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.
In 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!
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!
Want to learn to DIY SEO? Well, turns out SEO is a complicated subject. Figuring out how each new Google algorithm impacts search and how to deal with all the new changes are subjects of endless debate.
However, SEO Basics are well within your reach—even if you’re new to SEO.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of strategically tweaking all the elements of your website to earn the highest possible placement in search engine results. Higher search results = more customers = money for you.
Check out these SEO Basics to help you capture and keep that top slot.
1. Avoid Duplicate Content
Copying content is a fairly common practice, but it’s bad for SEO. You can avoid getting penalized by using special tags that identify the content as duplicate. But, for non-experts, a better answer is: don’t do it. Your website should be bursting with your own unique content. Multiple websites? Even if you own other domains, each one needs unique content. To play it safe, ensure each page and every post is different.
2. Gather Intelligence
Monitor social media and document customer service calls to learn what your customers are asking, what they’re complaining about, and what they like most. Your customers are your key to SEO success.
3. Focus Your Content
Unless you’re running a pet blog, you should probably keep your Pomeranian off your website, no matter how adorable he is. Keep your content industry and product focused—but don’t oversell it. Provide informational, helpful and relevant website content for best results. It’s not only great for SEO, it’s a great way to turn your site visitors into customers.
4. Include Keywords
Semantic search has taken the place of simpler keyword search, but keywords still have a place. Instead of using the same keywords repeatedly, make a list of words and phrases your customers might be searching for. To get started, write down your top 5 customer FAQs. Write content that answers those questions, using your keywords and phrases naturally throughout the content.
5. Understand What Your Audience Wants
When your content answers questions asked by your customers, you’ll naturally earn more traffic. If you’re not seeing more site traffic, it’s time to get back to brand basics. Create buyer personas to get to know your audience better. (Check out this free buyer persona template from Hubspot!) Consider how your products or services make your customers feel. After all, even B2B customers respond to emotional connection.
6. Change Up Your Content Delivery Method
Don’t stop at what your customers want to know, discover how they want it delivered. Trying to deliver complicated technical knowledge or dense statistics to a general audience may serve only to alienate them…unless you present it in a way they can understand. Kick-ass infographics and fun, yet informative videos are great ways to show complex information in an easily digestible form. Step-by-step photos are a great way to walk even a novice through a recipe or repair project. When you find a way to help your customer be successful, they’ll come back for more.
7. Go Mobile
Mobile search is becoming more important every year. Did you know that if your website isn’t mobile friendly, it won’t show up in mobile search? Yikes. That’s a huge chunk of business you could be missing out on. Your website content must be optimized for mobile.
How do you outrank your competition? You produce all the information your customers need to rank you as the leading authority in your field. No matter how crowded the field, a voice speaking from a new perspective can shine through. Find gaps in knowledge and fill the holes. Talk about what every other expert isn’t talking about. Make it personal and always about the customer. Build out your authoritative content over time for even more SEO juice.
Today, SEO is more about content and customer relationships than about tricks and shortcuts. You can’t game the system, you just have to be that good. These tips are low-tech ways to bump your SEO by improving your content and building your audience.
Have a question about SEO Basics? Let us know in the comments!
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.
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.
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.
For B2B, nurturing existing customers is even more important than in B2C. Your business depends on recurring business—and oftentimes from fewer clients. You need a revenue stream that flows every month…you’re not just luring in random new customers with “The Biggest Sale of the Year.”
The customer retention danger zone? Complacency.
Assuming your customers are happy is a dangerous. If you’re sitting on the status quo, confident your customers are secure because you’ve been working with them a long time, it’s time to take a look at just how much things have changed…and how these changes have brought us full circle, back to personalized human-to-human customer service.
Excellent customer service isn’t a new concept, but it got lost to technology for a long time. Automation killed the personal touch and with nowhere else to turn, customers put up with it. There are some perks to automation, like reminder triggers and easy ordering, but customers today want more: They want a deeper understanding of your company and the products and services you provide.
Here are 3 ways you can deliver more than expected and retain more customers:
#1: Open the Doors of Communications
Achieving primo customer service starts with communication. Don’t accidentally mistake advertising for communication. Advertising is telling customers why they should buy your product. Communication is asking your customers how you can improve, and then responding with meaningful action.
Bill Gates may have put it best years ago when he said,
Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
Here’s a great B2B example:
Hootsuite is a set of tools for social media monitoring. After launching a new update, they responded to customer complaints about their “terrible” new interface by channeling a Jimmy Kimmel show bit that’s become a cultural meme: “Mean Tweets.” The important thing to understand is Hootsuite’s response. They acknowledged the validity of the criticism (despite the curse words) and redesigned the UI for a cleaner, prettier, and more useable interface.
#2: Encourage Customer Loyalty
Everybody loves swag—and customer loyalty programs are remarkably effective. IBM does B2B customer loyalty exceptionally well, even offering deals you can offer to your customers to help build your business. Their incentives don’t stop at completion of the initial sale, they continue throughout the business relationship. Well done, IBM.
#3: Create Helpful User Tools
Gordon Food Service is a food distributor that goes well beyond its purpose to help business working in the food-service industry. On their website, restaurant owners can find menu planners, cost calculators, a staff scheduler, and much more. By investing in technologies designed to help customers effectively run their business, GFS competes against some very formidable businesses.
We all know B2B is all about developing long-term relationships, your customers’ expectations go far beyond what’s on sale today. They want to deal with businesses they know and trust. Careful consideration goes into that decision to work with you, and it’s up to you to deliver on that promise of service. These three approaches can help you deliver more than expected helping retain customers and increase sales.
No matter what industry you’re in, the competition is heating up, so traditional marketing methods simply aren’t enough anymore. Check out these five B2B case studies and learn replicable marketing strategies from leading manufacturers. Get this step-by-step guide for creating a workable content and social marketing strategy for your B2B company. Get ahead of the curve.
If you’re reading this, you’re most likely a small business owner or a marketer working for a small business looking for ideas to help increase revenue, site traffic, and brand awareness, while — most importantly — developing effective and engaging content. Well, have I got an awesome engagement tool to tell you about today.
Over the years, many studies have been conducted to track eye movements. In that time, computers and their usage have evolved to expose a correlation between the computer mouse and eye movements, effectively teaching people how our hands and eyes work together when working on a computer.
Tracking analytics have also come a long way since their initial development; however, statistical analysis is a true art. Not everyone is as highly skilled at putting together the correct formulas at highly complex levels to obtain the right information as people who are inherently visual.
Heat maps have brought an entirely new level of intelligence to the process of determining the intuitive usability of your website.
Heat maps show you which calls to action are working — and which are not. They show you the highest clicked areas of your site, and they allow you to qualitatively determine what types of content are working for you with quantitative measurements you can’t visually imagine. One of the key uses for implementing a heat map into your website or blog is to continually improve it and make the most effective use of your online real estate.
Below is a snapshot of how our Cultivate Communications blog homepage, and why we’re making significant improvements to it. (Stay tuned for Cultivate’s all-new Website Grand Opening in a few weeks!)
As you can see, during the inception of our Cultivate website, there were few, if any, calls to action on the main site. We weren’t fostering a conversation OR using our online real estate properly. People who found our site were going to the only place they were shown – the Read More button on the first article link (and the Search Form [not shown] at the bottom of the site).
This heat map we used on our blog’s landing page is just one example of how heat maps can be a valuable tool for those of us who are visually, strategically, and creatively oriented.
Heat maps show us — at a glance — what IS working, what ISN’T working, and what we could be doing EVEN BETTER.
Sometimes you need that visual element so the team can come back to the table and strategize the next move in the right direction and in conjunction with the data-driven analytics piece of the pie.
The tools available today are so abundant and so awesome.
If you ever feel you’re stuck and don’t know where to go with your business marketing strategy or web developments, let’s chat!