Let's imagine a small business CEO. Hugh Sellmore is the owner of a local vegetable supplier in Georgia. He has a college degree, and a dedicated local following, thanks to his commitment to customer service. However, Sellmore's efforts to grow his business struggled until he developed an active inbound marketing strategy. Since he began using social media, blogging, email marketing, and other tactics, 60% of his new business is found online. While Hugh doesn't exist, his story and struggles aren't unique - he resembles many SMB owners in the US. Here are many of the key areas where companies can struggle to take off:
1. Having an Online Presence
15 years ago, a business website was a novelty. Today, it's expected. Considering 89% of consumers rely on a search engine to make purchase decisions, failing to have an online presence could result in being ignored.
Solution: When it comes to establishing a website and a social media presence, the best time to get started is yesterday.
2. Investing in Quality Web Design
58% of consumers have decided to avoid brands based on faulty or low-quality web design. Websites that look like they were built on Geocities aren't kitschy, they're unprofessional.
Solution: Immerse yourself in the principles of web design best practices to ensure your online presence projects the image you want.
3. Using Stock Photos
Images of real people are 95% more effective at conversions than stock photos. Your prospects don't want to see smiling models, they want to see pictures that inspire trust in your company.
image credit: CREStock
Solution: Nix any images that look like they were purchased for a few credits, and replace them with photos of your people and products.
4. Building Landing Pages
You can never have too many landing pages. Research has found that companies that increase total landing pages from 10 to 15 generate 55% more leads.
image credit: HubSpot
Solution: Increase your total number of landing pages and targeting by tailoring your existing offers to more granular segments of your market.
5. Having a Blog
Companies that blog get 55% more website visitors. It's impossible to ignore the manifold benefits of business blogging, which range from positive SEO, to being able to position yourself as an expert.
image credit: HubSpot
Solution: If you haven't started blogging, make penning and publishing your inaugural post top priority.
6. Hosting a Blog on the Subdomain
If you opt to host your blog on a BlogSpot or Wordpress account that's separate from your website, your company won't receive the SEO benefit associated with publishing fresh content on a regular basis.
Solution: Don't let your blogging efforts go to waste by connecting your content with your main website.
7. Being on Social Media
79% of companies either have an active social media presence, or plan to implement one in the near future. Social media isn't an optional way to reach out, it's expected.
Solution: Don't miss out on connecting with the over 1 billion consumers worldwide who have an active social presence! Establish a presence on major networks today.
8. Monitoring Social Media
42% of consumers expect a customer service response from brands on social media within 60 minutes. Too many small businesses make the mistake of thinking social media is a 9-to-5, or even worse, several hours a week kind of job.
Solution: While few small businesses have the budget for a dedicated social media manager, monitor Tweets and comments at least twice daily.
9. Social Listening
image credit: Mutual Mind
Can you imagine how awesome it would be to have constant access to the world's largest focus group? Too many small businesses fail to utilize public social media posts to gain insight on how their brand stacks up against the competition.
Solution: Using Tweetdeck or a comparable social media tool, set up automatic streams to listen in on conversations based on relevant keywords.
10. Performing Competitive Analysis
SMB CEOs can't ignore their competitions' pricing, marketing, or products. Not convinced? Consider the fact that your prospects can learn all they want to know about alternatives with a simple Google search.
Solution: Analyze your competition's online strategy and website performance using resources like Alexa, and improve accordingly.
11. Answering Customer Questions
96% of first-time website visitors aren't ready to make a purchase. They're gathering information, and performing preliminary research. Too often, companies of all sizes fail to map their content marketing strategy to real questions.
Solution: Work with sales and customer service to develop a comprehensive list of the questions prospects ask most often, and use these as the primary basis for your blog.
12. Investing Enough Time in Social Media
It's easy to push publishing engaging content on social media channels and going the extra mile to engage with prospects to the back burner. Forbes recently reported that it takes 32 hours a month to manage a presence on one social network correctly.
Solution: You might not have the time to be on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram and Quora, so don't. Pick fewer social media networks, and truly be present.
13. Generating Customer Referrals
65% of new business comes from referrals. It's tempting to focus on capturing the interest of new prospects, and ignore your best lead sources in the process.
Solution: Actively work to reward your current clientele for every qualified referral.
14. Checking Web Analytics
There's few mistakes more devastating than ignoring web analytics.Your marketing can't improve if you're ignoring the hard facts on how your current tactics are working.
Solution: Use Google analytics to daily check website traffic, referrals, and other key metrics.
15. Guest Posting
There are few shortcuts to a positive search ranking anymore, but building links by sharing free content with other bloggers is among them. It's easy to push guest posting off as optional, when in fact it's among the most effective ways to build website authority.
Solution: Work at least two guest posts per month into your content calendar, focusing on blogs with a similar audience and a track record of quality content creation.
16. Quality Content
image credit: blogging know how
64% of marketers struggle to produce enough content. Churning out lower-quality blog articles, or skimping on the editing aren't the answer.
Solution: Implement a content curation strategy, and increase buy-in from your employees.
17. Content Buy-in
Too many small business owners try to shoulder the weight of creating content, ignoring their in-house experts in the process.
Solution: Mandate content creation for all employees, and provide dedicated work time to write.
18. Low-Quality Outsourcing
Just because you can buy blog articles for $0.01 a word online doesn't mean they'll benefit your website or audience. In fact, habitually posting low-quality, repetitive content can get you slammed with negative SEO.
Solution: Use copywriting businesses with a positive reputation to purchase better content within your price range.
19. Using Link Shorteners
Abbreviating links with a recognized shortening service only takes a few seconds, and it has been proven to increase ReTweets and engagement.
Solution: Use bit.ly or an alternative on a regular basis.
20. Posting at Key Times
Failing to research optimal times for posting on social media networks can reduce engagement, but even few marketers realize that the only reliable resource on the best times to post for their audience is Facebook insights and social media metrics.
Solution: Don't rely on other people to dictate when you should or shouldn't post! Experiment with your own social media strategy.
21. Responding to Comments
Blogs are an inherently social platform, and your prospects may use the comments field to build relationships or trust. Don't ignore their effort to reach out!
Solution: Monitor your blog comments continually, delete spammy content, and respond thoughtfully.
22. Developing Offers
It's impossible to develop a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy without offers, which can range from eBooks to special coupons.
Solution: Don't expect your prospects to share their email address without a reward! For fast and easy offer creation, consider bundling existing blog content.
23. Upselling to Existing Customers
It costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire new business than to sell to your current customer base.
Solution: Nurture your current customers with relevant email offers and special deals.
24. Keyword Research
Even savvy small business owners may mistakenly think that since the rules of SEO have changed, keyword research isn't helpful.
Solution: Use Google adwords to gain insight on the topics and terms driving search in your market, and naturally incorporate these words into content.
Many of the most embarrassing, public failures by brands of all sizes have resulted from neglecting to research hashtags thoroughly before joining existing conversations.
Solution: While hashtags are a powerful tool for gaining exposure, make sure it's positive attention. Research tags thoroughly before adding to your Tweets.
Developing a comprehensive social media presence, content marketing, and lead generation online aren't easy. They take time, expertise, and a willingness to adopt an agile stance in a quickly-changing world. However, remember that if Hugh can manage to sell online, you can too.
What do you feel are some of the most common small business marketing mistakes?