Small Business Burnout

Avoiding Small Business Burnout

Running a business can lead to a very demanding lifestyle. There are numerous considerations to think about and that often leads to business owners becoming tired. This is not uncommon. The trouble starts when you've become so tired that you burn out.

This can have a major impact upon your business and be disastrous on your long term career prospects.

 

What Is Small Business Burnout?

A little stress in our lives is good for us and can help us to become innovative. But too much and for too long will make you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet demands. Burnout occurs when you’ve been under excessive stress for a protracted length of time.

The longer that you are suffering from high levels of stress, the less motivated you will feel at doing basic tasks. Research has concluded that those who are under particularly high levels of stress will stop eating. Often, those suffering from burnout will also complain of muscle and joint pain, especially in their lower back and neck.

While at work, your productivity will reduce, quality will deteriorate and you may show signs of being:

  • Helpless
  • Resentful
  • Cynical

This can cause damage to your person life, alienating friends and family.

Considering that 90% of all businesses now fail, you don’t need another potential stumbling block. Therefore, avoiding burnout should be a top priority for anyone who is looking to have a long and successful business career.

 

Who Is At Risk Of Burnout?

Studies have concluded that there is a group of individuals who are more prone to burnouts. These people include those who:

  1. Are high performers or overachievers.
  2. In the first 10 years of a career.
  3. Are between 20 and 30 years of age.

It is also common that the person suffering from burnout will not recognise the signs until it is too late.

 

What Impact Can This Have On Your Business?

There are numerous negative effects burnout can have on your business. Firstly, as previously mentioned, productivity can decrease. This means that you are producing, and therefore earning, less.

Secondly, the quality of that work will also be poorer. This will result in a higher rejection rate that will push up costs. This can be a major issue. Without a steady production of high quality goods and services, your business will not retain customers.

Research has demonstrated that price has little to do with customer retention. Customer would rather stick with a supplier that provided them with quality customer service than chance another service provider that might give them poor experiences.

 

What Can Be Done About Burnout?

One of the major problems with burnout is that the solution is not as simple as clearing the next pile of work until the next project comes along. Those with burnout are often working 14 or 16 hour days without a chance to relax. Not getting away from the business doesn’t allow the mind or body to reset and therefore be creative.

Also solving the problem just by completing the next project does not solve the cause of the burnout, only push aside one symptom. The real cause is that you are taking on too much work.

At the same time, the amount of work your company produces is necessary for its stability, growth and your lifestyle. So rejecting work from clients might not be the best option.

Instead, one of the best solutions is to limit your workload. There are several quick solutions that can offer limited relief. For instance, you could limit the times that emails are sent to your inbox, say no contract between 7pm and 7am. This might help you stop working into the late hours after an email has arrived into your inbox.

Secondly, you can enforce at least one day when you aren’t available at all. The most obvious day for business to business owners is Sunday. However if you are a retailer, this might be your busiest day, but you could take another day off.

Thirdly, you can schedule in work properly. Use scheduling tools to write in when work should be done and how long it should take. For instance, task one is done on Monday between 9 am and 10 am and task two is done between 10 am and 12noon. This structure will make you realise when projects are taking too long to complete and allows you to restructure processes to become more time efficient.

These solutions on their own will not help you in the long term and will only make you feel better in the immediate future. However, there are other activities you can do that can help you achieve a better work-life balance.

 

Getting Help

One of the biggest causes for small business burnout is that there is too much work for you to do. The simple solution to permanent fix this is to simply remove tasks from your list. But just because you have removed tasks from your list does not mean the task is going to go away – they will still need to be done.

Therefore, you’ll have to find a way for the tasks to be completed. A common solution is to automate tasks. One area that is often automated is social media. There are many programs available that can help you automate your social media accounts. However, there are concerns that just being automated will provide you with a poor return on your investments or could provide you with the wrong content.

Instead, you should look at outsourcing some of the tasks, such as your website management and online marketing. These are particularly good tasks to outsource for several reasons. These reasons include:

Expert Access To Knowledge And Skills

You manage an organisation because you are an expert in your business’ niche. While it is not impossible to be good at social media and website management, you are unlikely to be an expert. Those who provide digital marketing support are experts in their field and therefore can deliver better results for the same budget, if not less.

Research has found that UK companies have wasted £2 billion in implementing digital marketing campaigns without the proper skills. In America, a lack of digital marketing skills has resulted in employees taking 20% longer to complete tasks than professionally trained individuals would.

An example would be writing content for your site. The average typing speed is 40 words per minute. However, a professional writer can create content at 80-100 words per minute. They will also have the knowledge of what content your target audience is likely to prefer and react to. This all leads to a quicker and more effective delivery of content.

Lower Costs

Many digital marketers have access to software and equipment that is expensive when it is purchased for just one account. When the costs are spread over numerous accounts (clients) the price becomes more affordable and digital marketers pass those cost savings on to you. They’ll also include those coss within their proposal, so you don’t have to worry about paying additionally for them.

Some costs which could be reduced include:

  • Images – these are highly expensive and many small and medium businesses often fall into the trap of using images that are protected under copyright laws. Many digital marketing companies will have accounts with the big image providers and will offer to supply images as part of the package.
  • Automation software – while there are some dangers to automation, it can also be a useful tool in the right hands. However, the best automation software for certain activities like social media can be expensive to buy.
  • Website hosting – Some website companies will be able to offer you web hosting at a cheaper price than if you were to look to deal directly with a hosting company. This is because they bulk buy space on servers to use for their clients. The trouble with this is that sometimes being on a shared server can slow your site down and that can affect your bottom line.

Troubleshooting

One thing that is certainly going to cause stress is when something goes wrong - for instance, your website going offline for a short period of time. If you hired a professional marketing company to manage all your website and online marketing concerns, they'll be able to quickly identify the problem and find a solution.

Without an outsource partner, what is likely to happen is that you will spend significant amounts of time trying to find and solve the problem. Every moment there is a problem on your website, you are losing money. This can be a huge concern if you rely on website sales.

It Prevents Trouble

There are digital marketing laws that are often not reported sufficiently to stop small businesses from making mistakes. In some cases, these mistakes can cost the business thousands, if not more. A professional digital marketing organisation will know what the legal responsibility of your company is.

They will also help you to perform white hat marketing. This is a strategy where you are using ethically accepted techniques to grow awareness of your business. Many businesses find themselves removed from Google rankings because they have used black hat (unethical) SEO techniques.

Another example would be content writing. It used to be the practice that content was generated by small businesses by copying content from one site and perhaps changing a few words to make it pass a plagiarism checker.

However, under many terms and conditions on websites, this is not legally or socially acceptable and could end up with the company infringing on the copyright to be sued. Any professional marketing business would not endorse this style of marketing.

They Can Help Other Business Areas

While online marketing and website providers will only provide support for your marketing needs, they are likely to be run by highly experienced business leaders. These individuals will likely be very helpful if you had other questions that were outside of the marketing realm.

For instance, you might want to look for some good accounting software or service provider. A good marketing company might have a couple of relevant clients on their books or they have another recommended provider.

This means you could solve problems in other areas of your business by having a single contact.

They'll Know Changes In The Industry Before You

A final benefit of outsourcing your online marketing efforts is that you are getting access to someone who will keep up with the latest developments within the industry. This frees up your time from keeping on top of these developments and provides you with reassurance that you will generate a professional and modern profile.

For instance, there are numerous changes to website design best practices every year. A website manager will know when your website needs to be adjusted to keep up with those demands and be more successful in the market.

Another example would be the recent Google update that focused on rewarding companies who had a mobile ready website.

 

Conclusion

Your business’ success relies on you not being too stressed and burning out. If you do burn out, then your productivity and quality of work will suffer. It can be hard to get out of the downward spiral of stress; however, you can start by being organised and limiting the amount of time you are working on the business.

Another step would be to outsource some of the business functions to external experts. Such functions include your website management and online marketing. This will help you tap into expert knowledge and skills while you benefit from a greater return on investment than you could expect.

Experts will also help you avoid making mistakes that you might not realise break digital marketing laws or are socially unacceptable.

Choosing a digital marketing expert is a tough task. You need a team of experts who are qualified and have a proven track record of delivering results to clients. That is why Aflua should be one of the companies you consider. We have a track record of promoting businesses through our top of the range designed websites and expert content and social media marketing campaigns.

We've even partnered up with some of the best providers to deliver other services such as video production.

So contact us today about your digital marketing needs to see how we can help you grow your business online.


Interaction versus Views

Why Interaction Rate is More Important than Views

One of the biggest mistakes that small businesses make is that they don't understand that they shouldn't be focusing on followers, fans or views. These statistics are practically worthless in a world where the majority of web users are quick to abandon web pages and social media content.

Instead there are other statistics and important metrics that need to be considered. These statistics are about interaction rather than simply viewing and these statistics can be so much more powerful.

 

What Is Interaction?

Interaction is when someone actually looks at your published material and then takes action to engage with it. The interaction could be something like sharing, commenting or accepting an offer. There are different levels of interaction: low, medium and high.

While it is preferable to always have high interactions, low and medium interactions are also important. Here are examples of each level of interaction:

Low: liking a post.

Medium: commenting on a post.

High: clicking on a call to action.

Low and medium interactions are what spread your content to the followers and fans of the engaged member. The call to action does not do this, but it does give you a solid lead. However, a single person can actually interact with your content at all three levels in quick succession. This is the most beneficial but it is very rare.

 

Why Aren't Businesses Concentrating On Interaction?

The main reason why most businesses don't concentrate on interaction is because they are too fixated on the number of followers they have.

This lack of concentration on interaction is because for much of the past, marketing has been about getting messages out to the masses, hoping they retain the information long enough to act. When businesses were solely using advertising mediums such as television, print and radio – there was no way to engage interaction, therefore, their only focus was to reach as large an audience as possible.

However, with the rise of the internet and interactive marketing channels (blogs, social media, PPC and emails) you can now concentrate on the next stage of the cycle – the interaction. Getting the interaction rate high is more important because it leads to a measurable return on your investment. A campaign going viral boosts your businesses profile and often leads to greater website traffic.

At the same time, when people click on a call to action they are either placing an order or signing up to your email newsletter. Every new customer or subscriber increases the value of your business, giving you a real return on your investment.

 

But Doesn’t More Followers Mean Greater Interaction?

The more followers you have the greater the number of interactions you are likely to accumulate. Yet this is not always the best option for your business. In some cases it can be highly ineffective and expensive. For example, you could have a mailing list of 100,000 people and have 50 people click through to make a purchase.

While this looks positive, there are issues. The first is that sending an email to 100,000 people can be expensive. On MailChimp for example, this would cost about 0.2 cents each. So your campaign costs approximately $200 in total.

If you have a more highly engaged audience, then you can achieve far better results. For example, if you have a list of just 1,000 highly engaged and interested individuals and 50 of these make a purchase; your campaign will have cost nothing. This is because those businesses with less than 2000 subscribers and 12000 emails per month have free accounts.

Between the two campaigns, the return on investment (ROI) is far greater than in the second, smaller, more engaged group of subscribers.

 

What Interaction Rates Should I Be Looking For?

Many people believe that interaction rates have to be as high as 20 or 30%. Most businesses will struggle to achieve this. Instead you need to look at realistic interactions rates and try to improve them with good quality content.

The interaction rate also depends on the medium and your industry. For instance, email marketing for the hobby industry has a very high open (30%) and click through rate (5%) while those in coupon / daily deals have much lower results (14% and 2% respectively).

Interaction rates are also far lower on some social media channels. For example, Twitter has a very low interaction rate on average (less than 1%) while on LinkedIn you should expect about 5% for Pulse articles.

 

How Do You Calculate The Interaction Rate?

The interaction rate is calculated by taking the total number of interactions at all levels and dividing it by the number of views the piece of content has. This can be difficult to measure on Twitter as you can never be sure of how many users have actually seen the content – but for other social media channels this is far easier to calculate.

It is important to study what level of interaction you are getting. People who are not reading the full article, but are finding some of the content interesting are likely to share it. Those who have read it but haven't found a call to action or anything else of interest are likely to comment and those who have clicked through have found your content highly engaging.

By monitoring trends in your audience’s reaction you can ascertain where improvements need to be made. However, one of the best ways to improve interactions (and the quality of them) is to stop talking about your business. Instead you should focus your efforts on:

  • Providing valuable lessons related to your audience.
  • Engaging in conversation with your target audience.
  • Sharing content from other influencers in your industry.

This will demonstrate your expertise and make you more approachable, friendly and trustworthy.

 

Conclusion

The number of followers, fans and subscribers has little value in the digital marketing age. Instead of paying attention to these vanity metrics, you should be looking at how your audience is reacting to the content you are publishing.

By improving interaction rates with a smaller, focused and highly engaged audience you can improve your ROI and ensure your business is seen as a market leader.


Lead Generation Path

The Lead Generation Path

Selling online is not as simple as it was even just a few years ago. Today, thanks to the growth of the Internet, customers have a huge variety of choice when it comes to product suppliers. This has made it harder for your customers to make a purchasing decision.

Sometimes your customers will have to visit your site several times before they make a purchase. Research has shown that only 44.1% of purchases are made when the customer has visited the website just once.

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However, when looking at the purchasing paths of these customers, the numbers can seem to be highly skewed by one lead generation path: affiliate marketing. The biggest reason for this is that most of the hard work has already been completed by a third party. Therefore, while the purchaser may have visited your site only once, they could have visited the other site more than once.

Also, those visiting via pay-per-click are more likely to make a purchase, because most are actively seeking products to buy.

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As you can see in the above table, direct visits (which can be from social media, emails or another source that is connected to paid advertising), have a low immediate conversion rate. Yet more than 80% of website traffic can be from direct searches. This doesn’t include visits from email marketing, social media or direct input of the URL into the search bar of a web browser.

Therefore, while pay-per-click and affiliate marketing can have a high conversion rate on the first visit, they generally only resemble a small proportion of your traffic. So you need to ensure you have a sufficient lead generation process that will collect details for potential clients and then push them through an online sales process.

If you can do this effectively, then you can generate a significant stream of potential customers for your business. In this article, we will be looking at how you can generate leads for your business.

There are five stages of the online sales cycle: strategy, platform creation, generating traffic, lead generation and lead nurturing and sales. This article will specifically call deal with the strategy, platform creation and generating traffic. There will also be mentions of how to convert customers into leads.

 

Developing An Online Sales Strategy

Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

If you want to succeed in the digital marketing realm, you need to ensure your business is using an effective digital marketing plan / strategy. The strategy will be important in attracting the ideal customer and converting them into a lead as you process them down the sales funnel.

Tactics are not the same as strategy. Tactics are how you are going to achieve goals and missions set out in your strategy. Therefore, if you adopt tactics without a clear strategy, you are bound to fail.

The advantages of building a digital marketing plan are endless. Firstly, should something happen to the primary implementer of the plan (i.e. they leave your organisation or are forced onto long term sick) anyone in the business can pick up where they left off. Secondly, a plan allows you to focus your efforts on marketing avenues that will give you the best returns on your investment.

Research has found that businesses that use a digital marketing plan can increase their revenue by 250%.

Here are the steps to creating a good marketing plan for your business.

 

The First Step: Identify Your Target Audience

Identifying your target audience is one of the most important steps of your digital marketing strategy. Each audience requires a different message, depending on their nominal behaviours and beliefs. Without a clear picture of who you are attempting to communicate with; there will be limited success in crafting an effective message.

Many businesses approach this step inappropriately and attempt to reach a wider audience than they should. While the size of a generalised population may be larger, it does mean your message has to appeal to various opinions and problems. This often means marketing materials don’t convey the right message or correct solution and are unappealing to their audience.

For example, if you were a board game seller you could aim to target families. This targeting fails to consider how many children, their ages, the family dynamics or their income. These could all be major contributors as to whether the message has any relevance to those viewing the marketing materials.

Instead, a better option would be to target parents, with 2-3 children between the ages of 8 and 11, who have an annual income between $30,000 and $40,000 and enjoy ‘family time’. However, this is not a perfect example of targeting your audience.

The best targeting focuses on a single person (or pair) and builds the ideal customer around that individual. So moving the targeting further we can state:

Jim (35) and Tracey (33) are professionals working stressful jobs in London. They have two children Richard (10) and Emma (8) who are star pupils at their local school and achieve good grades. The family is very close and the highlight of the week is the family game they play together on a Sunday afternoon.

This is a very specific targeting and it highlights several features of the target audience to concentrate on. For instance, marketing materials could be created around the Sunday afternoon family time, rewarding the children for their good grades or as a way for the parents to de-stress at the end of their working week.

Depending on your audience (business or customer) there are other questions you might want to ask in your audience profiling.

  • What is their company size, type, previous performance, available funds, model?
  • What are their buying habits (online, offline, direct, indirect)?
  • Do they have political motivation and alignment?
  • What problems do they have and what can you offer to solve them?
  • What other products have they bought recently?
  • What do they read?
  • What do they do in their spare time?
  • What will interest them in your product?
  • Why would they not want to buy your product?

With the correct targeting, the value of your proposition increases. Therefore, you are able to charge more for your product and achieve better revenues. This will give you a better return on your marketing investment.

Once you have created your paragraph on your ideal customer you can start to focus your strategy better.

 

Step Two: Branding

Branding isn’t about your logo, although it forms part of it. Instead it is about how you interact with (or communicate with) the market. There are many different elements of this you have control of, although often, you don’t realise the image you are projecting is becoming part of your brand image.

For instance, every message you send online becomes part of your brand identity, whether you are trying to tempt people to your storefront with the latest offers or engage them in conversation about the latest fashions.

Your messages don’t even need to be verbal or written. Images can portray just as much meaning as text. The colour of your website can have a major impact on what your audience thinks of your brand. Every colour has a different meaning and tone which customers subconsciously use to rate your business.

When creating your brand, you need to differentiate it from others. By aligning your identity too closely to another you risk being ignored and overlooked. So examine your closest competitors and see what their identity is. Then write down what the three main brand concepts you want to be associated with are. For example, are you:

  • Energetic or relaxed?
  • Fun or serious?
  • Build relationships or stand apart?

Match these to your brand’s colour and the tone of your voice and you’ll be able to see a brand starting to develop. You should also look at your customer profiling. You’ll want to match your brand with what they are looking for. For instance, you won’t attract a fun loving socialite with a serious brand that likes to keep its distance from its customers.

Once this has been completed ensure all your communications match that branding identity. If a message seems off-key then your audience will notice and could turn away from your business.

 

Step Three: Competitor Analysis

You need to know what your competitors are doing at the same time. Look at what messages they are putting out and how these are being reacted to by the market. You want to stay away from copying the messages and if you have similar campaigns starting soon it might be time to change tactics.

Competitor analysis also allows you to see how the market is shifting. This allows you to strategise for the long term and be prepared for future changes.

 

Step Four: Visitor Sources And Messaging Tactics

Next, you need to identify where you are going to attract the audience. For this you need to go back to your customer profiling and see where your customers are spending their time. If they are social media users then you can use that as a platform. Alternatively, they might read a lot of blogs in specific niches, or be heavy email users.

Using this information you can identify where you will want to be placing your marketing communications. Concentrating your efforts in the right place will increase the relevant traffic to your website and also increase the uptake of your offers, giving you better rates of return.

Try to stick to the top three locations where you are likely to find your customers and try to mix up the platform styles. For instance, if they are reading several different niche blogs, choose just one blog niche to start with and use other avenues they regularly visit.

Where possible, it can also be useful to stay away from channels your competitors are using, so you are not allowing target audiences to directly compare your two brands.

You’ll then start to develop messages that will speak directly to your target audience. Try to keep the message very precise and convey only one topic at the time. Trying to achieve too much in any one message can overload your customers, confuse them and turn them away.

It is also important to consider the negative aspects of any message you might try to create. McDonald’s failed to consider this when they created their #McDStories campaign which has led to continuous negative publicity for the brand. On the other hand, Oreo’s repeatedly have success in digital marketing by knowing exactly what their audience will enjoy reading about on Twitter and other social media channels.

 

Step Five: See The Potential Results

The next step is to test your campaigns on your target audience. Set up focus groups and show them your campaigns and get their opinions on what they believe your campaigns mean. This can be a very important action point as you do not want to portray a very negative image of your brand.

Be sure not to have too few a people in your focus group and that they represent a good cross section of your target audiences. You'll also want to ensure that you host several focus groups instead of just one as this will sharpen the results and give you more focus on what improvements need to be made.

 

Maintain A Lead Generation And Sales Platform

Your next step is to ensure that you have an effective online platform. Many businesses assume this is just a website; however, there are other platforms such as social media and online sales platforms. If you use these platforms, the message contained within this proportion is just as relevant.

Your brand’s platform is the single most useful element of the process. Without it, there is no way that your potential customers can make a purchase or show interest in your products.

A good website is one that has a strong design and structure. An attractive website is something that users want and will support your search engine rank. However, both users and search engines want to be able to navigate around your site freely. The more pages they visit, the higher the chance they will want to buy from you.

The exception to this is by selling on third party websites, where you want them to make a purchase from their first visit. However, if you are using these sites, then generally your product page is not the first one they have visited. Therefore, a certain degree of trust has already been established thanks to the sales platform. Yet even on these pages, there are still some best practices to ensure that your audience will buy from your page.

So what is needed for your platform to highly effective?

Content

Your website needs to have content that will generate interest for your product. Most of your pages should have a minimum of 300-400 words.

Start with a strong headline that tells the reader exactly what the page is about. Next you need a small one- to two-sentence sub-heading that will describe in more detail what you are going to tell the audience.

Then you need to write a couple of paragraphs about the product / service. Try to focus on the benefits of what you have to offer rather than the features of your product or services. Customers do not care what the features the product has but they will commit if they see the benefit in what you are writing.

For example, if you are selling washing powder that can reliably clean at low temperatures, you don't write what chemicals you have in your product that gives it that ability. You state that using your product customers can cut their energy bills and still provides clean, fresh smelling clothes.

Call To Action

Afterwards, you need to have a strong call to action, something that will direct the customer to do something on your website. For instance, you could create an ebook or a whitepaper for them to download or offer a free review of some kind.

As long as there is a perception of value around your offer, you will get a significant number of clicks of people completing the action. When visitors are completing the action, have them provide their email details so you can add them to your mailing list.

This is all part of your lead capture form. At most, you want to collect the name of the individual, email address, their company and their position. Remember this is often the first interaction you will have with your prospect: don’t ask for too much information. The more you ask for on a lead capture form, the less uptake you will generally have from potential clients.

Images

Images are one of the most important elements. There are several types of images that can boost the reception of your product and the efficiency of your website:

  • Professional images of your product or service.
  • Images of your customers happily using the product.
  • Related images to happy people or pets.

The last option sometimes seems far-fetched. However, research conducted on several websites, including Facebook, has found that happy people or pets can increase click through rates.

Social Proof

Another hugely important element of your landing page is ‘social proof’. This is not where you are connecting your content to your social media profiles (although social share buttons should be included where appropriate); this is where you post a series of customer reviews or testimonials on your page. These act as proof of your professionalism and competency and visitors will generally trust them much more than your guarantee (e.g. “Satisfaction or your money back”), though this should also be included.

The best way to include social proof is to use a third party application – such as a widget from a directory or review site. While some people feel this is a bad option, it offers several benefits. Firstly it allows you to double the exposure of positive reviews by having the review in two places without the need of copying it. Secondly, by being hosted on a third party, independent website, you are increasing the trust that visitors may have in your site. Thirdly, it allows search engines to establish the quality of your products and services that will then be reflected in your search engine rank.

Also, don't always hope for five star reviews. Too many five star reviews can seem suspicious to potential customers. In fact, research has shown that customers are more likely to leave a negative review than they are a positive review. Therefore, having only 5 star reviews can, unfairly, portray that you have faked the reviews.

(Faking reviews isn't as uncommon as you may think. In fact, in recent years many top authors and businesses have claimed that they have faked reviews on their Amazon listings to gain better ranks. There are even companies set up to sell fake reviews to book authors and businesses. These incidences were big news and since then, customers have been wary of too many reviews, especially with new companies.)

Therefore, you want to try to aim for 4.5 – 4.9 average on your scores. This isn't as hard as it sounds. Also you want to control the rate in which you generate reviews. Too many reviews posted in a short space of time can also look suspect to customers.

However, you should always be asking your customers for reviews in order to generate fresh perspective on your services and to show potential customers you are active.

 

Generating Traffic To Your Lead Generation Platform

Now you need to consider how you are going to drive traffic to your new lead generation platform! The most common practices are: social media, organic searching and paid advertisement. Many of these are particularly good for drawing in new visitors to your website. Let’s look at each of those areas individually and how they can help you to grow your traffic.

Organic Search

This is the process where someone finds you online through a search engine like Google or Bing. Many small businesses can find that over 80% of their traffic can be generated from search engines and this can lead to a significant increase in lead generation. Organic searching is also one of the top purchasing paths of customers with 16% of all online purchases initiated with an organic search.

Direct visits contribute 20% and paid advertising generates 11% of all online transactions.

To get noticed on search engines you need to optimise your site for search engines. This is otherwise known as SEO.

Search engines use several factors in order to determine the rankings for their sites and most of these are kept secret to prevent illegitimate companies from taking advantage and ranking highly.

Despite this, Google are not against advising businesses how they can rank well. They will support and give hints on what is important, but they will not tell you exactly what to do. Therefore, much of your time with SEO will be spent experimenting to find the best solution via trial and error.

While every search engine and SEO website will provide you with advice, you need to concentrate on Google’s suggestions rather than any other search engines because they have the majority of the share by far. In the UK they have over 90% of the search market while in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand they have a 65+% share in the market.

The reason for the UK share being so high is unknown but considering their biggest rival in the US has an 18.7% share (November 2014), their dominance is still established elsewhere.

Some of the key SEO elements you will need to have implemented on your site include:

Keywords

Keywords are an important element of the search engine optimisation process and are one of the primary ranking factors. However, since the inception of search engines, the role and priority of keywords has changed. Previously, using the same keyword several times in a piece would almost guarantee you a high rank.

Now there are several algorithms that take into long-tailed keywords (take, taking, taken) into consideration. There is also the release of latent semantic indexing. This is where words that have similar meanings can help the ranking of the other; for example, ‘online’ and ‘internet’ can support each other in the rankings if they are combined with other words like ‘shopping’ or ‘social groups’. This is controlled by a mathematical algorithm which compares the terms in relation to other words within the sentence structure.

This new process has several benefits:

  • You can write more naturally which is easier and more enjoyable for your reader.
  • You don’t have to worry so much about keyword density.
  • You have more creative freedom to create something that you know will describe exactly what you mean.

To choose your keywords, go to the Google Keyword Planner (You will need to create an Adwords account) and fill in the table under the “Search for new keywords and ad group ideas” tab.

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Then enter in the details of your product / service, your homepage and product category. You can also narrow down the options using the “Targeting” section below. Once you've added in your details click on the “Get Ideas” button.

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Next, select the “Keyword Ideas” and download the document.

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Open the spreadsheet you have downloaded with Microsoft Excel (Or Apple Pages if you are on a Mac), then sort the keywords based on their average monthly searches (largest to smallest) and the competition (smallest to largest). This will give you a list of keywords that have significant searches conducted per month, while also low competition online, giving you an advantage.

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Once you've got your list of keywords you can create content based on those keywords. Limit your use of keywords so there is just one phrase targeted on each page (the focus of this article might be ‘lead generation strategy’, or something similar). Also attempt to have it, or one of its variations, appear once in every 100-200 words. This will gain you the most visibility online.

You'll also want to include the key phrase in the page title, page description and image tags.

Page Speed

Page speed is one of the secret factors that many websites forget about. Google likes to give those sites which load fast on a user’s browser a good rank. Yet website speed is important for other reasons. Statistically, if your site does not load within 4 seconds, 40% of your visitors will abandon your site.

Similarly, for every second that it takes for your site to load, you'll lose 7% of your income. For a company that earns $100,000 per month means that for a 7 second delay, the company could lose $252,000 per year (approximately 21% of their annual income).

Page speed is based on a number of different factors, some of which can help support your conversion as well. To test your page speed use sites like GT Metrix and Pingdom.

For instance, you can optimise the following page elements.

Images: optimising your images using sites like Smush.it it to reduce the memory they take up and the time it takes to download the image to the site.

HTML / CSS / JavaScript: reducing these elements can be achieved very quickly and can help minimise the memory it takes to download and manage your site. Minifying these details can also reduce the chance that code will cause errors on your site that you will need to locate and fix. However, if you are finding errors on your site use W3C validator to check for errors.

Simply go to the W3C Validator, enter in your website address and click on “Check”.

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You'll get a report on the same page that will detail the types of errors and the location. However, you will need to do this for every single page on your website. So if you are starting this after your page has been started, it might take a significant amount of time.

Inbound Links: while the number of inbound links is very important, you must still ensure that they are of a high quality. For instance, you don't want to be linked to from every site that you convince (or pay) to do so. Instead, you want to acquire links from relevant sites that are talking about topics that are related to your business.

One of the best ways to do this is to create a strong campaign of building links through journalism and blog comments. Start by signing up to Help A Reporter Out. These regular email newsletters will inform you when an opportunity is available to provide advice to a journalist in exchange for a link to your site.

Even some of the biggest news outlets (New York Times, Business News Daily, etc) use this system to generate quotes, so you can get a significant amount of high quality links by using HARO. Always check your emails daily and respond to requests quickly. Continuous use of this system will support your link building activities.

Next you want to create links from other sites that are relevant to your own. Do this by reading several blogs and making high quality and relevant comments on their articles. Then link your site to the comment. Don't do this too often however: some report that Google checks to see if this is your only source of inbound links and can then limit your reach.

Therefore, you could use a rule where 1 out of 10 of your inbound links can be from other blogs, while others have to be organically generated or from HARO leads.

You can check how many inbound links you have through your Google Webmaster account. Simply log into your account and then click on the “Links To Your Site” tab under the “Search Traffic” category.

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On this screen you will be presented with several statistics, such as how many inbound links you have in total, how many from each site and what pages they link to. It does take time for links to appear on this page, sometimes up to a month, so check back regularly. Also links from blogs may never appear because they have a Google penalty or because they have a nofollow tag on their site.

If you are offered a service to improve your SEO, be careful about your choice of supplier. While many businesses can provide you with better positioning, there is no guaranteed way to achieve a top position. If a company does promise this, don't use them. It is likely they will use black hat techniques that might get you banned from Google search results.

Instead, find a company that can prove it has improved the rankings of other customers over an extended period of time (e.g. 12 months). This will provide evidence of their legitimacy and that their techniques are approved by Google and other search engines.

Social Media

Social media is becoming one of main marketing channels: not a surprise considering that 94% of adults in America have at least one social media account. 48% of consumers also believe that it is one of the best ways to discover new brands, conduct product research or get recommendations from their friends and family.

However, only 1% of all online transactions can be traced to social media updates. Therefore, while social media can deliver traffic to your site, don’t expect the visitors to be buying your products. This can be further highlighted by the fact that only 4% of Facebook users like to see products advertised on the network while 0% of LinkedIn users like to see adverts on the site.

Instead you want to be delivering your potential customers to high quality information on your website that convinces them to sign up to your newsletter. Blogs and the promise of free reports (e-books, whitepapers, etc.) are some of the best content to direct them to.

There are a number of different social media platforms out there. The biggest are: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. There is no clear way to determine which one is right for your business, though if your company offering is primarily business-to-consumer (B2C), Facebook may be a more logical choice than LinkedIn, for example. Equally, Instagram or Pinterest may be better suited to businesses that need to expose more visual elements in their marketing.

Different businesses and audiences have different behaviours and requirements. So some businesses find that their best interaction on Twitter is 9pm, however research has shown that on average interaction is best at 11am.

Therefore, the best option is to experiment. Notice trends in interactions between your audience and your brand on the networks, traffic to your site and leads generated. If you notice a particular campaign is providing you with better results; use that as a template.

Still, there are techniques you can use to grow the interactions and visits to your website. Here are some of those techniques.

Use images: every network has the option to add images but it is not compulsory on all of them. Yet research has shown that no matter what network you use; if images are included website visits increase and so does interaction.

Ask questions: asking questions can increase your interactions by up to 33%. Therefore, never state to your audience something, ask a question and see what they say. This is especially true for retail businesses.

Fill in the blanks: If you want a lot of interaction on your site then post updates where your audience has to complete a sentence. For instance: “I love lead generation because...” You could tie this in with a competition where you give away a prize for the best response.

Schedule in your message: although this may not get you more interaction directly, by using automated programs like Hootsuite or Buffer you can schedule updates in advance and then leave the automation to do the rest for you. This is a great time saver and allows you to maintain a presence without being online all the time. In this way messages can go out at peak interaction points while you carry on delivering your product or service to your existing customers.

Share good content: the majority of businesses struggle with what content they should post on social media. Don’t promote yourself too much. Instead use your profile to provide strong evidence of your expertise by posting blog updates, news and advice. Also you’ll want to communicate with your audience by joining in conversations and talking with your audience about their content. The more you interact, the greater the number of followers you will gain and the more chances you will have of attracting customers.

If you are new to social media, one of the best tips is to create one profile at a time and establish that before creating the next one. The reason for this is simply because it takes time and energy to grow an audience on social media and it can seem very frustrating by working hard to achieve traction on too many profiles.

The best platform to start with is either Twitter or Facebook. The majority of social media users, who are decision makers, will have a profile on one these platforms.

You may also want to use Google+ and LinkedIn quickly as both of these will improve your search engine optimisation and both are good for leads. LinkedIn is especially important if you want to sell to the business community.

When you start out on social media you’ll attract the attention of a lot of brands that will attempt to sell you followers or likes. Do not be tempted to do this even if you are short of them to begin with.

While gaining a significant following is important, all these people do is use inactive or fake accounts to follow you. While it may look impressive, a knowledgeable business will realise what is going on and may end their association with you. Also, marketing to thousands of fake accounts is not useful; they are never going to buy from your brand.

Finally, it is against most networks’ terms and conditions and you could be banned from that network. This would mean you would have to start again.

Finally, ensure every page or post you link to on social media has an option to sign up to your newsletter or some other mailing list.

Paid Advertising

Using PPC, paid advertising or display advertising is a highly successful way to develop leads. It is also the third best selling platform for new visitors. Therefore, it is important that your business utilises this method.

There are many different options for using PPC. One of the best is Google AdWords.

To create a Google Adwords campaign, go to your account and click on Campaigns.

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Then, click on create your first campaign button. On the next screen, fill in your budget and where you would like your advertisement to appear.

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Then start to create your advert copy.

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Here is an example:

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On the right of the ad creator is a preview. For the example above, the advertisement will appear as:

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Then you can start adding the keywords you want your advert to display for. These keywords will be used when someone is entering a search query on Google (or an associated website).

Then all you have to do is to enter in your billing details and wait for the advertisement to be authorised.

To get better results for your PPC campaign, follow these techniques:

Avoid ‘broad match’ keywords – these are keywords that will appear for both relevant and irrelevant searches. A good example of this would someone selling “show ideas”. This keyword would also appear in search results “baby shower ideas”. Therefore, reduce unnecessary expense and have specific industry keywords.

Use low competition, high search volume keywords – these are both less costly and offer you a higher ad placement. Therefore, you can get a better ROI for your campaigns.

Use Images – adverts that have images or videos attached have a higher click through rate and have already engaged the audience, giving you more chance that they will buy your product. On the other hand, these adverts do cost more.

Use negative keywords – these are words that you don’t want your advert to appear with. This stops unnecessary displays of your advert when it isn’t relevant. For instance, you could have “baby”, “gift” and “shower” as negative keywords when using “show ideas”.

Be precise on targeting – many advertisers don’t target their audience specifically. Insist that your adverts are displayed in areas only where you want to sell your product and limit the display times to when your audience is most likely to be online.

Match landing page to advert – this is one of the biggest mistakes for those new to PPC campaigns. Often they will create an advert and link it to their homepage or a page that is irrelevant. Instead, carefully select your page based on what you’re advertising in your advert copy. So if you are advertising resumes, direct them to your resume writing page.

Create more than one advert – different adverts will appeal to different segments of your market. Therefore you will want to create several adverts that have different copy to appeal to the various audiences you want to target or different products you want to sell.

Your advert does not necessary need to lead to a product page. You could direct your new visitors to a blog post, free downloadable content or webinar signup sheet. As long as you have some way to capture their contact information for use in lead nurturing.

Where Do You Put These Details?

Once you have obtained all these details you need a customer database and a way to contact them. The best way is to have an email marketing system do this for you. Email marketing is one of the best ways to contact customers who have already interacted with your brand and nearly 80% of customers expect and like to receive promotional messages through emails.

A good email marketing system will also allow you to monitor the results of your campaigns and receive the best return on your invest.

Therefore, always connect your pages on your site to an email list. Then you can continuously market to your interested audience as you remind them of your products and generate more visits.

Remember that whatever method you use to generate traffic to your site; you need to maintain an honest approach. If you mislead visitors, annoy them too much or go absent for a while; your audience won’t trust you and will abandon your brand.

As such, it’s important to ensure you can commit to your marketing. This way, you can gain a significant number of leads that you can gradually progress through your sales funnel until they are ready to make a purchase. This may take many emails (three or more), but by creating this lead generation scheme you will have a greater chance of gaining visitors, sales and significant profits.

 

Action steps:

  • Create fifteen or more landing pages. This will increase traffic to your site and improve options for marketing on social media and PPC campaigns. It will also allow you to market different pages to the various segments of your target market.
  • Sign up and start marketing on social media. Direct audiences to your landing pages, blog posts and other content that they will be interested in reading to.
  • Find and communicate with those in your industry and those who will be interested in your website.
  • Sign up to HARO and start to respond to requests for information. Ensure you are responding to relevant requests.
  • Sign up to Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Create a comment on a blog for every ten inbound links you generate.
  • Create your first PPC campaign.
  • Test your website’s speed and make adjustments based on the recommendations provided.

Effective Digital Email Marketing

Email Marketing is the Most Effective Form of Digital Marketing

Email marketing is one of the most effective forms of digital marketing and should be a central part of any online sales path you have. Despite its effectiveness, businesses are often slow at adopting email marketing and building their contacts list.

The reason behind this is because businesses tend to see the difficulty in building a list and creating content for release. It is true that a single email can often take two or three hours to create, edit and schedule. It is also difficult to build an email marketing list and buying a list can be illegal not to mention damaging in the long term.

Yet this should not be your end decision. Email marketing has a lot to offer businesses and you can benefit significantly from your email marketing campaigns.

So why is it a highly effective form of digital marketing?

 

The Return On Investment

Research has shown that email marketing has a steadily increasing ROI. In 2013, the ROI was between $25 and $30 for every $1 spent. This was an improvement on the previous year, which saw an ROI of $20 for every $1 spent. Other research has placed ROI at around 4,300%.

Email marketing is also the third highest contributor to online sales (approximately 12%) where the brand and customer have already interacted. In comparison, social media contributes to only 1% of all online sales, even if both parties know each other.

It is the matter of the cheapness of email marketing that makes it so effective for marketing. Many small businesses can have a free email marketing account on many providers and send up to 12,000 emails in one month. Therefore, it would take only a small percentage of those receiving an email message to make a purchase for the campaign to show a positive ROI.

This isn't too hard to achieve. The average click through rate is somewhere between 1 and 5% (depending on industry). Therefore, out of 12,000 emails, you should have up to 600 visitors from your email marketing campaign. All of these will be known individuals, who are easier to sell to and cost far less to convert.

 

Audiences And Emails

It isn't just the ROI that should please businesses. The strength and receptiveness of the audience should also be considered.

In 2013, there were 3.6 billion email addresses, that is more users than Facebook and Twitter combined. These users were also far more receptive to promotional material through emails, with 74% preferring this medium. Further to this, 66% of consumers have made a purchase after receiving an email marketing message.

Your content is also active for longer than it is on Twitter or Facebook. The lifespan of a Tweet and Facebook update is approximately 10 minutes and 2 hours respectively. With emails, the message is active until it is deleted by the account holder. Studies have also shown that while a majority of the opens are within two days of the message being sent, a quarter happen after this period and therefore, your email message has longevity.

Email users are also very addicted to their accounts. Nearly all email users will check their accounts at least once a day. Twitter and Facebook do not achieve such success, with Twitter only having around 50% active users.

Users are also using their mobile devices more to check their emails. Therefore, your marketing messages can be received on the go. In 2013, the open rate for emails on a mobile device was 48%.

The problem is, the majority of email marketing messages have not been optimised for mobile devices. This can cause upset and limit the reach of your content. Research has shown audiences are highly likely to delete email marketing messages that are not optimised for mobile. Therefore, if you want success via email marketing; check they display right on mobile devices.

 

Email Marketing Tracking

It is also very easy to track the success of your email marketing campaigns. There is a lot of email marketing software available that allows you to track the open rate, click through rate and other metrics. This can be very powerful.

First, you can make your campaigns more efficient by suppressing audience members that have not interacted with your brand for a long time. This can have a benefit of seeing your deliverability rise by 3-5% almost instantly. The better your deliverability the higher your reputation is. This can impact the number of people who see your content.

Tracking also allows you to make sales through other channels. For instance, you can see if someone is constantly opening up your mails and clicking through on offers but not converting. You can contact them via phone and speak to them. They will remember your email, your brand and be more interested in doing business

At a lower level, you can see what offers are interesting your audience and create a new email campaign based on those trends. This will convert better as it is what your audience wants.

However, some businesses don't take advantage of this ability with 17% not monitoring the success of their campaigns at all.

 

Email Is A Success

The reason why all this is can happen is because of two major points. Email marketing is personable. That is that you can tailor your messages so that they can be relatable to your audience. This is done in several ways:

  • Using unique identifiers (name, company, address) etc in your email copy.
  • Segmenting your campaigns so that they are targeted and content is only sent to those who have shown interest in that topic.
  • Sending the email at a time which they are likely to available to read.

The content is also permissible; this means that the audience has given you permission to contact them. This makes the audience far more receptive to the marketing message. Therefore, you will have better results.

 

Conclusion

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to generate interest in your brands and products. It has a high ROI and engagement rates from your audience. It is also the best way to track how your audience reacts to your content and gives you ideas how you can improve your message to gain more sales and interest from your audience, thus improving the revenue generated from your small targeted audience.