These days you need to do more than just have a static website to promote your business. Here I explore some essential website marketing tools and tips to drive traffic to your site & increase your sales conversion ratio.

In June 2006, Matt Mullenweg launched WordPress: the open source website development and publishing platform. Little over a decade later it has become the website CMS of choice, used by 28% of all website managers globally. In making it open-source, Matt showed remarkable marketing foresight calculating correctly that the advantages of the system would attract like minded developers, co-promoters and brand ambassadors.

WordPress is free, relatively easy to use and there are literally thousands of “themes” or design templates to choose from

There are also lots of handy tools or “plug-ins” to add that make managing your website simplicity itself.

So, I’ll assume as a SME you have, or soon will have, a shiny new website. Now what are you going to do with it? It’s a bit like your first car purchase, you love the fresh polished showroom look and don’t ever want to get it dirty. But you didn’t buy it just to park it in your garage, right? Yet that’s effectively what many website owners do failing to integrate the site it into their business marketing strategy. This article will show you:

6 ways you can promote your website and utilize it as a vehicle to drive web traffic and business growth

 

Step #1 – Market test your website

Before launching and promoting your website to the world, it is worth checking that your website is fully functional and user friendly. Test it out by inviting trusted friends to visit the site and give you critical feedback. If necessary, ask them to fill in a questionnaire using Survey Monkey. In this way you will be able to determine if critical feedback is just one person’s opinion or the informed view of many.

What should you be looking for? What do they think of the overall design? How does the content read to them? Is the tone right? Can they easily navigate their way around the site? Is anything missing? Remember, web designers tend to focus on design rather than content, on features, rather than customer experience and utilize stock, web sourced images rather than shooting photographs unique to your business.

It’s easy to end up with a wonderful looking site only to discover down the line that you’re driving a Mondeo. Don’t be afraid to be different!

 

Step #2 – SEO the race for speed

When it comes to websites, speed is of the essence. A 2016 study on page loading times suggested that a 1 second delay in page loading could lead to 7% loss in conversions, 11% fewer page views and 16% decrease in customer satisfaction. Viewer attention spans have dropped to an average of just 12 seconds, so time spent waiting for your site to load may reduce time customers spent on the site. With good SEO your site will be more Maserati than Mondeo.

So let’s begin by checking your site loading time. Just because your site loads quickly on your computer doesn’t mean it will on everyone else’s. Check from an independent source such as Pingdom. Anything over 3 seconds is problematic, while under 2 seconds is ideal. You’ll also be able to read a report highlighting areas you need to address to speed up site loading time.

What if your loading time is seven seconds? Well, as Corporal Jones would say, “Don’t panic!”

There are generally 3 issues you can fix quickly. These are: graphics; website caching and coding.

 

Step #3 – Create compress & cache

Photographs and graphic images take up the biggest part of your page size when requested. Often photographs have been saved at too high a resolution for website viewing. Another common mistake is that they’ve been saved at the right resolution but are being resized on the page rather than installed at the right size. These are small matters and easily fixed once identified. You can use a programme such as TinyPing to further compress your images before uploading them to your site.

WordPress pages are “dynamic,” meaning they’re built on the fly every time someone visits a page on your website. To construct a page, WordPress has first to request it, then process the received information, build a unitary page and finally display it. However, you can address this by utilizing a caching tool like WP Super Cache. This will save the last version of the page or cache from the first request, to serve to each subsequent visitor, thus reducing loading time.

Once running, cache loading should speed up page loading time by 2X to 5X

I know very little about coding, but fortunately you don’t have to either, to fix some common problems.

website: Autoptimise dashboard

A couple of WordPress plugins I’d recommend are Autoptimize and WP Sweep. The former will take care of CSS and Javascript optimising on your website. It concatenates the CSS and JavaScript code, and compresses it. The latter deals with all those revisions and changes that you have made, which still operate in the background when loading. WP Sweep literally sweeps them away improving speed.

 

Step #4 – New content attracts visitors

You remember that new car I mentioned at the start of this article? Well, it’s nearly time to take it out of the garage and go for a spin. But just before you do, remember that on longer journeys you may need to stop to refuel! It’s just the same with your website, every so often you need to add new content. The best way to do this is by publishing a blog or news section. In fact, a business with a blog will receive 7 times as much traffic as one without.

A business with a blog will receive 7 times as much traffic as one without

So what at are you going to blog about? Tell your customers about why you started your business. What motivated you and what you are passionate about. Remember, for sole traders and SMEs, in many ways you are the brand. Write about new products or promotions and invite your reader and customers to give you feedback. If you provide a professional service, why not blog about tips and tools your customers can use to use to make their lives easier. We are all on the same journey after all, just traveling in different cars!

 

Step #5– Use social media to drive traffic

The rise of social media has transformed marketing, creating new opportunities for customer interaction and the relatively new field of digital marketing. Indeed, many SMEs have a business Facebook page but no website. I believe this is short sighted. You own a website and over time it will become as valuable a resource to you as a bricks and mortar site. It therefore is worth investing in to maximise your competitive advantage.

You own a website and over time it will become as valuable a resource to you as a bricks and mortar site

Use your social media to drive traffic to the website, to promote your blog and to engage in two way conversation with your customers. Facebook is particularly good for B2C marketing and its advertising features lend themselves to sales promotion. You should combine it with other marketing campaigns to reinforce the brand.

LinkedIn is a professional networking social media that’s better suited to B2B marketing. Together with Twitter, these have the greatest number of subscribers in Britain and Ireland. My advice would be to focus on no more than 2 or 3 media that match your customers’ profile, rather than spread yourself too thin. Ensure that the social media icons are prominently placed on your website and particularly in your blogs for easy sharing purposes.

 

Step #6 – Using search engines to rank locally

When you are ready to launch your website, make sure you promote it across the web. Register your site with key search engines. A quick way to do this, is with Entire Web which will notify multiple search engines for you. Remember too, that when you publish each new blog posting you should use Entire Web to notify the search engines of fresh content. Do this by submitting your blog URL, in my case linengreenmarketing.com/blog
Think about promoting yourself locally. You can do this on the web with online directories like:

Google My Business
Bing Places
Yellow Pages

Each offer additional paid for premium services but the basic registration is free and very effective.

You can very quickly achieve a good ranking on local searches

There are many more but I’m in danger of developing repetitive strain injury. If you follow the above simple steps you will soon be driving traffic to your website.

Happy motoring!

Creative Marketing and the Painted Forest

Why did I include a picture of the Painted Forest on my Website? Where is it and what’s it got to do with marketing anyway?

In April 1994 I traveled to a peace conference in Gernika, in northern Spain. My host was Gernika Gogoratuz, the Basque peace research institute. The time that I spent there, participating and learning about conflicts and peace, was to change my life. However, that’s not today’s subject. I learned that communication and miscommunication are central to understanding both marketing and conflict transformation.

Not far from Gernika, in the province of Bizkaia, is the forest of Oma. There is much to admire here. Artist and sculptor Agustin Ibarrola has transformed the natural beauty of the forest into a living canvas. 

Artist and sculptor Agustin Ibarrola has transformed the natural beauty of the forest into a living canvas

It is now known as Bosque Pintado, the Painted Forest or Bosque Animado, the Animated Forest. Ibarrola’s anthropomorphic shapes and symbols challenge us to think more about our interaction with each tree, the forest and the natural environment.  As the trees and forest grow, the installation will change and evolve.

Marketing Communication

Art can be appreciated by all, yet each of us will react and interpret it differently. It is both a medium of communication and a communication message. Our interaction with art is based on what we see, what we feel and what we think.  What we see is denoted and what we think is connoted. For what we feel and think is often stimulated by memory and association.

In early Christian times, when few people could read or write, art was used by the church to teach people the bible stories. At that time church and state were one and the monasteries were the universities of their times. Monks spent their time creating and copying books by hand.  The Sovereign gained his or her power and legitimacy from the church. This is why the symbols of state and church often mirror each other and why the great masters were so often commissioned by both.

Brand Building

I included a photograph of the Painted Forest on my website as a symbol of how creative design and marketing campaigns can transform business. They can take the ordinary, add value and change how we perceive a product or service.  

Great design can stimulate desire, motivate purchasing decisions and even add to the customer’s level of satisfaction.

They have a role to play in helping us sell more, building relationships with our customers rather than one-off transactions.  Great design can stimulate desire, motivate purchasing decisions and even add to the customer’s level of satisfaction.  The commercial transaction is now transformed into a mutually satisfying experience, like Ibarrorola’s Bosque Pintado,  This is the essence of great marketing and the key to Brand building.

public relations for business

Public Relations is one of the most under utilized of tools deployed by Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) in the communication mix.

I believe there are three reasons for this:

1.  A lack of knowledge of how to engage with media
2.  It’s easier to advertise
3  The rise of social media

What is Public Relations?

Public Relations is any editorial coverage you receive without having to pay the publication or media. As an SME you’re used to engaging with local publications trying to sell you advertising space. You may also be invited to purchase advertorials, that is a feature that includes a certain word count along with a picture or advertisement. This is not PR, you are paying the media directly for your coverage when, for a little bit of effort, you can obtain good coverage in the press for free.

Why is PR important to business?

Earlier, I mentioned that one of the hot marketing trends of 2017 would be executive branding, essentially coverage focused on you. We are interested not just in the product but in the people behind the brand and their story. PR is a good way to tell your story and to reach potential customers.

Readers also read and retain information from the stories and articles they read much more than advertisements they may see in the publication. For example, a good review in a newspaper of a dining experience is worth so much more to a restaurateur than any amount of advertising.

Customer relations is about trust, reputation and confidence. Public relations is a great way to build customer confidence and brand identification.

How do I get PR coverage in the press?

Start by having a look in your target publication. What types of story and feature articles do they publish? Are there any stories about business? What angle does the publication report? Begin by tailoring your news or feature story to the publication’s editorial style. Can you provide a great photograph? Pictures are worth a thousand words and often a good photograph or photo-opportunity will sell your media coverage for you. Here are a few pointers:

Who?

We read newspapers because we are interested in the human experience and we want to know what other people are doing or experiencing in our community. Who might also be a celebrity, a sports or TV personality that you have invited to your launch.

What?

So what’s happening and why is it newsworthy to the paper’s readers? Maybe you are opening a new business. What is it and what’s different about it? Are you creating more jobs? What’s the size of your investment and what do you hope to achieve over time?

Why?

There are two parts to this question, why do you deserve coverage by the press and why are you engaged in whatever it is you’re doing? You’re an entrepreneur but what were you doing before you decided on this venture.  And why would you risk secure employment and a steady wage to do whatever it is you’re planning? Why is this so different from every other person’s story and therefore deserving of coverage?

If it’s a local newspaper then what is the local connection?

Where?

If it’s a local newspaper then what is the local connection and where is your event happening? It’s amazing how far local newspapers will stretch themselves to find the local angle in a big national news story. However, when it comes to you they’ll want to know if you live locally, is the business local or is the event that you’re running local.

When?

When is your event taking place and at what precise time? Will you be offering a photo-opportunity for the newspaper and when precisely will this be happening. Photographers normally cover 4-5 different events in a day, so a precise time is vital for them. If a photographer is a little late can you recreate the photo-opportunity for him/her?

The News Release

Normally, this is how you contact the media with a carefully crafted written press statement, a synopsis of the above. There is a layout and style you should follow.

(See fictitious example below right).

Press Release

Add your company logo at the top and then give your media contact information. Be sure to title your document Press or News Release.

Embargo

Below this list the issue date of your news release and then the word “embargo”. After this write none, unless you want to indicate to the news editor that you don’t want publication before a specific date and time.

Headline

Compose an eye catching headline. Remember, the first person you must interest in the PR is the journalist reading it. They will process maybe a dozen PRs in a day so you need to gain their interest.

Sub-head

You can add a sub-heading if you want.

Killer Lead

Can you in just two sentences provide a synopsis of the story? Keep it simple. Don’t try to pack too much into the lead paragraph. You have the rest of the PR to unfold your story.

Essentials paragraph

Your next paragraph can give the who and when details.

Quotes

It’s important to report the story as if it was being covered by the journalist live. We do this by providing actual quotations for the journalist to report in the paper. Make sure your quotes add to the story, and don’t merely repeat information you have already given.

Sweeper paragraph

Use your final paragraph for additional information and/or to point the journalist and reader to a source for additional information.

END

By adding the word “end” you are clearly indicating that this is the full PR and there isn’t a second page.

Notes for Editors

You should add all additional non-essential information in this section. This is a good place to provide additional details and facts about your business and the people mentioned in the PR.

Press Release

 

Photo-opportunity

If you are planning a photo-opportunity for the local press I would provide a separate heading for it here.  Detail information about what precisely will be offered for the picture, who will feature in it and exactly when and where the photograph can be taken.

Links

It can be useful to provide digital links to other resources for the journalist. Such information should include articles on your own website or links to statistics you quote in your press release. Don’t over do it. Two or three such links is enough.

Distribution

You should distribute your News Release at least 48 hrs before your event. Where possible, send it via email to a specific journalist on the paper. Add a read receipt to your email. If you are hosting a significant event give your publication at least 5 days notice of the event, the main angle and any photo-opportunities you are laying on. All publications have a news diary and if your event is important enough the news editor will put it into the diary for coverage on the day.

Journalists

Local weekly press employ few staff but the journalists are always on the look out for fresh news and contacts. A good News Release, story and photo-opportunity should spark a journalist’s interest and garner good coverage. If they want to check the story and develop it further they will contact you on the telephone number you supplied. Be prepared to answer their questions but remember the two or 3 points you want to get across and try and work these into your answers. Ask if they will be sending a photographer and, if not, offer to forward them a photograph later.

A good News Release, story and photo-opportunity should spark a journalist’s interest and garner good coverage.

Digital

Of course, we exist in the digital age and there are digital distribution channels for PR copy. One I would recommend for SMEs is Pressat. It is free to register with this service and you can choose a one off distribution package of £110. This allows you to upload your news release and supply all relevant information about your business. You can then select the media sectors you wish to target and Pressat does the rest. This is one way in which a SME can reach publications well beyond their local area. It is particularly good at reaching trade journals thus supporting B2B PR.

Post Publication

Don’t forget, that if you do get media coverage for your event, to draw attention to it in your social media.  This is just in case some of your customers missed it. Often you can find the story in the online edition of the newspaper which makes social sharing so much easier. There is also a range of online only publications these days, so don’t forget to target these with your PR. My favourite local one is the Down News which actually receives over 14,000 visits per month, which is more than its local rival, the longer established Down Recorder.

A 2015 Lloyds bank research report found that 47% of UK SMEs don’t have a website. Common reasons cited for this were my trade doesn’t use them, it costs too much money, I don’t have the time and I don’t know how. In 2016 there were 2.5 million UK SMEs of which 2.3 million are micro-businesses employing less than 5 people.

You probably think I’m mad in trying to address this issue in my blog, but don’t assume that, because an SME doesn’t have a website, the owner doesn’t use the internet. Nearly 88% of adults (45.9 million) in the UK have used the internet in the last 3 months. Within this group the figure rises to 99% for those aged between 18-24.

SME website

Here are 10 reasons why they should invest in a website to sustain and grow their business.

1. The 24 x 7 marketing medium

Maybe your existing customers know you through personal recommendation. But how are you recruiting new customers? All of your customers use the internet on a daily basis for a variety of reasons. A website is a multi-purpose marketing platform that showcases your business 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.

2. Enable prospective customers to find you

So what if I don’t know anyone who knows you, but I live locally and I need your business service now? I grab my smart phone and I search for your trade or service local to me. Would I find you if you don’t have a locally optimised website?

3. A website will add value to your business

Have you heard the expression: “Never judge a book by its cover”? That’s because we do and it is human nature to make value judgements. You can directly influence value judgements with a good website. And that includes positively influencing your suppliers, your bank manager as well as other business associates and customers.

4. Lower your business costs

That’s right. You can replace a physical presence for your business with a virtual presence, reducing the set up and recurrent costs of your business. You can also trade globally while still operating locally and having a website will reduce your overall marketing costs.

5. Let your customers work for you

If you garner good reviews from your customers you can post them online. Recommendation is your most valuable marketing asset and your website enables you to extend the power and reach of personal recommendation.

6. Join up your social networks

Almost all websites now come with preloaded social media icons that enable you to connect your website and social media networks. Your website has become a powerful tool to integrate all of your online activities with the potential to grow the business with digital marketing.

7. Better customer communication

You can update your customers with your special offers, promotions and new products and services. The website can offer potential customers various options for contacting. You can monitor all of these from you own smart phone meaning you need never miss potential new business.

8. Email marketing

With your own website you can have your own email. What’s more you can capture all your customers email contacts and then use your database to further promote your business through email marketing. Its easier and more cost effective to sell more to existing customers than it is to generate new customers.

9. Competitor advantage

So we know that 48% of other SMEs don’t have a website. Get one and instantly you have a competitive advantage! Develop and utilize your website effectively and you can even run rings around some of your bigger competitors.

10. Easy to do

You don’t need to have any technical knowledge to build your own website as most domain sites like GoDaddy and 123-reg.co.uk provide simple cost effective pre-designed sites. These static websites can be up and running in as little as one hour. Alternatively, you can build a larger portfolio site using WordPress which comes with industry specific themes or templates.
Finally, if you can’t afford the time, hire a good website designer.

hot marketing trends mobile

Technological change and digital innovation are having a revolutionary impact on marketing. The average SME and business start-up can easily become lost in a digital blizzard of marketing information. But what are the essential marketing trends emerging in 2017 that they should know and exploit? Here are 4 I think all SMEs need to be aware of.

1. Marketing trends: Creative Visual Content

Differentiation is vital to marketing success and creative visuals are becoming even more important in digital marketing. According to HubSpot, “B2C marketers still place more emphasis on the importance of visual content in their marketing portfolios. But B2B marketers are catching up quickly.”

the really big trend in 2017 will be video

The primary driver is the desire to make content more compelling and shareable. The more we use social media and digital channels, the greater the need to use creative visuals to differentiate and communicate. Social media posts already share and combine photographs, images and text, and companies increasingly use info-graphics to simplify and share complex information. Free online design packages like Canva can help SMEs maintain branding while coping with the diverse posting sizes of various social media. But the really big trend in 2017 will be video.

2. Marketing trends: Make Websites Mobile Friendly

In 2014 mobile devices officially overtook desktops as the preferred method of viewing web content. By 2017 over 64% of website views were from mobiles, yet many small SMEs have still to adapt their websites to the viewing technology. Almost all CMS now allow you to view your website as it will look on a desktop, a tablet or a mobile phone. By the end of 2016,  50% of all B2B companies had implemented a responsive design for their websites. Unfortunately, SMEs are lagging well behind. One thing you can do in 2018 to improve access to your business, is a quick redesign of your website. Ensure it’s optimized for all viewing formats and linked to your social media channels.

3. Marketing trends: Personal NarrativeExecutive Branding

Executive branding is one of the growing trends of 2017. The internet, mobiles and apps have revolutionized delivery systems and increased product and service innovation. However, what can really make your business standout from the competition, is a focus on your people.

It’s not just the Steve Jobs and Alan Dyson’s of this world whose stories we want to know. It’s you as the business owner or senior executive we want to hear from.

We shouldn’t be too surprised about this. After all, marketing is about satisfying customer needs and building relationships, not just about selling. And all the evidence is that people relate to people. In an increasingly atomized society there is considerable power in the personal narrative. This is actually good news for SMEs where the sole trader or partners are closer to their customers but were previously reticent about executive branding. And social media presents great opportunities for SME business owners to share their stories, challenges and success alongside promoting goods and services. The real challenge is in getting the mix right.

In an increasingly atomized society there is considerable power in the personal narrative

4. Marketing trends: Video and Visual Storytelling

Which leads naturally to the other big trend for SME’s in 2017, video. Over 1 billion people use YouTube on a regular basis, a number that has increased about 40 percent since March 2014. All other social media platforms are cashing in. Facebook launched Facebook Live in April 2016 giving all of us access to broadcasting on the world’s biggest social-media channel. And marketeers have embraced the new capability and are adapting its capability to increase ROI. From webinars to live stream broadcasts from trade conventions, anyone can get in on the act. The cost of entry is low which should help SMEs. However, content and quality will still be king. The real challenge is to ensure where it fits in your marketing mix.

© Fergus Cooper Linen Green Marketing

The Economic Benefits of Marketing

A new report, Marketing Multiplied, cites empirical evidence that marketing communications positively impacts on the economy. What’s more, the report provides evidence of both macro and micro economic benefits.

The authors of the report are:

  • Chris Johns, a former economic advisor in HM Treasury;
  • Jim Power, former Chief Economist at Friends First Group And Bank of Ireland and
  • Alan Cox, CEO of Core Media, Ireland’s largest marketing communications group.

They state:

“the evidence is clear about the influence of advertising on economic growth: it is positive and large. The debate is mostly about the size of that effect.”

They cite research that suggests that for every €1 of advertising spend €5.70 is generated within the Irish economy.

The report concludes that marketing communications has a central role to play in a market economy. It informs consumers; increases consumer choice and welfare and develops markets. It enables producers to increase sales while at the same time increasing competition to restrain prices. Increased economic activity also leads to increased employment and opportunity.

Advertising and Economic Growth

The report explores and confirms a strong link between advertising and economic growth.

“Advertising is extremely important for the overall level of economic activity; it oils the wheels of economies, provides jobs and boosts growth in an unambiguously positive way.”

The Irish findings are supported by research from around the globe often citing similar findings though often with larger impact. Economists have paid much more attention to advertising’s relationship with competition, innovation and prices. Again, the evidence points to robust conclusions: advertising promotes competition, boosts innovation and helps to lower prices.

 

economic benefits of marketing global advertising spend

Marketing –  Impact on Business

Creative advertising and marketing campaigns can have a significant influence on the growth and profitability of individual businesses. The decisions and level of investment made in creativity therefore, will impact directly on the growth and the profitability of the brand.

Creatively-awarded campaigns are 6 times more efficient in growing market share than non-awarded campaigns. Recruiting new customers is more profitable than trying to increase frequency of purchase. It truly does pay to be creative.

Brand Size

The size of a brand has a major impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing communications. Large brands have inherent advantages over smaller brands; they have higher penetration, better distribution, stronger range and pricing strategies that help to maintain and increase share. Short-term marketing is on the rise and it is damaging the profitability of marketing.

Campaigns sustained over the longer term are, on average, 3 times more efficient than shorter term campaigns.

Short-term initiatives are more effective at driving transient sales effects They are weak at delivering long-term growth. Business needs to employ both strategic and tactical techniques but favouring the longer term.

Campaigns Need Emotion

Emotionally-based campaigns outperform rationally-based campaigns on every business measure. They are:

  • more profitable
  • better at raising awareness
  • stronger at creating differentiation and
  • build consumer brand loyalty

On average, marketers should spend 60% of their budget on brand-building activity (long-term, broad reach, emotional) and 40% on sales activation (short-term, tightly targeted and information rich), to achieve maximum efficiency and maximum effectiveness. Brands that use paid media, normally grow up to 3 times faster than those that simply rely on PR and sales promotion.

Who Should Read Report?

Marketing Multiplied is packed full of case studies, facts and figures, that confirm that marketing is central to economic growth both at business and national level. At 130 pages it is an essential read for marketing professionals, academics, economists, politicians and insomniacs.