Is your business not quite at the point where you can afford a marketing agency, but you’re keen to get your hands dirty and improve your business online? This article is for you!
Paid advertising can be an excellent way to get your business in front of new customers. Paid ads on Facebook allow you to target your ideal customer based on geographic location, age, gender, etc. Google Ads allow you to show up near the top of the page when people are searching for targeted terms like “hot water system repair” or “install new power outlets”.
While these ads don’t have to cost a fortune, there are plenty of things you can do to boost your business online for free (or almost free).
Google My Business
Make sure you’ve set up Google My Business. It’s a free tool that lets you manage how your business appears on Google Search and Maps. You can add your location (or service area), hours, manage reviews and questions, add photos, and see how people are searching for you. Along similar lines, make sure you set up Bing Places for Business as well, to target people that use Bing instead of Google. Bing Places for Business will even let you copy over your existing listing from Google My Business.
Reviews & Directories
Local service directories and online review sites can be a great source of traffic and phone calls. Many of these sites already rank highly in search results, plus you get the benefit of relevant links to your website which can help you rank higher in Google search results. For example, if you were a tradesperson like a plumber or electrician, you might list on directories and review websites like hipages.com.au, wordofmouth.com.au, serviceseeking.com.au, fixatap.com.au
Search Engine Optimisation
Make sure your website is optimised to rank well on search engines like Google. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can be a huge ongoing task, but make sure you at least get the basics right.
- Make sure your page titles, headings and content are relevant to the topics you’re targeting.
- Include your business NAP (name, address and phone number) on your website (usually in the header and/or footer) to help with local listings.
- Use URLs (the address of your website pages) that are readable and relevant to your topic. E.g. use something like yourbusinessname.com.au/whitegoods/washing-machines-brisbane instead of yourbusinessname.com.au/product?pageid=1234
- Keep adding content to your site over time. Blogs can be a great way to do this. Don’t worry too much about specific keywords; just add information that may be useful to customers. This will help you rank for all kinds of searches, not just generic terms like “washing machines” or “electrician”.
- Links to your site are a very important ranking factor, but the links must be relevant. Reach out to your clients, suppliers, directories and industry affiliations to see if they can add a link to your website. For example, if you were a tradesperson you might contact Master Plumbers Association or Master Electricians to get a listing on their website. If you sell whitegoods you might be able to contact your suppliers/distributors to see if they will link to you from their website on a page like “Where to buy our products”.
Send email updates to your customers. Be sure to get an email address for any of your prospective or past clients. Sending out some useful information or updates on a semi-regular basis (maybe once a month) can keep your business in the front of a customer’s mind for when they need your services. The emails don’t need to be too salesy, just include some handy hints, useful information and maybe a special offer.
Example content: An electrician could include content like: Replace your smoke alarm battery April 1st, How and why to test your RCD, new legislation changes for landlords, $50 off a certain service etc.
You need to go where your ideal clients are. If you’re B2B, that might be LinkedIn; for B2C businesses, your target market might be more active on Facebook & Instagram. Just like with your website content and emails, don’t make the messages about pushing sales. Just provide handy tips, useful information or interesting photos from jobs you’ve worked on.
A Note on Giving Away Free Content
You might think that giving away useful information for free is a bad idea. But think of it this way: your customers might be searching for things like “how to replace a washer in a tap” or “how to test a safety switch”. This content already exists for free online, but if you’re able to provide an answer from an expert that is better than the other content available, these potential customers will see you as a valuable source of information. They probably weren’t going to pay an expert to test their safety switch or maybe even fix a leaky tap, but when they have a more complicated job like a blocked sewer pipe or needing to install some lights and fans, who do you think they’ll remember to call?
Create videos – they don’t have to be anything too fancy. Just film some short videos with your mobile phone about things you come across on the job, or ideas and tips. Even 20-30 seconds is fine, and you can post it to social media or even turn it into a blog post later.
Be sure that your website is mobile-friendly. Many people are searching from their phones, so it’s important that your website is clear, legible, and easy to find information on when using a mobile phone. In addition, Google now uses mobile design as a ranking factor in their search results, so it’s doubly important!
Reviews & Ratings
Develop a system for requesting reviews from your customers. Reach out to loyal customers or those you have a strong relationship with. Ask at the right time – send a follow-up message to the customer (email or text) asking if everything’s going okay and they’re happy with your product/service. Link them directly to review sites (Google reviews, Hipages, Facebook etc) if they’re happy, or ask them to reply if they have any issues so you can sort it out for them. Keep the review sites to just one or two; giving too many options is more likely to result in them not choosing any. Focus on Google reviews this month, Facebook reviews next month etc.
Seasons & Cycles
Run seasonal ads and content – e.g. “Check your heating system now before winter arrives” or “How to prepare your home safety before you go away this Christmas”. Send these out in advance, through social media, emails and blog posts.
Seasonal doesn’t just have to mean holidays, though. Have a think about your particular industry and what seasons you may come across. If you’re a clothes retailer, it might be Black Friday sales or the upcoming rainy season. In the education industry it might be certain dates when applications have to be in, or when students are finishing for the semester.
You should also think about cycles and anniversaries. Send something out for their birthday, or 1 year anniversary since they used your service/product. Include a special offer for customers as a thank you or congratulations.
Make sure every email you send is working for you. Use your company logo, include links to your website and social media accounts, any awards and ratings (e.g. Rated 5/5 on Google Reviews). This will reinforce the brand in your customers’ minds and may direct them to interact with your other online presences.
Have you ever wondered how people end up giving their expert opinions or advice on TV, radio or in print, without having to hire a PR agency? Instead of reaching out to journalists on Twitter, one great way to do this is to check websites like Source Bottle for journalists that need a source for their articles. Set up email alerts and jump on any opportunity as soon as you see it.
Getting more customers through your online efforts requires a little bit of time and effort, but there are plenty of ways to go about it. Have you got any other tips that could help people? Leave them in the comments below. Or if you’d like to chat to me about your own business, get in touch!