When you become an entrepreneur, you gain not only immense freedom, but also broad responsibilities. Businesses have three key priority areas: the company itself, customers, and competition. As an entrepreneur, you must understand every aspect of the process through which you cater to your customers’ needs and desires with better products and services than the competition. That’s the value proposition you promise to deliver.
Digital marketing can be your biggest ally in building your business. It brings at least three advantages to your company, which we’ll explore below.
1. By generating traffic and leads, digital marketing will help you add new customers, thereby increasing sales
This is the scenario: your potential clients are using more and more interconnected digital technology to stay up-to-date. They surf the Internet and their smartphones day and night for information on their next buy. 70 to 80 per cent of people research a business online before making a purchase or visiting the company. If you’re not there, your competitor will be. This scenario holds for too many industries and businesses – it cannot be ignored.
2. Digital marketing will build a brand reputation for your business and help you keep customers
Compared to traditional forms, digital marketing drives more targeted traffic. Online buyer’s journeys that identify interested prospects and later on convert them to customers can result in lasting relationships. Besides, online channels are very effective at showcasing these relationships through instant social media sharing. In turn, this builds brand reputation. A brand that generates share of mind and share of voice has more opportunities to reach new customers and grow.
3. Finally, using digital channels to drive demand is cost-effective
For a start-up that is struggling with resources, digital marketing holds the key to driving large traffic and conversions at low costs. 40 per cent of small businesses report a correlation between savings and utilization of digital marketing strategies to drive demand for their products. Consider this: the price of a cost per thousand impressions is less than 3 dollars for social media, 10 times less than the cost of TV commercials.
Although you don’t need to stay up-to-date with every development in the digital marketing field, being savvy about it is crucial to your business’ survival. To reach your modern audience in the right manner and drive business, you need to leverage digital marketing strategies.
Even if you have a tight budget, you can build a competitive online presence with the right tools and services. The opportunity gap is big: only 50 per cent of SMBs in the US have invested in a website. Let’s then look into top inexpensive ways and tools you can use to start building a successful online presence.
Understand your digital prospects
The first step in any successful digital marketing plan is to find your optimum audience. Without understanding whose needs your products address and what type of content they consume online, you have a huge blind spot on the demand side of your business. Delivering the right products and creating the right content is dependent on finding your customers.
Getting to the right audience is not always a simple and intuitive process. Customers don’t have the same knowledge as you do; they don’t care about your brand, and they have a wide range of interests and preferences. In the end, it’s your customers, not your products, which must drive your marketing efforts.
So how can you target the right digital audience for your products? First, you need to define your target audience. Next, you must gather audience data to optimize your target audience and keep it relevant for your business.
1. Define the target audience
To define your audience means to find their most important traits, goals, motivations, and problems. The customer persona is a great way to capture your target audiences’ personality and needs in an informative way.
In a customer persona, the information is structured to ensure clarity and insight. Xtensio’s free version allows you to create such a framework. The online platform allows you to edit the layout containing key descriptive fields, and, even if you cannot download the PDF file for free, you still get at least a PNG.
Xtensio takes into account demographics such as age, location, family, and work. It also guides you in building the persona’s characters by depicting its personality type and motivations. Is achievement or power a top motivator for your target customers? Are they motivated by fear and urgency? How important is the social aspect?
Next, their goals, such as tasks, life targets, and experiences sought are important to note down. Frustrations and concerns are other essential bits of information for a business trying to solve a problem.
In a nutshell, Xtensio’s customer persona will help you understand the people you’re targeting so that you can make them feel as if you were addressing them directly.
2. Gather audience data
Where can you gather all the data necessary for customer personas? Traditional market research methods such as focus groups, user interviews, observations, and trials are only part of the answer. You also have lots of digital tools at your disposal to research customers.
Online survey apps are a great way to capture the voices of the audiences that matter for your business. They are rather inexpensive and can quickly reach a large number of people. A popular example is SurveyMonkey. The company claims that 98 percent of the Fortune 500 uses it to stay customer-focused. And while the premier plans can get very pricey for incorporating a varied range of functions, the basic plan is free of charge. At a zero cost, it will allow you to create and send a basic 10 question survey. We all need to start somewhere.
Next, you will want to find your audience on social media. If they hang out on Facebook, you’re in luck, because the software company offers lots of useful information for effective targeting. Facebook’s Audience Insights tracks all sorts of data about its users’ characteristics and behavior. Whether the use of that data has been consented by users or not has been the subject of a legal investigation by the U.S. courts, but for our purposes, we’ll stick to the technical aspects. The tool aggregates and breaks down user data by demographics, such as age, gender, education, and employment; by people’s interests and hobbies, and by lifestyles depending on their relationship status and location.
You can read this data for all users on Facebook, as well as for the people who interacted with your page. In your Insights dashboard, you’ll find this type of information for top followers, as well as people who have been reached, or engaged by your organic posts and ads. That is a lot of insightful data – and it’s free of charge.
If you already have a website, you will want to learn who is engaging with the content you produce. Is it reaching and engaging the right audience in the right way? Google Analytics is a great tool for beginner entrepreneurs who want to learn more about their audiences. The public dashboards will show you where your website visitors come from, what technologies they used to connect (e.g. browser, operating system, device), and what language they have installed. You’ll not only see the marketing channels that brought you most prospects, but a breakdown of these potential clients by demographics, affinities, market segments, and behavior on your pages.
Optimize your digital presence
If you don’t have a website yet, WordPress.org can be a great place to get one for free. WordPress has published numerous step-by-step guides to making a website – you won’t need any special skills for this. To start, you will need a domain name and hosting for your online content. WordPress partners with BlueHost to offer a competitive price for web hosting. If you’re not sure about the hosting service, look for quick comparisons between different providers.
With WordPress, you’ll benefit from its long tradition in the market, which allowed for seamless integration with other digital tools, a user-friendly experience, and diverse customization choices. Apart from the multitude of templates to select from for your website’s design, you get the option to install countless plug-ins that bring add-ons and extensions to your site’s functionality.
A useful plug-in you can add to your WordPress dashboard is Yoast SEO. This brings us to our next strategy for optimizing your digital presence. You need to improve your ranking in search engine results so that people find you when they search for the things you offer. In marketing verbiage, you need to get better SEO.
We know by now that 93 percent of online experiences begin with a search engine. What’s more, 61 percent of marketers consider improving Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and growing organic presence as a top inbound marketing priority.
SEO can be split into optimizing website content and the technical coding behind it. To begin content optimization, you don’t need as much skill set, as a good tool to guide through the process. Yoast SEO does a great job of teaching you how to improve your content to attract more visitors and increase reader engagement. The great thing about it is the extensiveness of features in the free version. You can optimize for one keyword or keyphrase, tell Google what your page is about, and check the readability of your copy. Yoast SEO also checks the technical stuff in the background such as permalink URLs.
To stay on top of what people search for on the web, Google’s Keyword Planner is another great free source. The tool is essentially part of Google Ads and is designed to assist you in optimizing your search ads. It can inform your content optimization strategy as well. Keyword Planner will offer keyword suggestions concerning your products and services, as well as give insight into how often a certain keyword has been searched over a period.
Finally, to master SEO, you must learn to adapt to its constant changes. Search engines never stop indexing, and content marketing is ever-improving. To stay ahead of the trends, you need to monitor the analytics of your website consistently. This leads us to our last point: to optimize your digital presence, constantly monitor your best and worst-performing conten.
Why would you concern yourself with content marketing in the first place and not use ads alone? You should know that content marketing brings three times as many leads as outbound marketing, despite costing 62 percent less. That’s because 70 percent of consumers favor learning about a product or service through content rather than ads.
Data analytics is critical to producing successful digital content. Setting them up early will help you optimize your content from the start and avoid making expensive fixes later on. To help you with this task, meet your new best friend – Google Analytics. In this context, the tool helps you trace the rate of success of each website page and identify problem roots.
While it would require a dedicated series of articles to cover the myriad features of Google Analytics, there are a few key ones to keep in mind. Through behavior flow, you’ll be able to see how users interacted with your website pages. Do they visit your home page after reading an article? Do they usually have multiple interactions or just one? This behavior will determine the bounce rate of each page, as well as for the overall website.
Under Landing Pages, you’ll also see a report of your acquisitions, behavior, and conversions for each page. This will help you determine how many returning and new users you’re getting, how long their sessions are, and how many goals they complete on your pages. You’ll need to set up the goals to reflect your target objectives, whether it’s clicking a button, spending a certain time on your website, or completing a purchase.
This type of data will inform you of how well your content generates attention, leads, and conversions, and therefore adds revenue to your bottom line.
The last step in building a successful online presence is to understand your competition, learn from it, and use this information to attract and retain customers. You’ll want to first make a long list of direct and indirect competitors. At this point, you don’t know who is best performing in your niche or related markets.
Your goal will be to understand how satisfied customers are with your competition’s offerings. By learning what they appreciate about your competitor’s products, you can make a list of essential aspects to incorporate. You could either offer the same aspect more successfully or differentiate by attracting customers to new aspects they haven’t considered yet.
One way to gain such knowledge is social listening. This entails a lot of digging through social media pages, groups, and forums for activity on your competitors’ content. Reading through comments should be done as structured as possible to inform a decision later on. For instance, you could group the information you read into three blocks: things people want; things people hate; and memorable phrases.
When it comes to your competitors’ digital content marketing strategy, Ubersuggest is a life-saving analytical tool. Run by digital expert Neil Patel, it offers key information on your competition’s SEO performance by entering their domain. Any successful content marketing strategy relies on SEO because you want to be found by your prospects browsing the Internet as easily as possible. With the free version of Ubersuggest, you will see your competitors’ SEO ranking on various keywords. In the next section, I’ll explain how to see whether people are searching for a certain word. But on Ubersuggest, you’ll be able to see the main pages that drive traffic to your competitor’s websites, and deep dive into the key content pieces that use the keywords you are set on. Once equipped with this information, your task becomes to create more in-depth and more engaging content along with the same keywords.
BuzzSumo can further assist you in researching your competition’s content for insights. It is essentially a research and monitoring tool that tracks the most shared and engaging content online. Along with these factors, it will show you the most successful content for keywords that you input.
As you mine through competitor data, you must keep in mind what potential customers can gain from choosing your company instead. Those factors will help you build and market a competitive offering that responds to actual needs.
There are plenty of effective, but inexpensive ways to help your business thrive in the online space. Following a structured approach and using free, or affordable online tools will help you build a strong foundation.
First, make sure to define your target audience in detail. Then monitor the audience you reach to make sure you’re attracting the best niche for your content. Second, create content that will be easily found by prospects throughout their online journeys. To that end, use free online tools to keep up with search engine algorithms and user trends. Lastly, you need to know your competition and strive to offer better content, products, and services.
Over time, you can reinvest in your digital presence to make it more effective at completing the goals you set up. Start with the foundations above, and the rest will follow.