Running a small business and generating revenue can seem like an insurmountable challenge when you’re not sure where to invest your time and effort. But simply getting started can be the hardest part.
Below I’ve shared 68 ideas that will help you increase your online presence, improve conversions, maximize operational efficiency and take your company’s growth to the next level.
Paid media & PPC
PPC and paid media can be used to create effective customer acquisition funnels and help to accelerate growth.
- Use specialized landing pages for your advertising campaigns – Register for an account with Unbounce or LeadPages and improve your campaign results by utilizing a focused message. Immediately increase your conversion rates with “battle tested” page layouts.
- Connect your Google Adwords and Google Analytics – Google’s marketing platforms can share data, making it easier to understand how your paid and organic search campaigns influence each other. Take 5 minutes and connect these platforms to maximize the value of your existing data.
- Tag links with ad campaign info using link builder tool – UTM parameters are the basis of tracking campaign performance across channels. If you run a paid ad campaign, you should add these parameters to your links to track what visitors did once on your website.
- Bid on your brand name in search engines – While it may seem contrary to purchase your “brand name” in Google, it can help improve your conversions when these ads use landing pages to ensure visitors are quickly getting to your desired message, whether it is a promo or upsell.
- Retarget users who visit your website – Simply following up with a relevant offer can lead to incremental conversions. Space your retargeting ads out over a period of time that is around the same time as your buying cycle — whether a few hours or a few months.
- Get customized with your paid search landing pages – Create a landing page for every ad group in Google Adwords. If your campaigns are set up properly, you should have enough keyword segmentation that you already know what each page would be about. If not, you may need to rethink your paid search strategy
- Gather competitive intelligence – Review your competitors’ websites as a prospective client; is it more attractive than yours? Why or why not? How do they talk about their products? They may not always be the right strategies (competitors test too), but the insights gathered from this activity can help you stay ahead of the game.
- Stay on top of industry news – Subscribe to industry newsletters and blogs via email and RSS and stay in the loop within your niche. Use social media to share this info and create a following.
- Track phone calls from your ad campaigns – Use a separate phone number for web advertising for tracking purposes to improve your ROI. Many customers prefer to call, especially for service based businesses, and only tracking form submissions can lead to incorrectly tracked campaigns.
- Sponsor a industry website or local blog – Know of a local or industry blog that is self-funded or a side project? A few hundred dollars from your sponsorship will go a long way when invested into someone’s personal project and it will help build your network.
- Run display campaigns using targeting “layers” – Utilize the Google Content Network to target larger websites and layer another targeting option like keyword, topic or audience. Make sure your offer is relevant to the audience and website you are targeting and find
Social media & community building
Building a community around your product is one way to ensure success with critical feedback early in the helping to product development roadmap
- Ask your best and worst customers for feedback – Have a new product idea? Validate it with your best customers by asking if it would meet their needs. If not, consider your approach. Either way, your customers will appreciate that you are asking for their opinion and can help you guide your product development.
- Create your MVP first – Spend as little as possible on something until you can prove it works and don’t overspend on unproven concepts. Focus on lean startup principles and create a “minimum viable product” to confirm demand before spending additional time and resources.
- Openly ask for suggestions from customers – Whether in your app, via email or in-person, always encourage your customers to share their insights with you – some of your best ideas and product feature validations can come from both positive and negative feedback.
- Create a customer community – Create an environment where customers are encouraged to ask questions, share their product experiences and offer expertise. Facebook Groups, Slack, hosted message board or even an email list are all low-cost options that take minimal effort to start.
- Give perks for location-based check-ins – Use location-based services (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat) to offer deals for those who check-in at your physical location. Reward engagement and
- Stay on top of social engagement with a dashboard – Use a social media dashboard like HootSuite or Twitter’s TweetDeck for your social media management to monitor keywords related to your brand. Engage with influencers and other brands who regularly discuss similar topics.
- Use social media to post links to useful info within your industry – Only promoting your own content on social is like going to party and only talking about yourself — it puts people off. Instead, share other people’s content regularly and promote their brands.
- Brand your shared links – Utilize a branded URL shortener like Rebrandly to make your shared URLs “on-brand”.
- Create a private, “customers only” area with access to premium content – In some ways, you may already provide customer only support resources already. Improve your content organizational structure, rebrand it as a customer benefit and then promote it as part of your premium product offering.
- Use hashtags and online check-ins at major industry events – Leverage social media to “check-in” at industry events and to check your business in at special networking events your attend
- Identify industry hashtags and participate in the conversation on Twitter – Participating in conversations on social channels is one of the easiest ways to network online. Consolidate your conversations to industry hashtags and if one doesn’t exist, create it!
- Define your purpose social media engagement – Consider your purpose for using social networks: is it to connect with existing customers, create a platform to promote content or to stay on top of the competition? Create a set of goals for your time spent here to track to maximize your success.
- Concentrate on core social networks – You don’t actually have to be everywhere. regardless of what you may hear. Are your customers on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter? Pick one and go all-in with a comprehensive strategy and measure the results.
- Stay on top of online mentions – Monitor mentions of your company name with Google Alerts to find out immediately when you brand in written about anywhere online.
- Do the same to monitor competitors – Create additional Google Alerts to get notified on the mentions of your competitors and very specific industry keywords.
- Start a podcast – Start recording podcasts of your conversations with others in your industry. Publish that content on your website and syndicate to major platforms like iTunes and SoundCloud.
- Blog once a week – Take some time every week and publish a blog post about topic that is relevant to your customers. Incorporating current events is a great way to keep readers engaged with your content and build brand equity. Push out these updates on all of your social channels to keep your audience engaged.
- Build an app – There a number of do-it-yourself mobile app builders like AppMakr. Take a weekend and build a low-cost iPhone or Android app and reach new customers on the app stores.
- Respond directly to public feedback – You may receive both praise and criticism on social networks. When a customer cares enough to say something online, they can be converted into a brand advocate if handled correctly. No matter what, work with that person to make it right and maintain your brand reputation, even if you think your business was “in the right.
Content & SEO
- Use Google Search Console to get critical SEO data – You can use data to improve your website’s SERP – SERPs, or search engine ranking position, is where your website page ranking positions –
- Claim and complete local Yellow Pages/directory sites – This may seem “old school” but these resources actually provide larger sites like Google the important details about your business location. In fact, SEO software provider Moz has a product to help businesses with their directory listing efforts.
- Guest blog on industry websites or publications – Building partnerships is important to any business. It’s even more important when you have a close-knit community. Share your expertise by providing highly relevant and specific content to other blogs and websites in your industry for free.
- Submit an XML sitemap – Google, Yahoo, and Bing all allow webmasters to provide information to it through special tools. Use these platforms to your advantage to gain a competitive edge.
- Create a blog to build inbound traffic – Writing content that is helpful to your potential customers is one of the easiest ways to start building relevant traffic to your website. Get in the habit of blogging on a regular basis. If you’re having trouble finding topics to blog about use Quora to find real questions being asked about your industry.
- Hide sections of your website from Google – Use a robots.txt file to block Google crawler access to directories on your site and avoid having information you don’t want to be accessible by search engines.
- Internal, keyword relevant links – Cross link on your own website using anchor text to help users find other relevant content and improve your search visibility for your linked terms.
- Use SEO-friendly URLs – When you publish a new page or blog post, make sure you select a CMS that can include a keyword in the URL, which is shown to improve click-through rate in organic search.
- Create an ebook – Publish a guide based around something in your industry. Distribute for free and find new customer with your expertise on a specific topic.
- Stick to SEO basics – Despite what some may tell you, SEO “black hat” tactics will do long-term damage to your brand. Avoid them at all costs – short cuts will harm you in the long run.
- Produce all original content for your website – Simply copying website content (even in limited amounts) will signal to Google that your website is not an authority, making it more difficult to rank for commercial intent keywords
- Write for your audience – Instead of creating content for a search engines (with specific keywords), focus on creating content based on your customers pain points. Those articles that strike an emotional cord will often be linked to, which can help improve the overall search visibility of the website
Email & CRM marketing
Email marketing is one of the most effective forms of online marketing and is at the core of an effective communication strategy.
- Personalize your email content to user using custom fields – Almost all email service providers and marketing automation platforms can pass additional information from custom fields into emails. Customize your emails to be as relevant as possible by using inserting this data dynamically to improve your
- Get explicit consent for your email list – No one likes being added to an email list they didn’t sign up for. Almost all email providers offer double opt-in options to maintain a high-quality database. Make it easy to unsubscribe from your email program with clear options on every communication. This ensures your list will be interested in your content and more likely to engage which helps your overall deliverability rate.
- Start building your SMS list – Ask customers to provide their mobile number for exclusive or “early” notifications as part of a separate opt-in list. Text messages are personal so only use this list for really important notifications such as flash sales or breaking news.
- Segment your email list by product/niche/audience – Sending more targeted content to a segmented list will result in higher open and click-through rates. Both help you reach your customer’s inbox more consistently
- Maintain a CRM and then integrate it with your business – You should keep track of your customers info in a standardized format and track key events (emails, support requests, contract dates) and communication. Once this information is organized in one place, start connecting tools like Zapier to automate your data between multiple disparate systems like lead forms, retargeting
- Send mass email only when it’s critically important – Don’t bulk communicate with your customers. Instead focus on building a marketing automation strategy that creates a customized experience for every person in your CRM.
- Be transparent in customer communications – good or bad – no matter what the case, don’t lose your customer’s trust by not being upfront. In fact, customers may trust you more
- Use SMS for time sensitive promotions, but sparingly – to publish special time sensitive deals or notifications; don’t overuse
- Do regular market research – Instead of focusing only on customer surveys for major events regularly ask your prospects and customer “what would you like to see?” and you may be surprised at some of the answers.
- Selectively offer coupons and special offers – discounting isn’t for everyone but can be used to make a sale, especially for ecommerce-based businesses
- Run contests to generate brand awareness – know a few influencers? Work with them to promote a contest to build your brand’s name recognition
- Create engaging, short form video content – It’s simple to use your iPhone to interview, skit, support, or create a simple product demo. Don’t worry about perfection — just capture the video and edit it later. Then publish it online and repeat this regularly.
- Find more customers through referrals – Offer your existing customers a discount for new customer referrals — it’s likely that your customer are already networking with similar professionals and would be willing to recommend your product (as long as their experience has been good).
- Use project management software to stay on track – Stay efficient and keep track of campaign timelines, to-do lists and internal requirements using free software like Asana or Trello
- Host a webinar with an industry expert – Host live webinars on your business topic with other experts in your field. Just have a conversation on a hot topic, promote the event and
- Give your best advice for free – Whenever you get a question from a customers use your blog, Yahoo Answers, Quora, and other Q&A sites to share your expertise and find others
- Turn your learnings into free resources – just did payroll for the first time or had a breakthrough with your marketing strategy? Help others by creating free documentation or answers to frequently asked questions and share it out to your network. They will thank you for it!
- Survey your customers at the point of purchase – Ask your customers how they found you and why they are interested in your product over a competitor. You may get more detailed answers now vs. following up later with a survey.
Website & UX
- Use “better” stock photos – There are thousands of photos released under “Creative Commons” licensing which allows commercial use. Sites like Unsplash have amazing images that can be used on your website for free.
- Use a CTA, everywhere – No matter what you want your customers to do — call, contact or buy – make it clear what you want them to do every time they visit your website by including a clear call to action on all pages
- Create a mobile version of your website – simply put, more than half of web traffic is mobile. If you’re not already mobile you may be losing conversions
- Use analytics to track your website KPI – Create conversion goals and conversion funnels in Google Analytics to track your customer’s revenue generating actions like web form submission, purchases or other events. If you don’t measure your website’s performance you won’t be able to gauge your level of success.
- Invest in a reliable web host – think saving a few hundred bucks a year will be worth it in the long run? Think again. The first time your website goes offline with a low-cost provider you’ll regret it. Invest in a reliable web host that is known for excellent customer support.
- Keep your lead forms simple – No one likes to give all of their information over a web form and having more fields than absolutely necessary may actually hurt your conversion rate. Start with key form fields like name, email, and phone — and then get more information when you connect with a prospect.
- Create complex forms to replace back-office tasks – The opposite applies for more complex data collection. Instead of handling time-consuming data collection tasks via email use forms to collect data in a standardized format to save time so you can focus on the big picture.
- Always send an email confirmation – Did a user just download a content marketing piece from you? Use an automated email to send a confirmation with a link to download their file and offer more options or next steps
That wasn’t so hard, now was it? Now pick a few of the ideas you just read and start improving your business!