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The Mega Online Marketing Guide for Entrepreneurs

The best online marketing options for getting your business off to a flying start.

Casandra Visser

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The typical consumer spends five or more hours online every day and for some age groups, this number is even higher.

We turn to the internet for nearly everything, whether it’s researching a company and ordering books to finding accommodation and interacting with family and friends so it only makes sense for your business to have some sort of online presence to avoid losing out on potential customers.

Not every online platform is going to be the best option for your business though so taking the time to understand where your business fits in, in the online space is going to save you tons of time and money.

Choosing Your Online Marketing Mix

Marketing does tend to involve a bit of trial and error but taking the time to make informed decisions about your online marketing avenues is going to save you some unnecessary hassles.

There are three points that you need to take into consideration when developing your digital marketing mix:

  1. Target Audience. Think about how your customers spend their time, how they search for information and also how they shop. Their age groups will also play a big role in how they spend their time online
  2. Budget. Many entrepreneurs don’t have a huge marketing budget to play with but luckily there are a number of affordable or even free digital options available to them. Decide how much you want to spend on digital marketing activities, look at the options that you jotted down based on your market and then decide which of those fit into your budget.
  3. Tactics. The online platforms that you choose will also depend on when you want to reach your customers. Would you want them to see an advert on their way from work and then be able to find your website or do you want to target them on weekends when they are most active on social media.  Having your goals set out will help you to develop your online marketing tactics.

Online Marketing Options for Your Business

There are many different options available to you when it comes to your digital marketing strategy. You should know that there are very few brands that use all available options as it thins out their marketing message, especially if they are attempting to target a very specific audience. Below are the five main categories for you to consider:

Display

Create a website for your business or brand. There is no need to hire a web designer for this process if you are comfortable with designing it yourself with the assistance of an online programme. You might have to consider hiring a third party if what you want is a bit more complex, for example

running an online store. Whatever route you decide to go, make sure that you have a plan for your site first.

Dos and Don’ts

  1. Do match your website to the rest of your branding such as brochures, street pole ads and business cards
  2. Don’t choose a website address that is hard to remember or doesn’t fit your business
  3. Do use a layout, images and colours that are appealing to your specific market/customers
  4. Don’t make your site too complex. Getting a user to your site is great but they might just leave if they get frustrated trying to navigate the site

Extra Resources

Search

Your business is now online but ideally you also want to be found by search engines such as Google. There are a number of things you can do to show up on Google’s search result pages, the first one being website optimisation. By having an SEO (search engine optimisation) plan in place you can use the content on your site as keywords to give Google an idea of what your site is all about and when they should display your website in their search results. This digital marketing option is free and quite simple to implement if you understand the basics.

The second option is to use Google Adwords. This platform allows you to bid on keywords that you would like to rank for in search engine results. Depending on the competition of the keyword, your text advert will show up in the search results in the ad boxes at the top of the page. You will require a budget to use this marketing option and you should be aware that this method can result in trial and error approach when you first start out.

Dos and Don’ts

  • Don’t use black hat SEO tactics to try and get your website to page 1 of Google. You will be penalised.
  • Do write the content on your website for your audience and not for the robots that will crawl your site
  • If possible, do update your site on a regular basis with interesting content, competitions or special offers
  • Don’t go in blind when using Google AdWords. Use their keyword research tool to find out if the keywords you have in mind would be worth your money by looking at the number of monthly searches and the level of competition around the keyword
  • Do hire a reputable SEO specialist if you decide that you want an expert to optimise your website content

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Social

You’ll be pressed to find someone who isn’t registered on one or other social media site. The options for socialising and sharing are endless and this is an opportunity that businesses shouldn’t miss out on.

Deciding on a social media platform will again depend on your specific market. Find out how they spend their time on the social sphere, when they’re online and what their interests are so that you can find a way to speak to them the same as one of their friends would. Social media users don’t want to follow a brand that simply punts their own products and gives them nothing of value back so keep this in mind when you develop the social media section of your marketing strategy.

Below is a list of popular social media platforms in South Africa and how you can make the best of them.

Twitter

This fast-paced microblogging site is busy so your tweets need to be catchy and to the point in order to get the user to click through to the rest of your content or your website. The users on this platform tend to be younger (18-29 years old) but there are other age groups participating in conversations too.  (Source: http://www.seomworld.com/2013/08/social-media-users-demographics.html#.UwcBp2KSwuM)

Dos and Don’ts

  • Do follow the right kind of users
  • Do reply to tweets directed at you within 24 hours
  • Don’t ignore or delete bad publicity
  • Do reply to and start a conversation with your users where relevant
  • Don’t use Twitter to spam users. Provide them with interesting content too
  • Do use Twitter to track what your competitors are doing
  • Don’t leave your avatar blank. Make sure your profile is complete
  • Do use Twitter as a networking tool
  • Don’t overuse hashtags, users might get annoyed and unfollow you

Facebook

This is a personal space for most users so you need to post one to two posts per day and make them good in order to capture their attention and prevent them from blocking your brand from their news feed. Most Facebook users are women between 18 and 29 years of age. (Source: http://www.seomworld.com/2013/08/social-media-users-demographics.html#.UwcBp2KSwuM)

Dos and Don’ts

  • Do invite friends, family and employees to like the Facebook page while you build up your online community
  • Don’t spam users with promotions and product/service information. They are looking for a reason to affiliate themselves with your brand
  • Do give users a reason to share your posts with their family and friends
  • Don’t post brand related content on users’ walls, they will unlike your page
  • Do make your posts visual, Facebook was made for this
  • Do use this platform to keep track of what your competitors are doing

LinkedIn

This professional platform is great for networking as well as creating a professional brand following so keep this in mind when you develop content for this platform. LinkedIn is most popular amongst users aged 25-34. (Source: https://www.quantcast.com/linkedin.com)

Dos and Don’ts

  • Do make sure that your group is complete in terms of a profile and logo
  • Don’t delete any bad publicity that might be posted on your group page
  • Do make a point of updating your page on a regular basis with content that your users would find interesting
  • Be careful about not allowing users to join your group without being approved first as this might drive them away
  • Do make the time to clean up any spam or pending comments/posts. Users want a pleasant experience
  • Do interact with your audience where relevant
  • Do share content from other pages with your users

Pinterest

This platform is all about images so make sure that your website has the best quality content and visual elements in order to make it worth sharing. Pinterest usually works well for ecommerce sites. This platform mostly has female users of 50 years or younger. (Source: http://blog.bufferapp.com/social-media-in-2013-user-demographics-for-twitter-facebook-pinterest-and-instagram)

Dos and Don’ts

  • Do position your brand as an authority on a topic
  • Don’t spam users with product promotions
  • Do partner with top Pinterest users to promote your pins
  • Do make a point of choosing the very best images for your pins in order to attract users

Google+

Google Plus is a platform that is still growing and slowly gaining momentum in South Africa but unless you are an established brand it might be better to leave this platform out of your social media mix until a later date. At the moment there are only around half a million SA users on Google+.

Dos and Don’ts

  • Do complete your Google+ page and use eye-catching images
  • Do comment on user posts and interact where necessary
  • Don’t spam users by replying to posts with product information
  • Do create your own circles and add industry experts to them
  • Do create communities where you can provide users with very specific content around your brand and industry

Extra Resources

Mobile

Research shows that the average South African user uses their mobile device to access 30% of the online content they consume, which means you are losing out on a large potential client base if you aren’t providing a mobile friendly experience. (Source: http://themediaonline.co.za/2013/09/the-mass-market-engages-with-mobile/)

Your first step should be to make sure that your website is responsive, in other words it needs to be able to adapt to different screen sizes and still be user friendly. This is something that you can ask your web designer to implement.

Some brands even choose to have a separate mobi site that users are redirected to if they access a website from a mobile device. This way they can develop a separate design and content strategy around these users. If this is the route you are choosing to go then you should pay close attention to your mobi site visitors’ habits so that you can create content that fits in with that.

When it comes to mobile content, headlines are everything. You have very little space to grab the attention of users so graphics don’t need to be your biggest concern. You need to create the most attention grabbing headline possible and make sure that your content delivers on it. Linking to video content and integrating your mobile platform with social media will increase your chances of online exposure.

Dos and Don’ts

  • Don’t automatically assume that you don’t need a mobile strategy. Your market research will play an important role here
  • Do vary the length of your content to see what works for your mobile users
  • Don’t think that format isn’t important on a mobile site
  • Do look into developing an app for your business if there is an opportunity to benefit from it
  • Do take the size of mobile phone and tablet screens into consideration when developing a mobile site

Extra Resources

Email

Email marketing is the perfect platform for promoting your products and services as well as providing readers with excellent content but the problem is that online users are so used to spam popping into their inboxes that you really have to be outstanding for them to sit up and take notice.

The first step in developing an email marketing strategy is to decide what you want to achieve. Do you want to generate more sales, increase website visitors or get users to answer a survey? Once you’ve established this you can decide on the content of your mailer.

By researching your market you can decide what the best time would be to send the newsletter and also how often you should email them. Unsubscribes should be avoided at all costs. Another important point is to get your readers to want to open your email and this is done with a superb headline so give this loads of thought and ensure that the content in your newsletter delivers on it.

Dos and Don’ts

  • Do keep your layout clean and easy to read
  • Do make sure that the look and feel of your newsletter match your brand and website
  • Don’t make it difficult for users to unsubscribe from your mailers
  • Do use a call to action in your newsletters. Examples would be: “Click Here to Read More”; “Click Here to Receive Your Discount Code” or “Enter Our Competition Here.”
  • Don’t rent or buy email lists. Let users opt in on their own
  • Don’t forget to add a subscribe box on your website

Extra Resources

Casandra Visser is a Digital Marketing & Content Strategist and writes for Entrepreneur Media SA.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. SpitBraaiSA

    Jun 3, 2014 at 20:19

    Some great tips! Gonna work through these tips with our campaign. Cheers!

  2. Devin - WD Cape Town

    Oct 29, 2014 at 12:04

    You made a great point about Google Adwords – new users should really
    be careful as it’s very easy to burn through your budget if you don’t
    plan your advertising campaign correctly (depending on the industry
    you’re in).
    Enlisting the help of a professional is advised but if
    you have the time then there are plenty of resources to learn from on
    the Internet.Thanks,
    Devin

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Online Marketing

Everything You Need To Know About Instagram’s New Shopping Features

The app is giving influencers and brands new channels on which consumers can discover them.

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Influencers and brands have two new ways to sell products to users scrolling and tapping through their Instagram feeds. After a summer of testing shopping buttons that drive purchases via Stories, the Facebook-owned app has launched them for businesses in 46 countries.

It’s also begun rolling out a personalised shopping section in the Explore tab, which Instagram redesigned earlier this year to feature AI-powered channels categorising content based on topic (e.g. travel, art, decor).

The shopping tab will be a place for users who know they want to browse and potentially buy, with Instagram’s algorithm serving up brands the user already follows or would likely be into, based on past activity on the app. Meanwhile, the shopping bag stickers in Stories will give users a chance to not just admire their favourite influencers’ outfits, but actually click through and learn more about promoted items.

Since Instagram began testing the feature in June, more than 90 million users per month have tapped to reveal tags in shopping posts, according to a Sept. 17 Instagram blog post. The app already allows brands to purchase ads in the form of Stories.

More than 400 million accounts watch Stories daily, and one-third of the most-viewed Stories are from businesses, Instagram also reports.

Instagram has been testing shopping in feeds for nearly two years.

Related: Creating Power Digital Campaigns

Back in November 2016, the company explained on its Business blog that online shopping often involves research and deliberation, rather than impulse purchases, which is what led Instagram to build out shopping posts that would provide consumers with information about products without having to leave the app until they’d made a purchase decision.

Salesforce has forecasted that the referral traffic Instagram drives to retailer websites will increase by 51 percent between the 2017 and 2018 holiday seasons, according to Adweek.

Speaking of leaving the app, Instagram is rumored to be developing a standalone shopping app, according to The Verge, but the company declined to comment on these reports to both The Verge and Entrepreneur.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Online Marketing

Social Media Marketing For Start-ups: Essential Tips

There are plenty of ways to get the leads your start-up needs, but only a few tactics you’ll need in your arsenal to get the job done at a limited cost to your burgeoning business.

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Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing, when you’re short on funds, can seem like an intimidating prospect. If you and your team aren’t already knowledgeable about digital marketing strategy, you may think it’s impossible for you to manage marketing campaigns yourself. With a bit of determination and a great deal of studying, however, your startup will be able to successfully launch, direct, and refine your own digital marketing strategies.

What things can you do to help your start-up get more press, attract more customers, and get more brand awareness? There are plenty of ways to get the leads your start-up needs, but only a few tactics you’ll need in your arsenal to get the job done at a limited cost to your burgeoning business.

Get to know your niche

Many young companies adopt random acts of internet marketing. They’ll throw a few hundred dollars into promoting Facebook posts without necessarily understanding how to communicate to their audience.

Before you dive into advertising and promotion platforms, you should spend some time to define – and to get to know – your niche.

To help define your target market, use questions like:

  • Who are your existing customers?
    • How would you group them?
  • Who does your product or service help?
    • Does your product help business owners, stay-at-home parents, college students, or someone else?
  • Who are you looking to reach out to?
    • That is, are you looking to refine your target market or expand it?

Once you’ve answered a few questions like the ones listed above, you should be able to get a better idea of who you’re marketing to. With an understanding of who you’re communicating with, you should be able to craft a tailored message about your brand.

Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing

Choose social media platforms wisely

Many start-ups try to master as many social media platforms right at the start. Instead of dividing your attention between Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, you should identify one or two social media platforms that will help you market your product or service. This is why defining your target market at the beginning is so very important.

You must first decide who your message is intended for before writing, editing, and positioning that message. After you’ve got your target market down, you’ll be able to pinpoint which social media platforms can serve you best.

Here are a few examples to give you an idea of which social media platforms are best suited for your needs:

Twitter

  • Best for blog links
  • Frequent posts: 1-4 posts every few hours is the most effective
  • The community is open to businesses promotion

Facebook

  • Best for communicating to existing customers
  • Daily posts: 1 post every 2 days is the most effective
  • Users respond best to images, videos, and clips

Reddit

  • Strictly promotional posts are undesirable
  • Building readership and/or a following is slow
  • Better suited for long-term growth strategy

Do your social media research

Start conducting some preliminary research about social media platforms. Build a profile of each, listing their pros and cons. Try investigating other social media platforms such as GitHub, Stack Overflow, and Quora. While these aren’t platforms as large as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, they could have a far greater impact on your start-up.

Answering questions on Quora and interacting with other users on GitHub, for example, could help you build genuine business and customer relationships.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

Concentrate on mastering a few channels

Ultimately, it’s important to concentrate on one or two social media platforms based on your target market and your goals. Attempting to have a significant presence on all of them will prove expensive, time-consuming, and, at worst, counterproductive.

Focusing on one platform will allow you to track your marketing efforts with greater precision, revise your marketing strategy more easily, and help you speak more directly to your target audience.

Digital marketing, while best left to a team of experienced marketers, content creators, and creative designers can be done by your team.

Start-ups tight on cash don’t need to fret, they only need to do a bit of market research and direct their energy accordingly. After narrowing down your audience and performing some preliminary research on social media platforms, you can start working on your social media marketing strategy.

Master a few channels rather than trying to dominate all of the social media space. Keep conducting research as you start your marketing campaigns. Each community naturally changes so you’ll want to keep up-to-date. Leverage your research and dedication to get the most out of your startup marketing.

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How To Create The Best Small Business Website: 5 Easy And Effective Steps

Check the steps below and get ready to create a successful small business website.

Ethan Dunwill

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It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is. If you don’t have online presence, it will become difficult to obtain the results you expect. Your target audience is using the internet nowadays for almost anything. So, if you want to attract more customers and build your brand reputation, you need to build a website. This is how you will be able to expand your business in an easy and not so expensive way.

On the other hand, you don’t have to be a savvy web developer to create a basic website and let the others know about you. Web development and design software have evolved a lot and now you can use several website builders to develop a functional site. You will have plenty of templates to choose from to increase your business’ visibility.

Check the steps below and get ready to create a successful small business website.

Easy and Effective Steps to Create a Website for Your Business

1. What is the purpose of your website?

It doesn’t matter if you develop a simple or a more complex website. Before you start working on anything related to your website, you should start with saying what your company does. Your customers need to understand from the first minute they access your homepage what is your mission and vision. They don’t have too much time to invest when they enter on a website. So, you can make their journey smoother by telling them from the beginning about you. In case you are not so talented at writing, you can use writing companies like RewardedEssays or SupremeDissertations to give you a hand.

Related: 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Building A Website For Your Business

2. Choose a domain name and a web host

Even though many think they shouldn’t focus too much on it, the domain name is an important feature of your website. You will use the URL to promote your business to existing and future clients. So, this means that your domain name should be explicit and talk about your business to anyone who wants to find more about you. A domain name should be short, clear, without acronyms or numbers. What is more, you shouldn’t forget to check if your domain name isn’t already taken by someone else.

Apart from a domain name, your website will also need a server where all your data is stored. When you own a small business, creating your own web host will represent a serious financial effort. So, it would be more cost-wise to choose an external host.

As your business grows, you can choose a different host, or you can ask several providers to work on a personalised solution.

3. Build your website’s pages

website-pages-build

You will need more than a homepage to create a good website. If you want your customers to understand that you are a professional in what you do, you will create several pages dedicated to different elements of your business. For example, you can include a catalog with your products or a blog.

Natalie Andersen, CEO of GetGoodGrade mentions that “It is obligatory that apart from the homepage, a website should have at least a page with the products’ catalog and a Contact Us page.”

Below you can find a list with the minimum number of pages a professional website should have:

  • Homepage – here you will include details about your business, making sure that you also talk about your mission and vision.
  • List of products and services – your customers need to know what are the products and services you offer. This will help them decide whether you can answer their questions and provide a solution to their problems.
  • About Us – “About Us page is the place where you talk about your story. Your target audience wants to know more about yourself. This is how you will create a connection with your customers and let them know more about you”, says James Daily, Head of content department at FlashEssay.
  • Contact Us – it should include your address, email, phone number and working hours. You can also include the links for your social media profiles.

Furthermore, if you want to achieve an international presence, you can also use the translation services offered by IsAccurate. Thus, you will be able to address your message to a wider group of people and expand your business on new markets.

Related: How To Secure Your SME Website

4. Test if your website works properly

Christopher K. Mercer, CEO of Citatior recommends that “before you launch a website, you should first test whether it works. You cannot tell your future customers about your website without knowing for sure that it will work without problems once you launch it”. Therefore, you should click on each page and check whether it has any errors. You still have time to fix something if necessary.

Once you have launched your website and something goes wrong, it will become more difficult to do any change. Plus, always remember that the first impression matters. So, you need to be perfect in the eyes of your customers.

5. Maintain your website

After you launched your website, this doesn’t mean that your work is done. You will need to keep your customers engaged and curious about your business. Therefore, updating the products’ catalog constantly or producing content for your blog will keep your audience informed about what you can offer and the latest trends in the industry. Plus, you should also check if your website is up to date with the latest add-ons. If you don’t know how to produce new content for your website or you feel that you are not talented enough, you can collaborate with HotEssayService or RatedByStudents for professional writing services.

It shouldn’t be complicated to create a website for your small business. As long as you keep a clear structure and create a story around your business, you don’t have anything to worry about. It is very important to understand that a website is very important for your business visibility. Thus, you should put all your efforts into it.

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