It wasn’t always necessary to use online marketing to run a thriving business.
But it is now.
Customers have more options now, and if you’re not reaching them online, you’re missing out on a ton of business.
I get it, it seems overly complicated and scary.
But it doesn’t have to be that bad if you stick to only the necessities and do things in small, simple pieces.
This post will walk you through the essentials of online marketing for a brick and mortar business. I’ve kept it as simple and lean as possible.
You might know or have done some of the things in this post already. If you have, just skip to the next section.
Find What You’re Looking For
Before You Do Anything, You’ll Need a Website
All online marketing will revolve around your website.
People go to your actual office offline, and go to your website online.
You don’t need to build the fanciest website in the world. Instead, focus on creating a simple website that has the following pages and features:
- A clear homepage: Most visitors land on your homepage. They should quickly be able to understand what your store offers and be able to navigate to other parts of your website.
- Services or store: Depending on your exact business, you should either detail the services you offer, or allow customers to order online.
- A blog (optional for now): A lot of online marketing can be done without a blog. However, a blog can allow you to attract organic traffic (free) that can be turned into customers. We’ll come back to this later.
- An “about” page: Gives the visitor more background information on the business.
Additionally, even though displaying contact information is good, consider creating some sort of contact form.
At this point, chances are you’re wondering “how do I create a website in the first place?”
There are 3 main options.
Hire a Web Developer to Create One From Scratch
This is by far the most expensive option, but requires very little technical skill or involvement on your part.
You’ll tell them what you’d like your website to have and look like, and they’ll build it for you.
This is rarely the best options for brick and mortar businesses. Unless you need a lot of custom functionality, go with options 2 or 3.
Install a Content Management System (CMS) and Purchase Hosting
Have you ever heard of WordPress? Or maybe Joomla?
You can hire a web developer to do all this for you, or you can do it yourself.
It doesn’t take too much technical knowledge to do yourself, but will take a substantial amount of time. Consider if your time is more valuable working on other areas of your business, and if it’s worth hiring a developer on an hourly basis.
The great thing about these CMSs is that they come with a big community. There are tons of plugins that allow you to add advanced functionality to your website.
Use a Website Builder
What if you want to skip the developer altogether, but don’t want to bother with configuring hosting or setting up a CMS?
That’s where website builders come in.
Just fill in a few blanks and provide information about your business.
Here is a list of the best website builders to make it easier to pick one.
These websites are more restrictive than a CMS like WordPress. However, if you’re just looking for a basic site, which you probably are, they are cheap and effective.
Appearing in Search
There’s no point in having a website if your customers can’t find it.
To start with, you need your website to come up in the first few search results for your brand name.
You should focus on Google, which is by far the biggest search engine.
Google does a good job indexing new sites, but if you’d like to speed up the process a little bit, sign up for Webmaster Tools (it’s free).
After you add your website to your account, you’ll be able to submit a URL to Google to request that it gets indexed.
Start with your homepage, but you can add the other pages of your website as well. Keep in mind that Google will usually find these pages automatically, but this is for extra peace of mind.
Similarly, you can submit your site URL on Bing, the next largest search engine.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Made Simple
You’ve likely heard about SEO — probably from people trying to get you to hire them.
The general idea behind SEO is to help your site rank highly on Google (and other search engines) for search terms that your potential customers would type.
For example, if you’re a plumber in New York, showing up as the #1 result when someone searches “New York plumber” will bring you a lot of business.
The problem is that every other plumber wants to have that spot as well, so there’s a lot of competition trying to convince Google that they are the best search result to show.
SEO gets complicated when you want to rank for competitive terms. If it’s something that you strongly desire, take the next steps by reading these guides:
- Beginner’s Guide to SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
- The Advanced Guide To SEO
- On-Page SEO: Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Page.
The Essentials of Social Media
Social media is a great opportunity to find targeted audiences that could become your customers.
On top of that, an increasing number of people use social media to learn about businesses and contact them. Many prefer to click a “contact” chat button, rather than pick up the phone.
The biggest mistake businesses make is making profiles on 50 different social networks. Instead, pick 2-3 that are the most popular for your customers, and focus on them.
It will save you a ton of time, and it’s easier to monitor conversations.
The Simple Way to Choose Social Networks to Focus On
According to DreamGrow.com, the largest social networks are:
- Facebook (over 2 billion users)
Create a basic profile on each of these that have your contact information and a link to your website.
Next, type in your business type into BuzzSumo.
You’ll see a list of the most popular content in your industry, with the social shares on each major network.
In this case, it’s clear that the most popular networks for plumbing topics are Facebook and LinkedIn.
Do the same for your business and find the most popular two or three networks.
After You Select Social Networks, Engage
If you only create a basic business page on a social network, a few people will find it here and there.
To really get exposure to potential customers, you need to engage with them.
That basically means two things:
- Creating or sharing content that they will enjoy
- Being active on the network; when someone leaves a comment or question about your business, respond as soon as possible.
This is where social media marketing really begins, and it gets more complex. For now, do what we’ve covered, and when you’re ready, here are some more advanced resources to help you get the best results:
- Social Media Marketing Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Welcome to The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media!
- The Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing.
Where Does Paid Advertising Fit in?
If you’d like to generate customers immediately, paid advertising is the way to go.
The downside is that it can be expensive, and there’s a good chance you will actually lose money at first as you learn how to advertise online effectively.
Where Should You Advertise?
The best advertising platforms are the ones that we’ve already looked at: search engines and social media.
Social media platforms collect a lot of information about users, which allow you to target the exact people who might become customers.
When you advertise on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), it’s best not to go for a direct sale. Instead, you want to advertise your content or landing pages in order to collect email addresses (we’ll get to those in the next main section).
On the other hand, people who search for “plumber New York” are looking for a plumber to hire. When you advertise on Google or Bing, you want to advertise your services directly.
How Do You Prevent Overspending?
There are many horror stories of business owners wasting thousands of dollars on advertising campaigns that weren’t profitable.
You are 100% going to make mistakes during your first few advertising campaigns. However, it doesn’t have to hurt too much if you’re smart about it.
Most experts recommend setting a spending limit of under $5 per day to start. All major advertising platforms allow you to set a maximum daily spend.
It’s enough to spot which ads are promising, and which ones are complete duds that should be stopped.
Ideally, you want to start by creating multiple ads with small daily spends. Then, after a few days, disable the ones that aren’t working at all, and spend more on any profitable ads.
5. The Biggest Essential – Email Marketing
Email marketing consists of 3 major steps:
- Create a strategy to generate email leads (usually blogging, giveaways, advertising, etc.)
- Create an email sales funnel to send to those leads
- Keep testing and tweaking your sales funnel to improve conversion rates.
We’ve already gone over ways to generate traffic and leads.
That leaves #2 as the main question mark. How do you collect email addresses and send emails to them in bulk?
There are hundreds of tools out there that let you do this, but don’t get overwhelmed. Here are three of the most popular ones that you should consider, as well as when you should pick each of them.
Bottom line, just pick one and get started as soon as possible, they all provide the same general functionality.
MailChimp is famous for its free plan, and also for being extremely simple to use.
Just like the other options, there are tons of email templates that you can customize.
This is a great option for new businesses that are just getting off the ground.
If you need a little more power than MailChimp, go with Constant Contact.
It has all the same features, but has a few extra features and functionality (that will take a bit longer to learn).
One rather unique feature set is that you can sign people up to your email lists many different ways:
For example, you could bring a tablet to events and use Constant Contact’s app to collect email addresses.
For more detail, see this full review of Constant Contact.
GetResponse has the steepest learning curve because it’s the most powerful of these three options.
To start with, you can send out emails based on custom triggers, like birthdays of subscribers (if you collect birthday information).
GetResponse has a landing page creator, which is valuable if you’re planning to do paid advertising. You can quickly create new landing pages, tailored to each ad set or audience to improve your conversion rates.
For more detail, see this full review of GetResponse.
Online marketing is an incredibly deep field, but you don’t need to know everything to get started and enjoy success with it.
We’ve gone over five main pillars of online marketing in simple terms.
Pick the ones that seem most promising for your business, and follow the steps I’ve outlined, and use the additional resources provided.
Whenever you get overwhelmed, take a step back, break things down into simpler steps, and tackle them one-by-one.