We all need help sometimes, especially when we are ill-equipped for the task at hand. When it comes to digital communication, many of us are far from being an expert.
Most small business owners are justifiably preoccupied with serving customers. It's hard for them to learn web development, search engine optimization, and social media without professional help. But lack of digital savvy makes hiring an expert a scary thing. If I don't know enough to do this work myself, how can I choose a vendor?
Digital Marketing Projects that Work
Focusing on measurable outcomes will give your project a chance at success. In software development, we call it requirements gathering. It can feel tedious, even unnecessary, to a busy entrepreneur. But when you talk to vendors with your desired results in mind, you are more likely to succeed.
You are the premier expert on your goals. Don't apologize for your lack of knowledge about digital marketing. Instead, ask for what you need. Many projects fail through miscommunication. Because they feel out of their depth, business owners can rely on a vague hope of "growth" or "results" and achieve nothing.
Here are some projects digital marketers can address:
- Our marketing message is not resonating with customers. We need a clear message.
- We want to boost our website traffic by X% over the next Y months.
- Our website is out of date, and we need one that reflects our real value and sales message.
- We are not following up with sales leads; help us automate that process.
- Our social media presence is not active; help us engage with potential customers through that channel.
- We need a visual identity that resonates with customers and reflects our brand.
When you approach a digital marketing agency with a project like this, they will be delighted! A clear objective will pull suggestions and ideas out of them. A trustworthy professional will not be cagey about what they can achieve. To protect their business, they may not give away their methods, but they will be clear about how they can help you win.
Building Your Website on Your Own
Today, a website is what a business card and brochure were a decade ago. Many buyers won't believe you are a legitimate business without a web presence. Whether you should build one yourself depends on your constraints and your storytelling ability. A powerful website requires sales copy and compelling images. Given the powerful tools available, business users can easily overcome technical web development problems. But even if you are an excellent writer and graphic designer, it is time-consuming to build a starter website on your own.
If you have the time and the skills required to build a website on your own, consider using Wix. It is one of the most easy-to-use do-it-yourself website builders. Its visually appealing templates can make your website look like it was designed by a professional. To create your custom images, check out Canva. It is a free tool that provides many features that were once available only in high-end graphic design tools like Photoshop. And to hone your writing skills, use Grammarly and Hemingway Editor.
If you depend on search results to attract new customers, learn some basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) skills. At a minimum, you should read and act on the recommendations in the SEO Starter Guide created by Google. Tools like Wix handle many of the basics of SEO for you. But for long-term success, you need to go beyond the basics. Learn as much as you can to build and maintain a successful website.
Hiring a Professional to Build Your Website
As a business owner, you may not have the hours available to master a deep understanding of web technologies. Do-it-yourself tools, powerful as they are, are no substitute for well-honed design and programming skills.
Despite being good with numbers, most business owners hire an accountant. Tools like Wix are the TurboTax of finance, and a seasoned web developer is like an accountant. We use TurboTax for a simple tax return, but we hire an accountant for anything complex.
After years of experience building websites, professionals have an eye for what will work. They hone this intuition by reflecting on their many successes and failures. Digital marketing pros notice similarities between your project and their past work. They draw on that wealth of experience to make design and architectural choices.
While build-it-yourself tools make it easy to create the digital lego blocks for a website, they make it no easier to assemble a masterpiece of communication. They will not consult with you about your business strategy and tactics to align your website with your purpose. And when websites become complicated, they cannot make decisions grounded in best practices.
Telling your story, again and again, drives your marketing success. A professional will clarify your language, make a compelling offer, and call your potential customers to action. Storytelling like this requires a mix of language skills, intuition, business knowledge, and empathy. Proactive business owners with time and energy to spare can succeed with tools like Donald Miller's excellent book, Building a StoryBrand. But hiring an expert to guide you through this process may be more efficient.
To Your Success
A thriving small business consumes its owner with the needs of customers and employees. The daily challenges your business faces are urgent. But they are less important than building a platform for future growth. There is no way around this. But the best time to invest in marketing is when you do not need it. When sales are down, so is cash-flow. When things aren't going well, it is hard to speak with an authoritative voice about the value you offer.
Invest in building your brand, clarifying your message, designing your website, and creating a marketing funnel before hard times come. You will have a resilient business that can thrive in an economic downturn.