It all starts with an idea — something that’s unique to you. Maybe you’re a photographer. An artist. A designer. A writer. A makeup artist. These distinctions don’t matter when it comes to the actual business side of things. What matters is that you’re a creator. You’ve created something special, and now you want to share it with the world.
While the creative process is something you often do by yourself, behind closed doors, the business and marketing process is the exact opposite. This is a process that requires you to open your door and to knock on other people’s doors in your quest to get your product or service noticed. In most cases today, those doors are digital, not physical.
Why is it so important to market yourself online? It’s simple. Imagine that you’re looking for a particular product, service or type of business. Where would you look? You might ask a friend. You might remember a physical location that you drive past every day. But for most of us, the overwhelming answer would be that we search online. Google now handles 3.5 billion searches a day, on average. More and more people are turning to the Internet for products and solutions, meaning if you want to reach your audience, this is where you need to be. This process of getting yourself online is known as online marketing.
What does this process like? It’s different for everyone, based on their individual needs, but there are a few basic principles that stay the same for everyone, no matter what your business is selling. Today, we want to walk you through the basics of a small business digital marketing strategy. Because your product is too amazing to keep hidden away from the world.
How to Get Started With Your Online Presence
The first step to building a robust online presence is to understand all the different components that go into creating this presence. It isn’t enough to have an active email address, and it’s no longer acceptable to have a basic website. Before you can begin to integrate these pieces into one large, multi-celled organism, however, it’s important to understand what they are and how they can work for you.
Your Website — The Headquarters of Your Online Presence
Your website should be the first part of your online presence that you build. If things like your email blasts, social media accounts, blogs and more can be thought of like spokes on a wheel, then your website is the hub, and all these other arms of your online presence lead back to this central source. This is likely the first place your audience will encounter you, so it’s essential that your website is visually appealing, easy to navigate and tells a clear story about who you are and what you have to offer.
Let’s talk specifics. A few major elements that will help contribute to your website’s success include:
What makes a good business website? We would argue that the most critical element of your website and the thing that most people will come to your site looking for is the content.
This includes things like basic information about you, the company and your product or service. Your audience and customers want to know who you are. They want to know what your story is, why you’re doing what you’re doing and what they can gain from your product or services. They’re looking for what separates you from your competitors, and if you want to put up a quality website, you need to fill it with content that tells them these things.
From the moment a curious customer clicks on your site and reads a few lines on the landing page, they should have at least an idea of the kind of company you are. If they have to dig through multiple pages before they understand what you’re about, then you’re doing it wrong. Here are just a few of the places to put content on your website:
- The Home Page: Think headlines and a few descriptive sentences. No need to get too in-depth here, but make sure the customer knows why you’re here.
- The About Page: This is where you can go into some more detail. Talk a bit about how you founded your business, what inspired you and how you hope to change the world. You probably don’t need to start with how you’ve loved art since kindergarten, but you should tell a compelling story about your business and your products or services.
- Descriptive Pages: Whatever service or product you’re selling, these are the pages where you’ll write about it in detail. Tell your customers what they’ll get for their money. Be specific. Highlight the details. Talk your products up and leave your customers feeling like this is something exciting they want to try for themselves. Be clear, informative and honest.
- Blog: A blog isn’t 100 percent necessary, but it’s a terrific idea. This is where you might write short posts about news from the industry, recent developments, frequently-asked-questions and more. If you do decide on a blog, try to update it regularly with fresh content that will be of interest to your target audience.
If content is the most critical part of your website, then design is a very close second. After all, you might have the best content in the world, but if your design is a mess, then no one will stay on your site long enough to read it.
When it comes to designing a website that works for both you and your customers, think about clarity, simplicity and logic. Make sure any tabs or pages are clearly visible and logically labeled. The customer shouldn’t have to dig through five layers of pages to find the FAQ section or your latest product. Use simple fonts, break up large blocks of texts and, above all, strive for readability.
While it may be tempting to go for the flashiest design, try to stick to the plain design that is eye-catching through its very simplicity. Don’t go over-the-top with crazy graphics, gimmicks or auto-playing videos. If your customer is in any way frustrated or annoyed by your website, it is all too easy for them to click away and find a competitor.
Just as great content is worth nothing without a design that works, so too are both of these things worth nothing if no one can find your website in the first place. If your website is all the way back on the eighth page of the Google results, the odds of it being found are slim. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the key to getting your website higher in the search results and is the art of improving your website’s search engine ranking.
Focusing on SEO means doing things like creating content specific to your local area that people may be searching for. It means writing specific content that fills a knowledge gap and using keywords that people may be searching for. Most importantly, it means creating a trustworthy, factual and knowledgeable site that Google deems worthy of a high ranking.
Tools to Improve Your Website
Get your website polished and ready for the world with these handy tools:
- WordPress: This tried-and-true free template provider can help anyone build their first website.
- Withoomp: Looking for the perfect company logo for your site? This low-cost service offers just that.
- SEO Site Checkup: This service will diagnose your site’s SEO problems for free.
- Stock Up: A website without images is boring. Spice up yours with free stock images from Stock Up.
- Grammarly: Banish typos, grammar and punctuation errors alike with Grammarly’s intuitive spelling-and-grammar checker.
Your Email — Going Door-to-Door
While building a website is something you may never have done before, it’s likely that you have plenty of experience with email, even if that experience is on a personal level. Think of your email as your primary means of formal communication with your customer and client base. Whereas in earlier times, you might have done this in the form of letters, pamphlets, flyers and magazines mailed straight to a customer’s door, you can now do all this online.
Email marketing is such an essential part of any modern and media-savvy business that it brings in more customers as any other marketing technique, including social media and snail mail. With this in mind, let’s talk about a few of the crucial elements that can differentiate between a company email that brings in business, and one that does nothing but drive it away. Check out these email marketing tips to help make your emails the best they can be.
1. Subject Line
Your clients’ inboxes are full of junk mail. From old services they never unsubscribed from to coupons, promotions, work and personal emails, it’s a lot for anyone to wade through. The last thing you want is for your email to get lost in that shuffle. Make your email stand out from the crowd by giving it a unique and compelling subject line that makes the customer want to click on it.
Research shows that clients are more likely to open an email if they see their own name in the subject line, meaning that personalization is an important feature of email marketing. In addition to this personalization, think of your subject line as your headline. If you’re scrolling through a news site and see a headline that doesn’t interest you, the odds of you clicking the link to read the story are slim to none. Follow this same principle with your emails, and use your subject line to entice clients. Are you offering a sale? Launching a new product? Lead with that.
2. Email List
The idea of who you are emailing is just as important, if not more important, then what your emails are saying. After all, you can email all the people in the world, but if they aren’t in the market for your particular product or service, then it won’t do any good. Instead, focus your efforts on those individuals who you know will have an interest in what you’re offering. You can do this by carefully cultivating your email list.
The idea of an email list is that these are people who will be interested to hear from you. The best way to build this list by collecting information from the people who visit your website or who buy your services. Use this data to grow your list and begin putting together your list of potential leads who you can carefully nurture on their journey to becoming customers.
3. Delivery Time
Delivery time isn’t something we often think about when we send personal or even work emails, but if you’re going to run a successful business, then this is something you’ll need to consider. Sending your email at one time of day as opposed to another can mean the difference between a message that gets opened and one that gets lost in the shuffle.
On average, your best bet is to send emails either early in the morning so people will catch them as they check their email for the first time that day or late at night so customers will see them when they check their mail before bed. Emails sent during the mid-day are far more likely to go unopened.
Tools to Improve Your Email Marketing
Make sure your emails are compelling, clear and concise with the help of resources like these:
- Email Templates: Use these handy templates, and let someone else do the work of laying out your email for you.
- Email Writing Guide: Looking for more in-depth information on how to write the perfect email? This is the guide for you.
- Email Writing Infographic: Staying out of the spam folder is easy when you follow these guidelines.
Social Media — Getting Coffee With Your Customers
Your website is the online equivalent of a brick-and-mortar store or office. It’s your home base, and the first place someone should visit to learn more about you. Marketing emails could then be compared to the process of going door-to-door with pamphlets or sending official snail mail.
If these comparisons are true, then social media might best be compared to the experience of getting coffee with current and potential customers. They likely wouldn’t be there if they didn’t have some interest in you, so you aren’t complete strangers to each other. Additionally, this isn’t a formal meeting, like a press conference or a business presentation. It’s just a group of people hanging out together in a less formal space.
Social media is a crucial part of any marketing strategy for creatives. This is where your audience “hangs out,” and if you want to convert them to clients and customers, then you need to be there are well. If you’re looking to succeed on social media, here are some of the elements you’ll need to consider.
1. Which Networks Should I Be On?
The short answer? All of the major ones. There are so many social networks these days, and some of the minor or niche ones are not necessary to succeed in marketing. However, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all must-haves if you want to reach your potential clients. Other places to consider include LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, Pinterest and Tumblr.
One of the best ways to think about which networks you should join is to consider what type of business you are running. If your business lends itself well to DIY projects and tutorials, YouTube might be the place for you. For highly visual crafts, Pinterest is probably a good option. In this way, let your industry lead the way and guide you towards spaces that will be relevant for you.
2. What Content Should I Be Posting?
The type of content you’ll post will be unique to each social media channel. Facebook lends itself well to slightly longer posts, while Twitter favors short comments. Instagram is for photos with short captions, YouTube is for videos, and so on. You’ll need to tailor your content specifically for each platform.
However, one of the biggest guidelines for your content, which is true across any social media platform, is that you want it to be highly shareable. Post links to blog posts and articles. Ask your followers questions. As much as possible, try to keep things short and concise. Strive for a human and relatable voice, and your followers will feel a greater connection to you. This, in turn, will lead to them building a fonder and more positive perception of your brand.
Tools to Improve Your Social Media Presence
Up your social media game with these handy tools and resources:
- Social Media Courses: What better way to learn about social media than with complete courses on Lynda.com?
- TED Talks: There are plenty of great TED Talks out there about how to make social media work for you.
- The Best Times to Post: This SlideShare can tell you the best time to post on each major social network.
- Social Media Marketing Podcast: Learn about the finer points of social media marketing while commuting every morning.
Launch Your Online Marketing Initiative Today
With the digital world plunging full-steam ahead and not showing signs of stopping anytime soon, there’s no time to lose. Commit to launching your online presence today. While you may not see the results immediately, this is a commitment that will repay your efforts over time through increased brand awareness, higher traffic and ultimately higher sales numbers.
While you’re focusing on your online marketing, however, it’s important not to forget the crucial business-side of your company. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all that needs to get done and wondering how you can do it all at once, then Táve is here to help. This business management software is perfect for creative professionals like you and frees your hands from mundane tasks to let you focus on building your online presence. Sign up for your free trial today to experience how Táve can help your growing business.