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As another new year begins, so does the competition for your money. The “Sales” are in full swing in retail sector, Loan and Credit Card pleas from the Financiers , and the leisure industry have stepped up their annual “New Year New You” campaigns. So amidst all the chaos and furor, how does your company measure up? Is your voice being heard above the crowds?

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2012 is the year for thinking on your feet. Working smarter, not harder. In today’s market,”Okay” simply does not cut it anymore. We are in the age of ‘right now’, and with the internet at consumer fingertips, the world is only one click away from comparison sites, and – your competitors. In the UK alone, nearly two thirds (64%) of the population research products and services online within a 3 month timescale. (European Commission, May 2010) and 54% agree that “customer ratings/reviews help me decide whether or not to purchase a product/service” (European Technographics Retail, Customer Experience and Travel Online Survey Q3, 2008)

With this in mind, do you consider your brand ‘fit’ for 2012? Or does it need a sleeker, “healthier” approach?

Be Seen.

According to data released by Google, 97% of consumers search for local businesses online, and 73% of all online activity is related to local content. With this in mind, are you locally available to your clientele? If not, this could have huge implications for small business. This could be affecting your ability to generate calls, foot traffic, and overall online brand visibility. Google Places is an invaluable asset your business, and despite being launched 3 years ago it is still overlooked. It is free, and fairly straightforward in its set up, however the second stage to the process and information given can make or break your listing. It is easy to make mistakes, such as 0800 numbers (not local) or ill placed text or content. For GP to really add value and create revenue – speak to the professionals.

Codastar can offer a one set package, ensuring your local page is optimised to ensure your company listing is on the first page of local Google results.

Be Found
Do you find yourself constantly waiting for customers to come through the door? Do you rely on the New Year rush, sales call after sales call, swimming against the competitive January tide? Sales is a key part of a successful business, but all too often online marketing is overlooked and seen as an expense that should be cut from the get go. One without the other and you are doomed to fail. Work them both hand in hand, and you will see success.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and PPC (Pay per Click) are different approaches for the same baseline goal of increasing your ROI. Which works best for you, is a different matter, and one that should be researched and carried out by the experts. But both are important aspects of a successful marketing strategy.

In a nutshell, SEO is the process of improving and the visibility of your site and pages within a search engine via “organic” (unpaid) search results. The higher you rank, the more web traffic and visitors you will receive (if you currently on page 4 of Google for your key search terms, do you think realistically people will click that far back?)

PPC is used to direct traffic to your pages and sites via specific targetted advertising, where advertisers pay the publisher (typically a website owner) when the ad is clicked. Typically, you bid on keyword phrases relevant to your market.

Without website traffic from either source, you are already fighting a losing battle in your attempt at being noticed by your customers, and losing business accordingly. This is not an area for “perhaps” it is an area for “must”. If you don’t optimise your page and attract visitors to your website, then you are leaving them open for your competition to drive them to theirs. Bear in mind, the money you ‘save’ on marketing is costing you ten fold in revenue.

Which leads us nicely to….

Be Creative.

Some of the best marketing campaign’s around at the moment are the most original. Take a look over your competitor sites. Now look at yours. What makes you stand you over them? What makes you different? Your website needs to be eye catching, punchy, informative. Optimized for tablet and mobile access as well as your online marketing.  Again, web design is always something that should be carried out by people that know what they are doing. Even the smallest thing (text size, color, or graphics) can make a really positive difference to the viewer and ultimately a conversion to a sale. A sub par approach will lead in sub par results.

Be Social.

The importance of customer service is no hidden secret, but still many companies are still falling short. With Social Media and Blogging, along with Customer Reviews sites being used as an instant access to voice (or research) opinion on your product, your brand could face irreparable damage online if neglected. Keep on top of what is being said, use tracking tools and monitor Social Media channels and posts you make. Don’t panic if there are negative reviews or comments, Even bad press can be rectified. A rather prolific blogger in the US wrote a rather unsanitary piece about American Airlines complaining about delays, cancellations and the service. AA contacted the blogger, upgraded his seats, gave him a free trip (up to a certain value) and treated him to first class service. The result? An apology and exceptional review of American Airlines, providing excellent publicity.

If you don’t know where to start, check out our article on the Beginner’s Guide to Social Media. We also have a great offer for extending your brand across your Social Media channels, in today’s tough market – consistency is key. Make yourself stand out against the rest.

Be You.

Having a USP is the basics to any business. What are you offering your customer? Unique sells. If it is a flooded market? Be the best at your service. Sell your products at the best price. Add the most value to whatever you do. Having a USP puts you in front of your competitors and front line to increasing your ROI. Keep this at the forefront of your mind when discussing online marketing strategies. The phrase “jack of all trades, master of none” is the opposite of what you want to focus on. Pick your forté, and run with it. You can’t be “number 1” for every search term, and if you tried you’d cost yourself a small fortune. Focus on a location, an area, one key product.

Most importantly, People buy from People. Use this opportunity to interact with your customer base online using your newly branded Social Media channels. Don’t Spam or post robotic updates. In the ‘now’ customers have become fickle and fussy, and won’t stand for low standard generic content or  information. Add value, be consistent and the results will speak for themselves.

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