Gone are the days of simply listing in the local business directory and sending out a direct mail to generate business for the year. Today, there are many more options to marketing, and for those who get it right, more opportunities than ever before. Best of all these opportunities are free. We spoke to Luke Jamieson, founder of search engine optimisation company, The Search Guys, about what businesses must do to stay ahead of the curve.
To reach today’s customers, businesses must have a presence in the places where their people spend a lot of their time – and that place is online. Take a look around.
Thanks to the iPad, smart phones and personal computers, pretty much everybody these days is searching for everything online. No matter the time of day, where they are or what else they’re doing, they’re fervently looking up the next specialist, purchase, activity, venue, commentary or news announcement.Such is our reliance on online resources that the answer to almost every question asked these days is ‘just Google it!’From a business perspective this is great news, because there is so much that you can communicate to your customers online for free. And, once you’ve worked out the technical aspects, you can do most of it yourself.
Surprisingly 60 per cent1 of SMEs still don’t have a website and in optics that figure would be a lot higher.
A number of companies in the optical industry that do this well are mivision magazine, the Centre for Eye Research, Eyecare Plus, Optometry Giving Sight and Transitions Optical…
If you haven’t got a website for your business, Mr. Jamieson suggests that to get the ball rolling, firstly, consider your audience and think about how you could use a website to communicate what you do and what you’re about.
“Remember: keep the language of your website simple and targeted to your audience. Have a clear message and call to action on your website which enables you to ask existing customers what they like about your business and use this in an effort to bring them back to you, online and in store.”
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO is the process of getting your website to show up in search engine results and ultimately direct more traffic to your site.
“Being found at the top of the results when someone is searching for an optometrist in your area is crucial. This can be done by keeping your website locally focussed and having your address and phone number prominently displayed. If you service a particular suburb or area, be sure to include this on your website also,” Mr. Jamieson suggests.
“Furthermore, it’s important to make sure each page on your website has a distinct title that describes its purpose. Also ensure there are links to your site from local directories, industry websites, social media and optometry forums.”
Google Places Local Listing
Google Places local listings are the little red pins you see on the map when searching for a business in your area. But did you know you can claim a Google Places local listing for your practice?
“If you have multiple locations, claim your listing for each,” said Mr. Jamieson. “Google Places provides opportunity for customers to review your business which can be just as powerful as word‐of‐mouth. It can also help your page rate higher in search engine results.”
To find out more or set up a listing, visit www.google.com/places and follow the links.
Paid Online Advertising
Search engines such as Google offer paid advertising services such as Google AdWords. This service is only charged to your business once people click on your advertisement and allows you to target searches for specific areas such as ‘Sydney’, ‘Melbourne’ or ‘Queensland’.
“By building your ads on locally targeted search phrases such as ‘Eye specialist Naremburn’ rather than broad words like ‘glasses’ and ‘optometrist’, you ensure that the click throughs to your site are targeted to your business,” Mr. Jamieson.
“This can be managed in-house but if you are not confident or have not used online advertising services before perhaps ask for some assistance from an expert or your peers.”
Producing content that provides your website visitors with useful information is a great way to engage them, keep your business top-of-mind and generate goodwill.
To maximise your online presence Mr. Jamieson recommends that you engage visitors by using different types of content – blogs, online articles, newsletters and social media links on your site are great examples of this.
“Consider re-using content by offering it to other industry email newsletters or industry news sites to help build your reputation online, for instance if you have a blog on your website or find a news item you think your peers or customers would find useful, share it with them – send the blog article to a newsletter and post the news item to your website. Social media is also an easy way to share content,” said Mr. Jamieson.
Finally, remember the golden rule is to be committed to updating content. If you don’t consistently update your content people won’t keep coming back.
Once you have your website up and running and it is loaded with fresh, relevant content, Mr. Jamieson says it’s time to build a loyal online community that will help you to market your business. This can be done free using social media sites.
“It’s in our nature to share, and people love to share online. By sharing content from other businesses, such as news articles, and helping them with their own quests, those businesses will do the same when it’s time for you to promote your business, specials and important announcements.”
Social media sites such as Facebook and Google+ allow people to ‘tag’ themselves in a location – and that location could be your practice. The notification becomes visible on the person’s social media profile, alerts all their friends to the business name and links to the business website.
“Sites such as Twitter are also beneficial. You can ‘tweet’ (a 140 character or less comment) your services and location so when people search for either of these they have access to your tweets, and in turn your business,” said Mr. Jamieson.
Group buying sites such as Scoopon and Living Social, have burst onto the scene in a bargaining craze. Businesses create a ‘loss lead’ offer that they hope will build customer loyalty and turn into ongoing revenue, such as ‘50 per cent off initial consultation, followed by 20 per cent of your first purchase’.
While regular discounting has plenty of risks attached, Mr. Jamieson says that in quiet periods or when trying to build market awareness in your local area, this type of deal can be effective.
Don’t Forget to Brand!
Every piece of communication you produce – whether its print or online – is an opportunity to build your brand, your website awareness and your business. That means you need to ensure your website, Facebook page and other social media profiles are listed on all marketing materials, from your brochures, posters and stationery to your website, email signatures and email newsletters.
It’s also important to take every opportunity to connect online through existing relationships.
“Sponsor a local sporting team or organisation and provide links and a profile for your business on their site. Not only does this show goodwill in the community, it will also help with search engine optimisation,” suggests Mr. Jamieson. “If possible try to make text that links to your website specific such as ‘Adelaide optometrists’ rather than the standard ‘click here’.”
However he says, striking the balance when it comes to content generation and attracting interest from the online community is essential and should be at the heart of any company’s online activity.
“A number of companies in the optical industry that do this well are mivision magazine, the Centre for Eye Research, Eyecare Plus, Optometry Giving Sight and Transitions Optical,” he says.
Kate Mulcahy, Marketing Manager for Transitions Optical, Australia and New Zealand said achieving the balance has been a focus when developing the company’s online strategy. “Our commitment to innovation transfers to the digital space where we aim to achieve the right balance between generating content that helps drive people into practices, versus attracting interest by participating in other relevant online spaces,” she said.
In the modern commercial world, we’re now at the point where digital marketing is essential to the growth of any business – while you could survive without a website, you would certainly miss out on opportunities to reach new customers, increase revenue and the ability to see a return on investment through analytics and measurement.
Additionally, many people equate a company’s credibility and reputation with their website – so needless to say, if there isn’t one how can people find out who you are and what you do? And more importantly how can you guide and build your brand and reputation?”
While the myriad online tools at your disposal can be overwhelming, Mr. Jamieson recommends that newcomers to the digital age take things one step at a time. “I recommend picking one activity and setting aside 30 minutes a week to start getting your plan into action. Pencil your plan into your diary and check them off as you accomplish each one. That way you can keep on track and maintain your motivation.”