SEO to Know: 5 Ways Small Businesses Can Compete With Giants

Small businesses are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to competing in a crowded marketplace—and no marketplace is more crowded than the Web. That’s a lot of competition for those precious few spots on the first page of search engine results.

SEOIn almost every industry, there are giants. You know them; everyone does. They’ve been around since the beginning of the Internet, have a natural audience, and have everything they need to dominate in the realm of search engine optimization (SEO).

How can a small business hope to compete?

The secret is in how SEO works. If you have the answers your customers are searching for, you wind up on top. Here’s how to get attention.

1. Work Your Niche

Big businesses try pretty hard to be all things to all people. You win if you concentrate on one thing. Find your niche and dominate it. Make your content relevant to your niche and repeat your message in different ways on every page. What’s unique about your business? Find your unique selling point and let it permeate your company culture, social media, and website content.

2. Go Hyper-Local

Small businesses have the advantage when it comes to location-specific goods and services. Google’s Pigeon update put local businesses at the forefront of mobile search. Using geo-location built into smartphones, Google shows users businesses that meet their needs and are in closest proximity. By mentioning specific neighborhoods or location-specific ingredients or interests, you move closer to the top of the search.

Location-specific ingredients, you ask? Local brewery Black Husky Brewing makes a beer called Sproose II IPA, which has the true taste of the great Northwest. It’s made with spruce tips. Chipotle grew quickly from a small business to a big business with a unique selling proposition: “fast casual dining.” It’s fast, but not fast food, locally sourced, fresh, and far more nutritious than traditional fast food…but still cheap and ready to serve.

3. Become the Authority

Remember, big businesses don’t have to work that hard. They concentrate big budgets on traditional advertising. Your best bet is to do the opposite and drive traffic through content and social media. Share your industry expertise on your blog and on major publications. The more relevant content you can produce, the more likely you are to add the value Google is looking for.

Every business has the opportunity to become a publisher. Use your platform to provide as much information as you can—and be sure it’s the information your customers are searching for.

4. Spread Your Fame

Link juice is still valuable. To gain valuable inbound links, you can approach influential writers in your industry or write interesting content and submit it for publication on big-time or industry sites. You can also sponsor an industry report. Good quality reports, like Deloitte Digital’s survey “Navigating the new digital divide,” earn more inbound links and mentions than any other type of content.

5. Be Human

Big corporations can appear to be cold and faceless. Call them and you may spend hours on hold, or get lost in the phone system twists and turns. Small businesses have an easier time being warm and human. Make everything about your customer service and social media personable and friendly—and that will become your reputation. Personal service makes you stand out, plus, it earns you recommendations and social media mentions, which pump up your SEO.

One last thing: If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, build one. It’s useless to work on SEO if more than 60% of your potential customers won’t see your website when they search on their mobile devices. It’s time to go mobile in 2016!

Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly

Getting to the top of search engine results and staying there takes constant and consistent content marketing maintenance—and it’s totally worth it. Solid SEO strategy can help you compete with the biggest of the big boys for prime real estate on search engine results pages. Try these 5 tips to work your way to the top!

 

Romancing the Customer: 5 Ways to Keep Long-Term Customer Relationships Alive

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The purpose of content marketing is to attract and retain customers by giving them exactly what they want—when they want it. You romance your prospects by providing the information they need, then building trust over time, so they’re inspired to do business with you. You win them over with your expertise, knowledge and helpfulness.

After putting in all that work to build those long-term customer relationships, don’t spoil it by taking your loyal customers for granted. Here’s how to keep the romance alive…

1. Anticipate Their Needs

The secret to knowing what your customers need before they know they need it is a matter of understanding their buying habits. Tailor your gifts—discounts and special offers—to match what they want, and not what you want them to buy.

It may work to put overstock on sale if you’re a grocery store…you can usually count on impulse buys. But online customers are carefully researching which businesses they engage with. They’re more likely to continue to buy from you if you’re offering exactly what they’re looking for.

How to Know What Your Customers Want and Need:

  • Listen to their questions and comments – ask for feedback. Ask how you can improve, what products they would like you to offer, and what they’d like to see from you. Find out what gives them trouble…and fix it.
  • Analyze buying patterns – it’s no accident Amazon shows you what other customers have purchased alongside the items you’re considering. Suggestive selling works, especially when there’s a social component.
  • Harness social proof – keep an eye on industry information shared on social media. If your customers are mentioning you and sharing your content regularly, you’re doing a great job. If they’re sharing information published by your competitors, they’ve lost interest.

2. Don’t Take Them for Granted

Keeping their interest alive for the long term requires relationship maintenance. Just like any long-term relationship: you need to show you care by doing something special. Remember their birthdays, surprise them with unexpected gifts, and delight them with exclusive offers, upgrades, or new products you know they’ll love.

3. Be Unpredictably Predictable

Consistency is great customer service. Delivering the excellent service your customers expect is essential to keeping their attention, but you also need to surprise them now and then with something unexpected.

Flowers and candy on every birthday or anniversary are nice, don’t get me wrong, but knowing exactly what’s going to happen can get pretty dull. Don’t fall into an advertising rut. Shake things up with something entirely new, like a contest with a big prize or a 10-year anniversary dinner for your biggest customers.

4. Show Them a Different Side of You

You’re cultivating a nice reputation: you’re knowledgeable, reliable, and consistent; a good provider. Use your social media and your blog to invite your customers into your processes. Show them your innovative side, your creative ideas, and your vision for the future.

5. Value Their Opinions

A partnership should never be a one-way conversation. Ask your customers for their opinions and act on their suggestions. Everyone hates being ignored. Ask for honest opinions and ideas, and incorporate the smartest and most popular answers into new offerings, customer service protocols, and service updates.

It’s always good to remember that, whether you’re dealing with consumers or business buyers, you’re in a relationship with a human being. Like every long-term relationship partner, your customers need to be nurtured, wined, and dined with appreciation, fresh content, and new ideas. Your ability to please depends heavily on how well you really know your customers.

 

Want to learn more about nurturing your customer relationships over the long term? Download this FREE guide: Side Door Thinking for more information about how you can use content marketing to build customer loyalty.

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Side Door Thinking: Learn the smart marketing tactics you need to truly engage with more customers.Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! Want to learn more about effective content marketing? Whether you decide to outsource content marketing or not, this eBook is chock-full of great information on content marketing. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how content marketing can help you ramp up your website and complete your marketing strategy.

You’ll learn how to:
  • Increase Your Referral Rate
  • Increase Your Social Media Reach
  • Leverage New Product Lines & Revenue Streams
  • Earn Your Customer’s Loyalty & Business
  • Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource
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Your Content Marketing IS Your Brand: Here’s Why…

Back in 2009-2010, Toyota spiraled into what was the largest car recall in United States history, eventually recalling a total of 9 million vehicles worldwide. The recalls were the result of mechanical problems that caused unintended acceleration, leading to a number of preventable accidents and even several deaths.

Your Content Marketing IS Your Brand: Here’s Why…But by 2014, Toyota had regained its image, topping the charts at #1 in brand perception according to the 2014 Car-Brand Perception Survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. And this is despite the fact that Quality (90%) and Safety (88%) were rated as the top 2 most important factors when buying a new car.

*record scratch*
Wait, what?!

Content Creates Public Perception
Today, branding is so much more than an image or slogan. Thanks to the Internet, today’s consumers have the ability to go much deeper into a company’s brand. Consumers want to know who your company is, whether your company aligns with their core values, how you treat your employees…and most importantly in the case of Toyota: how you respond to customer complaints.

To even begin rebuilding what was arguably now completely shattered consumer confidence, Toyota took to social media, creating content on Facebook and Twitter to inform nervous consumers about the situation. They even put on a Digg Dialog with then President and Chief Operating Officer of Toyota Motor Sales (USA), Jim Lentz.

Toyota also created an online recall hub for consumers, where they honestly and transparently helped customers navigate fact from fiction amidst the media frenzy surrounding the recall. On top of that, they launched “Auto-Biography” on Facebook, amassing over 5,400 positive Toyota ownership stories from loyal fans in just one month. …and this was just the beginning of Toyota’s massive comeback to win over consumers and put the past behind them.

 

So you’re not Toyota. That doesn’t mean you can’t apply these same ideas to boost your brand appeal (scandal or not)—even in B2B.

 

Your Customers Define Your Brand
Modern branding is public perception. You can meet or exceed customer expectations, or you can fail both yourself and your customers by not living up to your reputation. Today, your image is controlled by: 1. The content you put out there, and 2.) How your customers respond to your brand. Companies are expected to engage on every level, and even B2B buying decisions are based on trust relationships built over time.

Major brands understand this, and you’ll find them on every channel, trying with various levels of success to establish their companies as caring, humane brands encouraging you to have fun, spread the love, be healthy, be brave, and live life to the fullest.

The message has shifted from “we’re awesome” to “you’re awesome and we can help you be more awesome.”

Getting There: Building Your Brand Strategy
Developing consistent content with the power to convince and convert isn’t easy. It takes commitment and patience—but it’s worth it: your content marketing is your brand. Effective content marketing depends on your ability to convey your company’s authenticity, expertise, and guiding principles. If you weave a richly detailed tapestry of worth, you build trust and customer engagement.

To build an effective content marketing strategy, focus on your target market: answer their needs and address their pain points. If you’ve taken the time to get to know your customers, you know just what they want to hear from you. If your content strategy drives engagement and engagement results in more sales, you’ll know your strategy is on the money.

B2B companies (especially those with smaller budgets) are advised to work from a place of truth. Discover what your customers want you to be…and then be that. Sincerely. You’ll cultivate an emotional connection with your customers and your great content will make your brand shine.

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Side Door Thinking: Learn the smart marketing tactics you need to truly engage with more customers.Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! Content marketing IS your brand. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how you can use storytelling as part of an effective marketing strategy.

You’ll learn how to:
  • Increase Your Referral Rate
  • Increase Your Social Media Reach
  • Leverage New Product Lines & Revenue Streams
  • Earn Your Customer’s Loyalty & Business
  • Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource

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4 Ways Small B2B Businesses Can Nab More Sales

Small B2B businesses face complex problems in today’s marketplace. You’re dealing with stiff competition from global importers who drive down prices and, at the same time, trying to get a foothold in an industry full of well-established and anchored domestic competitors. If you can’t offer the lowest prices or the lightning-fast service of big, high-volume operations, how will you compete?

Every B2B small business can carve out a niche, even in tough industries. It’s just a matter of finding what resonates with your customers—then making that bit of gold work for you—so you can nab more sales and grow your B2B business.

#1. Find Your Shine—and Share It
Consider what you have to offer and define what makes you stand out. When you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can craft your corporate image, branding and marketing in an honest and unique way your customers will love.

Remember that old Avis campaign? “We’re number two, so we try harder.” It worked because of its fresh and honest approach, not to mention its hardworking appeal to the average American—their customers could relate, and gaining that ground was worth millions.

If you’re an SMB, you may never be #1, but you are most certainly unique. You’re not trapped in layers of corporate hierarchy, so find your angle and own it. Show your customers what you’re passionate about. Be fresh. Be honest. Drive your point home.

4 Ways Small B2B Businesses Can Nab More Sales: Advertising Greatness: Avis Car Rental, Circa 1962

Maybe you can’t deliver tomorrow, and maybe you can’t offer the lowest prices on the market. Those are powerful incentives…but not necessarily as compelling as other things you can offer that giant “faceless” companies simply can’t match.

Here are a few areas where smaller B2B companies can deliver more—and shine:

  • Share your expertise. Make knowledge your top selling point by hiring and training well-qualified employees and giving them enough autonomy to address each customer’s problem on a personal level. Your people should be able to listen and respond with real solutions, not canned responses.
  • Focus on quality. Your customers want to feel valued. Stress the importance of custom solutions built from the ground up. Build your reputation on precision and quality construction and/or service. Small businesses have a reputation for caring more about their customers. Capitalize on that feel-good feature.
  • Cut out the middleman. If you can cut costs by, for example, shipping directly to your customers, consider doing it. If you can offer your B2B services without relying on a third party, consider going for it. Distribution channels add costs you may be able to eliminate…thus lowering costs without lowering quality.

#2. Bring Your Team Together—and Collaborate
After you’ve defined your best selling points, you need an actionable plan to build your brand story and establish your corporate culture. It must be a top-to-bottom marketing solution with every member of your team on board. Management, marketing, sales, product experts, and customer service reps should all be in the know and ready to go.

To put your vision to work, sales and marketing need to coordinate and collaborate. Marketing needs to know how to identify hot leads and sales needs to follow up every step of the way. Treat your existing customers like the old friends they are and offer support and information no matter where they are in the buying cycle. Give your team the tools and information they need to succeed.

harnessed pop culture while addressing a common IT concern: it 4 Ways Small B2B Businesses Can Nab More Sales *Great example: This company compared “moving to the cloud” to surviving a zombie apocalypse.

#3. Keep the Content Flowing—and Connect
Fresh, informational website content will help keep your existing customers engaged while helping you sell to new customers. Tailor all your content marketing efforts to address specific needs within your customer’s industry. What are your top 10 customer FAQs? Be sure your website content points your customers straight to helpful, informative answers.

Visual presentations, recent testimonials, detailed case studies and industry-specific product and services comparisons can help you communicate your value to potential B2B customers. Appealing content includes slideshows, photos, and even video—not just endless streams of text. Your customers deserve better. If your customers need technical specs, present them in a fact sheet with easy-to-scan bullet points, instead of a headache-inducing jungle of words.

#4. Get Clever—and WIN
Sungard AS won big a couple years back with a clever marketing ploy. They did something pretty unusual in B2B…created an infographic that harnessed pop culture while addressing a common IT concern: it compared “moving to the cloud” to surviving a zombie apocalypse. Yes, you read that right. The infographic went viral, and Sungard ran with the concept, building out more zombie-themed informational content. And guess what? Yep, their target market LOVED it.

You’ll close more deals if you work to understand both why your business is unique and how you can best meet and exceed your customers’ needs. Pinpoint your customers’ pain points and create targeted content to draw in new customers and keep your existing customers happy. Answering your customers’ and prospects’ questions and concerns while educating them about your small B2B venture—now that’s always win-win. Tie it all together, collaborate and get creative and you’ll nab more sales than ever.

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Additional Resources

Manufacturer’s Guide to Attracting More Customers: How Top Manufacturers Are Driving New Revenue By Attracting More CustomersCheck out these five case studies to learn replicable marketing strategies from leading B2B manufacturers. No matter what industry you’re in, the competition is heating up. Traditional marketing methods simply aren’t enough anymore.

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Get this step-by-step guide for creating a workable content and social marketing strategy for your B2B enterprise — Get ahead of the curve.

4 Key Ways a Blog Boosts Your Marketing Strategy

A recent study showed that more than 75% of B2B marketers use blogging as part of their marketing strategy, and best in class marketers rank it as “most effective.” While other tactics continue to work their way into successful marketing strategies, blogging remains a vital piece of the content puzzle.

Here are 4 key ways your blog boosts your content marketing strategy…

4 Reasons Your Blog is the Epicenter of Your Content Marketing Strategy: #1 SEO!#1: Your Blog Helps You Improve Your Search Engine Ranking
Blog content provides a consistent source of new information for search engines to find when your website is crawled. Regularly updated sites tend to appear higher in search engine rankings because they have more current and relevant information, compared to those that are rarely updated. Search engines consider content “freshness” when ranking websites.

Blogs@Intel focuses on a variety of content, but the majority of it centers on conferences and events. Since customers need to find event posts while they’re timely and relevant, posting events is an effective tactic to keep up a steady drip of content and ensure your website stays fresh.

#2: Your Blog Helps You Drive More Traffic
In 2014, for the third year in a row, B2B marketers cited web traffic as one of their top content marketing metrics. Companies that blog at least 15 times per month can see up to five times more traffic compared to those that don’t. With more content out there working to improve your search ranking, you’ll drive more organic traffic to your website. With more traffic, you’ll get increased exposure to your audience. Increased audience exposure means you’ll have a better chance of converting website visitors into paying customers.

#3: Your Blog Helps You Become an Authority in Your Industry
When you fill your company blog with useful and credible content, you position your business as an industry leader. In other words, your blog becomes the trusted source of information on your products and services. You can pull a great deal of content simply by answering customer FAQs: How to Kick-Start Your Business Blog.

Cisco has more than 12 blogs geared toward each of their customer segments. Content is produced by company employees and covers everything from marketing tips to industry trade news. By addressing key topics in each industry segment, Cisco has positioned itself as an industry leader across multiple channels. The valuable information they share is available to anyone who wants to learn more, providing Cisco with a way to connect to potential new customers, along with their established customer base.

#4: Your Blog Helps You Engage Customers to Build Community and Strengthen Relationships
Blogs provide an avenue for you to connect and deepen your connections with your customers. Connecting with customers directly on your website allows your clients to get you know you and your business. When a customer comments on your blog post, take time to respond to what they have to say. It shows you value their input and want to know what they think. Unlike most social media interactions, the comments on your blog remain visible for other potential customers to see, long after the conversation takes place.

American Express OPEN Forum is a great example of a blog and social forum. It’s designed to educate small business owners on all issues they face, but also provides a place for readers to come together and share their thoughts with one another.

content-marketingYour blog is the epicenter of your content marketing strategy. Discover the insights you need to engage your prospects and customers in the content marketing guide Side Door Thinking.

Learn how to:

  • Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource
  • Earn Your Customers’ Loyalty & Business
  • Increase Your Referral Rate

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Download our FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover the insights you need to take a kindler, gentler — yet more effective — approach to your marketing. Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open.