Superfast broadband has made it easier for Welsh SMEs to take advantage of the rapidly growing opportunities by online technology. And this includes supplementing or even replacing traditional marketing methods with new, inexpensive ways to win and communicate with customers.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re small or large, online marketing opens many doors to new business, and can produce operational benefits and cost savings too.
But where do you start?
Thinking about an online marketing strategy for the first time can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Small changes make a big difference and with a little digital know-how you can reap the benefits.
This guide sets out some of the key components of online marketing, as well as best practice, so you can grow your business with confidence.
2. What benefits might I expect?
Better marketing: Email marketing and social media can drive traffic to your website to increase enquires and improve search rankings so people find you.
More opportunities: The larger your online presence, the more opportunities you have to build a winning brand that attracts customers.
Increased retention: Social media and CRM programmes allow you to create a better connection with your customers and encourage long-term loyalty.
Improved efficiency: Online tools allow you to engage with customers in real time so they’re happier and you benefit from faster business processes.
Managed ROI: Take advantage of data analysis and monitoring tools to help track the return on investment on marketing activities.
Beneficial understanding: Real time communication makes it easier to gain customer feedback quickly and better meet their expectations.
Effective crisis management: In emergencies such as product recalls or bad publicity, online tools allow you to respond quickly.
Productive customer support: Quality and timely service at the customer’s convenience improves customer relations.
Value for money: Online tools can be used for many different purposes, including advertising, customer support as well as recruitment.
3. Real life example
A North Wales cake maker’s business is thriving after developing a digital marketing strategy. Llandudno-based Judith Bond Cakes produces bespoke cakes for celebrations, corporate events and weddings. And since attending a Superfast Business Wales event, the founder, Judith Bond has increased sales by 30%.
Judith attended a free digital technology masterclass and devised a digital marketing plan to focus on social media. Since discovering the successful ingredient, the former office manager now plans to further raise her profile by promoting her cake and photography blog as well as being proactive with the online community of small businesses in Wales.
Judith said: “The boost in sales has definitely been influenced by my new marketing campaign. The masterclass was fantastic and covered different online tools to promote the business.”
She explained that she now uses, “different social media channels, including Instagram, to promote my products and engage with customers”. And she is well on her way to meet her aspirations of becoming a well-known blogger in North Wales.
4. What is online marketing?
Online marketing is exactly what it describes; a tool businesses use to harness the power of the internet to drive sales and business growth. And to be successful, your online brand needs to include a powerful combination of elements that allow people to connect with you. These are your business name and your story, and the benefits your products and services offer your customers.
Successful online marketing does not happen overnight. It takes a long-term, consistent approach of drip feeding your target audience with key information which ultimately is aimed at driving sales. However, don’t make the mistake that online marketing is all about selling. Generally, online marketing doesn’t work well through the hard sell approach; it’s more about engagement so you establish a connection and build relationships with your customers.
Getting the balance between selling and engagement can be a tricky one. But get it right and you can be sure to experience sales growth, customer loyalty and improved competitive advantage.
5. Developing your online brand
Think of your online brand as a means of communicating your business offering, qualities and values to your customers. You can do this through visual elements such as the business logo, packaging and your website, as well as content that is valuable and engaging. Together, these will be the key to shaping potential and existing customer perceptions of your business, products and services.
Your brand should reflect the core values of your business, and it must be relevant and appropriate to your target audience. It’s worth noting that when building a brand strategy, you should consider your customers, your competitors, your online presence and the resource and skills you have to support the strategy.
6. Social media in business
There are 1.65 billion active social accounts globally, with 1 million new active social users added every day (We Are Social). It is a great way to extend your reach and is far more effective than some of the traditional methods. Plus, its free! (…to an extent). But understanding how to use social media in a way that can drive sales growth can be a challenge. It’s is not about sending messages and hoping someone will listen. It’s about engaging in conversation.
There are many different uses for social media in business, and depending on the nature of your product and service offering, the approach will be different. But if you focus on interacting rather than trying to win vanity metrics such as lots of followers who don’t engage, you’ll have a lot more success.
Some of the most popular social media platforms include:
- Facebook: share product/service information and other relevant content, engage with customers, and encourage and share reviews.
- Twitter: use as an engagement tool by liking, commenting on and sharing content. Twitter can also be used as a search function using hashtags.
- Instagram: share images and video related content with customers.
- LinkedIn: often referred to as ‘Facebook for professionals’, share professional information such as CVs, work experience, and related content.
7. Why should I have a website?
If you only sell to consumers, having a website may not be an issue as many popular social media platforms allow you to engage with and sell to customers. But if you are in the business to business space, you should strongly consider whether your online presence and reputation could be improved with a professional looking identity.
Whilst a new website won’t launch you to the top of the search rankings and generate a huge income overnight; be patient. For it to be a success you need to plan what you want to achieve, determine your target audience, where they are, what they want and what their motivations are that could turn them into a customer.
Internet and mobile internet usage is increasing annually and businesses can take advantage of this. By using your website as a conversion point, with online shopping features or even a get in touch function, and driving traffic through special offers and social media or email marketing activity, you can start building your brand and driving growth.
8. Successful strategies for growth
When it comes to effective online marketing there are four critical strategies to consider:
1. Access: make your business accessible to customers and prospects anywhere and everywhere.
2. Engage: position your business as the ultimate source for quality, meaningful advice and content.
3. Connect: become part of the conversation with your customers.
4. Collaborate: encourage your customers to engage with you with the aim of actively contributing to your bottom line.
The goal of each is to keep your customers focus because if done well, you will both retain and win new customers.
9. Recommended action points and tips
Make SMART goals: ensure your online marketing strategy has goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, resourced and time-based.
Research your competitors: it’s important to know what your competitors are doing online so you can define how best to compete.
Emphasise the benefits: give customers something they want and they won’t find anywhere else. Think about building a sense of personal connection across all online mediums.
Track progress: you can’t understand the impact your online marketing activities have on your business without monitoring your progress.
Use scheduling tools: make things easier for yourself and use these tools for posting digital content. It will save hours of time, energy and resource on a daily basis.
Focus on engagement not selling: the focus of online marketing should be to leverage engagement with your audience.
10. Additional information
Use the Superfast Business Wales Software Directory to explore the software that could help you run your business.
Register to attend a fully-funded Superfast Business Wales workshop.
At the workshop, make an appointment to see a Business Adviser who will help you create a digital action plan to grow your business.