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Going digital: get to know the building blocks of a solid digital marketing foundation

It goes without saying that the Coronavirus pandemic has forced businesses to make changes, most of which happened a lot faster than you would otherwise be comfortable with. So, if you’re thinking, “Okay. Here we are. What now?” The name of the game is: forward. 

No matter the industry, one thing is true: as a virus upends the way we go about business, businesses are finding new ways to do business. For many, that starts with going digital. With this in mind, we’ll be introducing you to the building blocks of a powerful digital strategy, block by block. By putting them together, you will build a powerful digital marketing foundation that puts your business in a winning position today, tomorrow, and for years to come. 


Start with Social

Right now, social media sites like Facebook and Linkedin are reporting record levels of traffic. Similarly, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney have actually had to reduce image quality to support the surge of users now ‘stuck’ at home. This is an important reminder that consumers turn to digital channels fast, and more often than not – first

Social media is perhaps the best channel local businesses have to stay connected to their customers and an essential building block for any digital strategy. Here’s why:

More traditional forms of advertising can be expensive and hard to measure. On the other hand, posting to your social media accounts to stay ‘top of mind’ with your customers is free, with plenty of opportunity to dive deeper by investing into paid social advertising to target the specific audiences you want to reach.

Social media gives you an opportunity to interact with your audience directly. By answering questions, providing engaging content, and offering generous responses, social media can help you build a long-lasting connection with loyal customers (on the cheap). And better yet – your helpful expertise is on display for any potential customer to see. 

Maintaining an active social media following for your business and encouraging your audience to keep coming back sends an important signal to search engines: you’re relevant. As a result: your ranking in search engines will improve.

No matter what:

You should ensure that your business has updated and accurate social media profiles on leading platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin. Post content that answers questions, provides your expert insight, and encourage your existing customers to follow-along.  

Now more than ever:

Your customers have questions, like “Are you open?” and “How has your business changed?” and they are going online to get the answers. Starting with social media is the easiest way to ensure you’re there to answer them. During the Coronavirus pandemic, make sure you’re keeping your customers updated and taking a supportive stance.


Follow-up with Email

By collecting email addresses from your customers (in person and through social media) and promising good, worthwhile content – your business will be a welcome guest in their all-too-busy inbox. They might even open it! The truth is, email continues to be one of the best marketing tools for small businesses.

Just like with social media, email is another vehicle to quickly and effectively keep your customers in-the-know. Remember: these days, most people even check their email before getting out of bed. Talk about “top of mind”. 

From a cost and time perspective, email marketing is a big winner. Even your cheapest direct mail campaign could be more expensive than your email marketing strategy for the whole year, and the ability to track your results ensures you can improve your approach with every message.

An email’s ability to successfully reach the right person at the right time, with the right message is pretty amazing. With just a few best practices, your email marketing can quickly open the door to new business.

No matter what:

The most important step to be successful with email marketing is to build your list. Encourage customers to subscribe in-store, on your social media, and everywhere you can. Provide an incentive (like a discount on their next purchase) to quickly give your list a boost. Think: what questions do customers have? What insight can you provide? 

Now more than ever:

How are you adapting to continue serving your customers? Whether you provide in-person service or not, they might have questions. Instead of an urgent call-to-action, you should consider communicating with your customers by adding empathy while still being the expert they gave their email address to. Adjust your message to address the current needs of your customers. Once you’ve identified their points of difficulty, compose your messaging to display your understanding along with how you can be a solution for them.


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Assess Your Website

The perfect time to audit your small business website is now. Does it represent your company well? Does it provide your customers with easy access to the information they need? Can it be found in search engines?

Your customers need to know how to reach you. Whether you want them to visit a brick and mortar store, order online, or give you a call. Ensuring your “NAP” – Name, Address, and Phone number are prominently displayed is key for both user experience and Search Engine Optimization, especially if you serve customers locally.

What’s your story? Why do you do what you do? What makes you better than the competition? This matters to your customer – and it should be clear on your website.

This is where your website’s organization and functionality are important. Your customers need to be able to quickly understand what you do and how you can help. Imagine yourself as your customer, look at your website, and take notes. Now what would you change?

No matter what:

Your website should be fast, user friendly, and easy to use on a computer or a mobile phone. Think like your customer and ‘experience’ your website to identify where you need to evolve.

Now more than ever:

Small businesses – especially brick and mortar retailers – are adapting their websites to serve customers digitally with ecommerce and other tactics. This can be as simple as an update on your homepage or a special video with instructions for customers.

If you’re thinking of taking it to the next level, you might even consider adding a conversational marketing tool to your website, like a chatbot or live chat. With only 14% of people saying they would rather fill out a form than chat online, tactics like these are quickly becoming popular.



Take Time To Respond To Your Reviews

As another essential building block of your digital strategy, the importance of online reviews can’t be overstated. On one level: your potential customers see them. On another, good reviews actively help your placement in local search. 

If you have a bunch of online reviews that you haven’t gotten around to reviewing, now is the perfect time. Managing your online presence is crucial to building trust with customers, especially in digital spaces. Not responding to reviews gives the impression that your company doesn’t value customer input. With 97% of consumers saying that they read a business’s response to reviews, taking the time to answer those reviews on Facebook, Google, and Yelp, will go a long way in convincing prospects to become customers.

No matter what:

You need to claim your listings and respond to both negative and positive reviews. Remember: everyone who searches for you will see your responses, so think of it as an opportunity. Simply search for your business  on Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook to ensure you’ve claimed your listing. If not, claiming your listing is free. 

Now more than ever:

With many businesses operating under abnormal circumstances due to the Coronavirus pandemic, most review sites have disabled reviews and limited support until further notice. While issues like access to your unclaimed listing might be difficult to solve right now, it can be a good time to respond back to any existing reviews you may have missed. 



Get found with Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

What’s the use of having a nice website if it can’t be found? As more and more people turn to digital channels first, your website should be a cornerstone of your digital strategy. With that in mind, search engine optimization can help increase the amount of prospective customers that actually find it. With countless books and blogs written solely about this topic, it’s impossible to cover every tool and tactic here. But by focusing on the best practices for each building block of your digital strategy, you are already contributing to your SEO. 

No matter what:

Google your business and see what comes up. Do you appear?  Do the results look right to you? This is where SEO can help. But remember: it’s not a switch you can turn on or off. It’s a long term strategy (one we will go into at length for you soon).

Now more than ever:

With many tradeshows and conferences cancelled, your website is more important now than ever. While the long-term gains from SEO won’t help you tomorrow or even next week, taking the time to create content that’s relevant to your customers right now will actively support your SEO strategy moving forward. This is because SEO is all about proving to search engines that you’re the most relevant search result to serve up when customers search for your product or service.



Amplify your message with Advertising

Looking to quickly and cost-effectively amplify your reach? Digital advertising can help easily reach prospects based on demographic criteria and things they might be searching for online. Only focused on married couples, or customers within 10 miles of your location? Not a problem. This ability to fine-tune your strategy makes digital advertising more cost effective than TV, radio, and even print advertising. 

Want to ensure you appear as a potential result when and where your customers are most likely to notice you? Paid search, social, and display ads can be a fast and reliable tool to turn to.

No matter what:

Digital ads can quickly and reliably amplify your reach. But first, you’ll want to ensure the rest of your digital marketing foundation is in-place (you wouldn’t want a customer to click an advertisement leading to an unfinished website). 

Now more than ever:

If you’re already running digital ads, now is a good time to reassess your message. Take the time to update ads, with a special focus on empathy and transparency, while ensuring your customers know how you’re adjusting and adapting to serve them.


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