For a little over a year most businesses felt the need to let go of employees, spend less on advertising and other expenses and pretty much focus on survival and not thriving. I can say I too focused my efforts on surviving and spent little effort on thriving.
My first love is and always will be building websites and managing online marketing for my clients. In the last year I have seen my client base dwindle to just a few as many of my clients went out of business, sold their business or cut back significantly. Put me in survival mode and thankfully I had another job with benefits, which was also highly affected by the pandemic but I was not let go and in fact luckily offered voluntary leave of absence. I did not take it and just worked through it. I was barely making it through managing what was left of my client base and working a second job. But I did. Now that businesses are opening up, I am feeling the need to thrive and not just survive.
First thing I did was to revamp my website and online presence. My plan is to make a comeback to the days I was managing over 20 clients and was making so much money that I could pay off my bills monthly and not have to borrow from credit lines or reach my credit card limits.
I am taking a cue from one of my clients, who through the pandemic, did have to make a tough decision to lay off employees. He even agonized over having to layoff long term staff but he felt he had to shave off expenses as he saw that his business fell off quite a bit. He has retail locations and it is necessary for his clients to visit his stores. But the one thing he did not do...was stop advertising. In fact he spent a little more and he paid me a little more to focus on his business to keep his client base alive, active and informed.
I have been in advertising for over 30 years and one of the most popular answers to a customer objection about cutting back advertising is " it is even more important to advertise in a downtime because many of your competitors are cutting back, therefore you gain more market share ". I have been saying it for years. Yes, this is completely true.
My client even noticed that in the first few months of 2020, he had cut back on his Google Adwords campaigns and realized that the residual value of fewer new customers a few weeks later. My client also religiously looks at the numbers. Which I highly encourage. If it were not for analytics of previous activity, he may not have had a clearer picture of the correlation between advertising and new customers.
In defense of the temporary cut back, he had just hired me in January 2020 to take over for another webmaster, to rebuild, rebrand, re-launch and put into place a more effective online presence. He was not happy with things and wanted to try another direction. My client, being the numbers person that he is, was very interested in the evaluation of his online presence and marketing. In that first two months of 2020. I was rebuilding him new website and mapping out the future and keeping track of progress but he truly feels that the lull created a downstream affect.
When I first do an evaluation of any client website, one of the first things I review is optimization. How well a website is optimized organically is extremely important. In the initial report, I found that his website did not appear under important key words that define his business nor was the site geo targeted toward the demographic he was aiming for. In other words he was trying to focus on bringing in new customers from certain areas. His website was not even geared to do that other than google maps for location of the three stores, there were no references to the target area whatsoever. In fact, mentioning the location of each store, kept his reach limited.
After the site was finished, I was able to show him how well optimized the site was going to be meaning that I ensured that on-page optimization was done correctly and that his most important keywords were included. I also ensured that there was unique content and that all of his pages were going to be effective in optimization and not just the home page. I also not only had locations of his stores but included the surrounding localities and made sure to note that his stores serve those locations expanding his reach. His site was configured with a site map and I actively submitted to various search engines and directories to get a good headstart with indexing.
Now to put rockets on the finished product.
Advertising as in the form of PPC ( SEM or pay per click) with not only Google but with Facebook. PPC helps propel sites, site pages, or landing pages by "linking" to listings that appear because of a keyword query or phrase. This supplements any organic optimization effort. A "listing" always contains a link and relevent keyword which helps to index the landing page to a particular "subject". The more the page is visited via the link ( or any links) based on the keyword, the more the page is going to be served up in the future on the keyword or phrase. Part of any "on page optimization" will include relevent keywords appearing on the page. It's also highly important not to put too many relevant keywords on any one page and try to stick to unique subject keyword or phrase. Optimization involves "training" search engine bots or spiders to remember, or index a page based on that subject matter. This is SEO in the most simplest of explanations. Paid listings speed up the process of SEO.
My client was all in for a dual platform strategy of Facebook and Google Adwords. When starting these types of campaigns, you have to give it at least a month to see trends. My strategy is to not add a ton of keywords in the beginning but only a few relevant ones and let activity determine updates. This will undoubtedly generate a lot of Google advisory emails with suggestions, but remember they make money on useless keywords and irrelevent clicks. I stick to my strategy and it is effective as well as efficient. And in fact so much so, my client decided to spend more. Once he was comfortable with his monthly spend, we started to notice that clicks were leading to filled out forms. He was quite happy to see this.
Back when he first hired me, he was looking to incorporate an "online approval process" to both streamline his process as well as make it convenient for his clients to get pre approved prior to coming in to the store. When setting up a Google Campaign, it is just as important to measure outcomes and activity. In his case, he can see how many folks complete a visit by filling out a pre approval form. We were also able to see landing page visits, how long a client stayed, how many pages visited etc. Before this, he could only calculate "new customers" when they visited a store and were set up as a new customer. My client was adamant that he send out an email "Thank you for your business" to every new customer and this was how he measured affectiveness. Little extra labor to pull a list but he felt it was extremely important to thank and appreciate all new business. I have to say I highly agree with his approach.
The site I built for him now has buttons for immediate online approvals as well as prominent navigation at the top. It also clearly promotes the part of the business that makes him the most profit ( which was missing from his previous site). And very prominent are directions and one main phone number as well a very targeted marketing message about getting quick convenient service by doing business with him. A unified marketing message to his potential customers on how they benefit is probably one of the most important factors on the home page. And one click accessibility to any function or action. Keep the customer engaged, interested and perform an action, like fill out an online approval.
Through the months, I was gauging effectiveness and could see a definite increase in "new business". I could also see major improvements in visibility on relevent keywords and geo targeted keywords in markets he wanted to pull in business from. My client also was quite flexible in promoting special hours for senior citizens. He also wanted to incorporate a customer loyalty program and tasked me to find a suitable platform. After some research, I presented him and his assistant with some options and there was one program that stood out as it was easy to set up, integrate using word press, provided a free introductory version so that we could try it out and it seemed to be compatible with all of the other features and functions on the site. Once I installed and configured it, it worked right from the start. There were however some limitations mostly by the developers, but they were very responsive with our suggestions and eventually added the features to improve functionality. We started off with the less than "100 list" level and happily have grown to the "up to 5000 list" level in less than a year. Very little problems or conflicts.My client feels this was a complete success.
In the last two months, I have also see my client's "new customer" list triple. Not just as a result of ppc but also because the last 6 months I had been creating marketing videos promoting and focusing on the one service that my client makes the most profit on. Message is consistent. I switch it up every week with different graphics. I also create holiday themed videos and it happened to be his 30th Anniversary in business. His website is configurable to match not only holidays but a targeted message which is updated often. Again, to maintain and engage his customers. All the extra content is shared across his social media platforms including You Tube and we are able to gauge interaction which was high. My client actually paid me moreto do this as project in 6 months increments to produce and distribute these marketing videos. Again actually investing more in "advertising".
Now pointing out a few of the significant changes that I made to my client's online presence but I also made some other not so noticeable but just as important changes. Some of these included changing the hosting company. One that includes an ssl certification for every domain. The hosting company was also less expensive and provided a more user-friendly interface. I also purchased a different but similar domain name to build new site on while the old site existed. The new hosting company environment seemed to run much faster and did not have a limitation to bandwidth, which I have found on the previous hosting company. I found that the previous host was throttling websites on accounts that do not opt to spend extra on additional bandwidth. This affects load times during very busy time. This is a metric factor for Google and other search engines. An SSL domain also presents as a "safe" site to visit. A site that shows a certificate of unsafe prior to opening up usually prevents a visitor from visiting. Lack of visitors affect websites. "Traffic" is a metric for Google Analytics it usually determines a website's "popularity". So many factors to consider and overcome.
My client just informed me that one of his competitors has gone out of business. Guess what, he wants to now try and purchase the domain name and take advantage of the business's very prominent position on the first page of Google and in the target market he wants to aim for. My client is in an optimal position to "take over more market share".
Now that businesses are opening up, I have decided that I will also change my survival mode into thriving mode. I too have revamped my entire website, re-optimized it for the target market I want to reach. Added new graphics, video and even updated my domain name to reflect exactly what service I provide to clients. And creating new content like this article detailing two businesses and how they made it through a pandemic. I changed certain plugins that conflicted and will also be looking into other functional improvements to get more business in the door. I have a plan for my business and it is the same one I followed for my client and this includes adding advertising. It works.
If you are looking back at the previous year and agree that you were in survival mode and now want to change that, here is my advice:
1. Revamp your website / make it current
2. Check out your competitors, did someone go out of business during the few months?
3. Start reaching out to your clients. If you do not have a database, it's time to build one
4. What is the benefit that your client's get when doing business with you? In other words what makes you better? Why should they do business with you?
5. Start actively advertising, even if it's small
6. Put the word out, you are open for business
7. Look to add features and convenience functions that make it easier to do business with you whether it be on your website or part of your service
And yes, gladly accepting businesses like yours, small or large looking to revamp that website, adding new functions and features, need to advertising or re-evualate your online presence. I can assess your competitors and find what makes you better as well as find "why" should customers do business with you. I can provide a free site evaluation as well as map out a strategy that will get you back into thriving mode and out of surviving mode.
Reach me at email@example.com.