by Steve Clayton, CEO of NetBlaze
Today’s small business owners wear many hats beyond that of “CEO.” In addition to running their business, most also manage finances, marketing, and operations and the numerous responsibilities associated with each. With all these obligations, it can be challenging for small business owners to determine where and how to allocate budget to generate maximum impact and return on investment (ROI). Unfortunately, one of the areas that often takes a back seat is marketing, and more specifically, digital marketing. One reason is because many local business owners simply don’t have time or the know-how to understand where to begin and what marketing tactics will best drive sales. A second reason is because the sheer number of marketing strategies and solutions available can prove daunting to research, learn, and implement (not to mention budget breaking).
This is where the 80/20 principle can help. The premise behind the 80/20 principle originated from an Italian mathematician named Vilfredo Pareto. In short, it means that 80% of business results come from 20% of efforts. This formula can be applied to digital marketing to help small and local business owners better direct their efforts and resources to marketing initiatives that will have the most impact for their business.
Put on your (Digital) Marketing Hat!
There are four critical digital marketing components small businesses (SMBs) must leverage to generate the greatest ROI and help their business get found, get customers, and get results.
Effective, regular communications with customers helps business owners build relationships, repeat business, and generate consistent traffic and leads. Staying connected matters and ultimately drives sales, which is why customer communications are an essential piece of the 80/20 digital marketing rule. Deploying email and text/SMS campaigns are quick and easy tactics to contact customers and share information about upcoming sales, promotions, and events. They also help your business stay top-of-mind with existing customers and drive new traffic to the business website. Now more than ever before, consumers want to feel connected to the brands they support. Remember that a phone call or quick text to update a customer on the status of an order makes a difference. It is what will help set your business apart from the competition – and what will keep customers coming back.
Another key component of any digital marketing plan focuses on online reviews. 93% of consumers say they look to online reviews to help them guide their purchasing decision. This stat alone shows the importance of building a positive brand reputation and online presence through customer ratings and reviews. Generating, tracking, and promoting positive reviews on sites such as Google Ratings, Yelp, and Trip Advisor is a proven tactic and essential component in digital marketing. Business owners should aim to have between 5-10 reviews with an average score of 4.5 or higher from customers. Online reviews help establish trust with customers and those considering patronizing the business for the first time. Consistent, positive online reviews also help businesses appear higher in search engine rankings. Responding to reviews is as important as securing them – especially negative reviews – because it shows the business cares about customer service and the quality of the product or service offered. Many owners have trouble finding the time for online reviews, but this is one area where making the time definitely pays off.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
It is safe to say that most SMBs now understand that a company website is a necessity to keeping the doors open. While web design and user functionality are both important, it is essential to leverage SEO to appear in Google search rankings when consumers are searching for a local product or service. Ensuring your SMB is “Google optimized” is one of the biggest ways to get found, particularly when you consider there are more than 298M smartphone users in the country searching, shopping, and purchasing from the comfort of their own homes. Because 81% of consumers indicate they search online before purchasing, it is critical SMBs appear at the top of local Google searches. Doing so improves search engine rankings and allows a business to rise above their local and/or closest competition. Ensure that your SMB website is leveraging key words, phrases, backlinks, and citations to increase website authority and boost search engine rankings.
Social Media Management
Having a robust, localized social media strategy is key to increasing brand awareness, engaging customers, and boosting online visibility. Businesses who are not leveraging social media in some capacity are essentially handing business over to their competition. But many owners remain unsure about the frequency and type of content they should be posting. Here is where the 80/20 principle applies nicely to social media. Remember that 80% of social posts should be aimed at informing, educating, and entertaining the target audience(s) in an eye-catching, creative way, while only 20% of posts should promote the business’s products and/or services. SMBs should aim to post twice a week to their platforms of choice. Leading social platforms like Facebook offer very reasonably priced campaigns that “boost” a social post and help owners directly target area residents and/or specific neighborhoods.
Leveraging these four core areas of digital marketing – the 20% that generate 80% of results – helps small business owners focus their efforts on what will help their business not only succeed but thrive.
Steven Clayton worked in the Information Systems field for 19 years, holding many roles including: CIO for a public company and ended his corporate career as a Vice President for a Fortune 500 company. Since then, he has started and/or co-founded six different startups, four of which are in business today, and running profitably — including NetBlaze, a digital marketing agency helping today’s small businesses thrive.