5 Marketing Challenges Facing Small Businesses Today
Updated: Jan 5
Well, I’m trying to group your problems into the major “buckets” of challenges so this blog isn’t the length of a doctoral thesis! At the end of the day, you have a lot of challenges! Showroom sales, online marketing and operations are hard enough without COVID-19 posing existential threats to your business, so let’s focus on what you can control so you can build processes to overcome them.
1. The Funnel
Let’s start with the epic funnel because this is where sales begins and ends and also where analytics comes in. If you don’t know who is coming to your website and how, if you aren’t helping them move through a well-designed funnel (this isn’t just theory – it’s practically a science!) and if you don’t know what levers you can pull to get more customers to buy...you are losing the funnel game.
Let’s pull those three things apart to help you understand the different steps to optimizing your funnel.
Step 1: Understand who comes to your website and how
If you think the answer to this is, “anybody’s guess?”, then you have a lot to learn, young grasshopper. Most quality CRMs (Hubspot, ActiveCampaign, Zoho), CMSs (Wix, WordPress) and even Google Analytics allow you to monitor visitor tracking so you can see where your website visitors are coming from. Sometimes this data point might show up as a township’s internet service provider, other times it could show up as a company URL (a prospect might be googling your showroom from their work computer!). Not to get too heavy into cookies and pixels, but you should stay on top of this valuable piece of information so you can see where your leads are coming from, including from your Facebook and other social media sites.
And of course, you should build content campaigns to create awareness, and boost top of the funnel leads. But here we're talking about monitoring and controlling your funnel. To learn more about different online advertising methods, check out this other article.
Data is useless unless you can use it to your advantage. Track which channels your leads are coming from so you can double down on efforts in those channels. If your leads are also showing up from service providers in specific towns, try using that town’s name as a keyword in a paid Google Ad. There is a lot you can do with this top-of-the-funnel data, so ask your webmaster to create a roundup of these sources so you can make better decisions on SEO and Ads (more on that later!).
Step 2: Help leads move through a well-designed funnel
Now we can talk about how to overcome funnel-related challenges by architecting your vision for lead conversion. Whichever way a lead finds your site, the next most important thing that happens is what steps they take next. Which subpages do they click on? What CTAs (Calls to Action) and forms do you have to help a lead make a well thought out next step?
Start by making a visual map of your website, either with post-its on a wall or with a program on your computer. Start with your homepage visualized at the top of a pyramid and all the subpages below it, each on the same level in terms of how far away (how many clicks away) they are from the homepage. Use different colors or shapes to show a CTA at the end of all of these paths. For example, on your Products subpage, you might have even more subpages that showcase the different brands you work with, and at the end of each of those pages, try to have different CTAs to get the lead to take a desired action. Create a “Book a consultation” button on one page, a “Click here to join our newsletter” form on another. At the top of every single one of your pages, have your phone number prominently displayed and hyperlinked to your Google phone number, which contains its own tracking data. These steps are the bare minimum you want to take to have a well-oiled funnel!
Step 3: Know what levers you can pull to get your leads to buy!
I’ll illustrate this point with an example. If you see that leads that choose to join your mailing list are 10% more likely to make a purchase than ones that click “book a consultation here”, and this latter group of leads takes up 25% more of your time (well, automating newsletters is hardly a heavy lift), then you may want to add more CTAs asking leads to sign up to your newsletter.
2. Email Marketing
Email marketing is hard because there are just so many steps involved if you want this to be an effective use of your time. You also want to strike a balance between intrusive and helpful email content. All this sounds really hard but if you don’t invest in email marketing, then you are likely to lose out on potential leads converting into customers.
To overcome your email marketing challenges, you probably need to first outsource this activity to an agency partner or hire someone internally who can manage this for you – at least for the setup phase (which is why outsourcing to an agency might be a better option because this is just one of many things an agency could be helping you with). That way the agency, or employee, can vet and select a CRM or email marketing system, build the workflows and automations to enroll leads, embed code onto your website for form capture or design unique landing pages to get leads to leave their emails behind.
Let’s not forget the part about actually writing compelling emails. Marketing emails are different from sales emails in that they contain beautifully designed HTML templates, educational information or exciting pictures about recent projects, events or products. You want to create an email marketing calendar that includes important dates, holidays and ideal times for promotions. You also need to decide on a proper cadence of emails, so you don’t bombard people too frequently and get a high spam ranking.
In short, email marketing is hard. The solution is to invest in a resource to take care of it for you, one that has the proper digital marketing expertise. You’re sure to get some wins out of this investment which will lead to a positive return on email marketing spend!
3. Creating and Promoting Content
Content goes hand in hand with so many other aspects of marketing – you can use content in email marketing, for SEO and in Ads. But, like an effective email marketing strategy, content marketing is hard stuff. It takes time, expertise and a solid process to make this labor-intensive effort pay off.
First off – the basics. Content just means “words on the internet”, as we like to say. But words on the internet are how leads find you, how Google judges you (literally) and what communicates your brand and quality to anonymous visitors. This comes in the form of blogs, ebooks, social media posts, website content and on and on.
On the SEO side, with each new piece of content you post on your blog, and if you have the right keywords and you’re enticing prospects to click on these links, Google is boosting your entire website higher in the Search Results Page. All boats rise with the tide, as we also like to say, which is one reason why it’s so important to create valuable content on schedule. If this sounds complicated, just focus on writing good, quality articles on a regular basis that are useful to your customers and Google will take care of the rest.
If you build valuable content and see it’s performing well on Google Analytics, then you could place some ad money on that content on Google or social media.
Speaking of social media, you want your words on the internet – content – to reach as many leads as possible, so make sure you are pushing your social media optimized content across those channels, as well as into your email marketing queue.
If this sounds like a lot of hard work, it is. But it pays off to be dotting all your i’s and crossing your t’s so that you look professional in the eyes of your most important asset: your current and potential customers.
4. Making Your Website Your Number One Salesperson
You probably aren’t up 24/7 attending to every visitor or inquiry on your website and you certainly don’t have an oracle to understand the intent of each visitor. That’s why you need a website that acts as your #1 sales representative. It’s hard to know the most up to date methods of attracting and converting website traffic and stay on top of the most effective tools that can automate follow-ups. It sounds nice in theory that your website should be your closest partner, but sometimes it might seem like more of an adversary than an ally.
Your website is the first place your customers meet you and the last place they revisit after a project is completed. They judge you immediately by the quality of your website design and are either guided to the subpages they need to check out in order to make a next step or hit a roadblock and are turned off and turn away. If the first impression you have of a website is “meh”, you are less likely to work with that company and far less likely to return to that website as you continue to search for your solutions. We live in a judgmental world – take advantage of quality designers and UX experts.
You’ve probably heard this before – your website needs to be fast. And it needs to be mobile-friendly. This helps with SEO and user experience. The more unnecessary bells and whistles you think you need to add to pump up your website, the slower it may load, and the more likely a lead is to click the back button to return to the other search options.
5. SEO and Ads
Yes, I’m combining SEO and Ads, the mortal enemies of internet marketing, in one challenge cluster. Which should come first, SEO or Paid, is a long-debated topic in the Search Engine Marketing world. But you can learn what content to put ad money behind based on how these articles perform organically, Google and social media platforms ultimately reward those who spend with higher organic rankings and on and on. Let’s break them apart now before things get too heated:
Start by knowing the difference between onsite and offsite SEO. Your onsite SEO includes metadata, which are like the clues your website gives Google to understand who you are and to whom you are relevant. Your offsite SEO is when another website links back to you, for example, which can have a dramatic effect on your website’s ranking which in turn has an effect on how your leads find you. Again, if it seems like SEO is a full-time job, well, it is. But you shouldn’t think it’s some kind of black box, off-limits from your knowledge capacity. You should learn about the core tenets and consider having a specialized parter do the hard, ongoing work for you.
Ads are perhaps a bit more straightforward but also more strategic; you don’t always have to have Ads turns on to achieve your goals. The general strategies behind solid Google Ad campaigns are similar to that of SEO: you want the right keywords, with the right volume to the right people. If you take a holistic approach to SEO and Ads, you could put money behind the keywords that you will never rank for in SEO, when you know your clients are most eager to buy, and build out a long term campaign for keywords that are more reasonable for you to take ownership of.
The key to SEO and Ad spend effectiveness is segmentation: the more you know about your customers the better you will advertise to them. Start with a documented SEO and Ad strategy, test and repeat what’s working and ditch what isn’t.
You still have a lot of challenges. And unlike other businesses that sell products or services only once in a great while, like plumbers, pest control or snow plowing, your business should leave a lasting impression for years to come. So your extra hard work should pay off. That’s why going the extra mile is very important for your showroom, and why confronting your online marketing challenges head-on is crucial to get that referral, Instagram tag or positive online review so you can win more customers. Reach out to schedule a call!