Getting More Customers – Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

I continue on describing how to use various sales channels with a discussion on search engine optimization (SEO).  This is a really big topic but I will try to hit the key points.  SEO is really about improving your display ranking in search engines so people can find you.

Here is the most basic fact: the more high quality links are out that point to your site or page, the higher your rank will be.  You can and should put your keywords in the titles and headings of your pages but this won’t work by itself.

There are two strategies in SEO.  The first is to go for the most searched keywords that best describe you business or the products you sell.  The second is to optimize for the less searched but more specific keyword phrases.  The first group represents about 30% of searches but each keyword gets lot of hits.  Lots of companies are going for these words.  Keywords in the second group are much more specific so they have many fewer hits but collectively these more specific keywords added all up represent 70% of searches.

90% of all clicks occur on the top ten items on the first page returned after a search.  So if you can’t get on the first page, it does you no good.

To see what volumes are like, you can use the Keyword Planner that is part of Google AdWords.  You can also get keywords by looking at your competitor’s web sites and seeing what words they use in their home page titles and headers.  You want to find terms that have enough volume that they give you meaningful results if you got 10% of the searches.  Next you want to see how hard it is going to be to rank on the terms you have selected.  You can use a tool like Open Site Explorer to find out.  If a competitor has thousands of links for your terms, it is going to be very difficult to rank high.  You can also use Google Analytics to find out which keywords are being used to generate your existing traffic.  This can be a very useful starting point.

On way to test keywords is by running a test ad campaign on AdWords and see what happens.  I will cover this in a later post.

So to get links, you need to have content someone is interested in and have links to that content.  You can get these links through (1) publicity, (2) product, (3) content marketing and (4) widgets.  Publicity is being covered by some online publications and having a link to your site in the article.  Product is have a web page that has you product on it (on your website) that is so good people want to share it.  Content marketing is creating strong, relevant content that people want to read and share.  Widgets are giving site owners useful things to add to their sites which also contain links back to your site.

SEO is one of the bedrock strategies that are part of inbound marketing – having customers find you, but it is serious work to get it to work for you.

Here’s How Small Businesses Beat the E-commerce Big Guys

Here is a useful article describing how to offer e-commerce capability and fulfillment with service that matches or exceeds the big boys while maintaining your company’s uniqueness.

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/295945

 

Offer flawless service, and your customers will keep coming back.

Lately, e-commerce order and fulfillment seems dominated by Goliaths. In 2016, e-commerce giant Amazon set a new precedent — delivering more than two billion items for other merchants, double the number from just one year before. It may seem like Amazon is going to gobble up all of e-commerce any day now, but as more vendors default to FBA, Fulfillment by Amazon, I see a golden opportunity to embrace smallness…

Getting More Customers – Using Blogs

I am going to start with the Using Blogs sales channel because you are reading my blog and this fact provides a great context.  There are two main ways to use a blog to get more customers.

The first is to use it as I do.  I share with my clients and anyone else interested tips on how to improve their business results.  I focus on small business because that is the area where I work now and besides there are lots of big business blogs and consultants out there.  I hope that these tips are useful for my readers and also hope they will turn to me to become a client if they need some help.  Let’s face it, it improves my credibility that I have done lots of things to help my clients and I can distill down some lessons learned.  If you are a consultant you need credibility.

The second way to use blogs, are to get your products or services discussed (favorably) in blogs that your potential customers might be reading.  To use it this way, you first need to identify some blogs you think your potential customers are reading.  In addition to your own judgment about what blogs might work for you, I suggest that you ask your customers what they are reading on-line.  Then put yourself in the mindset of your potential customers and spend some time on each blog you want to target.  You might then comment and attempt to engage in a conversation on these target blogs.  You can also try to directly sponsor some content, have badges that can be embedded, pay for advertisements (if available) on a blog site or even offer money to the blogger to mention your product.  Most personal bloggers don’t make money from their writing and if you approach to blogger correctly, providing a description of your product or service and point out how/why it would be useful to that blogger’s readers, you might just get somewhere.  Finally, you could try to get a partnership with some larger sites that might be relevant.

Six ways to make customers love your small business

 

This article has some useful things to keep in mind to help you build your business.  I especially like the service focus and the getting customer feedback items.  I have blogged on these before and believe you cannot emphasize them enough.

See the complete post at http://arichards.bangordailynews.com/2017/07/04/home/six-ways-to-make-customers-love-your-small-business/

 

Getting Started on Getting More Customers – Roadmap to Success

OK, you want to get more customers.  How many do you want?  This is very important for you to define.  Generally you need enough to take your company to the next level.  This might mean becoming profitable, or this might mean increasing profitability by a certain percentage.  You need to set a goal, and that goal should have some basis for the right number of customers that will give you the result you are seeking.  (Of course, if you are not sure how to do this, I would be happy to build a model of your business to determine this.  See my page on business modeling http://apollogr.com/profitability-improvement/).

Next, you want to make a list of the approaches or channels you can think of that might help you get more customers.  Examples are blogs, email marketing, search engine optimization, etc.  Then for each channel, you need to brainstorm and come up with at least one idea on how you would use that channel.

Next, go through and select what you think are the three best ideas (channels).  Devise a cheap, easy and fast way to test to see if this will work for each idea.  You need at least 3 ideas to test because you don’t want to take too long to determine the best channel for you.  If you do one at a time, you greatly increase the time it takes to get to the most effective channel.  You want to be able to answer the following three questions for each idea at the end of the tests:

  1. What is the cost to get a single customer using the channel?
  2. How many customers are in this channel?
  3. Are the customers you can get in this channel the kind of customers you want?

Remember, the test itself will not likely get the volume of business you need but you want the test to validate the approach.

The last step is to select the best channel and put most or all of your focus on that channel.

If it does not work out, take the lessons learned from the effort and reevaluate the other 2 ideas you tested.  If these seem better now, do one of these.  If none look good, go back to your long list, pick three more and run more tests, etc.

Next week, I will start describing the channels you can use to get customers. For each channel, I will tell you what it is, what it is best at, and the tactics for using it efficiently.

Getting More Customers – Beginning of a New Series

With this post, I am beginning a series on getting more customers.  Most of my customers think that getting more customers is the answer to all of their problems.  They are usually wrong in this respect because you need to get most of the other things right (product, service, quality, etc.) for you to keep all the new customers you are planning to get.  In many cases though, getting more customers is often a key activity that needs to be accomplished, as long as it is the right kind of customers that you are trying to get.  All that being said, here goes.

The first thing I want to say is that to be successful, you need to go out and get your customers, not wait for them to come to you (because you have a great mouse trap…).  To do this, you need to have a strategy, a process to identify and exploit the methods that will work, and an understanding of all of the sales approaches or channels that might work for you.

I have already posted a lot about the need and effectiveness of having a marketing strategy, so I will start next week with what process you should use to identify the best marketing channels to exploit.  In subsequent posts, I will discuss each channel in turn.  Finally, once you have identified the best channel to use, and this takes your company to the next level, your growth will likely level off.  This is because your company is much larger now, and you have diminishing returns on the channel you used.  You will need to start again to identify the then most promising channels, and so on.

A Small Business Guide to Protecting Customer Data and Information

Following up on a post from last week on ways to control the use of employees’ own devices when used for work, here is a useful article on protecting customer data.  This is very important topic and most small businesses don’t know what to do, or even how to approach the problem. This is a good introduction.

https://smallbiztrends.com/2017/06/ways-to-protect-customer-information-small-business.html

Customer Service Needs to be Different for Different Types of Customers – Part 2 – Improving The Customer Experience

In last week’s post, I talked about needing to provide a different experience for different types of customers.  Then I provided the first of five approaches to getting the right kind of customer facing staff to be able to do it.  I now continue with the remaining four approaches.

2. Instill a culture that values diversity. Every business has a culture and hopefully, yours values and respects diversity. This goes beyond the usual race, religion, etc.  It needs to include a diversity of thought.  This may mean that there are multiple ways to do something, not just one.  They need to be able to approach different customers in different ways.  (There goes your intro script!)  Your employees need to focus on meeting customers’ needs and desires but in different ways.  Your staff needs to understand that this is the right thing to do and that it is in everyone’s interest to serve a broad and diverse group of customers.

3. Training. One way to get the right values and approaches in your staff is to describe hypothetical situations and work through the right approaches to fit the situation. While this is hard and needs to be ongoing, consider the alternative-having staff that cannot meet the needs of a diverse customer set.

4. Be tuned in to the details. Get your staff to watch the faces and mannerisms of your customers and react appropriately. Get them to anticipate the needs of your customers and offer help when they look puzzled. Don’t always wait for a customer to approach.  By teaching your staff to pay attention to body language and expressions – comfortable or not, stressed confused, overwhelmed, etc. you teach your employees to focus on the whole customer.  This will allow them to be much more effective at meeting your customers’ needs and in providing a good customer experience.

5. Be gracious. When an employee is helping a customer, they need to find the right product to meet their needs and they need to do it in a way that does not make the customer feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. By choosing words that shift the conversation to the benefit for the customer from the emotional state or uncomfortable situation the customer finds himself in, sales effectiveness with be greatly improved.

Customer Service Needs to be Different for Different Types of Customers – Part 1 – Improving The Customer Experience

As we have discussed before, different types of customers want a different experience.  Younger customers may prefer speed and efficiency and to be able to do everything at the touch of a button.  Older customers often want a more personal interaction.  Customers from different cultures have different customs and a different approach to making purchases.  For example, Hispanics often want a more social and personal approach to the buying process.  They may even want to have a discussion unrelated to the product or service under consideration.  Many recent immigrant groups may have a lot more questions about a product. (They might be like me, give me the facts, just the facts.)

All of this puts a lot of pressure on your employees.  Besides all the usual characteristics you want from your employees, polite, helpful, etc. you need them to be flexible, adaptable and very aware of cultural, age and other differences.

So, how do you get people like this?  You might find this impossible.  Here is a list of five approaches to get it right:

  1. Hire the right person. To some extent, through out what you thought you wanted in terms of skills and experience and look for someone that is the right kind of person for the job, and might only be missing teachable job skills (that unfortunately may mean that you will need someone to teach them). Look for someone with key characteristics (per Bill Thompson): genuine warmth, empathetic, a good listener, conscientious, anticipatory and optimistic.  Now you have a start.

As this is getting long, I will describe the additional four approaches in next week’s posting.