Small businesses should stop thinking of online marketing as an optional expense says Christopher Wilkie in a piece that first appeared in Encore. It should be treated as an essential, much like insurance.
Over the last few months, we’ve interviewed and surveyed more than 350 small businesses for the 2013 Optimising Small Business Online Marketing Report. We’ve spoken to people across the country, from every major industry and in every major region, with some pretty compelling results. The most notable finding is that Australians do not have a strong grasp of online marketing. We clearly all want to be online, we just haven’t realised that having such a large portion of our population online, we can reach them to make more money.
This is a wake up call to all of you Australian small businesses because you’re actually being left behind when it comes to reaching customers through online marketing.
Here are some key findings.
Search engine optimisation
• More than 50 per cent of respondents had not performed search engine optimisation (SEO) on their website or even audited it for search engine rank effectiveness.
• Of the respondents who had performed SEO, 53 per cent didn’t know what amount of their traffic was attributable to their SEO efforts which is staggering if you consider a recent Google study which found 73 per cent of searchers use search to find out where products are sold, 72 per cent use search to make price comparisons and 63 per cent use it to find promotional offers.
Pay per click (PPC) and social media advertising (SMA)
• More than 71 per cent of people we spoke to have never run an online advertising campaign while 13 per cent are currently running online advertising and 16 per cent have run a campaign but aren’t anymore.
• Of all respondents, 68 per cent will be increasing their online marketing spend, but more notably a whopping 29 per cent won’t.
• Social media has had the largest increase of all marketing forms with 73 per cent of respondents having used Facebook for branding and sales.
• A recent Google study found that 79 per cent of smartphone users use their smartphone before and during purchase decisions yet 45 per cent of our survey respondents don’t have a mobile-friendly website.
Perhaps the most interesting of all the above stats is how little small business is capitalising on SEO, PPC and SMA. So far, small business has really taken to utilising social media for branding and driving sales, but many aren’t even turning to social media advertising instead choosing to interact with fans and followers with posts, tweets, photos and competitions.
The general consensus seems to be that online marketing costs too much. But does it? A solid SEO campaign may set you back around $700 a month, but just think about how many more people are going to be clicking through to your website, calling you or buying your products. If you’re transacting and receiving more leads, and you can earn more than what you’re spending, it begs the question, what’s stopping you? Yes SEO isn’t right for everyone, particularly low cost items or businesses operating in highly saturated markets. PPC isn’t for everyone either, you certainly wouldn’t find a coffin maker advertising with PPC (or on Facebook). It’s a cost, yes, but attribute a value to it, much like you would any other expense you classify as “necessary”, because I can assure you if not now, then in the next 12 months, more than half of your direct competitors will be using online marketing to reach customers – your customers.
What does this mean?
Well for starters, online marketing is no longer something small businesses should do ‘if there is extra budget’, it’s something they need to budget for and take as seriously as insurance (because there isn’t going to be a need for any insurance when you’re out of business). It’s imperative to reach customers and compete to win their business, intelligently of course. We can appreciate that there are plenty of unsavoury parties out there trying to swindle you out of your money, but it’s no excuse. It comes down to shopping around and making sure the agency you entrust to push your rankings up or drive leads to your site has a solid reputation and can give you favourable terms. Remember also that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Low cost might seem appealing, but you could actually be damaging your ranking, either that or the agency is taking your money and doing absolutely nothing.
What can you expect to pay for online marketing?
When shopping around for online marketing agencies, expect that there will be a setup fee, expect that time will need to be taken to look at your business and that a price off the bat is extremely hard to come up with. This isn’t a bad thing. Any good SEO/PPC/SMA agency (and there aren’t many out there) will give you a price after they have done some research on your business. Online marketing isn’t about applying the same template to everyone’s business, it’s curating a customised solution that boosts your individual rankings/leads based on your individual desires.
For a good quality SEO campaign, expect to spend around $650 a month or more. For that, you can expect to get a solid organic ranking within six months with a variety of different methods used to boost your rank. For a good quality PPC campaign, expect to spend around $400 a month or more. For that you can expect good quality reporting with individual comments and robust methodologies about refining your keywords to leverage ad spend. For a good quality SMA campaign, expect to spend around $350 a month or more. For that you can expect something very similar to PPC in terms of solid reporting and ongoing refinement in targeting and reach to get conversions.
We are in a great position to push small businesses further by shifting mindsets, opening up our thoughts and digging deep to reach customers. They are out there and every year that marches by the customers are getting smarter. As small businesses, we need to get smarter too – not to trick anyone, but to engage in meaningful ways that these platforms give us the ability to with their immensely powerful tools.
Christopher Wilkie is the business development manager at Optimising.
This first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.