This is part two of a three-part series, click here to view part one.
The business world has always been governed using a cut-throat mentality. As we see technology continue to disrupt the way that organizations have traditionally operated on every level, it's evident that your small business needs to make a digital transformation in order to survive in the 21st century.
The term "digital transformation" refers to the integration of digital technology into all aspects of a business's operations. By undergoing this transformation, your business will experience a fundamental change to the foundational components of your organization, from your internal infrastructure and operating processes to the way that you market and sell products and services to customers.
The digital component of this transformation involves embracing the four greatest digital disruptors of our time--social media, analytics, mobile, and the cloud--and using this technology to help your business reach its fullest potential.
To put it frankly, when facing the digital transformation, your small business can either choose to adapt or die.
Why Your Small Business Needs to Make a Digital Transformation
You can't deny the benefits that a digital transformation will offer to your business, both internally and externally. Outlined below are several ways that going digital will make a positive impact on your small business:
Allows Your Business to Reach a Larger Audience
With traditional marketing and advertising, your business is limited to the geographic area that immediately surrounds your place of business. While many small businesses benefit from word of mouth referrals, they still are typically dealing with a small base of customers.
By establishing an online presence for your business, you have the opportunity to connect with an ever-widening audience and create tremendous awareness of your brand.
Establishes Credibility and Authority for Your Business
By maintaining a business blog where you regularly share value-added content with your audience and actively participating in conversations in industry-related online forums, you'll establish credibility for your business and position yourself as an authority in your niche. You can also build respect for your business in the way that you respond to customers on social media and online reviews.
Builds Brand Awareness and Loyalty
Aside from exposure to a larger audience, taking your business online will increase your visibility and help to build brand awareness. Consumers want the ability to follow their favorite brands online. In fact, 71 percent of consumers that have had a positive experience with a brand on social media will recommend the business to others. Therefore, having an online presence can help solidify your relationship with your customers and build brand advocates.
Educates Your Audience
Having an online presence provides your business with the unique opportunity to consistently educate your audience. Educational digital content can come in many forms, such as creating how-to blog posts, sharing industry news on social media, or offering your perspective on a relevant topic in an e-book. Educating your audience will build trust, position you as an industry authority, and enhance the value that your brand offers.
Digitalizing processes that have historically been paper-driven will increase efficiency, improve productivity, and make your company easier to do business with.
Demonstrates that You're With the Times
Today's consumers want the convenience of being able to research products and services online and make purchases with the click of a button. Offering this capability demonstrates that you're with the times and understand what your audience wants and needs.
What are the Key Components of a Digital Marketing Strategy?
Now that you've made the decision that you want your business to make the digital transformation, knowing where to get started can be challenging.
Below is an overview of six key components that you'll need to include in your digital marketing strategy:
Your website is the foundation of your online presence. It needs to be user-friendly, consistent with your branding strategy, and state what your business is all about.
Approximately 81 percent of consumers research products and services online before making a purchase, and the majority of this research originates with search engines like Google. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves incorporating targeted keywords into content to help search engines drive the right traffic to your website.
3. Paid Advertising
While SEO is a crucial aspect of a successful digital marketing strategy, it can take some time to produce results. Paid advertising via Google AdWords and social media platforms will help you reach your goals at a faster pace. It's to your business's benefit to find the perfect balance between organic and paid advertising.
4. Social Media
You can't talk about digital marketing without social media being a part of the discussion. As of 2017, 81 percent of U.S. consumers have a social media profile. Social media gives your business the opportunity to interact with your customers in real-time and deepen relationships.
5. Content Marketing
Consistently creating fresh content (blog posts, videos, photos, social media posts, etc) will help you to increase brand awareness, build authority, grow traffic, and earn conversions.
6. Email Marketing
The vast majority of online consumers have an email address, and 89 percent of those consumers check their email at least once a day. These stats make email marketing an effective way to reach your audience.
How to Launch Your Business Online
With so many moving parts involved in making a digital transformation, it's in your best interest to partner with an experienced digital marketing agency to ensure that the process goes smoothly.
Step 1: Create a Website.
While many small business owners rush to create a website, your digital marketing advisor would encourage you to think through your strategy and what you want to accomplish with your online presence before diving in head-first.
There are many DIY website builders that allow you to get a website for a small cost; however, keep in mind that you get what you pay for. You want your website to serve as the hub of your digital marketing strategy and the place where prospective customers can go to learn more about your business.
Your website needs to offer a responsive, user-friendly design that clearly communicates what your business is all about. When building your website, you need to consider your SEO strategy and create content that helps you attract the right audience.
Step 2: Create content to consistently provide value.
Before you go live with your website, you need to get a jump start on your content marketing strategy. As a rule of thumb, you'll want to have at least five blog posts written and ready to publish before you launch your website. Putting together a content upgrade--an ebook that discusses one of your blog posts in more depth--is also a smart content marketing tactic before taking your website live.
Going through the digital transformation will require that you create fresh content on a regular basis. From updating the content on your website and writing blog posts to crafting compelling social media posts and creating whitepapers, you'll need a professional writer to help you with the workload.
Step 3: Set up social media accounts.
Once you have a website to direct traffic to and a content marketing strategy in place that aligns with your company's goals, you're ready to set up your social media accounts.
While there are hundreds of social media channels to join, you don't want to spread yourself thin by having a presence on too many social media networks. Conduct some research to find out where your target audience spends their time online. The most popular social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest, but you don't necessarily need to join all of these.
Step 4: Choose an email marketing service.
Email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to reach your audience. You'll need to choose an email marketing service such as Constant Contact or MailChimp to regularly send your subscribers high-quality, value-added content that drives traffic to your website.
Step 5: Include your business listing in online directories.
The majority of consumer research originates with search engines and online directories. To get your business to the top of search results, you need to include your business in as many online directories as possible. Taking advantage of a listing distribution service will save you the hassle of having to individually submit your listing to each online directory and help to ensure the accuracy of your business listings.
Step 6: Consider your paid advertising options.
While you'll need to create high-quality organic content to offer value to your audience and establish yourself as an authority, you'll also want to include a mix of paid content. Google AdWords uses a pay-per-click advertising system to drive traffic to your website based on keywords that users are typing into search queries. Paid advertising on Facebook allows you to reach a highly targeted audience to increase your conversions.
The Value of Partnering with a Digital Marketing Agency
If you're feeling overwhelmed after reading through the steps about how to bring your business online, you're not alone. Fortunately, you don't need to handle a digital transformation on your own. Partnering with an experienced digital marketing agency that understands your business and goals will help you to develop and execute an online marketing strategy that produces positive results for your business.
Depending on the size of your business and your capacity to take on extra work, trying to manage all of the aspects of your digital marketing strategy on your own is nearly impossible. An agency offers the experience and manpower to ensure that you're well-represented online so that you can focus on business operations and growing your company.
In closing, it's imperative that your business gets on board with making a digital transformation, and a digital marketing agency will help to make this transition go smoothly and ensure that your brand has a strong online presence.
Click here for the next part of our digital transformation series that will walk you through how to choose the right digital marketing partner for your business.