As a small business owner have a fairly good insight into common pitfalls you would face in the start-up process. My business is a cosmetic clinic named Youth Lab based in Perth, Western Australia, however my background is in digital marketing. I have spent the last 10 years working as a consultant and as Head of Digital in a Perth based agency.
As such, I have good insights as to how digital marketing has helped my small business grow. Due to my background I am able to do a lot of this digital activity myself, however in this article I want to give some advice of where to start, what resources to use and potential service options that are cost effective.
I am going to discuss two powerful ways digital marketing has benefited Youth Lab and how these can be easily replicated by you.
1. Brand Reach
Thirty years ago, my business would have needed to invest in traditional offline advertising or our clinic would need to have been positioned in a high footfall location with high passing trade to have competed and gained effective ‘brand reach’ to my audience. In 2018, with the prominence of the Internet, we have been able to find success by doing neither. Our clinic is located in West Perth on a leafy suburb street and we have not had to engage in a high cost offline marketing campaign. Times have changed.
To reach our audience now, we simply have to set up a well designed website, in tandem with effective Google Adwords and Facebook Ads campaigns. Yes there is a budget associated with all of this, but compared to offline campaigns, they are typically 10x lower and can be measured with high accuracy using website tools such as Google Analytics.
Using just Google Adwords and Facebook Ads campaigns I am able to reach new customers in my demographic with both my brand and my offer. Summed up, my brand has reach. What this allows is for me to compete with the major cosmetic clinics who have been around for years and have bigger budgets. Thirty years ago, I would have struggled to have out bid them for prime advertising in newspapers or billboards.
With all this said, offline marketing can still be highly effective and coupled with online campaigns, you can grow very quickly. The key issues with offline marketing are higher costs, harder to measure success, hard to change brand message or offer.
Often with online articles, they can be useful but then don’t add in any easy to use practical advice. Below each ‘benefit’ I want to offer some practical advice on how you can go about implementing what I have discussed.
Above I discuss 3 main aspects which include a well designed website, an effective Google Adwords and Facebook Ads campaign.
If you are looking at developing a website and are wanting to watch your budget, I highly recommend Squarespace. They allow for easy to customise mobile friendly templates, low yearly hosting costs and if you have some technical skills they are easy to edit yourself. Alternatively you can locate a Squarespace designer here. To give you an example, this is my website Youth Lab with the only cost after hosting is my time and some high quality imagery. Please note I have no web design experience.
Google Adwords and Facebook Ads are a bit different and may require some investment. Both have good online resource where you can educate yourself on how to be successful, however my advice is just because you can do it yourself does not mean you should. The key to success is recognising when to delegate and digital marketing is an area many people like to undertake themselves as it can seem ‘achievable’ but often it does not deliver results.
For small businesses I recommend finding a good local freelancer rather than a company. I say this because good digital agencies require larger budgets, so if you have the budget to spend (above $1500 per month), then that is fine.
With a good freelancer you often get lower prices, more flexible terms and often more honesty as it is them personally who has to deliver the results. Good freelancers can be hard to find, so do your research, have a contract and don’t handover to much money without some deliverables. The issue for me with agencies who service smaller customers is they can often under deliver and then try to upsell you to spend more. Then you can be dealing with multiple people in the company and in the end just feel like you have been taken advantage of.
2. Reputation and Reviews
A good brand reputation is much more delicate in today’s Internet driven world mainly because, everyone can now has a voice their opinions to the world for free. The ability to post online on review forums, social media channels and blogs has had major impacts in for businesses and their reputations.
Moreover, people are much more willing to leave reviews after poor experiences than they are for good or even great services. Why? I am not sure but I am sure there is a psychological explanation out there somewhere.
Some businesses owners get scared of this landscape and as a result they chose to not engage on social media and essentially bury their heads in the sand. Simply put, this is a mistake. Customers will have these online, public conversations with or without you and trust me, you want to be paying attention to the negative voices.
Negative feedback can show that you have a gap in your service, for example, say you are a landscape and paver. You deliver superb workmanship, however you don’t clean up at the end of the job which someone might voice in a review. A simple change in service can turn a negative customer experience into a superb one and turn any potential negative voices into positive ones. While we are talking about digital reviews here, this all still applies to offline word of mouth too.
Fundamentally, you need to be online, have a social media presence and keep an eye on what your customers are saying. You want to influence the conversations, deal with any negative feedback and look to drive your ‘extremely happy customers’ to leave positive public reviews either with Facebook, Yelp, True Local or the most important one, Google My Business. The reason Google My Business is important is because these reviews will sit very prominently in Google Search results, so if someone types in your name, they are there.
Now, let’s address the elephant in the room, what happens if you get a bad review. In my opinion this is why business owners are so scared of this part of digital. My answer to this is, so what, bad reviews happen even to the best companies. Customers understand this and if you are doing great work, delivering happy clients and pushing them for their reviews, then you will accumulate 10 or 20 great reviews before long.
These reviews then protect you from the occasional bad review. I trust a company more if I see the occasional bad review because it shows they are genuine reviews to me. I also look at how they reply to the customer. If there reply is good, fair and friendly, then they get my business. The worst thing about buying from an unknown brand is whether they will be good at resolving issues, so what you can demonstrate here is your excellent customer service. In many ways, a negative review is a great way to showcase to everyone how you treat customers – even the painful ones. If you do get a bad review, then look online for some guides. I like how these business owners tackled their bad reviews.
My final reason to engage in a social media presence and driving reviews is because of ‘social proof’. What’s that you ask? Basically, it is that research you do before you commit to purchasing off someone new. People tend to look to see if they are trustworthy by looking at their reviews and social followers. You have probably done this yourself. Again take my landscape and paver example. If I was about to go with them but then saw they had no social presence and no reviews, I might be a bit worried handing over a few thousand dollars. But with just a few 5 star reviews and 500 followers on their Facebook page, suddenly I’m feeling better about it all.
All this applies to my business today in regards to cosmetic injectables and dermal therapy treatments. Our target market is very savvy, so ensuring we have that social proof easily available for them removes that barrier to entry. The good news for us is our target market is very vocal, so if you do a good job, they will tell people and so generating a good number of reviews is more than possible.
To be active in the digital marketing game in regards to you protecting your reputation and increasing reviews, there is no reason this has to cost you anything but a little time. If you are really not tech savvy at all, then I’d have a chat with anyone you know who is or if you don’t know anyone, then speak to a local freelancer.
The first step, is to sign up for your Google My Business account, register your business details (be sure to fill as much in as possible, with good resolution images and logo) and await for the postcard to be delivered with your activation pin code. Once this arrives, just put it in and your listing will be active.
In time, when someone Google’s your business name then your listing appears, it’s that simple. You don’t even need to have a website to have this listing, though I’d strongly recommend getting a website. Two low cost options that deliver superb websites for small businesses are Wix and Squarespace. These solutions are both DIY and user-friendly if you are half decent on a computer.
Pro Tip: If you want to take your Google My Business listing to the next level and have it appear more often, you want to build citation listings. A citation is a simple listing of your (business) name, address, phone number (known as NAP). Here is a list of 30 free Australia based citations. Submit your business to these and Google will like your listing more as these use citations to help decide how to rank businesses for local searches.
Next, when you have your Google My Business listing, you then have the ability to ask customers to leave reviews. For a business like mine in cosmetic injectables, we have a booking software that can automate review requests which is very neat. For other businesses you need to simply email happy customers who have expressed how good of a job you have done.
To assist, I have written out a simple review email template you can then adapt. The image can then link directly to your Google Review. To generate this direct link go here and follow the steps.
Subject: Thank You For Your Feedback
Thank you for filling out our feedback questionaire, and the great score you gave us – our business is built on positive feedback.
With that said, would you mind giving us a Google Review?
(provide direct review link here)
We would really appreciate it.
My final piece of advice is to get your business active on at least one social media platform whether Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Personally Facebook is probably the easiest for most businesses and have good resources to show you how to do a lot yourself. Then just keep posting a piece of content once or twice a week on news, recent jobs, customer reviews or interesting industry news.