It’s the goal of every business to reach potential customers. You can have the best products or the best services or the best employees or the best location, but if you’re not attracting customers to your business, your business will fail.
Large companies have millions of dollars to dedicate to marketing, and they have the potential to invest in every type of strategy to brand their business and ensure a steady flow of customers. Small businesses do not have that luxury. Small business marketing involves smart decision making, ensuring that you’re in the customers head and looking for the best, most cost effective ways to reach potential consumers.
How Small Businesses Reach Customers
So you know you need to reach customers, and you have a limited marketing budget. You can spend it on almost anything. You can spend it on newspaper ads, you can spend it on billboard ads, you can get a late night television/radio spot, etc.
Depending on the size of your budget, all of these can be valuable services. But as many as 60 to 80% of your potential customers are going to look for your business online. When you market your small business online, you get:
- More Targeted Customers – Anyone searching for your service is a potential customer. Compare that to something like billboard ads, where those that view the ad may have no need for your services.
- More Immediate Business – Similarly, often those searching for a product or service online are looking to buy now. A newspaper ad may be viewed by potential customers, but those same customers may not be looking at that very moment, and when they do your business will be long forgotten.
- More Local Exposure – Small business marketing is often about reaching the local consumer. It’s much easier to reach a local audience online than it is with other marketing tactics. Even newspaper ads tend to be delivered further away than necessary, or may not reach those that are in your direct area.
Online small business marketing also costs less and has a far longer impact, since most (although not all – we’ll talk about that in a moment) online tactics can have a long term payoff in ways that something temporary, like newspaper ads, almost never do.
Why a Website With Unique Content is a Must
There are several online marketing strategies that companies can try. The following represent several of the most common. But here’s a spoiler: while all of these strategies can work, a website with unique content is absolutely vital:
- Social Media – Social media marketing is one strategy that small businesses can use to attract customers. It’s also a difficult one, because the amount of time that has to go into a small business social media marketing campaign is significant, while the payoff tends to be on the low end. We offer Social Media services here at Great Leap Studios, but we don’t generally recommend anything more than a post a day for businesses that don’t already have an online presence.
- Adwords – Adwords, or “Pay Per Click” ads, are an effective way to target potential customers in search engines without any previous marketing. They are intensely difficult to use correctly, however, and many companies waste thousands of dollars just trying to figure out what keywords to target. They also have no long term payoff. While many companies use PPC ads exclusively, they work much better as a complementary piece than a primary marketing method.
These strategies are valuable, but they also have their problems, and one thing you’ll notice is that these strategies all need one thing – a website. And ideally, you put yourself in an even better position for long term success if you can get that website to show up on the front page of Google. If you can, you don’t need any other form of advertising to reach your customers.
The Long Introduction
This has been a long and wordy introduction to the entire point of this post – to show you why a website with unique content is the key to getting into the minds of the consumer.
To illustrate this idea, I’m going to walk you through a potential search and show you what the customer sees, along with my comments about why a good website is so crucial to success, and what the options are for companies that are ready to invest in your website.
We’re going to pretend that you are a customer looking for a pest control service in a little town called Merced, California, about an hour north of Fresno and 2 hours away from San Francisco.
You, of course, search for “Merced Pest Control.” The above image is the first thing you see. It’s the idea place for your business. The first three results are advertisements. Keep in mind that those advertisements cost as much as $13.00 per click, and are largely ignored by consumers. They’re not a bad place to be, and as we mentioned these Google Adwords have their place, but they’re not ideal and they’re fairly expensive. The ones on the right side are almost completely ignored.
The first two results are not company websites. They’re Yelp and Yellow Pages. That’s an indication that no pest control company in Merced has marketed their own business that much. Bob’s Community Pest Control has an advantage because of the high ranking, but it’s also easily replaced and could be negative advertising if it receives any negative reviews.
Below is what a customer is thinking when they see this part of the site:
If you look at the image above, you see that only that Yelp page is going to draw in much business. It’s possible that someone sees the high rating on Yelp and decides to call Bob’s Pest Control. But the Yellow pages link is unlikely to draw traffic, the ads aren’t valuable, the map isn’t valuable, and even the Yelp page may not provide much help because it doesn’t have much information to help someone make a decision.
Now, if you had your website first in Google where the Yelp page is, that would be a different story. You’d probably attract a lot of visitors, and because they’d click on your link they’d have chance to learn more about you. This is where marketing your website would be valuable. Even if you can’t replace the Yelp page, if you can replace the Yellow pages page you’re definitely going to get more business.
However, most likely the visitor is going to scroll down and find other companies instead so that they can get more information on potential pest control companies. If they do, they’ll find this:
BBB is, once again, a link that most people will ignore. It doesn’t provide any information to the user. But from here we go immediately to Google Places. Google Places is your shortcut to the front page. These are companies that didn’t need to do any marketing to get on the front page. They simply needed to add their businesses to Google Places
Now, this is a good place to be. You’re on the front page of Google and your phone number is right there for people to call. You don’t even need a website. You can just add your business into Google Places and get phone calls.
But is that enough?
This is another example of an area where a good website is crucial. You need to give customers a reason to call you, rather than your competition. You need a website for this – and not just any website, but a website that is actually interesting and gives them a reason to call you.
Notice how some of those businesses do not even have a website. They have a “plus.google.com” account. That’s not valuable. They’re not going to attract customers against Bob’s, Clark, etc. People are going to look first to see which company they want to call, and those companies without a website don’t have anything in place to beat the companies that do have a website. If I’m someone in Merced looking for a pest control company, I’m probably calling one of the other ones – even if I never view the website.
And most likely I’m going to go further and visit the websites of those companies that stand out to me. I’m probably going to compare websites based on the information they have on hand. While we don’t want to call out any specific company in particular, you are encouraged to do the search yourself and check out those websites.
If you do, you’ll find that most of those websites have very little unique information. One of them is an unattractive website with almost no text or information. Another is a website with a lot of information, but it’s a carbon copy of hundreds of other websites currently available. At least two are rented from “YP,” which is a company that creates expensive rental websites and copy poorly written generic content from website to website to save money.
They’re better than nothing, but there are of course better options:
- Our rental websites are created specifically for you, with content we create from scratch. These are usually “made to order” websites, where we create 5 pages of unique, well written sales content that is far more likely to make an impact and attract sales.
- You can start a website yourself, and make sure that it’s filled with information to help establish you as an expert in the field. That makes potential customers much more likely to call you.
No matter which you choose though, studies have consistently shown that a website with a lot of information does a better job at establishing your expertise so that clients want to call you. In addition, a website with copied content – like most of those YP sites – is de-listed from search engines. That means that while you can probably still get it in Google Places, you cannot market it, as Google will remove you from the listings.
If you’re a very small business that doesn’t know much about starting a website, I would consider using a rental site. However, make sure you use a site like the one we offer from Great Leap Studios, because copied content rarely sells and isn’t tailored enough to the customer to generate any real results.
Below is what people are what potential customers are most likely to think when they see this part of their search result. However, your website will also play a role in how they feel about your company:
The bottom website is another copied website. The fact that it ranks in Google at all is due solely to the domain name. The content isn’t that bad, so it may get clicks, but it’s also easily displaced.
Finally, here is the remainder of your search results. As you can see, only Clark’s is appealing to the consumer, and if you click on the site there is almost no information there that would encourage someone to click on the links.
The moral of all of this is that there are a lot of options for marketing your small business in search engines, and a lot of places you can place your business.
But they all come back to the website. If you have an Adwords account, you need a good website. If you want to be number 1 in Google, you need a good website. If you want people to click on you instead of your competition in Google Places, you need a good website. If you want to ever rank well online you need a good website.
The internet is the best place to get new business and there are a lot of ways to get your business more revenue for cheap. But it’s simply not enough to run your business without a website or run your business with a cheap, terrible website, because your website still plays a crucial role in whether or not the customer wants to call your business. Your website is your brand, your salesman, and more.
If your small business doesn’t yet have a website, contact us about our website rentals. If you’re looking for small business marketing help, we’ve been providing effective content marketing solutions for years, and are happy to discuss your project needs with you.