One of the main challenges facing a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) is how to get the word out that you are open for business. Especially if you are operating in a crowded market with potentially much larger competitors touting for attention right alongside you. In particular, it can be difficult to get your voice heard ahead of more established brands which may have been trading for a while and have had longer to build up a reputation.
However, we all have to start somewhere, and probably the most powerful way to get your name out there is through online, or digital marketing. These days, we rely more and more on the internet to sort out life admin, conduct business and strengthen relationships. It could be argued that the age of traditional marketing is on the wane, since its online counterpart offers faster results, more convenient ways of delivering marketing messages and often a more cost-effective approach.
So, to ignore the many possibilities of online marketing when trying to raise awareness of your SME would be very foolish indeed. Here are a few reasons why, and some ideas to get you started.
Gets you noticed
Digital marketing for SMEs is crucial to increase online visibility and to get people talking about your brand. It helps you gain recognition and helps people discover what you are about and how you might be able to help them. It can take many forms and you can become as involved as you wish in the various options, however a great place to start is by using social media to begin making connections and creating some online content.
Sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram are free to sign up to and, if used wisely, can do wonders for your online visibility and credibility. Do your research first – check out what your competitors and your potential customers are saying about themselves, what types of content they are linking to and how their audiences are reacting to it. Next, make a plan. Work out a content schedule so that you know what you are going to put up on your new social media pages and when. Finally, monitor people’s reactions to your content and adjust your plans accordingly, to take in more of what they like and less of what is less well-received.
Makes your website work harder
Your SME’s website is of the utmost importance as it tends to be the first place that people come to find out more about your new business. However, it’s not enough to simply ‘have’ a website and leave it sitting there. For the best success rates, it must appeal not only to human visitors, but to the search engine algorithms that decide the order in which websites appear when someone performs a relevant search. There are several ways to encourage Google and its ilk to increase your website’s rating.
Adding plenty of SEO-rich content, or text containing the most popular phrases and words that people search for online, can help your website take priority over others,
even if you are an SME competing against much larger businesses in the same sector. In addition, search engines react favourably to websites with updated, dynamic content, so simply by adding a regular blog or news section, your website can be rated far higher. Encouraging visitors to your site to interact with you is also a great way to increase visibility – adding a comment section to a blog, for instance, or creating an e-commerce function to allow people to order direct from you.
Connects you with your audience
As we have seen already with social media, people like to connect with the companies with which they do business. The rise of the internet has brought with it a greater feeling of connectivity as we can now instantly link to people and organisations anywhere in the world and think nothing of being in touch with others, 24/7.
Digital marketing techniques that encourage interaction, therefore are invaluable, such as social media, online commerce and the opportunity for people to leave comments and reviews about your service. Getting to know the SEO keywords used by your customers and other communities around you will also help you attract visitors who will be in tune with your company’s values and offerings, and so will turn into valuable sales leads rather than curious visitors who leave without buying.
Improves the bottom line
Talking about encouraging people to buy, an investment in digital marketing speaks directly to the primary goal of pretty much any business, which is to make sales. A healthy balance sheet enables a business to grow and evolve beyond its SME status. While some digital marketing techniques are free, such as social media interaction or link building with other, relevant online resources, it is also worth paying for quality support and advice in the areas of SEO, content creation and pay-per-click advertising (PPC).
PPC allows users to create a cost-effective, highly tailored advertising campaign that centres on carefully chosen keywords or phrases and only costs money when someone clicks on the ad to be taken to the advertiser’s website or landing page. This combination of directly targeted digital advertising, along with the softer approach of increasing visibility and inspiring loyalty through carefully considered content and social media interaction is a great way to get any SME noticed and respected as an expert in its field.