The best thing any new business owner can do when marketing their new business is to condense all of their ideas into core channels of activity - four to be precise. Master these four channels in your business, and your success will be undeniable. All successful companies excel at each of the four channels, and you should too. Share your thoughts about this post with us on Social Media!
Although laid out as a quadrant, you should also think of these channels as a priority list as well. Don't worry, we'll put them in order for you, so you know which ones you should work at first and foremost. Two things to remember above all else when perfecting on these four channels are: (1) Always analyze; and (2) be patient. You'll have to fight the urge to dump hundreds of dollars into paid ads after starting your work on improving your organic traffic. Just don't give in. And don't forget that not every marketing tool works for every business. Shop the market, analyze the tools you do use, and keep track of what works well and returns the highest positive ROI for your business. Without further ado, here's the 4 Channels of Website Traffic you need to master for website success.
1. Acquiring New Customers Organically
In one of my previous articles, "Organic vs Paid Traffic and Why it is Important to Know the Difference" (here), I talked about... well... the difference between Organic and Paid Traffic. Okay, so I won't go over the definition for you again. For all intents and purposes, when it comes to a new business, we're going to assume that Organic Traffic is always higher priority than Paid Traffic. Why? Getting organic traffic to your website is the hardest part of your website operation. Sure, it's easy to pay a search engine or social network a few bucks here and there to advertise your business, but getting potential customers to find you on their own is much more complicated.
As a result, because this channel is the hardest of all four, you need to start working on it right away. You might not have already completely mastered this channel when you move on to the next, but just know that new customers will be the lifeblood of your business, and a healthy new/returning customer ratio is usually around 70:30, which is a lot a new customers! Getting the influx of new customers you will need to sustain your business is often the most challenging thing about starting a new business, and attracting them organically is your best shot at a sustainabile business that stands the test of time.
Primary goals of this channel include: making sure your business is accurately represented on Google Maps and Google Search Results through Google My Business (google.com/business) and if applicable, let's also not forget Yelp (yelp.ca) and TripAdvisor (tripadvisor.ca); making sure your website is optimized to rank highly in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) through the use of Search Engine Optimization (SEO); and, ensuring the design of your website and the content inside it are attracting potential customers and not turning them away.
Never under-estimate the power of Google My Business and Yelp. When customers search on Google Maps for Nearby businesses, you'll want to make sure that you're at the top of those results, especially if the customer is looking for your type of business, and is nearby! As well, when customers search for nearby businesses on any Apply device, the native iOS Maps applications uses data from Yelp to populate the business information on the map!
While SEO will not guarantee you a top ranking in SERPs, nothing is worse than investing a great deal of time, effort, and money into marketing, only to be glossed over when customers are searching for businesses of your variety. The best way maximize your chances of appearing higher in SERPs is through proper SEO. You would be surprised to discover how many marketing agencies who sell website design services have poorly-optimized websites. We invite you to use a free service to run an SEO report on our website, and that should be all the proof that you need!
Market trends are showing that device usage as it relates to website traffic is largely shifting towards mobile devices. Due to this fact, your website should look stunning on desktops, smartphones, and every device size in between. You should also consider your customer base. Are they more likely to be viewing your website on-the-go and ready to make spontaneous decisions, like those looking for restaurants or coffee shops? Or are your customers more likely to be using your website on a desktop, like an Accounting SaaS (Software as a Service) company's clients might? Usually your business lands somewhere in the middle, and rarely does any company's clients use one devices format or another in exclusivity. If your website doesn't meet the customer's standard of design, you likely won't get their business.
2. Reaching Existing Customers Organically
Again, organic traffic always trumps paid traffic, not just because you didn't pay any more for it, but because the customer experience is more likely to be a genuine one - if they can find you. A local restaurant popped up in Bradford, Ontario in the last month, and our firm has been discussing options with them, and I sincerely hope they call on our company to work with them, because they have a dillemna that perfectly illustrates challenges in this channel. I won't mention their name, but I will say that their brand name is very similar to that of a common spice. Very similar. So close to the name in fact, that only a single letter differentiates their brand from that spice name, that you might even think their brand was a typo. The challenge with this is that when you type their business name into Google, Google not only "corrects" you, but shows you information about that spice. This could potentially be disastrous, especially for a business trying to make sure that their existing customers come back!
This channel is all about two things: getting your name brand out there; and remarketing. The restaurant story I just described, is a perfect illustration of a challenge with getting your name brand out there. In this particular case, it is even a barrier to successful word-of-mouth marketing, because after someone hears about your business, the next logical action they would take before becoming a customer of yours themselves, is often to look you up online! At this point, it becomes a 50/50 toss-up whether the customer tries finding you on their iPhone (producing search results from Yelp - WIN) or using some other method (likely to return Google results - LOSE). We don't like those odds, and you shouldn't accept them either.
Remarketing is easy to find no matter where you go, but not every business is mastering it. Remarketing can be as simple as creating a weekly or monthly eBlast talking about your business. In each edition of your eBlast, you talk about two things: (1) talk about what makes your brand special - things you want your customer to know about your brand, like values, product information, events; and (2) talk about things your customers want to hear about - this can be upcoming promotions, feel-good customer abstracts, and maybe even your latest humourous brand promo video. Building your list of subscribers is a long and ongoing effort that builds momentum for your brand, but it is necessary for remarketing using email.
There are also some amazing tools for email marketing that have free options too, like Mailchimp (mailchimp.com). The fabulous thing about Mailchimp, aside from the fact that it is really easy for web developers to integrate it into your new or existing website, is that they have some fantastic tools that help specifically with common remarketing events - and those features used to cost you money! At the time of this article, Mailchimp essentially only charges customers after 10k+ emails sent per month. For small businesses looking to expand their marketing efforts, Mailchimp is a cost-effective way to do that - the only investment required is time and effort, and you can leave your cash in your pocket.
To make the most out of Mailchimp, you will probably still want your marketing agency involved in creating professional-quality emails, full of captivating graphics and designs to match. Once you move on to the big leagues, where enterprise-level development is required (like for Franchising out your business for example), you'll probably also venture out into transactional emails, which is where Mailchimp's sister-company Mandrill often takes over, and there will likely be some advanced API usage to allow your website to exchange and synchronize data with both Mailchimp and Mandrill as well. Most business owners don't need to have a clue about what I just said, but if this is something you're looking to expand into, we should talk!
3. Paying to Acquire New Customers
This is where business owners often fall into the trap of rushing into first, spending a lot of money on Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads, and getting absolutely nowhere. Paying to acquire new customers is much more than just PPC ads of course, but where money is concerned, you need to mind your dollars and cents very closely. You likely won't have enough money at the very beginning of your business to invest in staple expensive ad markets like radio or TV, but those shouldn't be of concern to you anyway. We will caution you that we only recommend venturing into the world of paid advertising, AFTER you have taken care of your organic channels. This is very important because in order to generate the Return on Investment (ROI) that your business needs to be successful, you're going to need the backing of organic channels to compound the effects of your paid marketing efforts.
Paid marketing in this channel includes things like PPC ads, boosting and promoting social media posts to reach users not already exposed to your brand's story, and enhanced online business profiles which will promote your business to your competitors' customers, to name a few. When investing marketing dollars into advertisements to illicit new customer engagement, it is important to first have content. Before a customer engages with your brand, your brand first must have a story to tell. This is yet another reason for why organic always trumps paid traffic. Build a wealth of content, and then implement paid advertising to enhance engagement in your content.
Your paid marketing efforts must also be targeted. Visualize who the customer is that a particular ad is meant to target, and analyze what the effect of the ad is intended to be, and whether or not your data supports this hypothesis. Identify the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will act as a beacon for success of present, set goals based on those KPIs, and implement advertisements that can achieve those goals. Analyze, adjust, and repeat. Don't be afraid to get specific with your audience targeting and create ad copy to match, but also be wary of getting too specific. A 39-year-old male who is nearby and hungry will probably act reasonably similar to a 40-year-old male of the same segment. No need to write different ads for both where one will do fine. Finally, always test variations. The best marketers are the ones who are always receptive to new ideas, especially ones that originate from other creative thinkers!
Remember when engaging in paid advertising to always quantify a ratio between sales and your marketing spend. Clearly, the lower the marketing spend, the lower the return in the form of sales, however spending too much or too little can both have negative affects. You should be able to realize an analysis based on percentage of sales, and never discount opportunities to connect marketing endpoints with ROI tracking. Google Analytics is a great resource for this (and is to grand a topic to be merely included as an aside in another topic - stay tuned for in depth articles on Google Analytics!).
4. Paying to Reach Existing Customers
Paying to reach existing customers is something you have likely engaged in already if you are operating an existing business. In the restaurant setting for example, this could mean enticing customers with coupons and other forms of discount or loyalty programs. While there is great and fierce debate as to the viability of loyalty programs for building sustainable customer relationships, just know that they are an option. Other options, extending the restaurant theme is of course to collect guest information where consent is given, and to enhance the organic method of eBlasts. A great tip for restaurants in this channel, comes from Marketing4Restaurants (marketing4restaurants.com), an Autralia-based restaurant marketing company, particularly their free Podcast, "Secret Sauce": use a particularly slow night of the week to test launch a new menu or menu item. Clearly having that organic channel eBlast ready and waiting to launch the word of your test menu is key, but it will help your customers to feel like they are part of the success of your business! Full credit of course goes to Marketing4Restaurants and their wealth of great restaurant marketing knowledge and experience!
Now of course, you might be quick to think... wait a second, that doesn't actually cost me anything! Remember that as a marketing event, you will have to offer some sort of additional incentive to get customers through your door. You don't need to give the whole meal away for free; clearly that would be counter-productive. This is where concepts like Happy Hour and Taco Tuesday cane from. Whether it's 1/2 price pints on Wednesdays, or free apps on Mondays, getting customers through your door largely increases the chances they will be back at some point in the future. Let's also remember that if you're giving something away to your customer for free, it isn't free for you - it still cost you money, and that needs to count towards your marketing expenses.
There are literally hundreds of companies that deal specifically with helping other businesses with this channel of their marketing efforts. While each opportunity might be great in theory, always remember that not every marketing tool will work for your business, and just because it exists doesn't necesarily mean that it will be successful. If your restaurant is situated in a town with a population of 100, and you have 100 marketing offers in play, it is extremely likely that well over half your marketing efforts are returning sub-par results. Always evaluate your marketing efforts and if a marketing strategy isn't working, either fix it or cut it loose.
Focusing your marketing strategy into these four categories can help you to clarify your plans for the future. Dedicate specific budgets that your business can afford, make SMART plans (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-sensitive) and never forget to evaluate your results. Don't let a marketing tool persist in your company if it is not yielded the results that make it viable. For help demystifying all these variables in your own business, reach out to us feedback!