They say the simple solutions are often the best, and the latest digital marketing research proves it.
Are you missing out on customers? For years, we've been told to base our marketing strategies on target demographics and, on the surface, that makes perfect sense. Indeed, that strategy has worked well for scores of organisations.
But as we know, the online marketing world is changing every day and if businesses don't evolve with it, they will lose out. For example, research shows that organisations relying solely on demographics could miss more than 70% of shoppers.
What we now know is that most of us have become addicted to our mobile phones, tablets, and laptops, and some of us are checking our phones every seven minutes. Google's Mobilegeddon is a good indicator that mobile is driving our online behaviour.
One of the biggest mobile uses is to check our social media accounts so, logically, many businesses have switched their marketing strategies to just social media advertising - in particular, Facebook.
Who's the biggest winner there? Why, Facebook, of course.
In a recent quarterly earnings report, Facebook posted $5.84 billion in sales and a record-breaking $1.56 billion in profits. And what's more, revenue from mobile advertising is expected to be $57 billion by 2018.
So the question is this: if you've been using Facebook to advertise your business, do your profits equate? I would say not, so perhaps it's time to reduce your Facebook advertising spend and find a more results-driven alternative.
Now, that might come as a slap in the face for small business owners who saw social media advertising as the perfect marketing solution, so let's explain further:
We talked earlier about giving customers what they actually want. And that means small business owners and marketers need to move the focus from identity to intent. 'Identity' is your traditional target demographic approach; 'intent' is what the customer is searching for at any given moment in time.
Consider your own mobile device usage. It's where you turn when you want to know something, find something, or buy something. So Facebook advertising would still fit the bill there, right? It would, but only as part of an overall advertising strategy that also uses other mediums.
Say we have a young mom searching locally for a new stroller. She will type 'stroller' and her location into her mobile device to find a supplier. Okay, so possibly target audience advertising would pick her up. But what if it was Grandma searching for that stroller, as a gift for her daughter and grandchild? Intent, not identity.
The other major change in this scenario is that this potential customer wants the stroller today. Digital media marketers who are on the ball will tell us that this is proof that immediacy trumps loyalty. Just because Facebook has 1.44 billion mobile users, there is no guarantee that your Facebook advertising will bring results.
It's a bit of a numbers game - or at least it should be for any business owner wanting to make a profit. And the key numbers are the cost per customer acquisition and return on investment. While ranking and traffic are crucially important, it means nothing if your click conversion rate is poor and your ROI is low.
The way to successfully boost your conversion rate is to focus not only on intent but also on context. Think of it as being 'in the moment, in the location'. Remember, Google loves local. Solid local SEO, that gives potential customers WHAT they want, WHEN they want it, will always win out.
Google determines local ranking based on relevance, distance, and prominence. Relevance is how well your business matches the user's intent; distance is obvious, and prominence refers to how well-known your business is. But remember, getting the user to your site is only half the battle - you then need to convert that click to a sale. And that's where your advertising strategy is so important.
Intent is closely related to Content, something else Google likes a lot! Keyword-heavy strategies are giving way to deep intent keywords, and it's important to make your content relevant, interesting, informative and entertaining. It's not about blatant self-promotion.
With Google's regular (and sometimes unannounced) algorithm updates, small businesses especially need to get very serious about their marketing strategies. DIY solutions will no longer deliver, and tricks and gimmicks to take users to your page will backfire eventually.
And the statistics prove it. A survey by Smart Insights into digital marketing trends for 2016 lists the activity with the greatest commercial impact to be Content Marketing. Paid Search Marketing (Google AdWords et cetera) and Social Media Marketing are much further down the list.
While Facebook advertising may have seemed like a low-cost marketing tool at first, it could actually turn out to be an expensive choice, if you don't get the conversions.
Today's digital marketing campaigns have to be the right blend of creative and analytical, to both appeal to, and secure, all relevant sectors of the market. Just running Facebook adverts is limiting and does not represent the best use of your marketing budget.
However, incorporating an effective social media strategy into your overall marketing plan will work. It will enable you to grow your business/audience - often organically, and engage with customers. It requires time, commitment and planned content - content that is engaging and share-worthy.
It's not a case of ditching your Facebook spend altogether, but reducing and refining it. For example, are you getting clicks from users who won't convert? What would encourage them to convert?
Then, depending on your product and market, you should incorporate Search Engine Optimization, Web Analytics, a solid Content Strategy, and other tried and tested digital marketing methods.
To be successful, small business owners and marketers need to be re-assessing brand, market, content, and strategy on an almost daily basis, just to keep up. It's just a case of working smarter, not harder.