5 Misconceptions You Need to Know About Local Online Marketing
The experts have spoken.
Every web guru, marketing specialist and social media manager this side of Amazon has promised you that online marketing is a magic pill to instantly transform your local businesses into a well-oiled profit machine.
With enough tweets, posts and blogs, you can make money in your sleep, according to the Internet.
Of course, according to these same experts, your business will face certain doom and statistically proven failure unless you have a truly amazing website, use social media several times a day and hire a marketing agency that will give you more “visibility,” and “engagement,” with your ideal customers.
Given that the people telling you to invest in online marketing are also the ones hoping you’ll pay them big bucks to manage your business’ Facebook page, or to re-build that website your sister created for you when you first launched your business, you're forced to decide if their advice is designed to boost your bottom line or their own.
Many service-based local businesses, those so lovingly categorized by economists as the Tertiary Sector of the economy, have heard all the noise about online marketing and concluded that posts, blogs, tweets and scopes just don't work for local businesses.
If the pot of gold and profits at the end of the online rainbow never seems to get any closer no matter how many updates you blast out to your company page, you may be caught in one of 5 misconceptions that lead local businesses to leave money on the table each month:
5 Misconceptions About Local Online Marketing:
1. "EVERYONE AROUND HERE ALREADY KNOWS US"
2. "WE TRIED THE SOCIAL MEDIA THING AND IT DOESN'T MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE."
3. "NO ONE VISITS OUR WEBSITE ANYWAY."
4. "WE DON'T KNOW WHAT TO SAY ONLINE."
5. "WE CAN'T MEASURE WHETHER OUR MARKETING IS DOING US ANY GOOD."
These misconceptions are born where the rubber meets the road. Owners and staff are actively trying social media techniques, building websites and doing their due diligence on every tool before deciding that online marketing is ineffective.
Why are so many local businesses failing to see the glowing results promised by online marketing?
Who's Really Driving Your Marketing Strategy?
According to research in the 2016 CMO Survey, businesses can expect to spend anywhere from 7-10% of their operating budget on marketing in 2017. Over half that budget is projected spending for social media alone!
Some local businesses, however, make a tradeoff by substituting employee time for marketing dollars; slicing valuable hours out of each month’s productivity in an effort to drive the percentage of revenue spent on marketing as close to zero as possible.
If you ask most micro-business owners who’s manning the company’s social media accounts or updating the website, it’s normally the owner themselves, in between all their other duties.
Alternately, the youngest employees are tasked with maintaining the company’s online presence because studies show that young people are more socially active online.
Unfortunately, frequent social media use is no better prediction of marketing savvy than frequent sitcom viewing is a healthy predictor of acting ability.
In a 2013 survey by online marketing platform Yodle, only a meager percentage of small business owners (14%) used technology in their marketing. The study also uncovered,
". . .more than half of SMB owners do not have a website (52%) or even measure the results of their marketing programs (56%)." - Yodle
As a result, companies end up "doing marketing," instead of engaging in their market.
What's the difference?
Picture a distracted 12-year old hammering out their required 45-minutes of daily piano practice. Her eyes glued to the clock, she pounds away at the keys, ready to escape to more interesting tasks the moment the clock shows she's hit her practice quota for the day.
Now picture a concert pianist whose practice consists of doing, redoing, perfecting and re-perfecting her technique. Her practice is based not on meeting a quota, but on predictably achieving the desired effect, while communicating strong emotion through her instrument.
There's a difference between, "doing marketing," and using your online influence to create a profound connection with your customers.
Ultimately, while you might rely on your younger staff to handle publishing your message, your strategy's design and emotion has to come straight from the heart.
Should Local Businesses Outsource Online Marketing?
Owners and employees that chose to D.I.Y. their online marketing efforts face a steep learning curve. In addition to their other roles they're obligated to learn and implement strategies across a dizzying array of new media.
It doesn't help that the social media and search platforms are always evolving to drive business users toward paid features - after all, the social media companies want to make money too!
There's just SO MUCH to learn when it comes to online marketing that local businesses land in a marketing-when-we-get-around-to-it rut, making consistency and continuity almost nonexistent.
While catch-as-catch-can social media marketing can score your business a few, “likes,” without a robust marketing strategy it’s tough to tell if those likes are what makes the cash register ring.
Local SEO, Website Design, Social Media Marketing, and Blogging are all hot items for sale in the online marketing web-o-sphere, but how important are they really?
Is outsourcing a smart strategy for local businesses or are owners and operators better off their continuing their trial-by-fire self-education efforts?
Whether you choose to D. I.Y. 100% of your marketing or outsource execution depends on your strategy.
When deciding how much of your marketing to outsource, think of marketing as a collaboration between strategy and tactics. While there’s plenty of overlap between the two, getting clear on which areas need the most help in your business is pivotal.
Every area of tactical execution begins with strategic decision-making that drives long-and-short term actions, so it’s smart to invest in a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy Audit before making any radical changes in your yearly marketing purchases.
- It’s tough to outsource social media execution, without a social media strategy.
- It’s tough to hire an intern to boost your marketing visibility, without a strategy for the areas of your business you want to bring visibility to.
- It's tough to know whether to focus on SEO, Social Media or PPC without knowing how your online business presence stacks up next to the competition.
Local businesses have plenty of options for lightening their load through outsourcing according to their budget and needs. As you plan your outsourcing budget, keep in mind, outsourcing doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing commitment.
Marketing Areas to Consider Outsourcing:
These are a sample of the marketing roles available to local businesses ready to outsource some or all of their marketing. Many of the roles overlap, and some freelancers and agencies can fill multiple roles.
My Online Marketing Story
I’ve been in the trenches of online marketing since 2013, and I’ve seen fantastic local brands with heart, soul, and moxie to spare flounder when it came to their online marketing execution.
The reason for their difficulties?
Too many tactics, not enough strategy.
Forming a marketing strategy piece-by-piece on individual platforms misses the big picture. Effective online strategy encompasses your brand voice, your core beliefs and the nuances that make your company different in everything you do.
Is Google Your Marketing Guru?
In 90 minutes or less, you could easily Google search enough perfectly good online marketing tactics to fill your content calendar for the next 4 years.
What your search won’t reveal, is how best to combine those tactics with your existing brand strengths to create a custom marketing strategy to reach your customers.
The best strategies for locally owned small businesses come from direct experience in the strengths, weaknesses, and solutions that apply to the way you do business.
Below you’ll find a list of go-to reference articles for local business owners looking to make the most of their online marketing.
Each section is full of tactics, tips, and tools you can apply today to make the most of your online marketing. If you have questions about how to apply a specific tactic to your business, I’m happy to help.
If you have questions about how to apply these tactics to your unique business needs, I’m a phone call away. Click the link below, and I'll gladly take a look at your online presence to discover practical ways to make your online marketing work for you.
Did I leave anything out?
What's another reason online marketing hasn't earned its keep in your local business budget? Share in the comments below.