Is there still anyone out there who doesn’t know they need a website? Trust us, you need a website. If you run or own a small business, you should know that a professional website should be the hub of all your online marketing activities. And it’s important to use the right communication channels to drive traffic to the hub, create brand awareness and promote your business.
The question is, “how do I do that effectively while sticking to a small to moderate budget?” There are so many communication channels you can use to get the word out: social media, blogs, email marketing etc., how do I choose and choose wisely?
If you’re a large company with a large budget, you can afford to dabble in several types of promotion. If you’re on a small business budget, your marketing dollars are more precious. You need to know which channels will have the most impact on the audience you wish to reach.
Whether your aim is to boost brand awareness, increase reach, increase conversions, or communicate your brand’s distinct personality and story, each channel has its own unique “niche” of potential customers, you just have to know which niche works for you.
Choose Your Communication Channels Wisely
First things first. Before you go shopping for promotional channels, you need to know your brand.
We can’t emphasize this enough.
You may know your products and services inside and out. You may know every detail of your day-to-day operations. But, do you know your brand’s purpose, vision, and mission?
What does your brand stand for? Is it clear what your brand does NOT support? Do you have a clearly defined brand personality? What is your team like? Have you got your own unique brand story?
These are all questions you should ask yourself before you look for ways to market your business. If you aren’t clear about who you are, then how can you ever choose the right communication channels that will best represent, and showcase, your brand?
The next thing you need to be crystal clear on: who are your ideal customers? If you know what they like, how they shop and what platforms they use to communicate, it takes some of the guesswork out of choosing the right channels.
Remember, all your communications set the tone for the “user experience”. Each one is important, and they should all work toward a unified strategy and theme. Often, people pick the wrong communication channels because they don’t know their brand or their customers well enough.
So which communication tool(s) should you place in your marketing toolbox? We’ll outline a few of the most common ones and how they can be used to promote your business.
In the old days, if people wanted to learn more about your business or products, they would call your sales department, or pick up a brochure.
Nowadays, people don’t trust those sales sources. They don’t like people telling them what to buy – in other words, they hate the obvious sales pitch. Instead, they want to make up their own minds, so they do their own research.
Since most people now use the internet, your business website is likely the first place they’ll go if they want more info about you. Therefore, it’s the one place where you can “sell” directly and don’t have to hide it.
Think of your website as the digital version of your physical business. It’s the “hub” of your online marketing and branding. Your goal, much like a physical store, is to drive potential customers toward it so you can “close the deal”.
Blogs and Videos
It’s a fact, the more time people spend on your website, the more likely they’ll buy into your products and services. It’s like spending time in an actual store. The likelihood of you buying something goes up if you’re pulled into the store by intriguing displays or when a staff member helpfully engages you.
Blogs and videos are much the same. They are the “eye and mind candy” that will entice people to spend more time on your site.
Blogs are the digital version of helpful staff. A blog makes you look more knowledgeable, more professional and positions you as an expert in your field. That builds consumer trust.
A blog also adds value to your website by boosting your search engine optimisation (SEO). Yes, Google rewards you with a better search ranking if you consistently update your website content and a blog is an easy and mostly free way to do that.
If your website is your advertising hub, then your communication channels are like little brand emissaries that go out into the world, to draw potential customers to your website (or your brick and mortar store).
Social media is an effective and inexpensive “brand ambassador” for small businesses. Posts can help you share your brand’s values, your personality and can build critical awareness.
Social platforms also help you build more than just buzz. They allow you to craft a community of liked-minded followers, or influencers, who will either try your products or encourage people to try them.
However, social media should never be the hard sell. Followers quickly lose interest in brands that only position their products and services or use their profiles to announce sales. There needs to be a balance between promotional versus personality posts.
You also need to know the audience niches for each social platform. Each one attracts different people.
Facebook – Perfect if you want to reach a wide base, since Canada has one of the largest penetrations of Facebook in the world. Users are typically in their 30’s to 60’s. The only drawback is that Facebook now chooses what content their users get served. With a recent focus on keeping posts more relatable and reserved for personal use, commercial-related posts are usually the last shared.
LinkedIn – Great platform for B2B (business to business) sales or reaching industry professionals, finding partnerships, sourcing new staff or reaching business influencers. It also has its own blogging platform, which is a good way to show your expertise in your field.
Instagram – Images are the main draw. Perfect for visual-based businesses such as artists or retailers, or lifestyle brands that sell more than just their products. If your brand has personality, this is where it can unapologetically show it off! Users are typically younger, from teens to early 30’s, and images are a must for drawing them in. To work, they must be on-brand, have consistency and be authentic to your values and brand image.
Twitter – Twitter is the opposite. It features text, and since each post is capped at 280 characters, it is the most instant, immediate, and “real time” social platform. It’s like having a conversation with your audience – you are expected to engage directly with your followers, who will also judge you based on what you retweet (share). Twitter allows you to laser-focus on one group or segment, and to engage and influence them directly. Users range from teens to 50’s but tend to skew more to the 20-somethings.
Once you build your communities online, email marketing allows you to nurture them, so they grow.
Email marketing permits you to really know your customers and to target your content. You can use email campaigns to develop a relationship with your subscribers by sharing news about your company, excerpts from your blogs or social media, or any community initiatives.
You can also share promotions and target them to a certain list of customers – so you’re targeting your offers to only those who will perceive value in them.
Email content even beats websites and blogs, because a professional-looking email is easy and affordable to create and doesn’t eat up all your time (like social media can). You can also build lists of prospective or current customers and use email content to reach them directly, whether they check their social accounts or not.
It’s actually one of the best ways to draw people to your website, your marketing hub, because 1) email campaigns are cheap to run, and 2) you have more control because you’re not using another person’s platform. A social platform can disappear or change its rules for marketing content. Your email campaigns, and your hard-won list of customers, are controlled by you and will not be affected by such uncertainties.
Just make sure to always balance promotions with original, relevant content on all your communication channels.
Communications Are Key for Creating New Customers
Constant communication is essential for increasing brand awareness and generating leads.
Remember, each communication should add value in your customers’ eyes. Any materials you send out should be applicable and appropriate to their needs. Don’t send stuff out just to send stuff out. It needs to have purpose and should all add up to a marvelous customer experience.
Although there are many things to consider when selecting your channels or platforms, the best way to know if one is right for you and your budget (besides a website, which is a “must have”) is to consult a branding expert. They can help you not only with communication channel selection, they can also guide your brand strategy, which will help you determine the next step, which is when and how to deploy your communication “touchpoints” for best results.
Not all touchpoints are covered here. So watch our blog or sign up to our newsletter for more info.
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