Advice for Technophobes: Get Over It or Get Help! 

Off the top of your head, how many small businesses can you think of that don’t yet have an online presence? Your doctor? Your hairdresser? The local plumber, spaza shop, garden service, painter, handyman, appliance repairs, construction company? There are thousands of small to mid-sized enterprises in South Africa that don’t have a website, or even a social media page or a Google My Business profile.  

For those entrepreneurs who don’t have the knowledge or capacity, getting online can be formidable and feel overwhelming. Yet, it’s not just fear of technology that may have held them back – there’s also the comfort factor. In community-based businesses, word of mouth and personal referrals can be more than enough to keep customers coming, making it easier to defer the decision to go online.  

However, Covid-19 has completely disrupted this way of working. Consumers have retreated into lockdown and onto the Internet, forcing businesses to scramble for new ways of reaching and retaining their customers. The way we work and engage with each other may have changed forever, and those who’ve lagged behind in using online communication now have no choice but to join the digital surge.  

In addition, it’s not just the technophobes who are between a rock and a hard place. For all of us who have been hard hit by Covid-19, the pressure is on to generate income fast. We all have to dig ourselves out of this hole and start making money again. And most of us need to look at using better ways of digital marketing to reach those new customers.  

If you’re new to digital marketing, you probably want to know, how much must I do online? What will it take – a small website, a Facebook page, LinkedIn? Must I advertise? Do I need a Google My Business account? Do emails still work? Should I be doing videos?  

The answer is that it’s important to leverage the entire online ecosystem to market effectively. Your customers may be active on a variety of platforms, so you’ll need to plan to use all the relevant ones to engage with them. You also need to consider the steps in the customer journey and use the right digital medium at each touchpoint. To get started, you might integrate these basic elements: social media, Google adverts, landing pages, database building, email, newsletters, and a website.  

Social media and advertising should drive people to a landing page (lead generation & conversion page). From there you get leads and names captured onto a database, which you can load onto a bulk mailing system like Mailchimp. The people on your database then get emails and newsletters to nurture their customer journey. Once you have names on your database, you might need to link it to a CRM system to streamline your sales process. In addition, being found online requires advertising and a good search ranking. As the business grows, a website that works to pull in customers and convert to sales will become important. Then social media and advertising can drive people to your website … and the cycle continues. Everything must work together.  

For those inexperienced with digital marketing or those with limited budgets, here are guidelines about the basic and most affordable elements of digital marketing.  

1. Do I need a website?  

Not necessarily. A simple offer can get great exposure via social media and a landing page. Smart tactics on social media can quickly put your offer in front of the right audiences. You can set up a landing page at a minimal cost using a template on a monthly subscription. You can also promote sales via social media business pages or tools like Facebook’s The Marketplace. Find out where your ideal customers are most active online, and figure out how to engage with them there. As long as they can find out enough information about you and your offer through a landing page, your social media activity and, possibly, an email campaign, you can start generating revenue immediately without a website. It can be phased in later when your budget allows 

2. Are newsletters still relevant? 

Yes, emails and newsletters are still the most cost-effective touchpoints for connecting personally with prospects and customers and for giving them a positive experience of your brand. While people’s inboxes may be flooded with unwanted marketing emails, when they know you or have opted in to hear from you, they will pay attention. And if you regularly share high value information, they will want to read your newsletters.  

Remember, there is an art to writing a good email or newsletter to drive conversions. When time is tight, it’s a good idea to work with an experienced copywriter to build an effective chain of email communication to get the outcomes you need. 

3. Do I really need to be on social media? 

Yes, you do. Social media for business is now the mainstream route to building brand awareness and initiating customer engagement. Your customers are on social media platforms, checking out brands and making buying decisions, so you need to be there too. However, strategy is keyWhile access to social media is free, you will need to spend time on it, so get advice from an expert about how to be effective.  

Social media tactics don’t have to be complex – with some training you can do the basics yourself. In time you can scale up your activity and get help to manage it. Those entrepreneurs who are reluctant to use social media need to change their mindset. In the new normal world after 2020, building your brand online will be essential for developing a sustainable business. You can’t afford to ignore the power of social media. 

4. What if I can’t afford to advertise?  

Advertising is not about cost but about investment. If you get a quick return on your investment, the cost will be addressed. Fortunately, digital advertising campaigns can be paid for after you have spent your allocated budget – therefore you should investigate how best to get some business in before you have to pay the ad bill.  

When you need to generate sales fast, you will need an injection of highly targeted Google adverts or boosted posts on social media. A digital advertising expert will be able to advise on the right strategy and run a campaign that gets you best possible ROI. You’ll have to pay their fee (usually monthly in advance) – so be prepared for this expense.  

5. How important is SEO?  

While search engine optimisation (SEO) is vital for organic growth in your website ranking on Google, you can phase it in a bit later, when you have more budget for marketing. However, initial keyword research should be done upfront when you plan your marketing strategy, because you need to know what your customers are searching for online. What questions do they ask or what search words do they use when looking for information? This insight is invaluable – it will help you define your customers’ pain points and what you need to say to grab their attention. You can learn to research keywords yourself. Just search on Google and YouTube. An expert will do it much faster and probably more accurately, but it’s okay to start with the basics on your own.  

6.Everyone is saying I have to have to use videos? 

Correct, video is hugely powerful. Today it can range from a ‘selfie’ video done on your mobile phone to a slick corporate production. Ironically, the simple phone video can sometimes be more effective for building a relationship with your audience than the high budget corporate videoif it’s authentic and shares valuable information. So you need not be restricted by your budget. Find out how you can use your phone to create a facetoface personal video that talks directly to your prospects. Similarly, talks, interviews and webinars done via cloud-based video conferencing can be recorded and edited to create excellent videos. It’s not essential to start with video, but we strongly advise that you embrace it, learn how, get help and do it – soon! 

Getting all these platforms to work together to promote your business quickly and effectively starts with strategy. No matter how small your budget and how simple your marketing activities, you need to have a clear strategy behind each action, plan the outcomes you want, set the targets, work out how the activity will help you get there, and understand how to integrate all the elements into one seamless process. Even on a limited budget, do not neglect getting expert advice on the right plan to achieve your goals. 

If you’re not sure where to start, contact us about our Corona Recovery Consults that we are offering at a discounted rate to help businesses get their marketing on track. A one-hour online discussion with us will give you the direction you need and help you make informed decisions about where to spend your budget.  

Contact us for easy and affordable modules to build your marketing engine