The Future of Digital Marketing: Five Trends to Leverage a Small Business Opportunity

Jameson General Store was a historical treasure in the small North Carolina Community. Jim Jameson, the owner, had been part of the family legacy over 100 years old. The company had seen bad times, including The Great Depression. However, their hard work and customer loyalty had sustained the company’s success.

Even when a neighboring community got its Walmart’s Marketplace Store, their customers remained loyal. Jim did not believe in utilizing online advertising and social media platforms. He believed that these activities were only a fad. Yet, their customers gradually started shopping online because Jameson General Store was limited in its product offerings.

In fact, most of the business that Jameson Store lost was not to local competitors, but online sellers. Jim was adamant about resisting the temptation about shopping online. Yet, when he saw his own 10-year-old grandson purchase a difficult item to locate in the area online at significant costs, Jim had to ponder his current marketing strategy with the changing landscape in the nation.

Today’s customers can purchase a variety of items online with minimum effort. Given this scenario, brick and mortar companies are fighting to stay alive with the fierce internet competition. According to a 2017 survey conducted by Square and Mercury Analytics looking at 1,164 U.S. business owners, the following observations were made:

  • 96% of Americans with internet access have made an online purchase in their life, 80% in the past month alone.
  • 51% of Americans prefer to shop online.
  • 67% of Millennials and 56% of Gen Xers prefer to shop online rather than in-store.
  • Millennials and Gen Xers spend nearly 50% as much time shopping online each week (six hours) than their older counterparts (four hours).
  • 51% of seniors have shopped on marketplaces, 66% at large retailer sites, 30% on web stores or independent boutiques, and 44% at category-specific online stores.

Marketing professionals understand the importance of the internet and how to effectively leverage this power. According to Socialmedia.com, 90% of marketers use social media for their businesses. Sadly, many small businesses do not recognize this fact. Many businesses had opted to bury their heads in the sand in hopes that this ‘internet thing’ will go away. It hadn’t!

In fact, e-Commerce is growing more than 23% annually; however, 46% of American small businesses do not have a website according to Square and Mercury Analytics research. This article focuses on how small businesses can leverage digital marketing to achieve greater success and enhance their market opportunities.

Digital marketing should be a tool that every serious small business should utilize. Digital marketing goes by many names such as e-commerce marketing, online marketing, and internet marketing. Digital marketing can be defined as “the marketing of products or services using digital channels to reach consumers.” The key objective is to promote brands the usage of the internet.

Digital marketing extends beyond internet marketing to include channels that do not require the use of the internet. Some digital marketing channels include websites, social media platforms, email marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, podcasts, and online advertising to name a few. Beyond technology gimmicks, businesses should know their customers and their core competencies. Digital marketing is not a silver bullet. Digital marketing is a tool for the savvy business professional.

Catherine Juan, Donnie Greiling, and Catherine Buerkle, authors of Internet Marketing: Start to Finish, suggest that effective digital marketing requires plenty of careful planning. They add, “The heart of getting real traction out of your internet marketing program is to tie marketing and sales data together, with metrics. Track what you’re doing, track the impact, and track the resulting sales.” Looking at the landscape of technology and internet innovation, small businesses should think strategically about the following five digital marketing trends:

Artificial Intelligence – Some people develop elaborate doom-day scenarios of machines to control the world. However, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a way of life in marketing. AI can be defined as ‘the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence.’ Voice Activation technology like Amazon’s Echo is bringing AI into public attention. By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their purchases without interacting with a person.

Internet Searching – Buyers are more knowledgeable than ever with access to the internet. In fact, 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making big purchases. Thus, exploring how to utilize search engine optimization and getting your business at the top of searches is an invaluable step.

Mobile Communications – Most Americans have grown accustomed to instant gratification and easy access to technology. Mobile and tablet e-commerce will reach $293B by 2018. Smartphone and tablets are part of this wave of innovation. Mobile will account for 72% of the U.S. digital ad spend by 2019. Marketers recognize that mobile marketing is an untapped business tool.

Social Media – Social media platforms, like Facebook, allows buyers to connect with each other virtually. 65% of business-to-business companies have acquired customers through LinkedIn ads. Marketers realize this value.

Web Content – Good content will attract customers. In fact, customers are more likely to purchase from sellers with good, relevant videos/photos on their website. 52% of marketing professionals globally name the video as the type of content with the best ROI.

Faced with the tenants of competition, small businesses need to utilize digital marketing. Some small businesses may be hesitant to explore digital marketing due to their lack of trust and understanding of the internet. Philip Kotler and Kevin Keller, authors of Marketing Management, note “Top firms are comfortable using technology to improve the way they do business with their business-to-business customers.”

This article demonstrated that today’s small businesses can utilize digital marketing to enhance their market opportunities. Hopefully, gaining this knowledge will help business owners so that they will not continue to bury their heads in the sand. The internet is here to stay. Pray that you are listening to this message.

© 2017 by DD Green

How To Build Trust In Your Online Business

When somebody goes online to search for products or services, they are instinctively suspicious. This is even the case with big, multinational brands. Most people are fairly educated about the way in which the web works, and they understand that just about anybody can set up a website. Even if your business is Nike, the people that visit your website will always be on the lookout for signs that you may be an imposter.

Of course, suspicion is never helpful when you are trying to secure a sale. It is your task to convince potential customers that you can be trusted. Unfortunately, they rarely give you more than a few minutes to convince them that you are a legitimate, responsible business that can deliver on all of its promises.

If you sell products, customers want to be absolutely sure that you will dispatch items quickly and they will be received as described. If you sell services, your potential clients need to believe that you can do the things that you claim.

In both cases, customers often need to be persuaded that they can trust you with their confidential payment details.

In this article, you will discover just how crucial it is for you to be build trust on the Internet if you hope to turn your business into a success. Read on to learn why trust is so important, the disastrous consequences of getting it wrong, and some practical ways to get it right.

Customers See Your Online Business As Smoke and Mirrors

Imagine that you are walking the high street searching for books when you see a sign stuck to a door. It says ‘Cheap Books Here!’ and so you go inside, briefly noticing the name of the shop at the top of the window.

Once inside, you realise that the shop is empty. There is nothing more than a curtain in the corner of the room. A voice echoes from behind it.

“What book are you looking for?” it booms.

You respond into the air.

“Yes, we’ve got that one. £10 please.” A hand creeps around the curtain, waiting to take your money.

If you’re anything like me, you wouldn’t give your money away that easily! You haven’t seen the item, the person who is selling it to you, or any proof that this is the kind of business you can trust.

But this is the same experience that customers get when they decide to shop online for products or services. They are expected to pay for something that they haven’t physically seen, to somebody that they don’t know anything about.

Your business may be honest and upfront. You may have the best products in the world and the best service to back them up. But everyone says that.

Why should your visitors believe you?

Three Trust Building Features Of The Best Online Businesses

If there is a simple answer to the complex question of building trust as a business, it is reputation. If the potential customers that visit your website can read feedback and comments from satisfied customers, they will be more confident in your abilities to do what you claim and deliver quality products and services.

There are many ways that you can leverage the power of customer feedback. Here are just three to get you started:

1. Use Customer Testimonials On Your Website

The easiest thing to do is just publish a long list of testimonials on your website from existing customers. If you are doing good business you will receive a lot of positive feedback naturally, but always ask for permission to publish the review along with some customer information.

Many online businesses publish testimonials without saying where they came from. This is a particularly spurious way of doing business, and will probably raise more concerns than having none at all.

So what do you do if you have no existing customers to quote and are just getting started with your business? A great technique is to ask reputable online organisations and individuals to help you out. Perhaps you could send a free sample of your product to niche bloggers, and ask them to provide testimonials in return?

2. Sign Up To An Independent Reviews Website

Once you are more established, do not assume that the need to build trust disappears. In fact, as your customer base grows and you have less time to concentrate on each individual visitor, it can become even more difficult to spend time on bolstering customer confidence.

There are many external websites and business directories that include business reviews, and these are great tools for building trust and also winning new customers.

At FreeIndex, the leading UK business directory, you can create a listing for your business free of charge. This public profile will contain information on what you do and how people can get in touch.

But FreeIndex also offers the capability for customers to post reviews and increase your overall rating. As your number of reviews increases, you can add a badge to your website. This has two significant effects – you can show potential customers that you have received lots of positive feedback, with the added authority of an independent website.

Some other great places to get your business reviewed are Yelp and Google Places.

3. Give Your Customers A Voice That Can Be Heard

Finally, if you have enough customers to support it, integrating discussion with your website is a highly effective way to build trust.

A message board, or forum, gives visitors the chance to start their own conversations about your business, your products, and the wider industry. As these individuals discuss your services, potential customers can quickly see that you have lots of happy customers.

Of course, starting a message board opens the door to negative comments. Hopefully, you will not receive any of these! If you do, though, turn them into positive opportunities by being professional and supportive. After all, this is your chance to show potential customers just how brilliant your customer service is!

Your web hosting provider will usually be happy to tell you which options are open to you when it comes to launching a forum on your website. Usually, you can install a message board like phpBB – which is free – automatically with a script installer that is included with your plan.

Several plugins are also available for WordPress that offer message board functionality. You can explore them at wordpress.org/extend/plugins/tags/forum.

Security For Your Online Business

Of course, reputation is only one side of what makes a trustworthy business online. People don’t just need to trust that you can provide great products and services – they also need to trust you with their confidential information including:

  • Credit Card Data
  • Address Details
  • Passwords and Logins

The first thing that people check when parting with this kind of sensitive data is to look at the security features of your website. All confidential data should be sent through Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL. The way that you prove your trustworthy nature when it comes to this information is with an SSL Certificate.

SSL Certificates are issued by companies that vouch for the security processes that you have in place. Your web hosting provider should support SSL, and can help you to get an SSL Certificate for a small fee.

Although there are alternative ways to take payments online including Paypal, an SSL Certificate does more than tell customers that data is being transferred securely. It tells them that you are a trustworthy company overall, responsible in the way that you conduct business online.

Be A Real, Accountable and Reachable Business

Finally, perhaps the most important thing of all when it comes to building customer trust is just being a real person, not a faceless business name without connections to the real world.

It almost goes without saying that your website should tell visitors everything that they need to know about who you are and how you can be reached. By publishing your phone number, a mailing address, and a company registration number if applicable, your visitors can get in touch to check you out before they make their purchase, and be confident that they could reach you if something went wrong.

There are many reasons that people shy away from giving out this kind of information their websites. Some people expect to receive nuisance calls the moment they put their phone number online. Others don’t like the idea of publishing their home address, but do not have a business address to use.

These are understandable reasons, but let them go. If you want customers to give you their trust, you’ll need to give them something in return.

Be an open, honest person and visitors will see your business as open and honest too. Show them that you are a real human being that they can trust and they will always put their trust in your online business.

Life Is an Echo: The Extraordinary Zig Ziglar

He lived well…

I came across a quote by Zig Ziglar today which led me to Life is an Echo. It’s an excerpt from See You at the Top. It was rejected by 30 different publishers before it was ever printed. The publishers weren’t impressed with this humble salesman. Before today, I knew so little of the history of this self-made man. I’m so blessed by taking some time to learn more. I hope you will feel the same.

Zig Ziglar was born…

in the tiny Alabama town of Enterprise in 1926. It’s one so small that you really have to be looking to find. Blink and you’ve missed it. It’s the land of cotton, soy beans and corn. It’s most known for a Boll Weevil Monument and peanuts. Moreover, Dale County is the Peanut Capitol of the World. It’s as Americana as it gets. I’ve passed through Enterprise a hundred times over the years, always on my way to somewhere else. You’d think I would have seen the sign saying “birthplace of our most famous son.” But this is where Zig lived his first five years. I can’t help but think of the influence this land had on him.

When I read Life is an Echo today, Enterprise ran through my mind. See You at the Top is about kindness and striving to do the right thing. It’s about treating people the way you’d like to be treated. It’s about HOPE. It’s about anticipating good things from people. If you know of Zig, then you know this is his theme song. Zig had a strong belief-system that started back in the red, Alabama clay.

Reap what you sow

Zig’s dad was a farmer. It makes me think of my relative who farm’s a few miles from his birthplace. I have learned so much from him. He is very wise. He can repair and build anything. In fact, he could have been any number of things. He loved that red clay he was born on and chose to be farmer. I’ve seen him throw on a suit, meet with a banker in town, and finance next year’s crops despite a “very bad year.” He made me realize farming is hard work. I know that farming is a lot like life. “You reap what you sow” has true meaning to both farmers and life. Tending. Patching. Watching. Waiting. Praying. Repairing. Studying. Resting. Adjusting. Testing. Crying. Rejoicing. Working. Working. Working.

Less than 2 years after the start of the great depression, Zig’s father relocated the family to Mississippi. He moved them so he could manage another farm in very bad times. A year later, when he was just 6 years old, his father died of pneumonia. Two days later, his little sister died. He was one of 12 children then raised by a single mom in a slow-recovering country. Can you imagine the pain for that little guy? And yet, he accomplished so much. If anyone had a reason to live a negative life, it might as well be him.

Black Monday

I know this story well. My grandfather died exactly 2 months after “Black Monday.” At 27, he left a young widow with 3 small children at the worst possible time. The oldest was my 5-year-old mother. She and her siblings were all separated and forced to live with relatives. My grandma returned to her parents’ home for several years. She made and sold queen-sized, hand-pieced, heirloom quilts for $2 each to survive. (I’m blessed to have 3 of her quilts. They are each works of perfection.)

My mother told endless stories. People who didn’t farm were starving. Mom learned to cook complete meals and do difficult farm work while her mom worked the farm. At 5, she could kill, clean, cut up, and cook a chicken by herself! I know how this impacted my reality: I was raised by two depression babies. Knowing all this, Zig’s positive nature intrigues me even more.

I’m including Life is an Echo below. Read it. Reflect on the countless masses of men and women Zig Ziglar helped over the years. He was the college drop-out who became the world’s most famous salesman. Life is an Echo was more than his “swan song.” As you read it, think about his simple beginnings during the worst financial time America has ever seen. Here’s my takeaway: DO YOU have a good reason why you can’t succeed THIS year?

Zig Ziglar, Life is an Echo

Life is an echo. What you send out comes back. What you sow you reap. What you give you get. What you see in others exists in you. Regardless of who you are or what you do, if you are looking for the best way to reap the most reward in all areas of life, you should look for the good in every person and in every situation and adopt the golden rule as a way of life.

It’s a universal truth that you treat people exactly like you see them. It’s also true that all you have to do to find “good” or “ability” in a person is to look for it. Once you find that “good” or “ability” in the other person, you treat him better and he performs better. So it’s good “business” and good “humanness” to be a “good finder.”

Well said, Zig.

Are you struggling to succeed in a sluggish economy? If so, share some of your stories or tips that keep you motivated and positive like Zig. Just leave a comment below.