4Ms Business Foundation Series – Part 4: Marketing that Sells

4Ms Business Foundations Marketing post

4Ms Business Foundation Series –

Part 4: Marketing That Sells
4Ms Business Foundations Marketing post

Marketing is critical for any new business. Unless you have a killer location, how will customers know you exist? ..Consider new ways of growing the business, such as using social network marketing to draw traffic to your website and raise brand awareness (start with the biggest ones first: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter). This form of marketing is essentially free and can help you to market your business for very little cost”. – Michael Evans

Marketing is the one area that many start-up entrepreneurs (especially the less successful ones) wrongly give inadequate thought. Consequently many allocate little budget to it and end up making lots of mistakes that harm their business. Getting marketing results is especially problematic if an entrepreneur follows Michael Evan’s advice, as in the opening quote above.

I certainly agree that marketing is one of the key ingredients for your business to succeed. Indeed, that is why this fourth instalment of our 4M Foundations of Business Series focuses on Marketing here. It follows our previous examination of the other three ‘Ms’ pillars every company needs especially in the digital economy. Give that all of the 4Ms are inter-related, the decision a business makes about its marketing is largely influenced by its Model (structure), Management approach and the Money that the firm has. 

It is within the context of the typical cash-starved start-up/small business that we have to examine Evan’s advice to do your own marketing, starting with the biggest social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), because it is basically free.

In the words of Meatloaf’s hit song, I believe that for Evans, this is a case of 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. Evan’s emphasis on the importance of marketing and the use of social media today is irrefutable. However, I will show that Evans should not be taken literarily in this instance for these reasons:

  1. Marketing is more than just having a presence on social media – You can’t rely on social media alone. You need all of the other marketing strands to make it all work; and
  2. Social media is not ‘free’. With all the leading social networks now having an advertising platform, unless you spend some money, your posts are unlikely to reach as many people as you dream off.

I will give pointers for business owners, managers and marketers to get the best results from their use of social media while highlighting the other aspects of digital marketing to take into consideration. Let us first look at the importance and role of marketing for businesses.

Importance of marketing in business

Many enthusiastic business owners (myself included) are guilty of believing so strongly that the world needs ‘their’ solution to a problem that they start their business on expecting that customers will flood to their door once they develop or design the ‘answer’. These same small business owners inevitably get shaken out of their daydream when they realise that it is no longer true that ‘if you build it they will come’!  It may be weeks, months or never before the realisation hits that we must do something to get our products and services to the market.

Thomas Koulopoulos makes the point much better than I ever could when he wrote about entrepreneurs believing that the marketplace will come running to devour their innovative new product. He adds that:

Nothing is more likely to kill a good idea than just believing that if it’s a good idea, it will naturally go viral. If that’s your attitude you might as well buy a lottery ticket and save yourself countless hours of work”.

I particularly like his argument that ‘Sales’, a component of marketing comes from the old English word for ‘give’. In other words, when we sell, we must give.

All businesses benefit from investing in marketing, even those that have a traditional presence like a physical store in one geographic location. Marketing can boost your business by getting your brand, products and services in front of your potential customers who are looking for a company like yours right now. Good marketing can also help your business to stand out from the competition, making it more likely that people will buy from you.

Build marketing investment into your business plan because whichever marketing solution you choose (in-house or outsourced) will require significant investment to make work for your business.

How much business spend on marketing

The Guardian reported that UK advertising spend rose to £17.9bn in 2014. That was followed by a 6.5% uplift in 2015 with predictions that business’ spend on advertising will hit £20bn in 2017. It is noteworthy that during the same period, National newspaper advertising fell nearly 5%, at the same time that Magazines continue to lose income.

Forrester research report suggests that in 2016, the average firm was expected to allocate 30% of their marketing budget to online, this rate is projected to grow to 35% by 2019.

Marketing Spend graph

Changes in advertising spend over time

The graph above from Chris Leone’s post on Web Strategies blog shows the trend in business’s plans for their marketing spend from 2011 to 2016. For five consecutive years, agencies were asked how their client’s marketing spend was expected to change in the upcoming year. Since 2011, marketing budgets remained consistent or increased compared to the previous year for at least 85% of respondents. With no evidence to suggest this trend will change, 2017 marketing budgets are expected to remain consistent with 2016 levels or increase.

Unless you have been living in a sealed cave for the last thirty years, you cannot deny that the Web has changed traditional business and marketing strategies. Of course, there is still a place for the old marketing channels such as print, television, radio and word-of-mouth. However, they all have limited reach and effectiveness compared to the power and often cost of digital marketing.

Businesses must consider social media seriously as part of their online marketing strategy, not least because the numbers and potential are truly fantastic, as we shall see in the next section.

 

Which social media channels

facebook in numbers

 

Facebook, with over 1.9 billion monthly users and Twitter that has 433 million monthly users, are the biggest and most used social media platforms that nearly all business must consider essential to their social media marketing efforts. LinkedIn has 18 million monthly users from its 450 million members, so should not be ignored. However, it is a little different to the big two in that its uses are largely for building relationships and seeking employment.

Just to put the numbers in context, if Facebook were a country, it would have the largest population in the worldArguably, other traditional marketing methods such as Television, radio, newspapers, billboards and direct mail will never reach anywhere near as many people as Facebook does without a mind-blowing advertising budget over a long period of time.

What is clear is that all of the traditional marketing channels are fading into less significance as social media has come to dominate the business marketing landscape.

What about the other social media channels?

It would be plain wrong to suggest that businesses should ignore all of the other social media channels apart from the big two. For example, Larry Kim highlights the importance of Instagram as follows:

  • For one, engagement on Instagram is super high. That’s why many of the top brands in the world are on Instagram. In addition, Instagram can help drive business and generate income for your company — even if you’re a small business.”
  • 36 percent of B2C brands consider Instagram to be “very important” or “critical” to their social media marketing.
  • 13 percent of B2B brands rank Instagram as “very important” or “critical” to their social media marketing.

It is easy to find similar endorsements for the benefits of marketing on other social media channels including Google Plus, Pinterest and Snapchat, to name a few.

It is unwise to take such data as above as the reason for a business to be present on every social platform, however. That would be a waste of your limited budget, time and resources. The key point is to establish and focus on the right social platforms that will enable you to achieve your business objectives – that means where your target customers are hanging out online!

I will elaborate on the process and principles of choosing your social media channels and ensuring they are explicitly linked to your marketing strategy towards the end of this post as these are the vital elements to successfully marketing on social media on a tight budget.

In the next section, we look at reasons to be cautious of Evan’s suggestion that social media marketing necessarily equates to making sales for start-ups.

Realism in social selling

It is hard to disagree with the sentiment that ‘If people are visiting your social media pages and either a) not ordering b) picking up the phone to talk to you c) making enquiries, then your business marketing is failing. After all, if a company invests heavily in a social platform presence, it’s vital that it works and makes you money, right? As you will see in these four points, the link to sales is not always so direct or explicit. Furthermore, you will understand why businesses would be foolish to depend solely on social media marketing in their quest for market domination.

  1. Decreasing organic reach

You would be forgiven for believing that a business simply has to work hard to build their fans/followers/connections on the social media platforms. It makes sense that doing so would enable a company to have a direct line of communication with them with every post or message they publish on social media – this is one-way social media marketing would be somewhat ‘free’ for businesses. The sad reality is that this is far from the truth because many of your fans will never get to see your content organically on social media.

For example, Facebook organic reach is at 2% and dropping (International Business Times). Chris Day of Filament Publishing outlined the harsh reality of Facebook reach superbly when he wrote “We found that Facebook typically limits the exposure of posts to only 5-10% of the total audience. In other words, 90 – 95% of fans never see the posts and updates they requested to receive. That seems pretty lop-sided. Yet, that’s not the worst part.

When my clients create a post to openly market a new book, or even give away a free resource, Facebook limits the exposure even more. Only 2-5% of fans see the posts! That’s right, 95-98% of fans never see the information. Again, these are people who chose to “like” a publisher’s page and willingly agreed to receive new posts”.

Remember: everybody who likes your page isn’t your target market. Plenty of random people will like your page over time, but then never engage with your updates, visit your website, or buy from you.

If you can only reach 1 percent of your audience, you should more narrowly target the people who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. Giving people what they’re interested is what great marketing is all about

If you want to reach the majority of fans on your Facebook page who are interested in your products and services, you have only one option: Pay money to advertise to them, and use your fans as your target/custom audience. Sure, Facebook will tell you that they let posts reach a larger audience if it gets high engagement, such as a lot of comments and shares. But, let’s be real, when you’re attempting to market certain things, you are not going to get a lot of comments and shares”.

Other social networks are following suit, meaning that unless you pay to advertise, your organic posts are going no-where. If people don’t see your posts, there is virtually no chance they will know about your business, products and services let alone buy from you.

  1. Click through rate

You can’t rely on social media marketing alone because all not all of your target customers will be actively using social networks. Furthermore, those potential customers on social networks have only a tiny chance of going from a social network to your website, as MOZ’s Randy Fishkin revealed:

 “An average CTR (click-through rate) of the links you tweet is only about 1%.

Simple maths shows that for every 1,000 followers you have, just ten are likely to click through to your website from social networks, indicating that you need to build your business, brand awareness and customer acquisition on more than social media marketing alone.

  1. People are not on social platforms to buy

Social media is rarely the place to sell anything –because people tend to use social platforms to communicate and enjoy photos of food and videos of pets and babies. For the reasons outlined below, selling on social media is tough, to say the least!

People aren’t really on Facebook to hit the “buy now” button. I’m a daily Facebook user, and I can’t recall a time this year where I have gone directly from Facebook to an e-commerce website and transacted.” 

This point is particularly relevant if you cast your mind back to when you set up your social media pages and the first thing you were encouraged to do was get you family and friends to ‘like ‘and ‘follow’ your pages. It should be clear that at least some of your fans are probably never going to buy your products and services.

Many businesses mistakenly take engagement (likes, shares, comments, etc.) with posts to signal intent to make a purchase. Here’s how Ryan Deiss of Digital Marketer tells it as it is:

Facebook Likes aren’t sales.  Only sales are sales

Furthermore, people on the social networks don’t tend to buy unless you are local to them, are the only business that sells what they need, and you give them a great deal. As these criteria rarely apply to businesses, social selling is tough!

  1. Marketing is more than just social media

You can’t rely on social media marketing alone because all not all of your target customers will be actively using social networks. Other digital marketing strategies like Pay-Per-Click advertising, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Content marketing, Email marketing, etc. each have different benefits. So by relying on a single marketing technique on its own, you risk missing out on at least some potential customers as well as the associated sales, which could be costly for your business. You need to invest in several digital marketing strategies as well as social media marketing as part of your online marketing mix to get maximum exposure for your business.

This cautionary point means that a business’ best chance to reach the greatest number of potential customers, is to use the right combination of marketing methods. At smallbiz-emarketing, we call this having ‘a complete marketing mix‘ as is typically evident in most of the bespoke marketing strategies we develop for each of our clients who all have unique businesses, objectives and target customers.

I must confess that when I started writing this 4Ms of Business Foundation Series months ago, I was very sceptical about social selling. The truth is that I have since run many successful social media marketing campaigns that have led to sales for my clients in a broad range of business sectors including photography, coaching, events, and water dispensers. Understanding the principles of social selling, which usually involves advertising, is vital to getting the results your want. At the same time, you definitely should not rely on social media marketing alone if you want to build a profitable business.

Undoubtedly, social networks have their uses for businesses. Otherwise, we would not all be investing the massive resources and budgets to being on them. While one of these reasons is simply because a presence on social networks is now the status quo – businesses are expected to be on them, as you will see there are many other tangible benefits to social media marketing for companies.

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Business goals on social networks

“Social media has changed the way that people communicate, share information, and play games. Social media has also helped businesses connect with existing customers while introducing new consumers to their products and services.

 Let’s break this down into the parts

Customer service

Hootsuite reports that Over 67 percent of consumers now go to social media for customer service. They expect fast response times and 24/7 support—and companies that deliver win out. Roesler (http://www.inc.com/peter-roesler/5-benefits-of-social-media-business-owners-need-to-understand.html) adds that “the fact that people use social media to ask customer service questions is reason enough for businesses to ensure their ability to help customers through social media. Customer service also goes back to establishing a brand. One of the key concerns of consumers, when they shop online, is the responsiveness of customer service. People want to be sure that if they have a problem, they can easily find help.” 

Customer engagement

Engagement on social networks boils down to social can be used to both acquire and retain customers. Social networks are more than just platforms for content creation, influencer identification, and virality.  Sharing fun things for consumers to consume and share will get your business noticed. The trend of adverts that used to be limited to magazines and TV commercial spots are now increasingly being sent out via social media, validates social media as the best way to get them seen and shared.

Brand awareness

When you have a presence on social media, you make it easier for your customers to find and connect with you. And by connecting with your customers on social, you’re more likely to increase customer retention and brand loyalty. A study by The Social Habit found that 53 percent of Americans who follow brands on social are more loyal to those brands.

Being proactive on social also means creating and controlling your online presence instead of leaving that to the people interacting with your brand. Start and steer the conversation in a way that paints your brand in a positive light. Jay Bear says that “writing blog posts, sending promotional tweets, creating and posting videos, and blog commenting” are all ways to create a dialogue on your terms, with your targets. Start and engage in organic meaningful and relevant conversations that will not only kick start relationships but help reactively nurture your current connections as well.

Lead generation

According to HubSpot, social media produces almost double the marketing leads of traditional outbound methods. Furthermore “Not only does social media help you direct people to your website, but the more social media shares you receive, the higher your search ranking will be

I don’t recommend that you aim to get social media fans to visit your website in droves by just creating a page and mindlessly posting updates. Businesses get much better results when they have two-way conversations with their audience on social media. You need to engage them not just as your buyers, but as people and help them achieve their goals by answering a question or finding a business partner for example.

Reputation management

Someone somewhere is talking about your business, service, industry sector online. It is imperative that companies listen to what people are saying so that they can respond appropriately. I see this almost daily in the client accounts that we manage. A Facebook message that posted to one of my clients’ Facebook page on Boxing Day morning illustrates my point. Their complainant posted about his unhappiness that his order of replacement water bottles had not been delivered by my client as expected. The unhappy customer had started using my clients’ services years earlier, yet here he was effectively broadcasting to the world that my client provides a poor service.  We help our digital marketing service clients to implement a reactive approach that involves listening, problem resolution and turning customers into advocates. So in this situation, we responded to by joining the conversation, acknowledging the issue and committing to investigate and resolving the issue as a matter of urgency. A phone call to our client swiftly followed the holding message to the complainant.

Our client who had been in the gym, apparently burning off the excesses of his Christmas meal. To his credit, he jumped on to Facebook and responded to the complaint publicly. In the end, the complainant accepted that he had not placed an order as he expected the usual delivery schedule to occur despite repeated messages from the business to do so by a certain date to guarantee delivery over the Christmas period. My client, taking responsibility for the problem and personally delivering water bottles to the complainant’s later that day led to a full 360-degree turnaround. In no time, the complainant had gone from posting negative comments to posting about the fantastic service that my client provides. 

I hope you see that answering a question or even dealing with negative comments is part of social interaction. Simply put, no matter what the social media strategy is, and it’s how you handle and react to these that will either help your brand become social media darlings… or sink you in the eyes of the social world.

Your customers will feel special – and even surprised – if they tweet an issue at you and you respond with a solution. The sad truth is that most people expect to be ignored or let down by companies as the norm. So if you engage with people directly, they will tell other people about that rare and positive experience.  They will become an advocate for your brand.

wow customers with customer service

The CX Socials graphic above describes the business benefits of using social networks to provide fantastic service. It shows that companies that improve their customer experience on social from average to “wow” can see 30-50% improvement in the major measures such as likelihood to repeat purchase, upsell, and recommend your product to others.”

Promoting content

Alan Coleman is correct when he says that Facebook can be a content marketer’s best friend because, for reach, relevance and amplification potential, Facebook is unrivalled. He provides these statistics to support his claim:

  • Reach:1 in 6 mobile minutes on planet earth is somebody reading something on Facebook.
  • Relevance:Facebook is a lean, mean interest and demo targeting machine. There is no online or offline media that owns as much juicy interest and demographic information on its audience, and certainly, no media has allowed advertisers to utilise this information as effectively as Facebook has.
  • Amplification: Facebook is built to encourage sharing. Here are the first ten words from their mission statement: “Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share…”, Enough said!

Indeed, as a result of these three Facebook truths, if a content marketer gets their paid promotion of blog posts right on Facebook, the battle for eyeballs and amplification is already won.

Recommendations that lead to sales

Warren Knight makes a convincing argument that 71% of consumers are likely to purchase an item based on social media recommendations.What people say on social media about your business means more than you probably realise….Truly understanding the science behind social media decision making will not only help you better understand your customer but also increase engagement, traffic and sales.

He explains the science behind social media decision making, the “social journey” as illustrated in the graphic below as follows:

social selling image

This journey that a customer will take from being a prospect to making a purchase has these identifiable steps.

Step 1: Consider – The first interaction you will have with your potential customer, and the first time they “touch” your brand online is likely to be on a social media platform like Facebook or Twitter when they ‘follow’ or ‘like’ your page. This is also where you begin to build a relationship by thanking them for following you and nurturing them through the excellent content you share.

Step 2: Evaluate – This is when your follower will look at your product or service for the very first time. They will only do so after you have established trust with them and they are now interested. The key at this stage is giving, giving, giving valuable content (downloads, resources, advice, tips, etc.) free, ideally behind an email collection gate that gives you a chance to capture their email address where they then enter into your email marketing funnel.

Knight is keen to point out that at this stage, the more you ask for, the less trust you will build. If you are offering something at a cost, make sure there is a special offer. We are all creatures of habit and the more we have to pay for something, the more anxious we get about spending our money and trust soon disappears.

Step 3: Buy – Successfully navigating the first two steps leads to the all-important ‘Buy’ stage when the person that once clicked the “follow/like” button on your social media page, now becomes a paying customer. While this is the ultimate goal when it comes to a successful marketing campaign, the work doesn’t stop there.

It is worth noting that while your customer may have found you on social media, they are most likely to make a purchase away from social media – on your website or via email – after going through the evaluate and consider stages. Your goal at this point will then change.

Step 4: Brand advocate– now you need to continue nurturing them to make them a repeat customer. Have them share their experience with you, while also becoming a brand advocate who recommends you on social media platforms to other people. This will then encourage them to purchase again, and again, while at the same time encouraging other people to connect with you and buy from you.

Knight describes what I call a social media virtuous cycle that businesses that want to use social media effectively should follow intently. This leads us nicely into how to make social media work for business, which we will now analyse in detail.

Making social media marketing work for business

Here we are going to shine the spotlight on how businesses can get maximum benefits from social media marketing. Getting the results you desire starts with having the right mindset when it comes to using social media for your business, so let’s jump right in!

  1. Social media is not ‘free’. It’s and investment

Social media costs

Evans is not correct when he suggests that social media marketing is free. I know that everywhere you look online, there are marketers, experts and more telling you that you can do social media marketing with little or no budget. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, social media marketing that gets a business return on their marketing investments (ROI) should be seen as an investment in your business, just like you invest in technology, facilities and people to make your business work.

To be honest, I accept that we live in an age where ‘experts’ preach that business owners can do their marketing themselves, even though they are not skilled at it. If you can learn fast and have the time to dedicate to marketing, then I will not try to put you off. I would highlight, however, that anything in life is a trade-off between time and value. In other words, I could watch a zillion Youtube videos and read through many manuals the next time my beloved car breaks down to avoid mechanic costs. Is that the best use of my day when I can just take it to a mechanic and get my car back on the same day for expert attention?

Many small business owners waste a tonne of money on Do It Yourself (DIY) marketing. I firmly believe in DDIY (Don’t Do It Yourself) marketing if you want to use your tight budget wisely and have a chance of getting the best results. That way you can spend your time doing what you do best – running your business!

One proof that social media marketing is not free is that you can’t rely on kids, volunteers or just anybody to manage your business’ social network pages. The saying that ‘you get what you pay for’ is so true in digital marketing that you don’t want to be spendthrift with your business’ marketing! Your social presence is a window to the world, it is one of the first things many people see about your business, so if you get wrong like many large enterprises who have gaffed on social networks, there is no turning back. Your business could be irreparably damaged!

Your social network managers need to be skilled at using whatever social network (s) you are on.  They should be good communicators, have excellent customer service knowledge and skills, have good skills to build relationships with potential clients and partners. The person also needs to be able to understand and analyse social media analytics so that they can identify what is working or not and why, as well as identify how to optimise the platform for the business’ objectives, etc.

If your business is present on several social networks, your team will need resources and technology like Hootsuite and Postplanner to make their tasks manageable. 

Let us be clear: your social media team cannot rely on learning ad hoc from free blogs and podcasts. They will need to be trained and managed, both of which come at a cost, which should be seen as an investment in the business. The other option for managing social media pages is outsourcing the function to outside specialists, which also comes at a significant cost.

Social media marketing should be part of your marketing arsenal. Use it together with other appropriate marketing methods if you want to reach as many potential customers as possible. However, you should be realistic and clear about the goals your social media presence can achieve for your business. 

Doing social media marketing

People come to us with many questions about the actual nuts and bolts of doing social media marketing. We have had to get used to questions like ‘how often should we post? ‘what should I post? How do I measure if social media is working? And more.

In no particular order, here are strategies to get the most from social media marketing for your business.

  1. Be on the network for your target audience 

We always get asked which social platform is right for a business? The fact is different platforms have their demographic audience and uses. LinkedIn offers opportunities for connecting with your next potential career opportunity, while Snapchat’s time-limited video content appeals mainly to a younger demographic of social media users.  The best strategy is to identify the social network (s) that your target customers are using, and then focus your resources on these social networks.

  1. Connect with your target clients

You can find them by search functions of most social media platforms, then Follow/like/invite them to connect with you. There is much to gain by building your followers organically one at a time because quality over quantity is always the best motto to grow your fan base. Organic growth allows you to reach out to people who are likely to be interested in your products and services and interact with each one of them individually when they engage with your business on social media. Use direct messaging to have genuine conversations. Follow up fans who connect (Follow and like) with your social media channels with an introduction so that they know that they know what your business does and the products and services you provide.

  1. Set realistic and achievable goals from social media.

We would all love to have masses of people who see our post on social media rushing to place orders for our products and service. The truth is that unless you are a household name or sell relatively low-cost products, this fantasy rarely becomes a reality, if only because you have to take the time to build trust with people who may not know your business or brand. People are likely to buy when they get to know you.

Social media should be seen as a vital tool in the process of attracting, engaging and building trust. These are some of the common goals for business using social media:

  • Create brand awareness
  • Build relationship and trust over time
  • Learn potential customers’ interests and needs
  • Promote products and services
  • Use product recommendations
  1. Use video

A Video is by far THE way to build connections with your target audience on social media. Unlike text on a screen, which can often fall flat, a video gets your face and voice out to your audience. It creates the illusion of a more personal connection and conversation, and also builds trust by allowing people to see exactly who’s behind your company.

  1. Engage to get engagement

Social media is all about engaging with people. Regardless of the how big or small your business is, most of us live for that warm feeling we get when we feel appreciated and liked. Companies should not underestimate their power to make their target audience feel the love when they follow people. Companies generate the same feelings when they like, comment, and share posts.

The increasing use of automation tools is one of my pet hates about social media these days because they circumvent social interaction. It may sound  dramatic, however, I fear that the tools that auto-follow, auto-like, auto-share, etc. could ultimately lead to the death of social media platforms particularly if more and more lazy businesses adopt tools like this that openly brag about cheating social networking by mimicking human interaction:

“RoboLike is an automated tool that favourites tweets and likes Instagram photos on your behalf. It drives likes, comments, and followers to your accounts.” RoboLike.com

Avoid automation tools like this because they will not help to build relationships on social media with people who could potentially become customers!

  1. Post mix of content using the 80: 20 rule

Have genuine conversations and don’t just try to sell all of the time.  As Carolyn Edgecombe explains “80% of your posts should be adding value and brand building, in other words, not promoting your product or service, but helping. The remaining 20% of your posts, however, can be self-serving, endorsing goods and upcoming events. As a brand, you should share news and ideas, even if they aren’t yours. The idea is to educate, inform, and delight.”

  1. Measure social marketing results

As with any digital marketing activity, it is prudent to measure what is working and what is not against the objectives set for the campaign at the onset. Too many businesses default to evaluating their social media campaigns using useless vanity metrics like impressions, shares and likes – while these numbers can indicate progress towards goals, they are not ends in themselves and are not evidence of return on investment. The goals of social media marketing can’t be just to gain likes, fans, and retweets. Social media marketing is far more than an online popularity contest.

Jay Bear describes the reality of businesses evaluating social media as follows:  “Even though divining social media ROI is 100% possible, it does require some effort to calculate… The truth is that many companies don’t have the resources, inclination, or expertise to calculate actual ROI… many companies believe in their bones that social media works, but aren’t sure precisely how, or where, or in what fashion.

8. Professional marketing

It is easy to assume that young people are naturally gifted in doing social media marketing because their generation has grown up with the technology. Another common mistake businesses make is deciding to do social media marketing in-house, despite not having the expertise or time to manage their social presence consistently and regularly. I hope you can see from the challenges of making social media marketing work for a business that social networks are serious business that you should approach as such to reap the massive opportunities and benefits on offer. To this end, social media marketing requires skilled staff to design/post content and respond to visitors/fans, analyse reporting data, identify and make improvements, build relationships with other businesses and provide excellent customer service.

Businesses are unlikely to reach their goals of reaching the maximum number of their target audience using social media alone. So it is necessary to adopt a comprehensive digital marketing strategy of which social media marketing is just one of the components. Let’s conclude with the principal elements of an effective digital marketing plan for business.

Better marketing options

Digital marketing strategy outline

Here’s a quick guide to getting maximum marketing results from your digital marketing spend.

  1. Invest in your website

The one component of any business’ digital marketing that is none negotiable is having a website. Your website is by far the most valuable digital asset every company must invest in is a website. It is the only online land that you own and can do as you wish. Businesses that build on third party platforms like social media, trading portals like Amazon & Ebay, or content publishing platforms like Medium & WordPress take the risks that their online presence if the platform changes how it operates. Many have eulogised about the hundreds and thousands of business success stories that started with their decision to make a website including these by Waqas Masood:

  • Your prospects prefer to visit you instead of cold-calling them.  A business makes a difference with inbound marketing. Whatever your purpose is: starting your business, writing your blogs, selling your products/services, landing on your dream job…, your website is instrumental to achieving your goals
  • The website is the first sight at love your audience falls for. It’s a matter of impression to your audience with robust engagement that attracts, converts, closes and delights them.

To get maximum return on your website investment, you have to value every single visitor. The task for businesses is to keep website visitors engaged with every web page and easy-to-navigate menus. It is not uncommon to find all-singing and dancing websites that produce disappointing results, so “Take note that having a website is all well and good, but it’s useless if it doesn’t convert visitors into customers” 

2. Develop a marketing strategy

Taking the time and effort to develop a digital marketing strategy for your business is always a good place to start to understand the inbound and outbound digital marketing options that may be right for your business  – this that will give you the highest return on your invest.

The key is to develop a marketing funnel that uses a mix of different online and offline marketing techniques to achieve your business objectives.

  1. Mobile-first

The rise of the mobile market is the biggest change in the digital marketplace since the Web came into being. Mobile is now the primary way people access the Internet, and it is likely that your target audience will first encounter your business on their mobile device. This means that to give them the best experience of your brand, you must optimise for mobile. The elements in doing so straddle all of your activities from ensuring your website is mobile-friendly to creating content for mobile users and optimising adverts for mobile devices.

An added benefit of having a website that works well on mobile devices is higher rankings on mobile search results, instead of been penalised with downgraded rankings for having a website that is not mobile-friendly. You can find out if your website is mobile friendly using Google’s free analysis tool.

4. Create content/resources

Creating new content and useful resources get visitors and people who are interested in your business coming back to your website and sharing your content. Did I mention that creating search engines (think Google here) love useful content too and will reward you with higher search rankings and greater visibility?

Having started my digital marketing career more than twenty years ago selling advice guides for one of the first UK online companies that subsequently perished in the dot.com crash, I fully understand that giving content for free is a strategy for all businesses who want to build a customer base online. Providing useful content for free helps in social media marketing because it facilitates inbound marketing that allows businesses to drive fans from social media via posts for a start. Free valuable content allows businesses to ‘gate’ content for which fans/visitors have to give their email address to get access, thereby facilitating building an email database of interested people who you can nurture (market to) until they are ready to buy.  

5. Advertise on social media

Depending on your objectives, businesses should build in ways to reach as many of their target audience as possible. In light of the information we covered earlier, regarding the restriction of organic posts, even to fans and followers, it makes sense to build advertising on social media into your marketing mix. Another reason it makes sense to advertise on social networks is the fact that social media adverts are ideal for reaching people who are not necessarily looking for your products or service, or they do not know about how your business can help them to satisfy a need. In this case, an unexpected encounter of your advert on one’s timeline or social media page could be the trigger to recognise the need and take action.

6. Advertise on Google and Bing

As I have explained in point #5 above, social media adverts are excellent for tapping into unknown or unrecognised needs. In contrast, people who are actively looking for a product or service tend to head for the major search engines Like Google or Bing. While Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the preferred method to appear on the first hallowed page of search results, the reality is that it can take years to get there. The difficulty of first page rankings is made increasingly difficult by the ever reducing number of organic listings on first page results and the domination of the first page results by large companies, including directories. The unfortunate consequence is that for most businesses, advertising on Google and Bing gives the best chance to be on the first page of results.  

7. Follow up with email marketing

Many businesses are surprised when visitors to their website do not immediately get their debit or credit cards out to make a purchase. However, such disappointment suggests a lack of understanding of human nature more than the failure of digital marketing. Put simply, most of us are rarely ready to buy the first time we encounter a business. We typically do our research first to convince before deciding to buy at a later date. Businesses have a unique opportunity to collect visitor’s email address and then send them emails to build the relationship and hopefully convince them to buy when the time is right.  Thus email marketing is a better option to get genuine engagement with people who are interested in your business.

We make money when we send email – that’s just a fact 

Your website is the best place to capture email addresses because visitors have actively chosen to give you their email address in expectation that you will send them emails. Providing valuable ‘gated’ content and resources that can only be accessed after subscribing provides an incentive to give our details to a business. Furthermore, affordable automated email capture tools like OptinMonster make this task that has previously been notoriously difficult, a lot easier and more accessible for all businesses today.

8. Measure results

By measuring the performance of your marketing campaigns, you could save yourself money, while at the same time increasing your returns by focusing on the techniques and content that resonates with you ideal customers.

The first thing you want to do is establish your baseline. Without something to measure against, you’re measuring for nothing. Analytics software like Google Analytics helps to take stock of your total number of visitors on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Focus on your peaks and troughs and try to analyse the correlation between visitors and customer spend.

While it is tempting to concentrate on the number of visitors from social media and any other sources, I wouldn’t advise using this as your benchmark because that’s a ‘vanity metric‘. As the name suggests, it may look good and make you feel better. However, it is not informative about outcomes. For example, if you only have 50 visitors a day but 10 of those 50 order through your site, that’s better than having 1000 visitors a day where only 25 customers buy something. At this stage, we’re looking for conversions, not hits.

Just make sure you keep on testing and measuring your results as you go along.

9. Optimise

The whole point of measuring marketing performance is to establish what is working and what is not. Understanding why something is getting the right results or failing to get results requires careful analysis to determine changes that could be required to help you get the results you desire. It follows that businesses should make the necessary changes to their marketing campaigns based on data to improve performance and results. This may mean taking tough decisions about which campaigns to turn off (those that are not working) and which to do more (the top performers).

Moving forward

There can be no doubt that marketing is an essential fuel to boost any business that wants to reach it’s target customers, sell to them and make good profits. Relying on any one marketing technique is the route to disaster because no one way is guaranteed to reach 100% of your target audience. Social media should be part of a mix of marketing techniques to achieve business objectives. The reality is that while social media marketing offers enormous opportunities to improve your brand identity, reach new customers, and communicate with potential customers, businesses must do social media the right way. Your business’ marketing is therefore too important to leave to amateurs, young people or volunteers who may not have the necessary business acumen and commercialization expertise to design and implement effective campaigns.

As with any marketing effort, it’s imperative that you test, revise, and repeat your activities as necessary until you get the results that show you what works and does not work for your business. “You also need to be willing to throw out anything that you’re doing that simply is not working and head back to the drawing board”. This strategy of continuous improvement does not only apply to social media marketing; it should underpin all of your marketing campaigns, both online and offline.

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smallbiz-emarketing provides expert market research, marketing on all digital platforms and offline advertising consultancy specifically for small businesses and start-ups for whom money is tight. Check out our Services page to see how our digital marketing services can help your business to get more customers and sell more, faster. Why not sign up for our newsletter using the simple form in the footer? You can also follow us on social networks. Finally, we’d love for you to share this post with your network using the share buttons below.

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We hope you have enjoyed the 4M Business Foundation Series. We would love to have your feedback about each, some or all of the posts in the series. We’d love to have your feedback and suggestions about this post including which other key elements that have brought success to your business. Please leave your comments in the Comments Section below.

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