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Essential business advice: Why SMEs need to focus on SEO, social media and building trust in order to survive

Recent research found that 83% of all buying decisions are researched online – so if you’re not there and people can’t find you then they’re not going to buy from you.

In other words, not having a digital marketing strategy is suicidal for SMEs.

SEO

SEO should not just be about generating more traffic. It’s a question of what traffic do you want to generate, and how do you structure a website long term. It’s standing back, looking at it and saying “What do we need to do with the business and how does SEO fit into that?”

There are a lot of people out there claiming that they know what they’re doing when they really don’t. People do get burned by SEO companies who promise a #1 spot on Google. It can be done – but it takes time, effort, work and focus. It’s an ongoing project – not a quick fix.

Social media

Who could have predicted what Twitter has done to the world of business two years ago? Social media is incredibly powerful but it should be only part of your marketing strategy, not your only strategy.

It’s easy to set up a Facebook or LinkedIn page, and then you’re playing on a level field against your bigger competitors. But it will only work if you combine it with a wider digital marketing strategy – informed and continually supported by and in support of SEO, Adwords, customer retention, newsletters, PR and all your other marketing activities.

And the fundamentals of social networking are just the same as traditional marketing – you still need a great hook, and be able to offer something of value to a potential customer.

Building trust

Users trust each other more than they trust you. That’s a fact. So the only way to get them to trust you and let you guide them through a purchase is to be open, honest, fair and do all this better than your competitors.

Social media can help to build a relationship with your existing customers or explore new markets. But there’s a lot of potential to screw up – so have a proper brand-building plan, and tie it into your PR and other marketing activities.

Building a digital marketing strategy should focus on these core areas, and explore other new technologies and platforms as they emerge. The new online world isn’t so different from traditional marketing, but to get ahead, SMEs need to embrace it, not hide from it.

Twitter, Facebook, social networking, videos, blogging – how you get your message out there is up to you – but you do need to get it out there. Look at how you can integrate your business into people’s lifestyles – they want it now and they want it on demand and if you’re not thinking like that, you’re in danger of being left behind very quickly.

 

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