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3 Steps to Sell More from Your Small Business Website

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3 Steps to Sell More from Your Small Business Website

3 Steps to Sell More from Your Small Business Website

Digital marketing is becoming more and more competitive.

According to Census Bureau’s data, almost 5.5 million new business applications were filed in 2021, which is a 53% increase from 2019.

Hit by global lockdowns and deprived of most traditional means of attracting customers, most of those businesses turned to the Internet in an effort to build traffic and sales.

This resulted in a higher than ever digital marketing competition.

How can a small business compete with that?

How can you generate sales from your small business website in this competitive environment? 

Here are some solid ways to do that.

1. Formulate a Plan

Successful planners often make successful entrepreneurs, laying out detailed (yet actionable) goals every step of the way. The fact of the matter is that if you have numbers you want to hit, you’ll be much more likely to have them in mind and aim to reach them constantly. 

Write them down and keep them somewhere so you can continually reference them throughout the year.

Create a Sales Plan

A sales plan is designed to outline your goals, tactics, audience, and potential hurdles. After laying out a sales plan, you’ll come away with concrete, measurable goals, including revenue targets and deadlines for hitting each metric. 

You’ll also spend time identifying your target audience, which will be crucial for success in marketing. Creating a sales plan is a necessary first step in meeting your overall business goals.

Create a Prospecting Plan

Think of your prospecting strategy as a guidebook for your sales team (even if your sales team is just you). It should cover all of your preferred sales methodologies, as well as information on who to target. 

Ask yourself which form of selling most closely aligns with your business and its goals, from cold-calling to trade shows, to a 100-percent-digital strategy.

2. Market Your Business

Building a good marketing strategy really comes down to two crucial factors: 

  • Understanding your audience 
  • Getting your product or service in front of your target audience. 

Anything you can do to gather information on your target demographic and then to effectively, affordably market to them will get you ahead in marketing.

Leverage 360-Degree Digital Marketing

Depending on the type of business you operate, you can probably get away with a fully digital marketing strategy. Focus on the most affordable methods first, such as building out your social media  and local business profiles. 

Social media is the best option for connecting with current, and future, customers. Consider pay-per-click and performance-based marketing options, such as affiliate marketing. This will help you get your product or service in front of a bigger audience for a much lower up-front spend.

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Make Sure You Have a Loyalty Building Plan in Place

It is hard (and in many niches impossible) for small businesses to develop solid and consistent traffic generation methods.

So focus on retaining those customers that did find you and turning them into brand advocates.

There are many ways to achieve that, so create your strategy based on your business and product specifics:

  • Set up a dedicated spot for your customers to become part of your community
  • Use a solid CRM solution to organize customer relationship management process and identify steps where it may be failing
  • Reply to comments and reviews when your customers are discussing your product or asking questions
  • Encourage user-generated content by offering perks in exchange for sharing an unboxing video, a photo review of your product or a tutorial on making the most of it.
  • Offer exclusive deals and packages. vcita offers a “Packages” feature that allows small businesses to bundle several services together and sell them as a package deal online at a discounted price. You can use vcita to create unique packages for your return users:
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Research Niche Gaps and Competitors’ Fails

What are your competitors missing? Which features or products are they seeking and failing to find? You can actually turn the poorest experience into a business opportunity, if you learn to identify that opportunity.

Researching niche gaps is a great way to find a sweet spot for your business to stand out. SE Ranking competitive research tool allows you to identify your competitors’ strongest and weakest side. 

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You can also use its keyword research tool to find searchable keywords that don’t have much competition (this is a great way to find what’s on demand but without a solid offering).

Social media listening is another great way to find customers who are dissatisfied with your competitors and identify what your competitors are doing wrong (and how you could fit in):

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Make Sure People Can Find Your Business

Start by implementing the basics, including a well-optimized website and a detailed listing on Google’s My Business Profile platform (if you are operating a local business).

Optimizing your website through proven search engine optimization (SEO) tactics—such as including relevant keywords and building out detailed, useful pages—is an easy way to ensure that people can find your business. 

Plus, besides the time you spend writing the copy, it’s free! This is also extremely important for small businesses. Text Optimizer is a great tool to help you create a highly-relevant copy:

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Encourage Cross-Business Collaboration

As a small business owner, you may not have a ton of employees but it is still important to keep them excited and motivated. Encourage your employees to submit content ideas, feature your team members on your social media profiles, let them contribute to your social media channels, etc.

Keep your team together even if you don’t have an office. Your employees need to be part of the family, and an effective communication strategy is vital for any business. Nextiva offers affordable small business communication solutions which will keep your team together:

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3. Analyze & Adapt

Too often, businesses funnel big money into marketing and development without investing in detailed tracking and analytics. But you need both to thrive. 

Why does data matter so much for boosting sales? Because it allows you to measure—usually, in concrete numbers—exactly what’s working and what’s not working, and then it forces you to adapt accordingly. 

Be sure to track your results over time, so you know what strategies are working or if you need to pivot your plan. It is important to keep in mind seasonality, or any other factors, that naturally fluctuate your business, so you can accurately predict results.

Invest in Analytics Tools

Luckily, many digital marketing platforms include built-in analytics, but what about when you’re trying to track something that’s not single-platform based? Often, you can add tools and plug-ins to your website or store to keep track of where sales are coming from and other metrics. 

Using a comprehensive Rank Tracker that can connect many data points (rankings, traffic, conversions, etc.) is also essential:

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Track All Demographics

As long as you have permission from your user or consumer, you can gather as much demographic information as possible. Pay close attention to patterns that emerge with regard to age, gender, geographic information, income, and education level. 

This will help you figure out exactly where to funnel your promotional dollars, including which social media platforms to advertise on and which affiliate websites or blogs to partner with.

Put Your Data to Use

What good is a fleshed-out set of data if you don’t put it to use? Make sure you’re using every single finding to keep your business agile, adjusting as needed to different consumer preferences and market trends. 

Be patient with your analytics, keeping a close eye but not being obsessive. In time, you’ll have a solid bank of information that will tell an obvious story about where you should take your business next.

Ask for Feedback and Focus on the Customer

A good sales strategy is one that serves both the seller and the consumer. As you’re going through your first year or two in business, make sure to always keep your ears open to feedback, focusing on specific ways you can improve the customer experience. 

Remember that happy customers tell their friends when they’re both satisfied and dissatisfied with a business, so keeping them smiling can help you grow your sales exponentially without you having to do anything at all!

User experience is a vital part of business success both on the web and in real life. If a customer had a positive experience and can leave a review, that will be invaluable when others are looking for similar products.

Positively interacting with customers and ensuring their satisfaction, will not only encourage them to return but also recommend your products to others.

Even though the Internet is getting super competitive, there are still a lot of opportunities to start a successful home-based business and set up a small business that will stand out. All you need is a plan, a solid technology partner and a good team!


Why Content Marketing is the Only Marketing Left

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MARKETING

Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

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Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

How long has it been since your marketing team got restructured? 

Wearing our magic mind-reading hat, we’d guess it was within the last two years. 

Impressed by the guess? Don’t be.  

Research from Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds that almost half of marketing teams restructured in the last 12 months. (And the other half probably did it the previous year.) 

Why do marketing teams restructure so often? Is this a new thing? Is it just something that comes with marketing? What does it all mean for now and the future? 

CMI chief strategy advisor Robert Rose offers his take in this video and the summary below. 

Marketing means frequent change 

Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds 46.5% of marketing teams restructured in the last year — a 5-percentage point increase over 2023 when 41.4% of teams changed their structure. 

But that’s markedly less than the 56.5% of marketing teams that restructured in 2022, which most likely reflected the impact of remote work, the fallout of the pandemic, and other digital marketing trends. 

Maybe the real story isn’t, “Holy smokes, 46% of businesses restructured their marketing last year.” The real story may be, “Holy smokes, only 46% of businesses restructured their marketing.” 

Put simply, marketing teams are now in the business of changing frequently. 

It raises two questions.  

First, why does marketing experience this change? You don’t see this happening in other parts of the business. Accounting teams rarely get restructured (usually only if something dramatic happens in the organization). The same goes for legal or operations. Does marketing change too frequently? Or do other functions in business not change enough? 

Second, you may ask, “Wait a minute, we haven’t reorganized our marketing teams in some time. Are we behind? Are we missing out? What are they organizing into? Or you may fall at the other end of the spectrum and ask, “Are we changing too fast? Do companies that don’t change so often do better? 

OK, that’s more than one question, but the second question boils down to this: Should you restructure your marketing organization? 

Reorganizing marketing 

Centralization emerged as the theme coming out of the pandemic. Gartner reports (registration required) a distinct move to a fully centralized model for marketing over the last few years: “(R)esponsibilities across the marketing organization have shifted. Marketing’s sole responsibilities for marketing operations, marketing strategy, and marketing-led innovation have increased.”  

According to a Gartner study, marketing assuming sole responsibility for marketing operations, marketing innovation, brand management, and digital rose by double-digit percentage points in 2022 compared to the previous year.  

What does all that mean for today in plainer language? 

Because teams are siloed, it’s increasingly tougher to create a collaborative environment. And marketing and content creation processes are complex (there are lots of people doing more small parts to creative, content, channel management, and measurement). So it’s a lot harder these days to get stuff done if you’re not working as one big, joined-up team. 

Honestly, it comes down to this question: How do you better communicate and coordinate your content? That’s innovation in modern marketing — an idea and content factory operating in a coordinated, consistent, and collaborative way. 

Let me give you an example. All 25 companies we worked with last year experienced restructuring fatigue. They were not eager creative, operations, analytics, media, and digital tech teams champing at the bit for more new roles, responsibilities, and operational changes. They were still trying to settle into the last restructuring.  

What worked was fine-tuning a mostly centralized model into a fully centralized operational model. It wasn’t a full restructuring, just a nudge to keep going. 

In most of those situations, the Gartner data rang true. Marketing has shifted to get a tighter and closer set of disparate teams working together to collaborate, produce, and measure more efficiently and effectively.  

As Gartner said in true Gartner-speak fashion: “Marginal losses of sole responsibility (in favor of shared and collaborative) were also reported across capabilities essential for digitally oriented growth, including digital media, digital commerce, and CX.” 

Companies gave up the idea of marketing owning one part of the customer experience, content type, or channel. Instead, they moved into more collaborative sharing of the customer experience, content type, or channel.  

Rethinking the marketing reorg 

This evolution can be productive. 

Almost 10 years ago, Carla Johnson and I wrote about this in our book Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing. We talked about the idea of building to change: 

“Tomorrow’s marketing and communications teams succeed by learning to adapt — and by deploying systems of engagement that facilitate adaptation. By constantly building to change, the marketing department builds to succeed.” 

We surmised the marketing team of the future wouldn’t be asking what it was changing into but why it was changing. Marketing today is at the tipping point of that. 

The fact that half of all marketing teams restructure and change every two years might not be a reaction to shifting markets. It may just be how you should think of marketingas something fluid that you build and change into whatever it needs to be tomorrow, not something you must tear down and restructure every few years.  

The strength in that view comes not in knowing you need to change or what you will change into. The strength comes from the ability and capacity to do whatever marketing should. 

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:  

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 

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Boost Your Traffic in Google Discover

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Boost Your Traffic in Google Discover

2. Understand topical authority: Keywords vs. entities

Google has been talking about topical authority for a long time, and in Discover, it is completely relevant. Traditional SEO includes the use of keywords to position your web pages for a specific search, but the content strategy in Discover should be based on entities, i.e., concepts, characters, places, topics… everything that a Knowledge Panel can have. It is necessary to know in which topics Google considers we have more authority and relevance in order to talk about them.

3. Avoid clickbait in titles

“Use page titles that capture the essence of the content, but in a non-clickbait fashion.” This is the opening sentence that describes how headlines should be in Google’s documentation. I always say that it is not about using clickbait but a bit of creativity from the journalist. Generating a good H1 is also part of the job of content creation.

Google also adds:

“Avoid tactics to artificially inflate engagement by using misleading or exaggerated details in preview content (title, snippets, or images) to increase appeal, or by withholding crucial information required to understand what the content is about.”

“Avoid tactics that manipulate appeal by catering to morbid curiosity, titillation, or outrage.

Provide content that’s timely for current interests, tells a story well, or provides unique insights.”

Do you think this information fits with what you see every day on Google Discover? I would reckon there were many sites that did not comply with this and received a lot of traffic from Discover.

With the last core updates in 2023, Google was extremely hard on news sites and some niches with content focused on Discover, directly affecting E-E-A-T. The impact was so severe that many publishers shared drastic drops in Search Console with expert Lily Ray, who wrote an article with data from more than 150 publishers.

4. Images are important

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. If you look at your Discover feed, you’ll see most of the images catch your attention. They are detailed shots of delicious food, close-ups of a person’s face showing emotions, or even images where the character in question does not appear, such as “the new manicure that will be a trend in 2024,” persuading you to click.

Google’s documentation recommends adding “high-quality images in your content, especially large images that are more likely to generate visits from Discover” and notes important technical requirements such as images needing to be “at least 1200 px wide and enabled by the max-image-preview:large setting.” You may also have found that media outlets create their own collages in order to have images that stand out from competitors.

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Everything You Need to Know About Google Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines)

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Everything You Need to Know About Google Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines)

One of the most important parts of having a website is making sure your audience can find your site (and find what they’re looking for).

The good news is that Google Search Essentials, formerly called Google Webmaster Guidelines, simplifies the process of optimizing your site for search performance.

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