What is the Real Purpose of Your Small Business Website? Online Marketing Success

From the hundreds of small business owners that I have worked with to establish their online presence, I have found that the typical owner quickly gets caught up with trying to make their website ‘cooler’ than their competitors. They worry about color schemes, layouts and fancy mouseover effects. If that isn’t enough, they get bogged down with other perks like flash animations and javascripts that do more to entertain the visitor than they do to help the visitor.

When asked what the real purpose of their website is, the typical small business owner is hard pressed to provide an answer. Unable to answer that question, they often fail to answer how entertaining their website visitor will add value to the bottom line of their small business. The truth of the matter is that all the ‘pixel fireworks’ will do nothing for their business.

As a business owner, you must consider that your website visitor is really a qualified prospect. They must be. Otherwise, why would they be visiting your website? When I say qualified prospect, I mean that they have some interest in your product or service. With literally millions of websites online, if they are at your website, they must have an interest in what you are selling. Although every visitor may not be ready to purchase or do business with you right at that time, they must have an interest in what you are selling, right?

Now compare your website to how you handle prospects that call your company. What do you do when a potential client or prospect calls you on the phone? Of course you answer their questions and help guide them to the correct solution for their problem. But don’t you at least get their name and phone number to follow up with them later? You may even get their mailing address so you can send them your brochures or the product information they are interested in. In short, you have just qualified that prospect as a sales lead.

So why would you operate your company website any other way? The real purpose of your company website is to generate those sales leads, just like when potential customers call you on the phone.

Yes, your website showcases your products. If prepared properly, your website also includes additional product information like installation or operating instructions. Your website goes on to show visitors the entire array of products or services that you offer. But in short, the real purpose of your company website should be to generate that sales lead. After all, they are qualified because they are at your website. You must, at the very least, get their contact information to follow up with them.

How do you do that? The best run company websites will encourage their visitors to sign up to a company newsletter. Typically, they entice the visitor by offering some sort of product information or other resource that is valuable information that their customers want. The information or resource that is offered for free is typically called a ‘Lead Generation Magnet’. The visitor signs up to the opt-in e-mail list in order to download that information.

Once signed up through your website, you have the contact information for that prospect. You can continue to follow up with them by e-mail (just as you would have by phone), usually using a combination of preprogrammed auto responder messages and e-mail broadcasts that keep your name in front of your prospects on a regular basis.

Developing your auto responder series and marketing to your list of prospects is beyond the scope of this article. However, what is important for small business owners to understand is that your company website visitors are really qualified prospects. Capturing their contact information and developing that sales lead is not just one of the reasons you have a company website. It should really be considered as the only reason you have a company website. Of course, that is only if you are interested in expanding your business online!

Live, Love and Profit from Your Passion; Otherwise it’s just another job!

Small Business Marketing Plan Revisited

Creating a small business marketing plan as a subcategory of your overall business plan is vital for evoking and accelerating business growth. When you have a plan, you are able to focus on the right things at the right time and measure your progress toward a goal.

Many business owners are resisting planning. When you’re running a business, you can easily be consumed by your day to day responsibilities. But failing to plan can be a great mistake.

Now, what is the essential function of marketing? To generate qualified sales leads. There are any number of methods that can be used to do that but how do you know which methods to use if you don’t have a plan?

And how do you know what your lucrative marketing activities are? How do you invest in those activities if you don’t know how big your budget is, or know what results you are trying to produce?

A marketing plan doesn’t need to be a huge document. First, start with your business goals for the next six months. You should already have these, for example your target revenue, if nothing else.

Now, what marketing goals align with those business goals? Ok, you want to make 100k. How many leads do you need to generate in order to allow your selling activities to close the deals necessary to reach this revenue target?

Next, what marketing strategies are necessary to meet your business goal? Will you need to get more publicity? Expand into a new market? Reach more people in your current market? Create a direct mail campaign? Create sales partnerships?

You must pick one or two that deliver on what you are aiming for and hit your target revenue. Now, determine what specific activities will achieve your strategies.

At this point it gets a little bit tricky. You must choose from a vast pool of marketing options/activities and you must choose the activities that will work best for the potential customer you want to reach. You might need to participate in trade show events where you get face to face with your market.

You might need to launch a new website, you might need to implement a referral program for current customers. The list goes on and on.

Whatever your activities are, put them together into your plan and create target metrics (e.g. number of leads collected, number of prospects you talked to, etc).

Finally, you end up with your marketing plan.

The next step, your sales plan, tells you how the leads generated by marketing will be converted to customers, and how back end sales will be made to those customers. Sales metrics include conversion rates, overall revenues, or revenue per customer/per square foot/per time spent in the store, etc.

The great thing is that now you have something to measure against and you can review things periodically to see if you are on track or if something needs to be adjusted.

This process or call it small business marketing plan, doesn’t need to take a lot of time but the benefits to your business can be huge. Having a plan will give you a lot more insights into your well oiled business machine or parts of your business that need some tweaking.

Search Engine Optimization Cost – Tips to Make SEO Costs Easily Affordable for Your Small Business

Search Engine Optimization Costs can be greatly influenced by answering some basic questions about your business and SEO plans, objectives, and other consideration. Here are some questions or issues every small business should resolve before engaging an SEO consultant, or trying to implement SEO themselves:

1.What is the number one priority, objective, or goal that you want to achieve through your online marketing efforts?

  • Are trying to establish your business as an “authority site”?
  • Are you trying to build a community using social media?
  • Are you trying to generate more leads to fill your sales funnel?
  • Are you are trying to attract more customers to a retail or physical location?
  • What is your desired outcome for visitors to your website?
  • What is your “business model” for your online marketing?

The responses to these questions will affect the online marketing strategy, approach, or techniques that are most suitable.

2. The BIG SECRET of Internet Millionaires and virtually ALL Successful Online Businesses…

Actually, this “secret” is painfully obvious – it is one of the fundamentals of achieving success online. But, just as major league athletes focus on the fundamentals of their competitive sports, it is worth highlighting here: TRAFFIC MATTERS MOST – IT IS A FUNDAMENTAL REQUIREMENT.

To be more specific – targeted traffic is what matters most. Attracting targeted traffic essentially means that the visitors to your site are already pre-qualified to the extent that you are presenting them with information that is aligned with what they are searching for. This assumes, of course, that the methods used to attract them are consistent with search engine optimization and search engine marketing best practices.

Practicing “Attraction Marketing” or “Magnetic Marketing” or Customer Centric Marketing leads to “friction free marketing” and long-term relationship-building.

3. How do prospects and customers find you now – and how could you attract more?

  • Which keywords do prospects use when they are searching online for what you offer?
  • Where is your business currently ranked for those terms in the search engines?
  • How competitive are the keywords that you are currently using to promote your business?
  • How viable is it that you will be able to rank for those keywords in the near future?

4. What does “Google Page 1 Rankings” actually mean – and why does it matter?

A Google Page 1 Ranking means either that a particular web-page appears on the first page of the natural “organic” Search Engine Results Position (often referred to by the acronym: “SERP”) in response to a search for a particular keyword or keyword search term, OR that an advertiser has outbid all other advertisers to appear in the Sponsored Results.

Google Page 1 Rankings matter greatly because:

  • 81% of people search online before making a purchase.
  • 72% of people use Google when performing online search.
  • 98% of people choose a business on “Page 1” when making a “buying decision”.

Conclusion: If your business isn’t ranked on the first page of Google’s “natural” or “organic” search results, you will be missing out on close to 75% of potential prospects, leads, and sales.

Important Note: Recent metrics evidence that people performing online searches increasingly look beyond the Sponsored Results and directly to the “organic results” for the information they seek.

5. Generating Traffic through Paid Advertising (AdWords, Facebook Ads, CPA, CPC, etc):

Paid Traffic remains the fastest way to generate traffic for new websites, to test keywords, and to “pump” life into websites that are stuck on page 2, 3, 4, 5….157…or otherwise not prominently displayed in the search results….BUT…the value of the bought traffic may be worthless…especially if it doesn’t convert to sales.

When business owners or webmasters get frustrated with their online efforts, there is frequently a temptation to try to make up for lost time by purchasing traffic from advertising brokers (i.e. the “content network”). As tempting as it is to generate “traffic” fast using this method, it should be understood that there are very real risks associated with it.

Anyone with a valid credit card charging capacity can generate traffic fast. Beware, however, that the traffic generated from many of these sources is a total waste of money. Ask almost anyone who has tried it.

Obviously, Google and Yahoo have made literally billions of dollars by selling this kind of traffic (i.e. paid clicks). In the early days of AdWords and AdSense lot of savvy internet marketers created online advertising empires by functioning as advertising “arbitrage” agents. For the past several years, however, many of those very same marketers complain of losing vast sums on advertising campaigns.

Caution: If you choose to use paid advertising to buy traffic, proceed carefully – and limit your spending until you verify that the cost/benefit ratio of your advertising program is within your accepted tolerances, and expectations.

6. Keyword Research – and How to “re-position” your company online (if necessary).

One of the smartest things you can do, and definitely one of the first things you really should do, is to perform some basic keyword research. Only by conducting detailed keyword research can you know how to proceed with your online marketing efforts. Only after performing keyword research can you determine whether you will be wasting time and money (and lost-opportunity costs) by trying to promote your business based on words or terms or “keywords” that are either too competitive, not sufficiently searched, or otherwise non-performing.

You can begin to get a sense about all of this for free by using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool.

Start by entering a broad term that relates to your business or niche. Then scan the results for the keywords you are currently using.

Then review the competition, both in terms of AdWords and also in the search engine itself. If the first page of natural SERP results is dominated by major corporations, major “authority sites”, or other stiff competition, then that keyword may be difficult to rank for. This is especially true if the SERP results are for main indexed pages.

On the other hand, if the first page of Google returns a lot of “inner pages” (i.e. pages that are on the third hierarchy of the site structure, or lower), and if they are not from “authority sites”, but rather from blogs or smaller sites, then ranking for those particular keywords may be achievable, and perhaps even relatively easy).

7. Knowing Who Your Visitors Are – Capturing Visitor Contact Details for Lead Generation

The single most important missing element from most business websites may be a “lead capture form”. It’s hard to believe that with literally billions of websites published, so many websites lack such a valuable but inexpensive and easy-to-implement tool.

Lead capture forms have been available for at least 10 years. And we have all grown accustomed to using them – as consumers, or as “subscribers”. You may be reading this information as a result of having entered your email address into a basic lead capture form (sometimes referred to as a “squeeze form” or “squeeze page”, depending on how it is implemented).

Lead capture forms are typically integrated with Auto responders such as Aweber, Get Response, iContact, Infusionsoft, 1ShoppingCart, or others.

If you are trying to develop any kind of business intelligence about your website visitors, and trying to establish a follow-up rapport with them, it is essential to incorporate lead capture forms into your website.

At the most basic level, setting up a lead capture form can be accomplished in minutes.

8. Understanding Web 2.0 and How Social Media Can be Leveraged to Facilitate SEO and to Grow Your Business:

Web 2.0 and Social Media are extremely complex and dynamic developments. The easiest way to understand the potential of Web 2.0 and Social Media, in terms of how they can help you grow your business is this: Make It Easy For People to Learn About You and What You Offer – and expand your circle of influence or like-minded “friends”.

Unlike “web 1.0” sites, Blogs are “Web 2.0 ready” – what this means is that they are preconfigured (in most cases) to allow for RSS feeds, Social Network Sharing, Commenting, etc.

It’s no secret that the way Google (and other leading search engines) rank their search results is largely based on what other people think. It follows that the more people who link to your site, the more Google will consider your site to be an “authority site”, or at least a meaningful site, within a particular niche, or for certain keyword terms.

The easiest, cheapest, and one of the most effective things that you can do to improve your search engine optimization is to incorporate a blog into your website (or make it your website), and to create meaningful and relevant content on a regular basis (e.g. 4 times a week or more).

Make it easy for other people and blogs and organizations to get your content and to derive value from you. RSS feeds and Social Bookmarking tools are ideal for this task.

Small Business Software Solutions

When it comes to small business, it’s never enough that you have the motivation and even the expertise. It’s also not enough that you have the right core staff who can help you manage the different aspects of your enterprise. You also need good small business software, which will allow you to automate your business, speed up the entire business process, and assure more accurate and fresh data that you can utilize.

Choices for Your Business

Today, there are a lot of small business software that you can select from, each having its own distinct functions. However, because of the uniqueness of your enterprise, not all will be useful. You only need to pick those that you think will be highly essential.

To give you some idea, you can start with the following small business software:

CRM Software. This software is important for contact management. You can easily manage information that is related to your customers, such as personal information. You can also easily determine the products and services they have purchased or enquired about, which then provide you data on what sells the most and what doesn’t amongst your line. Furthermore, you can keep track of your marketing campaigns generate reports and much more.

Lead Management System. When you are looking for prospects, you need to have a dependable lead manager. A lot of them are affordable, so you can get hold of them quite easily. The lead management system can help you keep track, score, and prioritize your leads. Also, lead managers can be customized according to the needs of the business and the industry you’re in.

Accounting Software. There are various types of financial applications that you could get for your business, but you may start with the accounting software since you want to determine the actual income and expenses of your business. However, unless you have solid or at least inkling of how accounting works, it would be ideal if you can pick an accounting program that is very easy to use. To know which will suit you it is advised you read online reviews.

E-mail Platforms. E-mail will be one of the best tools your business can have. You can market products and services through it, and you can communicate with your staff. With e-mail, you may want to stick with Microsoft Outlook, but remember that your valuable customer data will be housed in multiple computers and multiple email accounts.

It is important to understand that sometimes less is more. Try to implement the minimum number of solutions as they will require expensive integration to function effectively. If possible look for 1 sales system and 1 accounting system.