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A Quick Guide to Digital Marketing Strategy for Start-ups and SMEs

At Lanyon Bowdler, we pride ourselves on the relationships we have with our clients. Whether they are private individuals or businesses we want to help and support them as much as possible, and not just with our legal services. 

With that in mind, we have decided to put together a series of blog posts aimed at helping start-ups and small businesses get a head start in the corporate world.  

This week we are talking about digital marketing, and are delighted to have a guest author on board - Mindy Gofton, head of digital strategies at full-service digital marketing agency I-COM.  

So, if you’d like to know how to get more out of your online presence, keep reading... 


In 2015, if you’re not appearing on Google then your business may as well not exist. Whether you’re a local high street trader or a giant multinational, when people need to find a product or service and they don’t already have a favourite supplier (or even if they do), they no longer turn to the Yellow Pages - they search on Google. 

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Now, they may ask their friends for recommendations (often via Facebook). Or they may log into Twitter or LinkedIn and ask their online connections. They may even go onto a review site such as Trustpilot, TripAdvisor or Reevoo to see which businesses others have recommended. 

In the end, however, they always come back to online searches to access recommended businesses - even if it’s just to find an address or phone number. 

Ensuring you get found by people looking for what you offer online is a simple, three-step process: Presence, Awareness and Conversion.   

The premise is that you ensure you have a presence in the right places online where people want to find you - this includes your website; you undertake a range of digital marketing activities designed to raise awareness of your brand and drive traffic to your website or enquiries to your business; and review and analyse your data to constantly improve the number of visitors who then become customers. 

Let’s look at each step in a bit more detail: 

Presence

Your website is the backbone of your digital presence - it’s your store front - so it’s essential it is designed to convey the right tone for your brand, and answers all the questions visitors might have about you, your products and services. It’s also essential visitors can use your site on whatever device they choose - be that a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, a phone or even a Smart TV - and that all users get an equivalent experience.  

Ensure your site is search friendly so that Google (and Bing) can find and understand all the web pages on your site and what you do, but focus the bulk of your efforts on building a site which meets the needs of your users. You want a site on which it is easy to find information and where visitors understand what to do next - pick up the phone, fill in a form, or make a purchase. Make the process of completing that action as easy as you can for them. 

For any new website (or even major upgrades to an existing site), you should ensure that your designer, your developer and a search engine optimisation specialist work together. It’s also a good idea to bring in a user experience expert, if you have the budget. 

The other key element to presence is the understanding some people may want to interact with you on other online spaces. You need to ensure you understand where your target audience congregates and have a presence there as well - this could be Facebook or LinkedIn, but it may also be somewhere more niche, such as a specific forum.  

You also want to ensure you have a Google Business Page. You can choose between a shop front, which helps you get a listing in the Map results (the section to the right of a Google search); a service area, which is also good for local businesses; or a brand page, which is best for online-only businesses or more national firms which have numerous offices. 

Awareness

Just having a great website or the right social media accounts doesn’t automatically ensure you will get visitors. In order to attract the right people to your business, you need a strong marketing strategy which gets you in front of people and tells your brand story whilst providing people with answers to their questions or fulfils specific needs relating to what you can offer. 

The best way to raise awareness is with a combination of marketing activities which keep your brand in the forefront of the minds of your target audience at each stage of the buying process, from the point when they begin to research, right through to when they are ready to make a purchase.  

For quick results it’s worth investing in paid advertising, which could include Google AdWords (pay-per-click, also known as PPC), paid social media ads and display ads. These forms of marketing can get you in front of your target audience quickly and at different phases of their search, whether they’re looking for initial recommendations or trying to make a final decision. 

To build long-term brand awareness, and ensure Google trusts that people enjoy doing business with your company, you want a strategy containing elements of PR, content marketing and social media marketing.  

PR targets influencers and journalists to tell great stories about your business and your expertise; content marketing provides useful and engaging information to people to build goodwill; and social media marketing builds communities of people to whom you can promote your content and stories. When carried out effectively, each approach gets people talking about (and to) your company, and consequently indicates to search engines your company is worth including higher up their rankings. If people are talking positively, and regularly, about you, you must be doing something right.  

This is not a quick win, but when done well - by understanding the pain points of your market and offering them both empathy and solutions - you can create an outstanding reputation for your business as well as a loyal customer base. 

Once you have that loyal customer base, using email marketing and social media can help keep them engaged with you. 

Conversion

The final stage of a good digital marketing strategy is working constantly to improve the percentage of visitors to your website (and followers on social media) who become customers.   

You do this by constant review of your data - when people come to your website, what do they look at and how do they interact? Once you understand this, you can spot opportunities to improve your site, whether it’s small changes to the design or layout of your pages, changes to your content or modifying the checkout process. Through a programme of review, testing and implementation you can deliver more business with the same traffic. 

While many people believe digital marketing is excessively technical or hard to understand, we believe it’s merely a case of taking more traditional offline practices and adapting them for an online environment. All you need to do is ensure your digital shop front provides for the needs of all your visitors - whether they’re current customers, potential customers or search engines; get your name in front of your target audience by listening to them, understanding their needs and then demonstrating how you can provide for those needs; and then constantly review your results in order to improve. If you do all these things then your online strategy will be a success.