How To Grow A Small Business In A Crowded Market Segment

Many small businesses are faced with the same challenge – how to differentiate their service or product offering and increase their customer base. Most small businesses are created by the vision of the founder and lots of hard work. As the business achieves early growth, the founder may bring in family members or others to help run the business. Through hard work, the business achieves success and builds a stable customer base. Now the founder has become a manager, with most of his or her attention focused on running the business. However, after a while the business plateaus and growth becomes harder to achieve and sustain.

The founder starts to examine the business and manufacturing process, looking to gain efficiencies and trim expenses. The reality is that cost cutting is not a substitute for acquiring new customers. That’s when the founder’s attention should turn to marketing.  The business probably has a website that has not been updated in several years, and because of this, the organic search position has likely slipped to increasingly lower positions. This can be attributed to several causes – improper SEO efforts, dated content, more competitors in the market segment, and the decline of organic listing space.

The quest for new customers – where to start?

Forbes magazine recently published an article about business-to-business considered purchases. It reported that internet search was the first step in deciding vendor selection. In fact, most companies progress more than 70% of the way through the purchasing process before ever contacting a company sales representative. This bit of information highlights the problem small businesses face – it’s becoming harder to stand out from the competition and differentiate the service/product offering. Organic search listings are shrinking while paid search listings are increasing. In addition, Google business review ratings are becoming more important because they are functioning as a social review of how the company treats its customers.

Paid search is the new normal

Starting a successful paid search program requires three things:  sustainable key word auction funds, an understanding of the Google ads dashboard and bidding strategies, and interpretation of the analytics to guide business decisions.

Start with understanding the search queue keywords, based on projections of the number of search inquiries from the geo-targeted areas from which new business will come.  Allocate enough marketing budget to allow for competitive bidding based on the bidding strategy. Define the KPIs (key performance index) to evaluate the effectiveness of the search program. KPIs may consist of conversion values – impressions, clicks, or phone calls – based on the marketing objective. Track phone calls as they relate to new orders and/or customers. Also, define the value of the conversion. What is the life time value of the customer that is acquired through a phone call conversion? Finally, monitor and adjust the search program to achieve consistent top-of-page rankings, review competitive rankings, and cost per conversion.

This is the evolution of the digital marketing environment. It’s important to understand search and social media channels have become media networks where pay-to-play has become the new normal.

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