If you are a small business and have attempted to implement an internet marketing strategy, then it’s likely that you’ve made some of the mistakes that I list here. The reality is that many small businesses struggle to master internet marketing and often it’s because they haven’t taken the time to plan their strategies.
Fortunately, you can avoid that and you can turn your business’s online fortunes around by avoid some of the mistakes listed below:
1. Insufficient budget
This is one of the biggest errors made by small businesses that want to advertise on channels like pay per click (PPC) advertising. PPC on Google Adwords and Bing Ads is effective at increasing sales and leads and is the ideal channel for testing ads, features, benefits, landing pages and so much more.
So, budget allocation is crucial and for PPC to work effectively, then it should be sufficient to drive traffic and increase retention for people who’ve searched and clicked through before and then return later to search again. If they are not able to find your ads or listings, then they are likely to easily turn to competitors.
Budget is also applicable to other online channels and tools and if you are looking to raise brand awareness especially, then you have to allocate a sufficient budget to meet your goals.
2. Lack of focus
Nowadays, being represented on many online channels like social media, organic search, directories, affiliates etc is very important because customers are using a wide range of these to search, browse, research and connect with brands. They are also using many devices like smartphones, tablets, desktops and laptops so a multi-channel and multi-device strategy is essential.
However, that can easily lead to a fragmented strategy that leads to ineffectiveness on all these channels. So, it’s important to pick the sites, tools and channels that are most important to your business and then focus on then intensely and make sure you manage them well.
3. Little or no research
Great businesses and products are built on solid research and passion. Without either of these then there is little chance of success especially on the internet where competition is high and the barriers to entry are low.
There are many research tools to help you dig deeper into your target markets to understand what their needs and pain points are. There are research tools available from Google like the keyword tool and Consumer Research tools – and there are survey tool providers like Survey Monkey that provide you with a rich array of tools that were once only available to large corporates.
You are also just a click away from your competitors and you can analyse their sites for strategies and ideas on how to position and differentiate your business.
4. No objectives
To be successful on the internet, you need to know what you want to achieve specifically, and then decide how you will get there. This doesn’t mean you have to create elaborate descriptions of what you are going to achieve at each stage of your business – but it means that you should have a few, specific goals that explain what you want to achieve.
An example of a marketing objective is: ‘Increase sales by 15% with our most valuable customers (MVC) by Dec 2015’. That is a specific objective that is measurable, achievable and relevant.
5. No online tracking
For many small business owners, online tracking and reporting is usually an afterthought. It’s something that they think about and implement only when the results they expected have not come in.
Tracking and reporting of results should be part of your internet marketing plan from the beginning and this helps you to decide which metrics to track and that will ultimately form the objectives and KPIs that you need to set for your business.
A tool that can help with your tracking is Google Analytics. It is a free tool and comes with a wide range of features that are unmatched by its rivals.
6. Low skills
Often, small businesses will implement online advertising campaigns on their own and will only seek help later when performance is low. The challenge is that there is often little budget or desire to hire a digital marketing expert to help plan, launch and manage campaigns.
However, this is a mistake and the internet now includes many sites like Elance and People Per Hour that have experts and freelancers with tons of internet marketing expertise. These are affordable too and you can build a team of specialists to handle your social media, blogging, advertising, search engine marketing and affiliate campaigns.
7. No multi-channel strategy
As mentioned earlier, customers are using many channels to buy and research products and services and some of them include offline channels. Understanding this for your industry and sector is important and you can use tools to help you research into your customers’ online behaviour.
One such tool is Google Analytics and it has multi-channel funnel reports that show you the paths that people take to making purchases or completing other goals on your website like downloading and registering.
However, multi-channel marketing is still in its infancy and many businesses and entrepreneurs still find it a struggle to manage and implement.
8. Poor quality website
Your website and landing pages should be of the highest quality with good navigation, fast loading pages, less clutter, simple design and a well structured theme. This helps to increase visitor and customer trust and leads to higher customer acquisition and retention and ultimately turns your customers into advocates.
Each page should have a targeted title, keyword-rich sub-headings, content with good grammar and spelling and a call to action. There is more of course to consider, but these are the fundamentals and when you implement them successfully you will see lower bounce rates, higher visitor engagement and a higher ROI for your business.
9. Little knowledge of competitors
Competitors are everywhere on the internet and they are just as easy to find as your website is. Also, creating customer loyalty on the web is difficult and nearly impossible because customers associate it with low prices and as a resource for finding discounts. So, customers will easily switch and defect to competitors if you are not able to offer them a bargain.
However, first you need to understand your competitors and learn how they are positioned. Who are the market leaders? Who are the market followers? What is their online strategy and how can you differentiate your business and create value for your customers.
Knowing this will help you be more profitable and the beauty of the internet is that research costs are low and often you will not have to carry out primary research because all the info you need will already be available – having been researched by other organisations and available for you to use, sometimes for free and at times for a low fee.
10. Not capturing emails
Prospects will come and leave your website and many may never return. That doesn’t mean you should jump to create an opt-in list and expect that they will immediately signup to receive your newsletter or messages. First, you need to create a compelling and irresistible offer that competitors will find hard to match.
Offering something free is a good incentive and conversion rates are high when you give away a free report, ebook or anything that is of interest to your target audiences.
11. No blogging strategy
Finally, blogging is the way to go if you have plans to:
• Increase traffic to your website or blog
• Increase visitor engagement
• Explain your products or services
• Increase sales and leads
• And position your business as having the experience and expertise
So, blogging has many benefits and you can setup one for your business for free on a platform like WordPress.org, that comes with thousands of themes, designs and plugins to choose from.
These are some of the major mistakes made by small businesses that are looking to launch an internet marketing strategy and drive sales to their businesses. There are many others of course and it all depends on what sector and industry you are in. The main thing to ensure is that you plan your objectives, tactics, strategy and budgets to ensure success.