Today the internet is a living, breathing animal. The consumer audience demands expedient access to information and control over their purchasing decisions. But how do we as business owners and marketers leverage this ever-expanding (& behaving) audience to directly impact the bottom line of our business?
With the availability of information today, consumers seek to make more informed purchasing decisions. This places the buying power back in their hands. Current information is largely available in the form of reviews, case studies, competitor offers and the likes, and that’s the way today’s consumers like it.
Social media has further enhanced the freedom to easily connect and share ideas with like-minded individuals globally. This has rapidly evolved, taking an extreme modern day twist on the word-of-mouth referral that every small business strives to achieve. Lost puppies are found, funds are raised for the needy, and breaking global events are shared in real time. All fueled by the people, “for the people”, through social media.
The key milestone is achieving content that is truly meaningful to them. Whether we inspire, educate, or awe, the personal hook that potentially ignores commercial gain, instills trust, and achieves its sales through value should be the goal.
With this 12 step road map, you can structure your online marketing presence around inbound marketing methodology and begin to attract audiences, educate them, and close the sale through trust and value.
This may sound like an obvious one, but it can be easy to set goals around your marketing output, instead of your marketing outcome. Focus on actionable goals based on your available resources, targeting conversions and marketing results oriented milestones. Don’t get caught up on measuring work output; Focus in on what is important for you and the client. Set clear timelines to meet your goals. You will know how far you’ve come, how far you might need to go, and most importantly, have a clear point from which to measure your progress.
Set goals based on results and not work output, develop timelines for achieving those goals, and research your target audience thoroughly.
Know Your Audience
It’s easy to get caught up developing your website’s message to assert your professionalism in the industry. Let’s face it, this is something we all need to do to showcase our achievements and it’s valuable to the audience too. But don’t forget who you are speaking to, and be sure to refine a means to speak to them the way they get it. Use their lingo, bring them along every step of the way.
Defining buyer personas around common customer trigger points, objections, demographics and psychographics can help you tailor your content so that it resonates with that audience. One “blanket statement” simply won’t do when the content needs to be meaningful to a group with a particular personality type or interest.
The Content Marketing Institute has come great resources on determining your audience and structuring your content strategy around buyer personas. Content Marketing Framework: Audience
Your website is the channel through which your potential customers connect directly to you. That is why it’s extremely important to have an easy way for customers to connect with you at any stage of their travels throughout your website. Having relevant forms on your website that have targeted and actionable call-to-action messages focused around what they are reading vastly improves that reader’s potential to connect with you in a meaningful way.
First impressions are extremely important online and it’s critical to have a fast, responsive website that delivers a clear and concise navigation experience as a core basic. Ensuring everyone can reach you on desktops, mobile, tablets, and all of the potential browsers is extremely important as not all customer’s behaviors are created equal.
Include social media sharing functionality at every stage of the process on relevant pages. Ensuring any piece of content you have is easily share-able to promote discoverability is very important to setting a clear and easy process for your content to go viral.
Set a Clear Process
Make it easy for your audience to find the information they are looking for. Having clear and concise navigation is the first step. The other main area to focus on is relevant color differentiated buttons from your main content, and personalized call-to-action messages that inspire users to take action! Conversion path optimization is key to user engagement through ease-of-use with exceptional functionality and an enticing offer.
Leave behind the old, “submit” buttons and make the task more actionable. There’s a fine line between gimmicky and appropriate. Try personalizing your message and make the form, or process more action oriented for the user. Include verbiage such as “Your, yours,” and speaking directly to the visitor to insight more personalization. i.e. “Get Your Free Consultation Today”, with a submit button that says, “Get it Now”.
Always give your visitors a next step in the natural progression of things. If they are relatively early in the buyer journey, consider something simply like a newsletter or RSS subscription as a conversion goal.
Tailor Your Message
Are you completely satisfied with the quality of the content on your website already? If you are, then you might not have thought to ask yourself what your potential customer thinks yet. If you don’t know by now, then you might have missed the mark. One size does not fit all.
Don’t worry though… tailoring your website’s content around what the potential customer finds valuable, and not what you find valuable sounds kind of harsh. However, it’s also a reality that you are vastly more likely to resonate with a buyer if you cater to their values above your own (as long as they align with your company goals). The power is truly in the buyer’s hands. Cater to that decision making process.
Have common questions, concerns, or positive feedback that comes back regularly from your customers? These key topics deserve a permanent home on your website.
Invite Engagement Before The Sale
It’s often easy to get blind-sided by the drive for sales and leads that we forget to engage and build rapport with our customers. Invite engagement, and encourage interaction to promote a positive and approachable sentiment around your company. Invite the opportunity for education that drives knowledge towards product or service awareness.
Invite interaction on social media, in your blog, or in other venues purely on a conversational basis. Posted a great article about ‘widgets’ recently? Ask everyone else to throw in their funny ‘widget’ story in the comments or on social media. Get creative and personal, social media is a place for creativity and engagement.
Give the visitor an easy way to keep in touch through social media engagement, email subscription to your blog, RSS, or other forms of maintaining a connection.
Educate Your Audience
Empower your audience with knowledge! The buyer wants to make their own informed decision in today’s online world. Empower them with the knowledge to do so by educating them on common pain points in your industry, or ways of solving problems that your customer base typically has.
Be transparent about how you help your customers and show them that there’s more to your services then simply reading about it and thinking they can do it themselves. Empower them with the knowledge of complexities, challenges they will face, or obstacles to potentially avoid. Become the superhero in your space.
Start a Blog
Whether you have a blog already or are considering one new, it’s absolutely essential to driving consumer awareness to your brand. A blog acts as a platform where you can deliver valuable content regularly, but that also retains visitors within your website where you need them to be to complete other conversion and goal oriented actions.
Fuel your website’s blog with visitors by regularly sharing your latest blog posts. Consider setting a goal such as 3-4 posts a month with targeted topics around your buyer’s personality. Always share your content on social media or through email contacts and seek feedback every step of the way.
Have a Clearly Defined Voice of the Company
Set a clearly defined face and voice of the company to be an author in the blog. This can be multiple contributors or a single person in the company. This promotes trust in the content being read, and also shows that there are real people on the other end. This might sound simple, but it’s also something readers look for within the first 10 seconds of assessing the quality of a blog. That decision happens in a matter of seconds, and you could be losing visitors before of this. If you’re not comfortable putting your name to it, then it’s probably not going to be the quality that is needed to achieve change.
Create an authorship bio for published content, or include a company roster page on your website. Show the world there’s personalities on the other end!
Actively Seek To Build Trust Signals
Having a voice of the company is just one step of many to promote strong trust signals. Showing your visitors that there is value isn’t always enough when the competition is fierce in your industry. Taking steps such as certifications/accreditation within your industry can help earn initial perceived trust with first-time visitors. Associations like the Better Business Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce are valuable to your company, and show that you are actively engaged in your community too.
Collecting customer testimonials, feedback, or doing case studies of success stories can all lend themselves to aiding in improving your company’s perceived trust value. Something as simple as displaying your company contact information on all pages such as the footer or header can vastly improve this.
Your company is valuable to the consumer, but the first-time visitors don’t know that just yet. Throw them some initial trust signals they can connect with right off the bat, send them on a clear path, and then delight them with tailored content.
Have a Clear Measurement Plan
Knowing is half the battle, so it’s important to maintain a strong measurement plan at each stage of the process. Having good conversion tracking in Google analytics for all your forms, page views, and any secondary metrics for sales can all aid in ensuring you know what’s going on.
Without having a way to measure your results effectively, you will never be able to refine your content and your online message to the most ideal place. Good content simply doesn’t grow on trees. It is earned by the knowledge brought on by painstaking tracking measures in place at every stage.
Having an all-encompassing goal is the first step to this process. Without this clearly defined for yourself you will not be adequately measuring your results in a meaningful way. Don’t settle for the data you have, ask yourself how you can track more effectively. We don’t simply get it right on the first go around, so this is majorly important as a basic necessity.
Refine Customers into Brand Evangelists
Social media is the new word-of-mouth referral that sends a positive or negative experience that spreads like wildfire. This lends itself well to the value the information hungry consumer is searching for, and their trusted friends that deliver it to them.
Take the time to continue to educate your converted customers and provide value above your service offer. Good customer service is truly hard to find, but showing customers the complexities of your service or empowering the customer with additional knowledge can all aid in powerful referrals.
The important thing to remember is to focus on attracting your potential customer by educating them with the knowledge they are looking for. Determine the questions that drive inquiries and have the answers that are sought after. Through this you will attract more traffic for relevant inquiries, convert inquiries into marketing viable leads, and educate leads into closed sales.
Be curious, be teachable, keep it simple, and remain sensitive to your audience as you drive their goals and aspirations forward using your craft and expertise.