Small Business Websites – Why A Small Business Website Does Not Produce Results

When a small business decides to take their business online there are usually several mistakes that they do. This is partially due to lack of experience and often lack of knowledge. There seems to be a trend that small businesses think of their website as an online business card instead of a marketing tool. That is where the majority of them go wrong. So let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes done when a small business takes their business online.

1. Order of links

So many times you visit a small business website and they proudly flag the “about us” link as their first link. This is called the pride link because they often think that telling people about the company is the most important thing. The links should be in order of importance. Not in the order of the business owners EGO! If you use a website designer and he does consult you on the order of links, chances are you should be using someone else or at least make sure you educate yourself about online marketing because your website designer sure hasn’t!

2. No focus

Most small business websites lack focus. When you enter you are not sure where to go next which makes it hard for the user to understand exactly what he is supposed to do. The website should flow and the user should be able to make sense of the site within a few seconds of opening it up.

3. No sale / No lead setup

Many small businesses do not use their website to increase sales directly or capture leads. It is nothing more than an online brochure or business card. Sometimes the information is more confusing than it is helpful. If you competitors site is easier to navigate and captures either the sale or lead, you just lost a client. A small business websites needs to be even more on top of catching leads than a corporate website because every client lost counts more!

4. No analytics

Most small business websites have no clue what people do when they enter their site. No clue what users are really looking at and where they are losing their potential sale or lead. If customers just walked in and out of their place of work eyebrows would be raised and something would be done. Shouldn’t the same thought process apply to the site? You need to know what is going on with your small business website and what users are doing.

5. No marketing purpose

This is the biggest “Whammy” of them all. Small business websites tend to fail seeing the potential of using the website as a complete marketing tool. The fundamental reason to take a business online would be to do marketing. The lack of marketing vision explains the mistakes from above. If just this single piece was in place when a small business builds their website, many of the other things would be solved because they would educate themselves about what it means to have a marketing tool!

6. No results!

This is no surprise considering everything above. If there is no purpose, no focus, no vision and no marketing thought behind the site then there are probably no results from the site either. What is even worse is that most small business websites do not even measure results or understand how to measure results from their site. Once again it is a lack of understanding more than anything!

So what can a small business do when they are ready to take their business online and setup their small business website? The most important thing is to educate themselves in a few areas. The most important ones being, what you need to consider before building or having someone build your website. How to use the website as a marketing tool and it would be extremely beneficial to you if you at least had some understanding of what SEO is and how it works. What is the difference between a website designer, website developer and an online marketing company? All of them do different things and have a different understanding of how to use the internet; the question is what purpose is your website supposed to serve? For most it should be a marketing tool, because the internet is the most effective marketing tool available!

How To Get High Quality Sales Leads Fast For Your Small Business

September 2008 will forever be remembered in American history. That was the historic time frame when the Government of the United States began bailing out major banks and the Big 3 in the auto industry. That’s when the word recession creeped its way into Americans hearts and minds.

Ever since that dreadful month countless small businesses have closed down. Many entrepreneurs, business owners, sales people, really people from all walks of life have been affected by this recession. They have not been able to adapt to the drastic change in the short amount of time.

Those that have are rapidly chipping away at their golden goose egg that has kept them a float for the past few years. But once used to be a nest egg for retirement has turned into just a few months of money to live off of. Any person that is involved with their community will tell you that small businesses are the back bone of America.

That being the case how do we help solve this problem of so many of them closing down for good? Go into any small or large town and you will see small businesses that have been around for decades no longer open for business. In my observation and speaking with a handful of business owners I am convinced of the main reason they are not succeeding in this new economy.

They have failed to adapt to the new way that customers are doing business. Simply put these small business owners are not putting their product in front of the right customers. They are not marketing. And to be quite honest most can’t afford to spend a single dime on marketing efforts.They are too busy pinching pennies as it is.

So what is the solution to this epidemic? The answer is simple. Leads. Sales leads. But not just any sales leads, high quality sales leads. If you are a small business owner you may be thinking that you can’t afford to buy any sales leads. Trust me I understand.

What if there were a way you can leverage technology to produce targeted leads for your business in an instant?

I’m not suggesting you spend a single dime on these leads. I want to show you how you can possibly save your business from closing down and start generating positive cash flow again.

If you are already thinking that you can’t afford to pay someone to market your business and get these leads have no fear.

Effective Tips to Generate Local Attention for Small Business

With countless companies starting and shutting down it can be difficult to learn useful tips that can effectively generate attention for small business. Starting a company can be hard enough as it is so you will want to gain as much exposure as possible to avoid wasting your money and efforts. Whether you have been a business owner for many years or are just beginning your venture now, knowing as much as possible will help you increase exposure for small business.

Make Good Use of Social Media

If you have any intentions at all for expanding your company and find new leads for small business then it is pertinent that you make good use of the social media options available. There are many different platforms that offer various levels of exposure. For example, having a company page for your fans on Facebook is a great way for customers to leave feedback and also spread the good word about their experiences.

The best part is that many social networking sites offer free accounts which mean free exposure. To effectively generate attention for small business you will need to put your company name and information out on the internet where potential customers can find you. According to various research reports, business owners agree that social media has allowed them to efficiently generate leads for small business without the high costs traditionally involved with advertising.

Look for Experts to Generate Leads

Having more leads for small business is another area of extreme importance. It can be futile to improve your products and services if no one will know about it. Your efforts should be consistently focused on the best ways to generate attention for small business. For many business owners, finding relevant leads can be the most trying part. If you are stuck in a rut and have no ideas about where to begin then consider finding an expert for guidance.

Marketing experts know how important leads for small business are for success and have the inside knowledge about how the internet works. If you are busy doing countless other things for your business then you will not likely have enough time to focus on increasing your leads. There can be a significant difference if you take advantage of tools like email list building or forums related to your industry. Hiring a professional may seem like an additional expense on top of many others but this small investment result in added exposure for small business.

Learn about Outsourcing Benefits

Since online marketing and lead generation can be quite a time drain in general, outsourcing such tasks can be a great way to get the job done well. Especially if you have no prior background or experience on how to generate attention for small business, you can profit from consulting with an expert for help. Social media for example, is a popular and effective way to advertise but many small business owners are not internet savvy and simply do not have the time.

Outsourcing has become much more popular over the years for two simple reasons. If you are the owner of a company then your time is likely more valuable than that which you would pay to someone else. While you are doing important duties for your business, find someone to outsource to so they can handle work that is time-consuming or challenging. Another beneficial reason to outsource your marketing needs is because professionals have the complete know-how on how to increase exposure for small business.

Evaluate Your Business’ Image

Whenever you are taking steps and action to generate attention for small business, be sure that you are in tune with what image is being presented. Although most business owners do not have much spare time, this evaluation is necessary to guarantee that the right message is being expressed on either your company’s website or social media page. If you do not check what exposure for small business you are paying for then you could end up doing more damage than good.

Another reason why you should review what image your company represents is that you will want your marketing strategy to change as your products, services, and progress improves. It is reasonable that many small business pages do not look as professional as corporations but as your business expands, you will need to upgrade how you present your company. Overall, you want to make sure that if you generate attention for small business, it should be in sync with the image you want.

9 Reasons Small Business Marketing Stinks – And What You Can Do to Avoid Smelling Rotten

It has no strategy

I see so many small businesses who just basically throw darts at the board with their marketing and advertising with no rhyme or reason. What little marketing planning they do centers around advertising. But usually this is poorly planned. They take no thought in who their target market is, how best to reach them, where to reach them, when to reach them, or how to appeal to them and spur them to action IF they reach them. Did you notice that was a big if? Most of the small business ads I see really don’t get break through and grab the prospect’s attention. The other big problem is they are scattershot. There is an ad here, and ad there, they are done infrequently, and the target is poorly defined.

Don’t use a shotgun approach to advertising! Use a laser targeted pinpoint approach. This does not mean you only target one area or shoot using one gun (pardon the violent metaphor). It means you aim carefully at your chosen target and fire from multiple positions (PR, advertising, promotions, social media, etc.).

It has the mindset that advertising and promotion (or sales) is marketing

These are but one aspect of the marketing mix. FYI, if you don’t already know, the marketing mix consists of the 4 Ps- Product, Price, Promotion, and Place (where the product or service is sold or distributed). While promotion is a large part of the marketing mix it is not the only one and usually not the most important one. But it is the fun or glamorous side of marketing so it gets a lot of attention. Still, many fail to realize that there is a lot more to promotion than advertising or sales. Those are only aspects of the promotional mix. I will talk more about the rest of the promotional mix in future articles.

Get a big picture view of marketing and start with the basics first- your positioning and targeting strategies based on your product or service and ideal customers (market place) and let that direct your pricing, promotion, and distribution strategies.

Its copy cat or “me too” marketing

Many small businesses copy the same old garbage everyone else is using and you get the same bad results. Even if the marketing is good for one business, it may not be good for your business. First, you are not the same business so your goals and objectives, target audience, capabilities, etc. are not the same. Second, it does nothing to distinguish you from them. Why would a prospect buy from you if you are no different than your competition?

Give them some compelling reasons to do so by demonstrating that you have something your competitor does not. Be different by design.

It is practiced by the uninformed

Small business people are good at their craft. They are great plumbers, doctors, lawyers, store owners, beauticians, chefs, dry cleaners, accountants, etc. But most don’t know anything about marketing- and don’t have the time or patience to learn. And that’s ok. It would cost them more to learn and do it themselves than it would to pay someone competent to do it for them. I don’t want to fix my own broken pipes, draw up own estate plan, prescribe my own course of medical treatment, or cut my own hair. I’m no good at it. But these folks are. That’s why I pay them to do it for me. If this situation describes you and you agree with me, you can skip the rest of this article and call me now!

If you still insist on doing it yourself, then learn the basics of marketing and start with understanding your marketplace, finding a profitable niche, and defining your product or service to serve that niche. If you do this right, you will either find yourself with no true competition or you will stand out head and shoulders above them.

Small businesses think they can market like the big boys

The problem is small businesses don’t have the money to market like the big boys. The big boys can run branding campaigns and hire expensive Ad firms to design and produce visually entertaining and stimulating masterpieces that make you almost drool for that new iPhone or Cadillac STS (or is that just a guy thing?) But c’mon, how many of you have not licked your lips when you’re watching those Hardee’s Thick Burger commercials? J And they can run their ads repeatedly. These are meant to build brand awareness and reinforce brand perceptions as much (and usually more) as they are to create brand preference and create a desire to take action.

But most of you can’t afford this kind of service. You can’t afford to run image only ads. Your ads have to work hard to create awareness and generate sales or leads. So you have to market wisely and make every dollar spent be an investment that will produce a measurable return. This means finding your niche, creating products and services to fill that niche, crafting your identity to appeal to that niche and targeting that specific niche with your well crafted, well planned, and well timed promotions and advertisements. And these ads have to have a call to action to spur a visit to your store, your website, or generate a phone call. Do anything else and you risk losing money and ultimately failure in business.

It is too disjointed

They are trying random things not really knowing why or they are dabbling in marketing with no real goal, process, or system. As a result their marketing strategy and tactics are not connected to each other and working together in harmony. In fact, they might even be working against each other. Here is a case in point, suppose you are a professional with deep expertise in your field- medicine, dentistry or law for examples- and you are trying to appeal to a wealthy target audience by offering a specialized service. But you are doing it by running a price discount or coupon promotion! The tactics are out of line with the target audience and do not support the core marketing strategy.

Your marketing tactics have to be connected to (indeed lead by) your marketing strategy and your marketing messages need to be integrated so that your website is consistent with your brochures or press kit, which is consistent with your social media profiles and business listings, which is consistent with you elevator speech, with is consistent with your business card, and so on. Tactics must be aligned with strategies and support your goals. Every piece of marketing communication must be integrated with your brand and marketing strategies to be consistent and produce desired results.

It is not built around a complete system

Most small businesses have no system in place for marketing. There is no plan for properly evaluating the marketplace and finding profitable niches. There is no system to help position or reposition their products or services to serve those niches. This is especially devastating when the marketplace rapidly changes. There is no system for promotional campaigns and activities. A coupon tactic is tried one month, a sales promotion another, maybe some print ads are tried another. But there is also no monitoring and measuring plan in place to know what is really working, if anything, and for making changes to the plan as needed. All of these systems must be put into place and used regularly or no real progress will be made. Perhaps you could get away with this in boom times, but not in bust times like we have recently been experiencing and not in the foreseeable future.

Put systems in place that will give you a goal to know where you are going and direction to know how to get there. Then continually work your systems and monitor your progress to make sure you are on track. If not, make some course corrections (change your tactics) to see if that works. However, if you make repeated course corrections and nothing works, it’s time to either call for professional help or change your strategy- or both.

There is no follow up

Many small businesses, particularly B2b firms, have leads that go un-nurtured and un-converted. Not because they were bad leads but because they didn’t follow up with them. Chances are, if the lead was not ready to buy right then or at least have a sales person talk or visit with him right then, the lead was pushed to the back burner- where it withered up and died. Or the consumer that visited the store once, or even purchased once, never returned and was never contacted with any type of follow up marketing.

If your business relies on generating leads for you or your sales staff to turn into clients/customers, then you need to have an automated follow up system in place. You need a system to capture their contact information to send them follow up emails and newsletters and contact them by phone or in person to keep in touch with them and nurture them through the sales cycle. You need a system to get to know them and their needs so you can send them selectively targeted promotions that will cut through the clutter and make them pay attention.

It is not automated

This leads me to a related point- much of the follow up marketing tactics are not automated where they can be automated. This makes it time consuming. Pretty soon business owners get so busy following up there is not enough time for doing and managing the rest of the business. Business owners in this situation probably are not taking the time to measure the results of their marketing so they do not know what, if any, results it produces. This leads to frustration, anxiety and wondering if marketing is really helping their business at all. They start questioning their time and effort spent on marketing and pretty soon they are doing no marketing at all. Which virtually guarantees their business will not grow- and makes it highly probably that it will not survive for very long.

So spend some time now setting up systems and processes that can be automated and save yourself time and stress- and money- later. There are many good CRM and auto-responder software programs available to help with this, some simple and reasonably priced, and some sophisticated, which the price reflects. I would suggest checking out AWeber or Campaigner- which I personally use- for simple, affordable auto-responder options and use either Excel or Access if you already have Microsoft Office for a simple CRM solution. You also might try some free or very low cost solutions such as Sugar CRM or ZOHO. For a more robust option I have heard people rave about Act! and I know many people love it. Others don’t so do your home work before purchasing anything. For lead management and nurturing you might also try salesforce.com or geunius.com. There is one combination auto-responder and CRM solution that I have used in the past that is very good at automating and managing the follow up process and has other applications as well-but it is not cheap- called Infusionsoft.This might be a good solution for you if you generate lots of leads and need to rely on an automated process to reduce your time spent following up and to make sure that leads are actually followed-up with and nurtured. You can get more resources for marketing by visiting the resource page on my website.