A day in the life of a small business

Small-Business-Saturday-UK-2014-Logo-BlueWeekends are normally our days off, but we opened up on 6th December this year to support Small Business Saturday and to give other local traders the opportunity to get some digital marketing advice. free of charge.
What a day it was and we had a variety of businesses through the door who brought us an interesting selection of problems they were facing

10:00am – The SEO ‘bicycle’

First visitor of the day was a business owner who travelled all the way from Dingwall and was having trouble with SEO (search engine optimisation). The business had been dropping down the results and they couldn’t understand why when they hadn’t changed anything on their website.
This is a common query, and we compare it to a bicycle race. You start out well, but as the race progresses, others start to pass you.
They have better bikes, they’ve trained harder, and it’s a case of you think you’re doing your best, but you just haven’t properly prepared. You’re not going slower, it’s the others who are going faster.
The same can be true with search engines, other businesses can overtake you because they have prepared better content, or have websites which perform better.
In order to stay ahead you need to keep your website in tip-top condition, and feed it with fresh content. Regular changes to your website are a signal to search engines that your site is alive and you are keeping your customers updated.
And it’s not just search engines that benefit from fresh content. Do you think your customers will keep returning to a website that never changes?
[tweet “Do you think your customers will keep returning to a website that never changes?”]

10.30am  – Convert your Facebook followers

Facebook was largely the topic for visitor number 2, a local business owner who has got over 3000 likes but wondered whether they were customers. Another good dilemma to solve. Don’t let your Facebook become a stamp album where you’re only collecting followers without converting them into customers.
Whether you have an online shop or real store, a list of 3000 potential customers is something to value. We showed them several ways they could use this Facebook following to convert their popularity into sales.

11.00am – Great ecommerce site, don’t hide it

The next customer had paid for an ecommerce site, but wasn’t selling much or even getting much traffic. There was nothing wrong with the site itself, far better than its competition. But they had been given the site as a completed project with no guidance on how to attract customers to the site. The business owners have a got a lot of work to do and unfortunately they assumed the site would generate sales through search engines.
The products are in a highly competitive niche, which means it will take some time to beat what’s already out there, so we gave them some advice on finding new markets while the site builds its credibility.

11.30am – Swapping bricks for clicks

Ecommerce again and this time we had someone looking to ‘migrate’ their offline business to online.
They didn’t want to add online selling to an already successful shop, but instead were contemplating replacing offline with online as a lifestyle change, and it’s critical that sales are not adversely affected in the process.
That’s a big topic for a half-hour slot, but we looked mainly at harnessing existing customers and what means they could use to get new and existing buying online before the ‘big switch’.

12.00 noon – Double your monkey

We knew email marketing would come up at some point and this was a perfect example that demonstrated just how easy it is.
Search and social can be such a struggle for small businesses, yet here was a business with a great product and no system of building a customer list.
We established how many people could be added to a mailing list from existing orders, then pointed out how a successful competition they had run could have doubled the list within a week. This customer went away a happy bunny.

12.30pm – Quality not quantity

Organic reach is pants, we know, but sometimes we see people who have ridden the Facebook storm well and are using their page sufficiently without paying for advertising.
Just before lunch we met a business owner who has got ‘stuck’ at 1500 likes and wonders how his competitor had four times the likes. Cue some simple mathematics. We can’t see the reach of the competitor, but we can see the engagement. Our visitor attained more engagement from their audience, despite having only a quarter of the competitor’s market.
This shows their fanbase is patently more in tune to his brand than his competitors. The upshot of this half-hour was that no-one should get hung up on likes.

2.00pm – Guerilla marketing? No, MailChimp

Wow! More than 20,000 customers and no mailing list. This 30 minute session will be worth thousands of pounds to this customer. A successful business with a huge database of customers. The advice we gave here was simple. Forget social media, well don’t, but let’s not talk about that here. Get those people into MailChimp or other reputable mailing list management software and start emailing them. There are great opportunities here for repeat custom. This is a small business run from home, competing with national retailers, but the benefit that will come from as yet untapped email marketing is huge.

2.30pm – Searching for the answer!

OMG – a small guest house owner came to see us in the afternoon and I’m glad I was sitting down. They weren’t convinced they were getting good value from the money they were paying every month for SEO. I asked what they were doing each month. Their response: ‘I don’t know’. So if they’re not sending a list of work they’re doing for their wedge each month and certainly haven’t been adding content to the website, what makes them think they can charge a ridiculous amount of money month after month. Further probing revealed all sorts of search engine trickery that should have tarnished the whole industry, keyword stuffing, doorway pages, link farms. Does this stuff really still go on? Apparently so. Shudder.

3.00pm – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

The last session of the day, and someone comes looking for advice on redesigning their site. The dialogue will sum this up nicely.
“How much does it cost to have a website redesigned?”
“Why are you considering a redesign?”
“I just think it needs sprucing up.”
“OK, are your sales increasing or declining?”
“Increasing.”
“Good, so why would you want to redesign it.”
“It looks out of date.”
“But your customers evidently like it if your sales are increasing”
“I just fancied a change.”
OK, I’m going to be blunt. The business owner, while holding the purse strings, doesn’t if ever, buy from the website. If the statistics show that it’s working well, think twice about a redesign.
What is needed here is a bit of User testing
Think about modifications for sure, tidying things up, keeping on trend, etc, but redesigning because your bored and have some money in the bank isn’t the right approach.
Evolution not revolution, that is our advice.

Summary

And so that ends the sessions for Small Business Saturday.
Of course we see these problems time and time again. Website owners just aren’t making enough of the tools around them. Social media, search engines, emails, all these things are presenting more confusion than solutions. They’re tools that are easy to buy into but also easily misinterpreted.
But I don’t think it’s their fault.
If someone has been using social media for four years, as had one of our visitors today, and still cannot tell you if it is doing them any good is a sorry state.
For companies to be charging hundreds of pounds a month for search engine optimisation that is outdated, unprofessional and against guidelines is shocking.
And that websites can be delivered with little or no guidance on how to use them effectively , it’s no wonder that our industry confuses people.
With social media, search engines and website content management, we can do the technical stuff, but we also show the customer how to utilise these tools by using their knowledge and expertise in their products and services to improve their online presence and avoid getting sucked into hype.

Do you want help?

Our mantra is to help people to help themselves. We hope we did that on Saturday.
We can help you with your website and marketing? Contact us to find out how.
 
 
 

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