likely to have) interest in your products or services.
Paid versus Free Web Traffic
Local web traffic comes from a variety of sources and all of them should play a role in driving targeted traffic to your business. There are some sources that you need to pay for on a per click basis or per impression basis and others that can be free, provided that you do the necessary legwork to position your website to take advantage. Developing an efficient mix of web traffic for your business will take time but this is the first part of a local marketing plan. The purpose of this article is not to delve too deep into the benefits or pitfalls associated with any specific source of targeted web traffic but rather to demonstrate that traffic is only one part of an overall marketing plan. Web traffic is only valuable to your business if your website has the ability to effectively engage with visitors and provide a mutually beneficial experience. If your web visitors reach your site and leave within 5 seconds, there isn’t much benefit to either party.
Pillar Two: Websites that Engage and Convert Your Customers
The manner in which your website presents your business to web visitors has a profound effect on how efficiently your site will help potential customers take the next step in engaging with your business. Website visitors will typically decide in a manner of seconds if they are on a page or site that can satisfy their needs. Most websites will fail this first test and lose potentially valuable traffic before ‘the game’ even begins. This is often referred to as ‘relevancy’. Simple, if your site doesn’t instantly appear to provide the information, services, products etc. that the web user is interested in, they will move on to a site that does. The second and equally important requirement for a successful local business website is ‘engagement’. Visitors must be enticed to take the ‘next steps’ with your business. This can be accomplished with a variety of simple techniques and is also a topic that will not be covered in great depth in this article. The point we are stressing is that the quality of your website design, from a marketing perspective, plays a significant role in the success a local business will have in converting web traffic into new customers.
Pillar Three: Tracking, Analytics and Tweaking
Internet marketing is part science and part art, but the results are pure math. Your business pays real money to engage in internet and offline marketing efforts and you are expecting new customers that pay you real money as a result. The entire marketing process needs to be measured, tracked and periodically studied. This is the only way to make adjustments to your marketing plan in order to make as cost effective as possible. A few basic procedures can be implemented on your website and in your business workflow to give business owners the tools to monitor how well marketing efforts are performing and where change can and should be made. Tools can be used to help determine how well your traffic is performing, how well your website is performing and even how well your staff is performing. When you spot a weak part, you at least know where to make some tweaks. In addition, if you are using an outside marketing professional, they should be able to provide assistance with this, as opposed to just selling you one piece of the puzzle. The cost of a click or an impression may not mean that much to your business, but the value of web lead, a customer phone call or a store visit that results in new business is meaningful. The bottom line is you must have some concrete method to measure your marketing outcomes in order to determine if you are spending your money wisely.