Good advice is scarce and often ignored. Small businesses cannot afford to ignore it when they are lucky enough to run across it. Yes, it’s a list of things small businesses should be doing and you can’t wait to read another list detailing the things you should be doing or worse, the things you’re doing wrong. I’m not in the fear-mongering business. I’m also not in the magic-button business. The fear-mongering business uses scare tactics to tell you about all of the things you’re doing but shouldn’t be doing because if you do them, you’re likely killing cute puppies and kittens. I’ve read my fair share of those and some actually scared me to the point of second-guessing every life decision. I’m sure you’ve read some of them too. Did they work?
Did those fear-mongering articles make you take some action? Buy a product or service? It’s OK if it worked. It doesn’t make you gullible, or more gullible anyway. It’s used a lot in marketing and advertising because it works. As psychologists, doctors and advertisers have known for a long time, fear is a major motivator to buy. Fear of the unknown or unpredictable (insurance), fear of being boring (fashion, auto, beauty), fear of missing out (think of anything that uses scarcity as a tactic – Only 10 left!). Hell, even the fear of fear is marketed by big pharma.
Is Good Advice a Magic Button for Small Businesses?
Then there are the magic-button sellers.
“This thing I’m about to sell to you will change your entire business, your entire life, even your wardrobe and only takes one click.”
Yeah, this kind of marketing sucks and is a low blow, not only to our sensibilities but also to our own fragile marketing egos. This marketing works because it typically uses fear-mongering and then sweeps in to save the day with the magic-button solution. Some people are swayed by this not because of fear but because they don’t want to put the blood, sweat, and tears into building a brand or business the same way you have. They want a magic solution. Something as easy as not getting out of bed in the morning.
I have a list and if you thought the headline was interesting enough to click on it, thank you. The following list is really about what the headline states so, the headline wrote itself and isn’t that clever. I try to present these topics without fear-mongering and without the magic-button technique. I just want to present facts that may (or may not be) relevant to growing your business.
1. Understand the Benefits of On-Page & Off-Page Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
There’s so much information about SEO that it seems like anyone that’s read a few books or articles on Search Engine Land is suddenly giving you advice about SEO. Like with most things that incorporate a lot of knowledge from many different sources, there’s a lot of out-of-date information, myths and rumours about proper SEO. I want you to have facts:
- Optimizing the pages of your website for keywords is a factor in ranking in search engine results pages (SERPS) but, it’s not the only factor.
- Loading time of your website pages is a factor in ranking in SERPs
- Well written content of a specific length is a factor in ranking in SERPs
- There are many variables and factors that make ranking each page unique but, overall there are common rules that can be applied
- Bounce Rate (how long people stay on your site) is a factor in ranking in SERPs
- Optimizing content across the web that isn’t on your site is called Off-Page SEO and can help you rank and create backlinks
- There’s a lot to know and test and you have better things to do. This is why it’s a good idea to hire someone that does SEO for a living.
2. Have a Responsive Website
You may have seen this term when building your own site or when someone like me approaches you to tell you that your site isn’t responsive. This simply means mobile-friendly. In other words, your site will “respond” or adjust to being shown on a bigger screen like a desktop, a smaller screen like a tablet, or an even smaller screen like a smartphone without getting cut off or not loading images etc.. Here are some more facts:
- It is estimated that by 2020, just 4 years from now, the use of smartphones in the United States alone will increase by 6 million
- Over 90% of people with smartphones use them to search and research online before making a purchase
- While many purchases are still made in-store, the trend for online purchases continues to increase
- Without using fear-mongering tactics I think you can plainly see that, with the increase in smartphone use and online shopping, it’s critically important to make sure your website is responsive- (mobile friendly)
3. Social Media Management
I’ve seen a lot of small businesses with Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Pinterest boards, LinkedIn accounts, Instagram accounts and so on. This is AWESOME! Except, most small businesses must think that just by having the accounts they’ve done their part. So many of these accounts are like the Sahara. Dry, nothing really living there and no one wants to visit. I did a spot check of some local businesses and found a tax business with very little social media real estate. Facebook page? CHECK! Last update? Uh… February? Twitter account? Apparently, there is a Twitter account because it’s on the website, but clicking on the link just takes you to Twitter, not their personal page. A couple of popular restaurants in the area suffer from the same issue. Posts are very spread out with 3-6 posts a month (in a good month)! More facts for you to digest:
- There are over 2 BILLION social media users worldwide. “But, how does that affect me locally? There aren’t that many people in my city.” I’m glad you asked…
- 75% of people using the internet in your city are on social media
- There are optimal days and times to post to Facebook to reach the most people
- There are optimal days and times to post to Twitter to reach the most people and they’re different from the days and times for Facebook
- In fact, each social media platform has certain days and times that see the most engagement
- According to fancy graphs, you should be posting to Facebook a couple of times A DAY, and Tweeting 4-15 times A DAY!
4. Manage Your Small Business’ Online Reputation
There are so many stories about people taking to social media to express their love or hatred for a company. Unfortunately, the stories most of us remember are the bad ones. The people expressing their loathing with artistic flair aren’t always a customer or client. Sometimes they happen to be an employee. Like the poor sap working for an advertising agency that was hired by General Motors. He was driving to a meeting at General Motors in Detroit when he decided to Tweet about the irony of the motor city having terrible traffic. Oh, he also used an F* Bomb. Needless to say, General Motors saw the tweet, fired the agency and the poor sap was summarily fired as well. However, I see a lot of businesses that don’t know if they’re being mentioned online unless it happened on their Facebook page. Here’s another list of fun facts:
- 95% of unhappy customers don’t take their complaints online. They complain in-person to their family, friends, and pets. This makes the 5% that do complain online CRITICALLY IMPORTANT!
- By making an effort to keep existing customers happy, you’ll add to your bottom line. Just 5% customer retention can account for up to 20% of profitability
- Most small businesses worry about negative reviews online. This is fine since negative reviews certainly can damage a business. What if they spent as much energy paying attention to the kind reviews? Rewarding them online for all to see? See where I’m going with this?
- When small business owners are asked what their most valuable asset is to their business, most answer incorrectly. Your most valuable business asset is your REPUTATION! Hence the importance of proper reputation management.
While this is one of the shorter lists on the internet about things you should or shouldn’t be doing, each item really is crucial to growing your small business. Taking steps to cover each item can help you make sense of how some of the moving parts of the internet work together and how they can add to your bottom line.