Sales may be sluggish, but it’s important to keep the energy going in terms of your online brand. Digital marketing is more important than ever as people are self-isolating, so what are the key marketing actions for Surrey SMEs to maximise their online visibility?
Review, flex and recharge: We’ve seen many local Surrey businesses – from dance fitness teachers and florists, to business coaches and events managers – adapt flexibly to change their business model to continue working. In our conversations, we’re finding many SMEs are approaching this time of lockdown as a positive and valuable moment to review their online presence. Many recognise that how they spend their time and budget during the lockdown period will have a big impact on how their business performs in the long-term. At a time when competitors may have paused campaigns or reduced budgets, this is a great opportunity to recharge your business, to stand out, learn more about your target audiences and build relationships.
This article will describe our lockdown action plan:
- Boost SEO
- Create new content
- Review your website for sales, speed, user journey and design
- SharpSpring into action and automate your marketing
- Engage and connect on social media
If you’re not doing it already, it’s time to start using Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategies to improve your ranking on Google’s results pages. You want potential customers to find your business online quickly and easily. And what you do now to improve your SEO will affect organic search in a few months time.
To maximise your SEO, do check your website for technical errors you may have missed as that can impact your performance on search engines. If you’re not sure how to do this, talk to your website developer and ask them to carry out an SEO audit to review any technical issues that might be holding you back.
Local SEO is just as important, so make sure you have a Google My Business listing. People will look to this to see if you’re still open, if your business hours have changed, to see your location, posts, photos and reviews, so it’s vital if you depend on local business. Google also uses this information to build your Knowledge Panel (amongst other sources).
It’s worth keeping an eye on Google Trends, which shows what people are searching online. You can then use your website to provide answers to questions relevant to your customers. Google Trend’s Coronavirus hub also gives a great insight.
Online reviews are still important as they help boost your reputation. If you’ve recently gone out of your way to help a customer, then asking for a review right now could benefit you in the future. Google has currently suspended the use of Google reviews, but that shouldn’t stop people posting a review – they’ll just be seen at a later date.
Google loves fresh content. And one key, low-cost activity you can do to support your SEO is to increase the amount of relevant content – whether written, photographic or video – on your website, which brings us to our next tip…
Now is the time to start building a bank of new, detailed, well-researched, relevant content to increase website traffic. Case studies, whitepapers, reports, blogs, specific landing pages and marketing collateral downloads all generate inbound links. If you are stuck for ideas, our Insights article on blogging basics will help.
Taking advantage of your website and creating content that can be reused on social media will boost your digital presence. But make sure it’s useful content that adds value and solves problems. Look at where you’re currently ranking and review your keyword strategy as this can boost your website traffic.
With more people online watching videos, generating some video ideas and getting creative on your YouTube or Vimeo channel – yes we know you’ve been putting it off for ages! Explainer videos about your business, products or services also help SEO and are easily digestible and shareable. Tools like Biteable enable you to edit videos quickly and easily using templates or your own designs.
Review your website to add more internal links with long-tail keywords (three or four word phrases) specific to what you’re selling.
Now is a great time to create purpose-driven content, with many big brands succeeding and some failing to turn their words into action. In difficult times, consumers need support from the brands they trust so keep your content sympathetic to the current environment, while maintaining optimism and with a long-term view. As a small business, there are still things you can do to communicate your purpose within your local community through your actions by stepping up to support key workers, vulnerable people or your existing customer base.
Once you’ve given your current content a boost, we also recommend using this time to create a long-term content plan, which supports your key messaging.
Now is the time to pivot; to innovate as much as is possible with new products or services. Mary Frances Trust is a Surrey charity that supports people with mental health difficulties. It’s adapted its offering with online support and advice during the coronavirus outbreak.
Surrey Dance Fitness is a great example of living by its purpose as a business and adapting. Founders, Kate Shaw and Antonia Bradley run regular dance fitness classes in Farnham, but have switched to online classes via Zoom and keeping in touch via social media and email. They’ve been determined to keep their community happy and dancing by investing in the technology and overcoming initial difficulties to offer a regular schedule as well as free masterclasses to perfect the moves. As Kate says: ‘It’s all about the community and our people trusting us with a safe environment to work out and express themselves. They know they won’t be judged and have allowed us into their homes.’
Magikats runs tuition centres, traditionally on a face-to-face basis, but has changed its model temporarily and switched to online learning during the lockdown. There are online workshops and print at home study packs until the tuition centres can re-open. And the company has also launched a home study programme for new customers, with weekly bespoke learning packs in Maths and/or English to provide vital support.
Firstly, if your business relies on footfall or meeting people face-to-face, consider what you can do to adapt, still make sales and keep your business front of mind. If you sell products, get them online. Whether it’s OpenCart, Shopify, WooCommerce or Google merchant centre. Once your products are online, make sure you keep listings fresh, create clear product titles, provide enticing descriptions and images so that your products can be found easily online.
It’s worth also reviewing how you promote your business online with pay per click (PPC), display advertising and remarketing across other networks, like social media. Research by Global Web Index found that we’re seeing a rise in people checking social media across all age demographics, so now is a good time to get yourself seen.
Keep revisiting to see what’s trending, add any negative keywords and adjust your budget for less mobile traffic as more people search on desktops while self isolating. Search trends may be focused elsewhere at the moment, so keep on top of it and check from drops in traffic, clicks and impressions. We’re happy to help you audit your PPC account.
Secondly, we’ve talked in the past about the fact that your website speed matters to your bottom line. A part of this will relate to how your website developer built your website, so it’s worth speaking with them to check how they can improve this.
An easy way to make your site run faster is to optimise your photos. Websites today can be very image-heavy, which can slow them down. Make sure the images you use are no bigger than 500kb, give them title tags with keywords and alt tag with keyword variations. Tools like Be Funky can be used to resize photos.
Address your user journey with an audit of your website from a user’s perspective. Do you have a clear call to action on every page? Can different audiences find the information they need? Is your messaging right for right now? What can you be doing differently to support purchasing decisions or help people at home or work; can you create videos or run webinars to share valued information?
And last but not least, now is also a great time to consider a redesign – whether it’s an overhaul or more of an evolution. You may have read our previous post about why a website project never ends; they should always be evolving in line with industry changes. It’s also important to keep your website looking fresh in terms of design elements and how your brand is represented visually.
Email is a great way to regularly communicate changes in your business, be helpful, be honest and clear, drive inbound links, nurture potential customers, build and maintain customer relationships. Now isn’t the time to stop building relationships and regular email communication can reinforce brand-to-consumer trust and really support the longevity of your business.
Marketing automation is a great digital tool that enables you to do this. We are SharpSpring partners and are working with clients like GSAcom to keep up regular communication. Reaching out and asking questions or creating short surveys while people are quieter may also provide you with valuable data to use going forward.
Even if all you’re doing is working remotely with your team and using digital tools to carry out business as usual (like us!), it’s still important to communicate this message via email.
Social media can be one element that slips down the ‘to-do’ list in busy times, but with scrolling rates up, now is a perfect time to boost your brand profile and engage your audience on social media. We’d suggest focusing on a few key channels – depending on your business type and post regularly.
It’s important to show empathy and not be too sales-focus in your posts (think Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook).
Finally, don’t forget to vary your content between written, visual and video and use relevant hashtags to show your brand is credible and up to date. Seek out testimonials and reviews and share them regularly. And if you’re supporting local vulnerable people, don’t forget to promote your good deeds.
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To conclude this article we just wanted to say – don’t panic! Take as many of these actions as you can now and adopt a long-term approach by devising a marketing strategy for post COVID-19 times. Research by the Harvard Business Review found that although the temptation might be to cut spending during a downturn, history shows that companies who opt for a more progressive focus outperform those that implement cost-cutting. It found that: ‘Progressive companies stay closely connected to customer needs.’
Focusing on your digital marketing now will give you the edge when restrictions eventually lift. Whether it’s creating new content, evolving your website, reviewing your user journey or implementing an eCommerce website, we can help. Our team is working remotely using the latest digital tools, so if you need support with putting this advice into action to strengthen your online presence, please do get in touch with Arps on 01252 820022 for a free call or use the contact form below.