There’s a lot of buzz around social media, search engine optimization (SEO) marketing, and other technology-based marketing service providers. While technology has certainly expanded both the ability to reach more customers and target more specific groups, many marketing consultants get too myopic in their view of how marketing should work.
When I founded one of my startups in 2005, we were one of the few companies doing SEO small business marketing for the professional services industry. Fast forward nine years later, and most companies have an idea of how SEO works. If they don’t, there are literally thousands of one-man SEO consulting companies out there that can help make at least a minor improvement in your results for relatively cheap. In addition, there is a much broader understanding of how SEO works, even though it is constantly changing. All of this means that more people are good at SEO than they were even just yesterday – and that includes your competitors.
Here’s one way to look at it: let’s just say that you hired the world’s best SEO consultant. In a perfect world, let’s just also assume that your company was ranked #1 in Google’s search engine rankings. Assuming you don’t have a monopoly in your industry, someone out there is ranked #2, #3, and so on, meaning that in addition to finding you, most of your potential customers are finding your competitors as well. That’s not a terrible thing, but it lends credence to the fact that search engine optimization alone isn’t enough.
In this same example, you would need to find ways to further differentiate your business from your other competitors. You need a better way to capture leads, qualify them, market to them from multiple angles, and ultimately convert them into paying customers. Top keyword rankings and high web-site traffic volumes don’t mean a thing if you can’t differentiate yourself and convert web-site visitors into top- and bottom-line results.
Here are just a few ways that the higher performing organizations (including our clients) are moving beyond SEO results to stand out in their respective industries:
- Develop valuable content and thought leadership. Simply getting internet visitors to your web-site isn’t enough – you have to find a way to keep them coming back. In other words, your site needs to be “sticky” with plenty of interactive and fresh content to keep them coming back while they go through their decision cycle of whether to choose you or one of your competitors. In addition to keeping them coming back, frequent and quality will help position you as a more trusted product or service provider.
- Implement world-class lead management strategies. Once the visitors are on your site and they keep coming back because of the great content, you still need a way to capture them as potential leads. Does your site have “calls to action” requiring visitors to sign up by providing their contact information? Once they sign-up, are you targeting them with more specific messaging based on their interests? Are you running other targeted campaigns to convert them into buyers? Clearly, this goes well beyond a simple “subscribe to our newsletter” box – you need a compelling reason for visitors to register. For example, one of our clients published a series of free “special reports” for their particular industry, which alone resulted in thousands of captured leads per year. As a result, this client has yet to cold call to get any of their business since all the leads come to them.
- Don’t forget about traditional marketing vehicles! It’s easy to write-off direct mail, trade journal advertising, and other traditional marketing vehicles as “so 1996,” but these forms can still be very effective. For example, how many of your competitors can be found on Google? Whatever that number is, compare it to the number of competitors that are reaching your customers in other ways, such as through traditional media outlets. The latter number is probably pretty small in comparison, but those are the companies that are getting their messages out to your customers better than anyone else in their industry. Also, think about this: what message is going to stand out the most – the one that millions of competitors are flocking to (e.g. the internet), or the one that people are abandoning because it’s perceived as outdated or too expensive (e.g. direct mail or telemarketing)?
These are just a few examples, and we could easily list a dozen more. While the Small Business Administration and other small business training courses over-emphasize the importance, they are missing out on other critical marketing tactics. The bottom line is that SEO has an important place in marketing, but it’s just one of many different tools that should be used as part of an integrated and comprehensive marketing campaign.
What do you think? Let us know what has and hasn’t worked for you at your organization. Also, register for our online Small Business Boot Camp to learn more about this and other small business marketing topics.