The digital market – plenty of opportunities for SMEs
In both B2C and B2B sales, buying decisions and information search take increasingly place online. Through the internet people compare, read recommendations and search for support for their own decisions and choices.
Text: Kai Schleutker & Maria Välivirta Havia
It is thus possible for entrepreneurs to participate in each stage of the buying process by spending a very reasonable amount of money and resources. Digital campaigns enable additional sales and customer acquisition, but first and foremost they increase the retrievability and visibility of a company and strengthen the brand image.
The online environment is open 24/7. Thus, in the digital environment, marketing actions can be timed according to the target group on the exact dates and times and different stages of the buying process (Picture 1). The other benefits of digital marketing include focusing on the right target groups, cost-efficiency, online results and extensive impact. The digital environment enables the recognition of different users’ needs and buying processes.
It is possible to target campaigns very specifically at potential age groups, genders, locations and different times of the day. In addition, daily budgets can be set for the campaigns and the results can be measured in real time.
The first steps of digital marketing start from identifying the habits of the own target groups and clientele. What do my customers do online and where do they search information? What kind of information do they search? In which social media channels do they move, when, and how often?
Identifying these habits can be started, for example, by interviewing your own regular customers and thus identifying the internet channels they use. You can also get good tips by following where the competitors in your field influence and what kind of content they offer.
Make sure people find you
Services and products are increasingly searched with search engines. This is the case especially when using the product or service is irregular, the need is sudden or the person searching is moving in a geographical location they are unfamiliar with. If you have this kind of customers, ranking as high as possible in the search results is vital.
The companies whose website Google estimates as the best in quality, in relation with the used search words, are ranked the highest in the search results.
Which search words do you assume people use to search your products or services? You can test the retrievability of your company by executing searches with these search words. At the same time, you gain valuable information on your competitors and their rankings in the search engine.
Google and other operators also offer many different website testers, with the help of which you can measure the technical performance of your own website. With the data provided by the testers, you can conduct search engine optimization, which means for example appropriate headings, metatexts and high-quality contents. Taking these issues into account improves the ranking of your website in the search results.
You can also create traffic for your website with paid advertisements. This can be particularly useful for new entrepreneurs or products, who do not yet have a large clientele.
Visibility can be quickly and inexpensively obtained with banner or display advertising, or by advertising on social media, such as on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. With paid keyword advertising (Google Ads), you can lift your ad higher in the search engine, when the search word in question is used.
When creating ads, it is essential to think about the keywords which the desired visitors are likely to use. Thought-provoking and activating slogans, which make the visitor click or grab the phone, are an important part of a good ad.
In Google Ads advertising and banner advertising, payment depends on the other advertisers and they are either based on clicks or views. In general, the benefit of advertising campaigns carried out on social media is the ability to direct them at a desired target group. The advertisements are shown to the exact target groups and profiles, which are likely to show interest in the products and services being advertised.
It is good to set realistic goals for the campaigns, and the success of a campaign can be measured, for example, by examining the numbers of visitors on the website, the increase in the numbers of visits, contacts, material downloads and increase in the sales of an online store.
The analytics of Ads and social media platforms help with setting goals and monitoring results. The prices of digital advertising campaigns are quite reasonable, regardless of the platform, and you get off to a good start even with a small budget.
Make your company interesting
The digital environment offers almost an infinite amount of information for both B2C and B2B clients and searching for information in advance is easier than ever before. Because of this, the customer’s buying process starts much earlier than the actual contact to companies.
It is useful to remember that at different stages of the buying process, customers’ information search needs vary, and the customer need s different contents. As the buying process progresses, the customer’s understanding increases, their need for information becomes more specified and they compare information from different sources. These stages can be depicted with a funnel (see picture 1), which shows the development of a customer relationship in a direction desired by the company.
Picture 1: Creation of a customer relationship and strengthening the conversion supported by digital means. Nick Nijhuis, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
At the different stages of the funnel, the contents suitable for the needs of the exact moment are offered to the customer. This strengthens the images which support in making the buying decision. For example, at the awareness stage, it is important that the visitor finds content which answers to the questions and needs of the time at hand.
With good content, you can distinguish yourself from the other operators in the field. It is also essential to get the visitors to remember the website and return to it. In addition to interesting text, functional and useful content may include photos, videos, downloadable guides, product descriptions and customer recommendations.
For example, a catering business can profile itself as a wedding caterer with photos, videos and customer stories which highlight the topic. In terms of marketing, the efficient distribution of the contents as extensively as possible, in addition to the website, is essential in social media channels, for example.
By providing high-quality content, you can improve the expert image and brand. Even small operators can create this kind of content with the latest smartphones and share them in their own channels.
Increasing numbers of visitors on the company website and social media channels are likely to yield contacts and trade.
This article was originally published in Finnish in the Entrepreneurship theme issue of Talk magazine.