“Selling” is not a dirty word. In Ireland we don’t like the “hard sell” and are understandably put off by it unlike in other parts of the world, most notably in the United States. However I was recently forced to consider the attitude of some Irish people to the notion of selling generally.
However I was recently given a back handed compliment in relation to something I had written. The commenter stated that what I had written was an excellent piece and agreed generally with what I had to say but that my piece descended into an ill disguised sales pitch or something similar. As if a sales pitch or selling was somehow to be frowned upon.
I sell stuff. I sell myself. I have no apology to make in this regard.
Come to think of it we all sell at one time or another.
The solicitor or barrister seeks to persuade the Judge or jury that his client’s version of events is more credible than the other sides. We as children sought to persuade our parents that going to a disco or club was a good idea. (Our children do it to us now.)
Fundraisers solicit donations on behalf of their charities and seek to persuade us that making a donation is a better use of our money than the many alternatives. Employees seek to persuade their employer that they are worthy of a pay rise or promotion. Organised religions seek to persuade that their interpretation of the bible, Qoran or tradition is worthy of support and more credible than not believing. Politicians sell us their persona and policies (until they are discarded post election).
Selling is persuasion, attempting to move or persuade somebody that our point of view or product or service is worthy of their consideration or time or money.
Marketing is “ill disguised” selling. You can find many definitions of what marketing is but ultimately it comes down to selling or persuasion-be it our brand, our company, our products, our services, our image.
If your marketing is not selling (in a narrow or broad sense) you are wasting your time and resources.
What do you think? (you can let rip in the box below)
Not too long ago, if you wanted a website for your business you needed to hire a web designer or computer programmer. Nowadays there is a plethora of free and paid platforms to easily communicate with your potential market.
And communicating with your potential market should be the goal of your digital marketing efforts.
NOTE: even though some of the sites in the list that follows can be described as “blogging” platforms most of them, with a little thought, can be used to build a website that does not look like a blog.
This is the most popular platform and is free. Your WordPress site will be hosted, for free, on WordPress.com and will have a url like http://webdesignirelandhq.wordpress.com/
Using the free WordPress software to publish your own site on your own hosting account is one of the most popular ways to go. You choose your own domain name and simply publish what you want when you want. Web Design Dublin is an example of using WordPress.org.
Blogger is a publishing platform owned by Google. Similarly to WordPress.com you will end up with a site with a url like this: http://businessonlineireland.blogspot.ie/
Posterous also allows you to create your own website. Here is an example: http://web-design-dublin.posterous.com/
One of the most famous users of Typepad is Seth Godin, a true internet marketing genius.
His blog/site is well worth signing up for and you can find it here: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/
(This blog/website is a page rank 7-to put this in context the Irish Independent and RTE websites are also page rank 7)
All of the above sites allow you to quickly and easily, with little or no tech skills, communicate your message to a potentially gargantuan audience.
This should be the goal of your internet/digital marketing investment-come to think of it shouldn’t this be the goal of all your marketing efforts?
I was watching the Six One news during the week and the top story was the commencement of the war crimes trial of Ratko Mladic who is accused of committing war crimes in the former Yugoslavia.
The lead prosecutor at this international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has an unusual and recognisable (to me) surname as it is my mother’s surname. So after the news I Googled the prosecutor’s name and buried on page 4 or 5 I found an email address for him.
I sent him an email and within hours received a reply from him confirming that yes, indeed, his father and my mother are first cousins.
Fast forward to this morning and as I write this I have just heard an account on the radio of how Colm O’Regan, an Irish comedian, lost his iPhone in a shopping centre car park. The finder of his phone brought it home, connected it to her computer, found O’Regan’s name as the owner, Googled his name and sent him a message on Facebook to say she had his phone.
The Connection Machine
Both of these incidents demonstrate the power of the internet to allow people and businesses to connect.
The greatest internet marketing I have learned is that the internet is one, very big connection machine.
Facebook, Twitter, Google search, search engine optimisation, LinkedIn, Pinterest, websites, blogs, social media etc. are all just different ways to connect.
Because the power of the internet when trying to market your business on the internet is the power it gives you to connect with your potential customers and audience.
If promoting your business on the internet threatens to be an overwhelming and confusing prospect always remember that the internet is just one, big connection machine.
If you are one of the small business owners who “get it”-who understands the potential power of the internet to market your small business-but are unsure where to start Web Design Dublin have good news for you.
Consider this: internet marketing and exploiting the power of the internet to promote your business requires a couple of things.
Firstly, you need to understand how to do this in the most cost effective way for your business.
Secondly, you need the time and resources.
Getting your head around search engine marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimisation, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email marketing, brand building, conversions, targeted traffic generation, long tail keywords, basic copywriting and many of the other necessary terms in this space can be confusing.
In fact it may not be cost effective for you to do so-it may make more sense for you to concentrate on running your business and hire someone to look after your online marketing.
Employing someone in your company on a full time basis to act as an online marketing or web content manager has two major potential problems:
Employing an extra person has considerable cost implications for your business with the full range of employment legislation, taxes, holiday pay, working conditions to be considered.
Ensuring that you have the right person who can make a significant difference to your online marketing efforts can also be problematic and measuring results and outcomes may only give you some of the picture to judge how effective your ongoing overhead actually is.
There is an alternative to hiring directly though.
Outsourcing Internet Marketing
Outsourcing your internet marketing can provide a smarter, more cost effective solution.
Your costs should be considerably less than employing someone directly with no concerns about issues like holiday pay, constructive dismissal, unfair dismissal, and the other problems associated with direct employment.
The requirement for the necessary expertise can be ascertained by shopping around and discussing your requirements and requesting proposals from potential providers and satisfying yourself that your potential provider does indeed know what he/she is about.
This can then be tied into verifiable goals and metrics agreed in advance with your internet marketing consultant/provider. Issues such as PAYE/PRSI, unfair dismissal will not concern you.
The psychology of persuasion has been exercised in all types of arenas from prisoner of war camps to quasi religious cults to the science of selling and the marketplace.
Since time immemorial there have been a number of fundamentals of influence that have worked, and continue to work, to persuade others of our point of view.
These seven principles applied in the area of small business and attempting to influence people to buy our products and services work as well today as they have down through the centuries.
A thirty five year study based on clinical research and evidence by Dr. Robert Cialdini, an American professor of both marketing and psychology, identified seven principles of persuasion which can easily be put to work in your business, both online and offline.
These principles are
1. Self interest-the consumer or potential customer wants to get the maximum for the least cost;
2. Consistency-we are greatly influenced by people and businesses who are consistent, not those who change their message or opinion at the drop of a hat;
3. Reciprocation-this refers to the sense of obligation most people feel when somebody does something or gives something for free which creates a tremendous sense of obligation in the recipient;
4. Social proof-we are hugely influenced by what others have bought and approve of which explains the enormous amounts of money that celebrities and sports stars can earn from endorsing products, services and businesses;
5. Authority-we are influenced by people and businesses in positions of authority and pay greater attention to so called experts, academics and people who can demonstrate authority than we might to the person working in our local supermarket;
6. Liking-liking is a tremendous and underrated source of influence. Are you more likely to be influenced by someone you like or someone you dislike or don’t know?
7. Scarcity-the power of scarcity is clearly demonstrated at sales time in shops and stores or when great works of art are auctioned. This same principle is a very powerful source of persuasion in any business regardless of whether you are selling your goods and services online or on the high street.
A good business website will have most or all of these fundamental principles of persuasion at work on behalf of the business.
The absence of these principles when you take your business online is a common mistake as many small business owners think that doing business on the internet is somehow different.
Yes, it is different but not as different as you might think.
Because the internet is only the medium through which you transmit your message and offer-the fundamental principles of persuasion outlined above stay the same.
If your website does not tap into these weapons of influence you are missing a great opportunity to sell more of your goods and services and acquire new clients and customers for your business.
There are a multitude of reasons why many websites of small businesses are not working. Here are the top 5:
There are two aspects to this cause of website failure-one is insufficient content or information on the site. You simply cannot rank well for search phrases or topics that do not appear in your website’s content.
The second element is a failure to optimise what content is there for the search engines to ensure the best chance of ranking well. This is on page search engine optimisation which is a fancy way of describing some basic rules for presenting your content well for the search engines to help with good rankings.
2. Poor or nonexistent call to action
Lots of sites make it hard for visitors to make contact or make an enquiry or provide limited options to do so.
Some people are happier emailing for more information, some people like to pick up the telephone-you need to make it incredibly easy for your visitors to contact you in whatever form they like and respond quickly to their question.
3. Failure to promote your site effectively
Unfortunately the notion of “build it and they will come” will not work-you need to promote your content and your site.
And promoting it does not amount to exhorting people to “check out my latest blog”-you need a little more imagination than that.
You need to give people a reason to read what you have written and published and answer the question of “what’s in it for me” which the reader is asking. There are far too many competing distractions on the internet for a boring, bland request to “check out my latest blog” to have any real effectiveness.
4. Cluttered and busy site design
Many sites are simply too crowded and cluttered to ensure effective outcomes from visitors-you should have one or two preferred actions that you want your website traffic to take. And you then need to make it incredibly simple and glaringly obvious to the visitor as to what they need to do next.
5. Content-failing to cater for what people are actually searching for
Yes, back to content again.
Because website content is the single biggest problem for most small business websites and this aspect of the problem is the failure to target the specific words and phrases that people in your market are actually searching for.
This failure is inexcusable if you are keen to increase your search engine traffic because this data is
- Provided to you by Google and
- Free. (See the Google keyword tool)
The Google Keyword tool gives you priceless data as to what people are searching for in any market and it doesn’t cost a cent. Failing to use this data and build your site around what people in your market are actually searching for is a huge mistake.
Because if you are not doing it you can be sure that some of your competitors are and in the process are catering for the needs and problems of searchers in your industry.
97% of consumers search online for local businesses (source: Google). This is a stunning statistic and demonstrates clearly how people nowadays look for information and seeks solutions to problems online.
The days of the phone book and Yellow Pages or Golden Pages being the first port of call for consumers looking for contact details for local or national businesses are well and truly over.
Perhaps the phone book will endure, perhaps not.
But if you fast forward ten, fifteen, twenty years you will have increasing numbers of people heading into middle age and beyond who know of nothing else but “Googling” for information, sharing photos and major events in their lives on Facebook, commenting on the latest news and controversy on Twitter and perhaps searching for a job on LinkedIn.
Gavin O’Reilly was ousted from Independent Newspapers this week and one of the principal criticisms (leaving aside the personal animus between personalities) was that he really didn’t have a sufficiently well thought out strategy for “online”.
“Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?” (Bob Dylan, Ballad of a Thin Man, Highway 61 Revisited)
Rupert Murdoch is attempting to put the genie back into the bottle by introducing more paid for access to the content on his newspapers. Whether he is successful or not remains to be seen but my money is on this strategy being a massive mistake.
Regardless of whether you consider this inexorable sea change as a good or bad thing, if you are a small business owner you should be concerned with only one thing-getting your business, your offer in front of as many interested eye balls as possible.
Consider this: when the 97% of consumers who search online for local businesses are searching where do you think they look?
Where would you look?
The Google search engine? (My money is on this one)
The New Paradigm
All of the above indicates a new paradigm in how people obtain information, how they find “stuff”.
It would be a mistake though to think that selling your business, your products and services requires a complete departure from a fundamental principle of doing business since God was a boy.
Doing Business Online
The key to doing business online is to get your stuff in front of interested eyeballs. In the same way that footfall is the key to retailing in the “real world”, traffic/visitors are the online equivalent of footfall.
It is a different venue but the principle is the same. If you get your offer in front of enough interested visitors you will do business.
The corollary is also true though..
Without traffic to your website it is a useless adornment to your business.
Think electronic tumbleweed blowing across your site.
And a waste of electrons.
And they are free.
Cherchez La Femme
Alexandre Dumas coined the phrase “cherchez la femme”. It means look for the woman implying that in every case of inexplicable or irrational behaviour by man a woman was the root cause.
Other pulp fiction novels will tell you to “follow the money” implying that if you find who is to gain most by the crime committed then you have found your culprit.
Keep this at the forefront of your mind when you are deciding on how best your small business can benefit from internet marketing and getting your business in front of the 97% of consumers who search online for local businesses.
The vast majority of small business websites are not contributing enough to the bottom line of the business. The reasons for this are many and the free report which you can download below identifies 7 such common mistakes.
Return on investment
It is worthwhile though to consider why you should care and whether a real return on your investment is possible. So let’s take a look at some of the numbers and get a handle on what is possible..
Lifetime value of customer/client
Regardless of what your trade, profession or industry is you need to consider the lifetime value of a new customer or client. Clearly this will vary widely from business to business but the value over a lifetime together with the possible referral business from good service and a happy customer can be enormous.
If you consider that you can get a good website up and running for your business for as little as €300 it is not hard to see that the lifetime value of just one new customer or client will see a massive exponential return on your initial investment.
Search engine marketing
When someone finds your website in the search engine results pages (serps) as a result of typing something into a search box it is a pretty powerful raising of the hand by that searcher.
Yes, he/she may be carrying out research but generally when someone takes the time to type a specific search phrase into the search box on their computer you can be sure they are looking for something. These searchers are targeted searchers and potentially hot leads for your business.
Contrast this searcher with someone liking your Facebook page because you
1) Went to school with them
2) Asked them to like your page.
There is simply no contest.
Even the smallest business nowadays is expected to have a website-it is a given. The potential new customer/client for your business may well ask themselves how professional you really are if you have not bothered to put up a website for your business, even the most basic and rudimentary site with your basic business details.
Internet marketing mistakes
Regardless of whether you have an existing site or you are thinking that now might be a good time to think about having one the report below will give seven common mistakes to make sure to avoid.
If you are a small business owner and don’t currently have a website but you are thinking about taking the plunge there are a number of essential factors you need to consider.
Here are 21 things to think about when making the smart investment in a website for your small business.
1. What content management system to use to publish your site (we recommend WordPress although you could use Drupal, Joomla or others too)?
2. Have you a plan or strategy in mind to generate traffic-targeted traffic especially?You will need to ensure that your site content, once published, is indexed by the search engines, particularly Google?
4. If you opt for WordPress it is essential to install some important plugins-do you know which ones are best?
5. Have you decided on a theme for your site, one that is professional looking and fast loading with plenty of white space?
6. Have you thought about how you will install plenty of contact forms on the site to make it easy for visitors to contact you?
7. Do you intend building up a subscriber base and possibly publishing an ezine to let your subscribers know more about your business, special offers and so forth?
8. Have you thought about building a site map for your site and submitting it to all of the major search engines?
9. You will need some way to monitor how you are doing, how many visitors you attract, how long they stay on your site, where they come from etc. Google analytics is ideal for this-have you thought about installing it?
10. Will you be putting social media buttons on your site to allow visitors to connect with you on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and allow visitors to share your site’s great content?
11. Speaking of content-have you thought about what you intend publishing on your site and who will write your content, how broad or deep you will go etc.?
12. Have you a plan for distributing your RSS feeds to popular RSS feed aggregator sites?
13. Have you a strategy in place for ranking your site well in the search engines?
14. Will pay per click advertising play a role in your online business development?
15. Have you any plans to have video and/or slideshows on your site?
16. Have you given thought to search engine optimisation (seo)?
17. Have you given consideration to how often you will have the site updated?
18. Have you thought about who will maintain your site?
19. Have you decided on who you will get to host your site?
20. Have you picked a great domain name?
21. Have you decided who will build your website? You or a web designer?
Now, you may well be thinking “screw that for a game of cowboys-it’s too much hassle”.
This would be a tremendous mistake if you have aspirations and ambitions for the development of your business.
Because the benefits to be derived from a good website are tremendous.
But it does need to be a good website-one that is capable of generating significant amounts of targeted traffic and there is really no shortcut to be taken here.
However there is really no point in spending money on a website that nobody will ever find so think clearly and make sure you make the right decision for your business.
The essential and critical task is simply to get your products and services in front of interested eyeballs.
Hopefully the check list above will be of assistance to you in coming to your decision to do the right thing.
You may also be interested in reading websites for all budgets.