There are 2.14 billion digital buyers worldwide.
25% of the world population shops online.
With more and more people shopping online—now is the time to go online.
92% of consumers trust word-of-mouth more than any other form of marketing.
64% of customers pursue relationships with brands based on reputation.
For your business, that means a potential of more clients knocking on the door.
If you are new to the world of eCommerce, it is challenging to achieve an online presence. A market riddled with so many online marketing tools, apps and advice that pulls you in all directions is overwhelming. And even if already deep down the rabbit hole, generating traffic and leads and measuring ROI can further fuel the frustration.
But know that you are not alone!
If you are a lot like most Digital clients, you’ve been busy trying to manage and grow your business. You do not have any extra time to figure out how to navigate the vast ocean of bulls#!t and the turbulent world of online marketing. But that is okay because we can help you get on the path to success.
This eBook will help you make sense of digital marketing—and get you on the right path to success.
Here is the thing: having a website and using tools like social media DOES NOT make you a digital marketing expert. With so many moving parts, you need to understand the nuts and bolts of marketing so you can get the most out of those tools. Online marketing moves at the speed of light, and you need a solid foundation to stay ahead, but being a business owner by trade and a marketer by necessity is not easy.
With that in mind, this guide gives you practical advice that will inspire and empower you. Closing the gap by showing you how to connect the dots in online marketing, this guide will point out what you should pay attention to so you have a strong foundation in place. We want you to walk away from this guide feeling knowledgeable and armed with the right skills and confidence to take advantage of the new opportunities online marketing opens for you.
But before we begin, keep this in mind about online marketing: If I asked you where most of your business comes from today, what would you say?
Many small businesses tell us word of mouth.
Customer relationships are the backbone of sales and should be the focus of any marketing strategy—and online marketing will allow you to strengthen existing relationships with current customers and build new ones. When implemented intelligently, online marketing provides plenty of opportunities to increase word-of-mouth marketing, which is invaluable for your business.
Here is something else important to keep in mind. As a small business, you have an advantage over BIG Tech because you know your customers. Unlike Fortune 500s, you have the time to interact and listen to customer needs and wants. That intimate knowledge can keep your business top of mind, giving you a competitive edge.
To put it simply: We are talking about engaging with people. We may have moved from brick-and-mortar to a digital format, but humans remain at the other end of those devices. And people only do business with businesses they know, like, and trust.
Tip: As you navigate the digital landscape – here is a good rule of thumb to always stick to – If you would never do it face-to-face with someone, DO NOT do it online.
That said: this guide covers the following:
Chapter 1: How to become visible to 2.14 billion digital buyers
Chapter 2: How to Set Yourself up for Success
Chapter 3: How It All Comes Together
Now let us get started!
Chapter 1: How People Find You Online
Word of mouth (WOM) is a priceless asset for any small business, and it happens online.
Just like every business, your main aim is to better sales, but if your target market does not even know you exist, how are you supposed to make any real money?
There are billions of people online just waiting to find your company, and if you want to stay top of mind, then you need more than just an excellent product or service. You need to be digitally creative. The more you do to keep your business fresh in the minds of your consumers in the digital world, the easy it is for consumers to talk about you and share content about you – increasing the chances of people finding you when they need what you offer.
Right now, in the digital world, 2.14 billion digital buyers are talking about their favourite products and services. They are sharing valuable and entertaining content from businesses, and they are asking questions and requesting recommendations about their products and services. Ultimately, these digital conversations spread brand awareness, which will lead to you being found—especially on Google.
Your business has an opportunity to be part of these conversations—and we will show you how.
What do people find when they go looking online for your business?
Ever done a Google search on your products, services, or reviews to see what comes up? With 73% of consumers doing online research before making a purchasing decision and 75% only using the first page of Google results, online search plays a significant role in rank and sales. That means you need to ensure you keep a clean, solid reputation that shows brand professionalism. Here is an example of what will show up on the search engine results page (SERP) when someone searches for a business by name:
- Paid ads
- Organic (non-paid) search results
- Google My Business listing
- Social Media accounts
- Info from other sites
What if people are looking for something your business offers?
In the example on the previous page, we searched for a specific business by name. But people DO NOT always search for a business by name. Now and then, they have no idea who offers the service or product, so they type in a more generic search term, such as bed & breakfasts near me or braai and fireplaces in Pretoria.
Here is another example: Imagine your geyser bursts in the middle of the night, and you urgently require the expert services of a plumber. So, you jump onto Google and search plumbers near me.
Here is what may come up (of course, your actual results will differ): Notice that plumbers near me bring up the listings in Google Maps first. This information comes from Google My Business profiles—but we speak more about this that later.
Besides map listings, you may also find websites, social media accounts, reviews, and listings of plumbers near your location in the search results.
If we apply these results to what shows up for your business, your customers may find:
- Your website
- Social media accounts
- Review sites
- Business listings
- Competitor listing
Bottom line: If your business is not online, no one will find you.
Whether people search for your brand by name or by the products or services you offer, they must be able to find you on the first page of Google.
We live in a customer-centric world, where 64% of consumers pursue relationships with businesses based on image, reputation and shared values. As consumers visit your site, it takes a few seconds to form an opinion about your brand. They ask themselves: Is this the right business for me? However, if your business is present, interactive, and engaging with interesting and relevant resources, you increase the chance of people choosing you and sharing your content.
- First, search for your business.
What information shows up? Is it what you were expecting? Is there anything that should not be visible, or is there something missing?
- Next, search for generic terms for your business.
Is your business there in either an organic or paid perspective? Where are you ranked on Google—1st page, 2nd page, 5th page, or not all?
- Finally, make a list of results that show on the first page in both scenarios.
The question is: What tools will you use to rank high on Google and additional search engines?
Chapter 2: How to Set Yourself up for Online Business Success
By now, you should understand that if you are not online, then your customers and prospects will never find you. You also understand how people find you online, and with that in mind—your next step is to have a strong foundation in place.
This chapter covers the tools to use and shares some expert digital marketing tips to get you started.
But first, you will need to get online.
- A mobile-friendly website
- An email marketing tool
- A primary social channel
- Up-to-date business listings
- A way to easily create content
- A mobile-friendly website: If a marketer, never rely solely on social media sites. You need an online address of your own.
As your best performing salesman, your website is the first place potential customers turn for information about you, your products or services. It is the heart of all your online activities and the address to direct customers to drive sales.
But with more than half of digital traffic emerging from mobile devices and mobile apps, chances are you already heard that your website needs to be mobile-friendly if you want to be competitive today.
Think about the first thing you do when you want to research a business. You start by doing a Google search. But, here is the thing: Your potential customers do the same as you accept they do it on a mobile device.
Google says 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing, and 40% visit competitor sites instead. That tells us that mobile-friendly websites are essential for modern consumers.
So, what is mobile-friendly exactly?
A mobile-friendly website is a mobile-responsive site configured to display on Smartphones and tablets. Providing fast and efficient visitor experiences, mobile-responsive websites deliver more high-speed downloads and is easy to navigate with content that fits the page. The good news is that you no longer need to be a web designer to build an effective mobile-friendly website.
Tip: Buy a domain name for your website to match your business name.
In the early stages of your business, you may use free tools to get online, but as you grow, you will need to purchase your domain (YourBusinessName.com) to look professional and add credibility to your business.
Building an online presence for your business is hard work. It takes time and financial commitment to do so. For these reasons and many others, make it as easy as possible for people to find and connect with you online.
Every website is different—but your website should have at least three pages.
When potential customers visit your website, they are looking for answers to their questions.
Use the following standard pages to answer them:
- Home Page—Your virtual front door. The Homepage is the page users navigate directly to when typing in a page URL or clicking a link to a site.
- About Page—Your story. People do business with other people, and visitors want to learn more about the people behind the company.
- Contact Page—Your chance to connect. This page should include a contact form, and it should also list your social media accounts, mailing address, phone and fax number, and email address.
When you create your website, you want to have all the right pages, giving customers everything they need to know about you and your services. With more pages on your site that speak more directly to your prospects, the higher the conversion rate you will have.
Take a moment to think about any additional pages you would need to add to your website. For example, a catering company should have a Menu page—and even an online store. A beauty salon should have a Services page. Many businesses also have a Blog page which is a platform to share expertise and engage with customers—driving traffic and increasing sales (more on blogs later).
What should you put on the three core pages? Below, we take a look.
HOME PAGE: Questions to answer on your Homepage
What is my product or service? Within seconds, your Homepage needs to introduce your product or service and entice visitors to explore your site, so be clear and specific.
Who is the websites target audience? The customer is asking:
- Is this product or service for me?
- Who is your ideal customer?
- Do you serve a specific group or industry?
That is where you explain who your product or services target.
Why would potential customers care?
Why should consumers choose you?
How are your products or services unique?
What is the call to action?
Must they contact you via email, purchase through your online shop, request a demo, or sign up for your mailing list?
Be definitive about what action they should take next. In short, the Homepage should explain who you are and what you do, and it should give a brief description of your services and products in a way that draws the attention of customers.
ABOUT PAGE—Questions to answer on your About page
What is your story?
- Who are you?
- What is your company history and achievements?
- What issue are you trying to solve for your customers?
- Why should people trust your products and services?
- How will potential customers benefit from working with you?
- How can they earn your trust?
- Do you have reviews and testimonials to support your promise?
- What makes you or your business different?
- What isolates you from the competition?
- How will your services or products benefit your customers—again, outlining the advantages?
- What is your blueprint for your future?
In short, the About page should sum up your company history and achievements and provide a short piece on what separates you from the competition.
CONTACT PAGE—Questions to answer on your Contact page?
- Where can I find you?
- Where are you based? Do you have a physical address? Which social media channels do you use?
- When can I reach you?
- What are your hours of operation? Are all locations the same? Do you have an after-hours contact number for emergency support?
- How can I contact you?
- Is there more than one way? How will you reply to your customers?
Tip: No physical address? You can use a P.O. Box or list the areas you serve. Short of images on your website? Use free authentic, high-quality resolution images from Unsplash.
You want to WOW people the moment they click onto your Homepage. Use hero pictures that demonstrate what real success looks like for someone using your product or service.
You want people to imagine what it would be like to work with you. Use the right action shots to demonstrate a polished, professional business image of yourself and your workforce.
You want to engage visitors to act. Show your physical location by address, map or both. Use success shots that either give visitors a sense of the atmosphere you create or a power shot that makes visitors feel like they are making the right choice.
- What happens if someone visits your website without making a purchase?
Every new online business runs into the same struggles. But what if you could get their email address before they left your site—and then contact them? You could send them a newsletter about your products or services, which could sway their decision to return and do business with you.
That said, you will want to collect email addresses from all your website visitors, which you can achieve by adding sign-up forms to your website.
But visitors do not just join mailing lists for nothing. With millions of other mailing lists like yours—what is in it for them? What incentives are you going to offer your potential email subscribers?
It is essential to offer value like promotions, discounts, competitions, trends, tips, and appealing content they want to read.
With 83% of consumers saying that email is their preferred method of marketing communication, having a potential customers email address gives you the power to reach and persuade them in a place they visit more than once a day—their inbox.
- Create a simple website.
- Review your website for the relevant pages.
- Make sure to answer the questions suggested above.
- Add sign-up forms to your website.
- Email marketing: How you power business!
So, why is email marketing so important today? It works!
With millennials spending up to 6.4 hours each day (Adobe statistic) reading their emails—emails are one of the best ways to reach out to your customers and potential leads alike. Almost 40-times better at winning over new customers than Facebook and Twitter, email marketing is still ranked as one of the most effective marketing channels today.
Email marketing is one of few marketing materials consumers ask to receive. Comparable to owning your website, email marketing creates an additional asset—an exclusive list of contacts that want to hear from you.
One of the many great things about email marketing is that it allows you to automate much of the communication, sending time or action triggered emails to subscribers with relevant information.
Automation assures you get the right messages to the right people at the right time—all on its own.
When someone signs up to your email list, view that as a sale. An email address is an invitation to a conversation. Use this opportunity to keep the conversation going by automating emails.
Tip: Draft two simple emails to welcome visitors to your email list (more on the next page).
- 1st Welcome Email—The Welcome Email
The welcome email sets the foundation for the rest of the relationship.
You should send a welcome email immediately after someone signs up. Ensure the subject line is clear and engaging, and the greeting should is personal. That is an opportunity to introduce yourself, tell your story, reinforce the advantages of staying subscribed to your list, and list expectations for the future.
- 2nd Welcome Email—The Invitation to Connect
The second welcome email should give information about your social channels and how customers can engage with you if they have questions.
You should send the second welcome email not more than three days after the first. This email is essential, as visitors will now have access to your social media sites. If visitors engage with you on these sites, your business will display on their networks.
Tip: Use email automation to save time and get new and repeat business. Need some ideas? Find some here.
Now that you have an email customer base, you need to ensure you keep them interested.
Fluidity and consistency are essential to online marketing, so email your customers at least once a month.
Make a list of special occasions that will provide the opportunity to engage with your list. Take advantage of holidays, birthdays, specials, launches, milestones, new products, discounts, and sales. People also appreciate hot off the press news, so share facts, laws, trends, and tips that contribute value to your customers.
- Set up two simple, automated welcome emails: a welcome email and an invitation to connect.
- Email your customers at least once a month.
- Think about additional emails you may want to automate.
Get yourself further in the marketing driving seat with more advanced automated features that send emails on dates like birthdays or when triggered by subscriber activity, like when they visit your website or click on a link.
- Social media: It does not have to overwhelm you!
If like many SMEs we chat with—navigating the stormy seas of social media can often feel like a slow boat in China. Ultimately, social media should improve search rankings, drive more website traffic and increase conversion rates. But how does one generate awareness, engagement, and sales if not on social media or juggling way too many social channels at once?
You do not have to be on every single channel. Instead, focus on one or two that connect with your target audience, drive engagement, and boost revenue for your company.
Tip: Pick your social channels. Find out how.
Did you know? Each social channel has its personality.
Never post the same content on every channel. Use the same theme, but change posts to complement the channels before sending out.
Take Netflix on Facebook and LinkedIn, for instance. The content and updates Netflix shares on Facebook centre around consumer entertainment, whereas the content shared on LinkedIn is motivated by the business aspect of Netflix.
Now we look at each of the channel personalities.
- Facebook—The social home for your business on the Internet. With a plethora of potential-TARGETED customers in the news feed, engage with friend and family – and their friends and family.
- LinkedIn—The most comprehensive social media network for entrepreneurs and professionals. The opportunities to establish your business as an industry expert and build relationships and sales leads are endless.
- Instagram—A photo-sharing social channel that adds: we are just human factors to your brand. You can apply a variety of filters to pictures with a simple press of a button.
- Twitter—public news feed of current news. Twitter is full of people with things to say. For instance, if there is an unsatisfied customer, you will hear all about their experience on Twitter.
- Pinterest—A visual and informative channel that displays millions of boards with tips and ideas. A quality image pinned by a highly followed Pinterest member has a chance of becoming viral, reaching millions of viewers.
- YouTube—A highly competitive social media channel for those that value educational and entertainment videos that invite engagement and sharing.
There is an enormous potential to reach a massive and engaged audience on social media.
Social media is an engaging way to connect with customers who already like your products or services. It is also a great way to reach out to customers who have not heard of your business.
Social media marketing will help you achieve brand awareness. It will help you better customer service, and it will boost more traffic to your website, increasing your sales.
Consumers want entertainment—and it is your job to engage them on social media to get them to your website and onto your mailing list. Because the longer your contact list, the greater your chances of sales.
But do not forget that social media is not the only social channel where people can find and engage with your business.
- Figure out which social channel makes the most sense for your business.
- Set business goals for this channel across three categories.
- Create a plan for this channel to reach your business goals.
- Listings and Reviews: Respond promptly with accurate information!
There are over 4.48 billion active internet users searching apps and websites for information.
Search engines automatically generate listings, or customers create them.
As the business owner, you control these listings by clicking a button and submitting requested information that proves the business is yours.
When doing so, ensure your information is accurate across all channels because inconsistency means irregular business.
Tip: Once you claim a listing, keep control over updates and accuracy.
- Create Content: Increase your chances of getting found!
Great content is the stuff that makes the web wheel spin.
Google processes over 40,000 search query every second, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day. People search for information, consume content, and share online. It is the way of the digital world.
If you consistently generate interesting, unique, and relevant content that supports your audience needs—you will have visitors bookmarking your content, linking to it, and sharing it. But it is impossible to have an efficient online marketing strategy without optimized quality content. Google ranks quality and relevance according to your traffic, which means quality optimized content translates to free traffic to your website.
Sure, there are some white hat tactics to work out before SEO practice, but at its core, you want to deliver new, meaningful and relevant content to your audience. And this is where blogs hit the ball right out of the park.
All blogs are websites, but all websites are not blogs.
A blog is a type of website that chronologically showcases fresh content on the Homepage. It can be a part of a website, a separate page, or linked to the Homepage.
While websites are static, with the content organized in pages, blogs are dynamic and updated daily, weekly or monthly with thought-provoking content. Blogs give you the ability to demonstrate your expertise by answering specific questions, whereas websites focus more on the products and services.
Did you know? A blog allows you to target your audience directly with meaningful, relevant content.
Google loves its blog content fresh.
Just like fans like their Apple iPhone fresh, Google likes its content fresh. But to get the most benefit out of your blog content – your blog must directly connect to your website.
Once created, use the blog content on your email and social channels to lead people back to your website. By doing this, you help humanize your brand, build authority, generate inbound links, and improve your conversion rates.
- Add a blog to your website domain.
- List the top questions you get from prospects and customers.
- Create a calendar to publish content that answers those questions.
How to amplify your efforts?
Once you have the essential elements in place, you can and should use paid advertising to guide more traffic to your site. The digital landscape has transformed over the past few years. Whereas it used to be enough to reach your potential customers, with the ever-growing volume of websites, blogs and social media platforms – algorithms limit your access to your audience, impacting your search engine results. Today, you must pay to reach large volumes of consumers.
But it is not a bad thing. Paid advertising can increase your ROI—when executed smartly.
Facebook and Instagram Ads
With a few clicks, you can run advertisements on Facebook and Instagram. Not only do these ads help to increase brand recognition, search rankings, and conversion rates, but they are affordable and measurable. Facebook and Instagram allow you to target your ads based on location, demographics, interests, behaviours, and connections. It also creates a lookalike audience to target people like those already on your email contact list.
Google Ads will get you onto the 1st page of Google – nearly instantly. The best part? These ads are pay-per-click (PPC), which means you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. Every second, there are millions of searches on Google, and most of the search result pages include Google ads.
Google Ads is an effective way of driving traffic to websites exactly when people search for your products or services. You can pay to have Google Ads display your advertisements at the top of the search results based on specific keywords.
How much should you spend on ads?
With AdWords, you can set a budget for your ad, ensuring that you do not overspend. To begin, set aside R1000, and as you learn what does and does not work, you can invest more in the ads that bring you more business.
- Set aside a budget of R1000 to experiment with paid advertising.
- Review your website analytics and drive traffic to top-performing pages on your website.
- Use ads to get new sign-ups for your email list.
Chapter 3—How it all comes together!
Now that you have the digital tools—get ready to position your brand for success.
But how do you bring it all together to drive new and repeat business? Remember, people will forget about your business, and you will lose money if you are not top-of-mind.
Now, we take a look at how it all comes together.
Online marketing is all about attracting digital buyers to your door or mobile-responsive website through listing sites, mobile searches on apps, paid to advertise, online organic searches, and word-of-mouth referrals.
In a customer-centric landscape, make it a priority to deliver seamless, positive customer experiences. Do this by knowing your customers, making customer interaction easy, answering questions, and resolving problems quickly and efficiently.
The moment you have an interested customer, you have a golden opportunity to get them to return. Use it to get their email address, send out newsletters and connect with them on social media channels.
Customer engagement is the emotional connection between a customer and a brand – and it is your job to engage with the customers who have enthusiastically chosen to connect with you and hear from you. Highly engaged customers buy more, promote more, and demonstrate more loyalty, so stay engaged regularly.
Simply put, engaged customers become brand evangelists, creating more awareness for your business and bringing more traffic to your door.
As the most significant piece of the online marketing puzzle, customer engagement brings prospects to your door, allowing them to discover your business. When your customers and prospects engage with you on social media, use this as an opportunity to share your content with their contacts, as those interactions create further visibility for your business.
And that is how it all works together.
By focusing on the core elements of connecting, experience, entice, and engage, any start-up or small business can get new customers to walk through the door and existing customers to return.
How to know if your online marketing efforts are working?
Every business is different, with likes, followers, shares, downloads, and clicks leading indicators. With plenty of metrics to determine success, rather keep it simple by focussing on indicators meaningful for your business.
To measure success—answer these questions:
- Are you getting traffic to your website?
- Are consumers joining your email list?
- Are consumers contacting you?
- Are you making sales?
So, how long does it take for online marketing to work?
From an organic or non-paid perspective, it takes a few months to see the results of your digital marketing efforts. But once you form the groundwork and emotional connections with customers, the time frame shortens. Then you can experiment with paid advertising to amplify those efforts that are working.
Remember: Across all online platforms, the idea should be to use your mobile-friendly website, email marketing, social channels, business listings, blog content, and paid advertising to add value to your current and potential customers.