Field Notes Blog
News and thoughts on UI/UX, web design, and more.
I work with mostly small business owners and an email I got today made me realize that it's time to talk about marketing - not as a noun but as an active verb.
"It is been four months now since we launched the website and I am really discouraged with the lack of inquiries. As of date I have had one person inquire and so far no jobs. I was so hoping to have a client by now. :-( so bummed."
It is understandable to feel that way, but it's important to remember that your site is only the first step in promoting your business. Now it's time to get your marketing program in gear.
I spend a good portion of my first meeting with every client asking about their marketing. Are you on any social media networks? What associations do you belong to? Are you doing email marketing? What publications can you advertise in? The response I usually get is that the business owner only has the time and money to focus on one thing at a time so we agree that the website is a good place to begin. But that doesn't mean that you'll magically get tons of clients once it's done.
Your website is like a boat. We build it and sail it out into the sea but no matter how pretty or fast it is, fish don't tend to jump in to it themselves. We catch fish by throwing out nets and fishing lines.
Facebook and other social media are like nets - they are places where you can post content for free to reach potential clients (draw fish into your boat). Blogging is great because you can post a status update on Facebook linking to your most recent article. Keeping posts short makes them easier to do more often. Through Facebook analytics you can see if people click your links, share them, etc. Over time you'll see what posts and articles get the most attention and you can craft your work accordingly. A good article can be shared far and wide - and you never know if some friend-of-a-friend viewing it is looking for your services. Boom, your article has been shared via Facebook and brought a lead to your site. Your site has been carefully crafted to guide that visitor to contact you for services - our goal is to turn them into a client.
The business organizations you've joined are like fishing lines you've thrown out. Keep them well stocked with bait and tended and they will draw people to your site too. Update your profiles on business association sites frequently. In addition to drawing people to you they also help with SEO for people Googling for your services in their region.
Okay, so what about search engine optimization (SEO)? We posted your site and did all sorts of foundational SEO work, why isn't it on the front page of Google? Well, your brand new, shiny boat is competing with larger, older, well established fishing trawlers in your region and industry for search engine rankings. Picture their large nets of social media, blogs, videos, ads and more. It will take time and marketing to build up your own ability to draw in leads (fish).
Email marketing can also be a good way to get the word out. This is a process that takes a lot of time and dedication to pay off but it's one of the most effective ways to actually sell your services. You can craft an email newsletter using a lot of your blog and social media content, so it doesn't have to be a ton of extra work.
Creating print and online ads can be important too. I know a jeweler with a site that had little activity. She put ONE ad into a print publication ($345) and she got over a dozen order inquiries with several of them turning into purchases that netted her $3000.
And business networking is important too. I know it's tricky if you travel a lot or are shy, but there are likely a few meetings you can get to. Make it a priority - one of your most valuable lead generators is referrals. Say you're an interior designer, you want to introduce yourself around and focus on interacting with contractors, realtors, owners of home-related retails shops, high-end car dealers and other folks who have the same sorts of clients you do. Offer a referral reward to anyone who sends you leads. Personally, I pay $50 to anyone who sends me a client that I end up working with. Assuming that your portfolio is stellar, that gives you the advantage when someone has a few interior designers might recommend.
Consider how you can share the news about your business in press, media and promotions. Write a press release announcing your new business, offer to do a free workshop and notify local magazines. Run a discount promotion to attract new followers.
I offer all of these services so let me know if you want help. However, I encourage every small business owner to delve into the basics of marketing themselves to get educated. Look at colleagues and competitors in your industry. Start with the basics. Take a marketing course online. There is a lot you can do yourself.
And conversely, if you are unable to work on promoting your site yourself then create a budget and hire someone to help. You can redesign your website and change your on-site SEO all you want, but until you do some active marketing your business will not improve. Simply paddling around and tinkering with your boat hoping fish will jump in is NOT an effective approach.
You can be very proud of the time and investment you've put into your site. In many ways the hardest part is done - you have a beautiful, sparkling ship to work from. Now it's time to get busy setting nets and throwing out lines!
Happy Fishing ~ Ame Stanko, Pixel Lava Interactive
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About the author
As the owner of Pixel Lava Interactive I've helped hundreds of small businesses and nonprofits with websites, graphic design and more. I hope you'll find this blog full of useful information.
~ Ame Stanko