Businesses need to invest in and embrace their online presence or face falling behind the competition, say digital experts.
Having a strategy which involves your website and social media, and using the right platforms for your target audience, can make a real difference.
Julie Plumb, digital strategist and founder of Penarth-based Plumb Digital, said that many small businesses made the mistake of thinking they didn’t need an online presence because their audience was local.
Lockdown proved that even those businesses needed to be online, she said, as consumers were doing everything from shopping to ordering a takeaway digitally.
“The businesses that stepped up to the challenge of lockdown were the ones that worked their social media. They let people know they were open for business and put a bit of advertising spend behind something like Facebook ads. Some of those don’t even have a website – but they had a reasonable social media presence and stepped that up during lockdown. Then they used the likes of Facebook Messenger to communicate with customers.”
Whilst small businesses who did this well reaped the benefits during lockdown, working on your digital strategy is also a long-term investment, said Julie.
“Getting more information from your customers is really important because then you know the type of person who is buying from you,” she said. “You can keep in contact and nurture them. For instance, if you sell them a product which lasts 30 days, such as a pack of vitamins, you could send them a money-off voucher just before they run out. The more you know about your customers the more you can talk to them. You can build up an image of them – you know their pain points, the type of language they use.”
“A business’ website and social media needs to work holistically,” with some social media platforms being better suited to certain sectors.”
And she recommends getting set up on Google My Business as well as on Bing, which Amazon and Alexa use as a search engine.
“A firm trying to reach a B2B audience shouldn’t automatically limit itself to LinkedIn”, said Louis Halton Davies, founder of Swansea-based online advertising agency Web Marketer. “Facebook can be a key player for this audience too – and B2B digital marketing can also be highly creative.”
Louis and his team work closely with Abergavenny-based Tiny Wizard Studio, which creates visual communications for clients’ campaigns.
Together they have created campaigns involving short videos, which Louis says have a huge impact in helping a potential customer make up their mind quickly about whether they want to engage further. Key to this sort of campaign has been then offering added-value content such as a downloadable pdf featuring advice or information, in exchange for a potential client’s contact details.
One business seeing the benefits of social media is Squirrels Nest, a luxury glamping treehouse retreat in Llanbister, mid-Wales.
Laura Lewis, who runs the business with her husband John, said that, because their marketing was image-led, Instagram drove the most traffic to their website.
“The key thing is to be consistent. If I have left it too long before posting stories then traffic to the website goes down.”
In August, Laura and John launched Wanderlist, an online directory featuring high-spec holiday accommodation including treehouses, shepherds’ huts, houses and cottages across the UK.
“We knew there was a gap in the market for this kind of directory. Our aim is that each listing will link directly to the owners’ website.”