Back in the year 2000, when I urged prospective clients to build websites for their businesses…
They scoffed at the idea.
Some would simply take it as a computer gimmick - An entertaining spectacle.
And besides a few tech-savvy corporations, many couldn’t comprehend the power of building virtual web addresses to market one's products and servicesAnd believe that it could help multiply their customers and boost sales.
Fast forward 10 years – by 2010, everyone wanted a website for their businesses, for their products, services; personal sites for themselves…and for their dogs too!
It’s amazing to witness how rapidly the IT and specifically, the ‘Internet’ has killed the Video, TV, Radio and almost all the ‘Stars’!
The views, behaviour and the needs of businesses and people took an 180-degree-turn, in a span of a decade!
Come 2016, and it seems going ‘digital’ is the need of the hour. But little did I know, ‘digital’ actually encapsulates a lot more than just being armed with a good website.
Some CEOs consider it to be abreast with innovations and technology.Some see it as using SaaS applications and cloud computing for their businesses.
Some consider E-Commerce and automated internet based processes –decreasing human interventions - to be in sync with being ‘digital’. Whereas, others take it as using the immense power of virtual world-of-web, to find new ways of doing businesses and engaging with their customers.
None of the above perspectives on being ‘digital’ are necessarily false. However, such diverse definitions can sometimes blur the business vision; which in turn give way to derailed ‘piecemeal’ approaches - that upset and slacken performances.
How do we then reap the benefits of taking our businesses online; stay relevant in this digital era – and still keep our sanity?
5 Tips for Taking Your Business Digital
1.The ‘Niche’ game – Where is your Purple Cow?
For those of you who have worked out their business plan, identified their strengths and carved a special space in the appropriate niches with your unique product and services – Fantastic!
That is surely the way to tread the ‘digital jungle’ or this ‘virtual marketplace’ that we call the internet - where we can find gazillions of products and brands; all selling similar dreams of comfort, efficient services, entertainment, profits, happiness and what not.
And only a handful of these brands and companies - who stand out with their unique products, inspiring stories and innovative solutions – are the ones stealing the biggest chunks of this ‘digital’ pie!
Seth Godin, calls this the ‘Purple Cow’ phenomenon. A purple cow is sure to stand out amongst this world full of boring ‘brown cows’; or it could even shine amongst, as Seth says, ‘competent and undeniably excellent cows’… because a ‘purple cow’ is simply Remarkable.
For starters, or the big players who want to venture into this chaotic and highly competitive ‘digital’ world and reap its benefits - It pays to invest early in creating this ‘remarkability’ in your products and services – So bring forth your ‘Purple Cow’… or a ‘Maroon Fox’ if you like.
2. A Good Website – Hello World!
Needless to say, Website is your image to the world - Virtual business addresses on the world wide web of the ‘internet’, where you introduce yourself or your company and share your brand, products, vision, mission and accomplishments -or whatever you fancy- on web pages, through various content (text, images, audio, video etc.)
Websites nowadays have grown to be more than just virtual business cards or online brochures (like it used to be 16 years ago). You practically run your entire business via a website these days.
As per the Internet World Stats, by June 2016 there are already 3.6 billion people (49.2% of world population) who surf the internet. Now, if there’s a possibility for almost half of the world’s population to drop into your website and say ‘hello’… then it better be good.
Here are a few starter tips to get your website up and running:
a. Find a Domain Name
Domain names are your web address (www.yoursitename.com i.e.www.element7digital.com.au ). The ‘au’ in this example represents the country where the domain is from. Here ‘au’ represents Australia. You can also use sites like godaddy.com that can help you find and register your domain name with easy search options.
b. Pick a Website Host
Website hosts are service providers that are responsible for managing the technologies required for storing and displaying your website on the internet. Providers like Hostgator and Bluehost seem to be the popular choices for new domains. As per your need, you can choose from a myriad of providers in the market, offering various plans on web hosting.
Choosing your own domain name and hosting gives you the professional edge. Your own email account (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org) looks way professional than a Hotmail or a Gmail account. Plus if you take a piggyback ride by building your business on someone else’s domain, you run the risks associated with Digital Sharecropping.
c. Design Your Website
If you’re not into coding and other technical aspects of website building, you’re better of choosing a CMS platform to design your web pages. As a prerequisite for designing websites, CMS platforms act as a foundation or a blueprint where you can add your structure for the site (text, graphics, videos etc.)
CMS platforms like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal provide you with customizable, drag and drop tools and templates to design the content of your web pages. Though all three platforms have proven their strengths in creating amazing websites, WordPress seems popular with the beginners.
Once you’ve chosen your platform, now you can start designing your web pages (or hire a designer/developer) as per the need of your business. However, to find success in the digital marketing world, websites need to be seriously catered to the customers.
The overall content of your web pages: images, texts, colours, text fonts, videos, audios, banners, pop-ups, other simulations and design attributes – all need to seamlessly blend in together to give a satisfying user experience.
Responsive and mobile friendly sites have now become the norm as more users are using mobile and hand-held devices to surf the net. And let’s face it, the only rationale for having a website is to attract visitors to whom you can market your product and convert them into leads and finally as customers for your business.
Enter the Age of Digital Marketing…
The world today, as we know it, has drastically flipped the paradigm on the ‘marketing’ game - From its traditional ‘Information-Scarce-Buyer Beware’ norms to a more sophisticated ‘Information-Overload-Seller Beware’ culture.
In Traditional Marketing, the common customers (Information-scarce-unaware-people) were left to the mercy of the business houses and sellers (We-know-it-all-guys), who shoved products, services and dreams into the gullible minds of consumers.
Such Outbound Marketing strategies rely heavily on finding their customers by spending vast amounts of money on print, radio and TV advertisements; cold calling; mass email blasts; trade shows; etc. – An approach which is now increasingly referred to as ‘interruptive’, ‘nagging’, and ‘poorly targeted’.
The Inbound marketing on the flip side, works on the principle of ‘attracting’ rather than ‘interrupting’. The change obviously brought about by the ‘internet’ revolution. It is based on the grounds that people have information about anything and everything at the press of a button or flick of their finger.
The strategy now is to engage the consumers or the targeted ‘buyer personas’ by putting out content they prefer and value; attract and convince, rather than interrupt.
The next three tips relate to the key elements of INBOUND MARKETING.
3. Creating ‘Content’ – A drive through the Sales Funnel.
Content Creation lies at the heart of any Inbound Marketing Campaign. For a user/visitor to turn into a customer, s/he has to go through various stages of the ‘Sales Funnel’ and finally make a purchase.
The drive of the marketer is to attract, nudge or convince the user to proceed through the Sales Funnel which consists of 3 stages: Top of the Funnel, Middle of the Funnel andBottom of the Funnel.
The different stages of the funnel relate to its corresponding ‘psyche’ of the buyer personas.
The content in the shape of: Blogposts, eBooks, white papers, videos, ‘call to action’ banners and ‘pop ups’, podcasts, webinars, trial offers, etc. are crafted within the web pages to address the need of users at various stages of the funnel, which helps to: educate the users and provide solutions to their queries, build users’ trust with the brand, engage and nurture leads and finally helps the leads to make that ‘purchase decision’.
Given the nature of businesses and their products, each business can have unique sales funnels. The success lies in understanding the intent of your targeted users or buyer personas and developing a sound Content Marketing Strategy to accommodate the buyers’ journey through each stage of the funnel.
4. SEO – How high do you rank?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is basically the practice of building your websites and the inbound links to your site, to rank high in the search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. The rationale here is to increase your visibility in the search engines for the keywords or search queries posted by the users. The higher you rank, the higher possibility of increasing traffic to your site.
How do we go about doing this? The most common way is to place appropriate keywords in your content to boost the relevancy of your site in reference to a given search query. The other way is to have inbound links from other sites, which will increase your site’s ‘authority’ on the searched topic.
However, after Google algorithms like Panda and Penguin penalised Black-hat SEO practices like ‘keyword-stuffing’ and ‘link-planting’, these two approaches ceased being the only factors determining your website ranking.
Here are other factors that could affect your site rankings
- It is estimated that 61% of users searching via mobile devices immediately leave the site if the site is not responsive or not optimised for mobile platforms. Building responsive sites will earn you points with the smartphone users, thus helping to climb the search ranks.
- Search Engines like Google and Bing have confirmed that Social Media (Facebook, Twitter) influence SEO. As an outcome of a research (Nielsen Research), it was stated that 92% of consumers worldwide trust recommendations from friends and family completely. This propelled search engines to factor the social connections of content writers and searchers as ‘authority’ and see its relevance in influencing SEO.
- After Google introduced the Hummingbird algorithm, the search engines are also being adept at understanding ‘intent’. The search engines are getting better at interpreting ‘conversational’ language and the intent of the search query, rather than just matching series of keywords.
- Similarly, search engines are also getting better at understanding the ‘Context’ under which the user is performing the search. This has already made a huge impact on the users experience for localised search and in the use of ‘Google Now’.
5. Social Media – Creating the content ‘buzz’
Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram etc. are great amplifiers for your content. Businesses have recognised the possibilities of reaching new audiences with Facebook which has a daily active user base of 1.03 billion.
Capturing leads through Facebook is a common marketing tactic used by businesses all over. Generating Direct leads by linking to forms posted on Facebook, in exchange of an offer (i.e. EBook) Or Indirect leads generated by posting a blog post in the timeline – both serve to engage visitors with the website content and increase the chances of conversion.
Taking your business into the digital realm is not a choice anymore, but a necessity every aspiring business should undertake. It sure comes with its abundant share of perks and complications; but with the right knowledge and strategy, it could catapult your business to new heights.
And failure to do so could also mean opening a Pandora’s box – it can easily take you on a wild ride, lead you astray and rob you of your time, money and purpose.
If you would like to know more or would like to contribute to this article I want to hear from you.
Call Andy Fox (me) on (03) 5249-5570 or email email@example.com
Website is element7digital.com.au