In 2019 we no longer GO online … we LIVE online. In our personal lives and of course, in our professional lives too.
If you are not effectively showcasing your business on websites and social media … you are highly likely to be out of business in a just few short years.
To help you make sense of the confusing digital world and give your business some clear direction, Brilliant Digital teamed up with Southwest Bankstown Chamber of Commerce to deliver a Digital Marketing Success workshop for small business owners and leaders.
A sold-out audience gathered at the beautiful Grand Ballroom at Bankstown Sports Club in October to listen to Brilliant Digital Founder and Digital Strategist Deb Croucher talk about how to use digital marketing to grow your business and achieve success.
Deb generously shared her knowledge and expertise, honed over 20 years in the industry.
Deb introduces us to the reality of life in 2019: “Sometimes we have the whole family all over the house with different screens. We’ve got a phone attached to our faces and we’re kind of stuck to it.
The reality, whichever way you look at it, is that we don’t just go online, we live online in 2019. A lot of businesses think, however, that we do business through networking, we do business by pressing the flesh … we don’t need to take ourselves online. And sure, you still need to meet people…
but the minute you finish that conversation, your new contact is going to go and look you up online. And in 2019, you are who Google says you are.”
Despite the importance of personal connection, the fact is that people looking for you or your service are looking online.
The digital revolution is the biggest change in business since the industrial revolution, and you can’t get ahead without it – which leaves you with one option – get on for the ride.
Just having a website isn’t enough. Are you proud of your online presence? Does it truly show who you are, what you do and why you’re in business?
“I’m hoping that some of you may say that if you meet a prospect at a networking event and then that prospect looks you up, you think, ‘Yes! They’ve looked me up and my digital presence is absolutely wonderful … I’m going to be closer to that person doing business with me.'”
“But,” Deb challenges, “how many people could actually say that? It’s only a few, and that’s not good. It means that you had an opportunity to network, to meet a new prospect. But you know they’re now going to look you up online … And guess what? You’re not happy with what they will see – and that’s not a nice place to be.”
“I believe this is a tsunami,” says Deb. “I think this is the biggest change in business since the industrial revolution. Both the digitisation of business operation and the digitisation of marketing.
And I honestly think you’ve got two choices. You either surf the wave and do something about it or you go out of business.”
Deb argues that if you don’t join the digital revolution, you’ll be out of business in five to ten years.
The reality is that the vast majority of Australian businesses market themselves badly online. And there are a few reasons for this.
“First of all, I think there’s a little bit of confusion among business owners – they are very confused about what platforms to use … where to go … what to do. There’s a lot of noise out there,” says Deb.
“There is also confusion about skill sets. Businesses don’t know who to employ, what skills are important and what skills are not important.
And they’re also scared of wasting money. A lot of people have wasted cash themselves and are not getting a return on their investment.”
So what is the solution to navigating through this confusing digital landscape?
Before we dive in, let’s first take a look at how Deb earned her digital marketing stripes.
At 23 Deb was feeding lambs; she was a good veterinary student with a bad 80s perm.
In the 90s, she ran a successful veterinary practice with her amazing business partner, Steve.
During that time, Deb would write stories and articles for the Yellow Pages. She used to write for magazines and create leaflets for the practice.
But then along came Google…
“I knew this was the future. I said to Steve, ‘I’m going to build a website for the veterinary practice.’ He said , ‘You’re wasting your time – no one’s ever going to buy anything online. But go ahead, build a website if you want.’
So, I built a website. We got traction. And Steve and I still laugh about that conversation.”
Deb built her first website nearly 20 years ago and since then has developed a successful formula.
She has gone on to build many, many websites and has also built a highly capable team. She has enjoyed many successes across a number of industries and today is happy to be working with some really lovely companies.
She also now gets to work with her beautiful daughter, an outcome which is “absolutely wonderful.”
“If you take this digital marketing success formula on board, I honestly believe that you can accelerate away from the crowd.”
When most people think about going online, they’re not thinking about writing.
They think of calling in a designer, because that’s what everyone does. But designers are not the place to start.
The other thing that people do is call a social media person. Again, social media is not the place to start.
“The place to start is kind of boring, it’s actually writing,” explains Deb.
“The reason for that is we’re all busy. We need to go to a website and immediately know what you do for whom and why.
If I cannot, within a less than a minute, know what you do for whom and why, I’m hitting the ‘Back’ button or the ‘Next’ button and the next website is really quick to find.”
Let’s get down to the basics of your ‘Message’ and look at some of Brilliant Digital’s clients as examples.
Here’s an example of a manufacturer we work with…
Immediately from the logo you know that they sell manufacturing solutions, ‘Welcome to Romar, we deliver a complete and scalable solution to manufacturing problems.’
And then very quickly we go into the why – ‘I get up in the morning and come to work to solve problems. The reward is seeing things happen’ – this is an engineer with heart and it strikes the all-important emotional connection. This is especially important for professional services.
Take Big Bear…
‘The leading Commercial Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Team.
When the temperature is rising, you can rely on Big Bear to find and fix the problem first time, every time.’
Very quickly and clearly, we know what this company does.
Or Optical Solutions Australia…
‘Australia’s leading Network Solutions and Distribution Company.
The largest independently owned network distribution company. Large enough to deliver. Small enough to shift gears and stay ahead.’
It’s immediately clear what this company does.
This financial services company in Melbourne opens with ‘Retire Life Ready’.
Right away you’ve got an idea that they work with retirees.
‘At First Financial our passion is to help Australians retire when and how they choose, with confidence and certainty’- this fosters an instant connection with the business.
‘Nourishing grass fed beef direct from the farm’
Straight away we know what that is.
We’ve generated massive results for Conscious Farmer, just by saying – ‘We’re passionate about healthy eating and strive to provide your family and our family with the most nutritious, chemical-free beef possible.’
This wonderful business cannot keep up with the demand because of the clarity of the message on the website.
‘ATB Chartered Accountants and Business Mentors take control of your business.’
We use video to back up the message for this accountancy firm.
‘Our passion is to help you get your business on track so you can embrace the personal freedom and financial rewards enjoyed by successful business owners.’
That’s quick, short and nothing about numbers. It’s not worrying. It’s interesting, and this is the key: the passion and the why.
Deb summarises the first step of the digital marketing success formula like this: “Can I go onto your website or social media knowing nothing about you or your business and in less than one minute be clear about what you do for whom and why? If you can’t write that yourself, employ a writer to do it.”
Once people have written their message, they’re keen to move ahead with the designer or the social media guru … but hold up … you have not done enough work.
If you employ a designer or social media person at this point, you’re going to make mistakes and that means you’re going to waste money.
“Get that writer back,” advises Deb. “It might not be exciting, but this is the key to success.”
Steve Jobs said, “The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller.” That’s a pretty powerful statement. But this man changed our world forever. (Remember all those gadgets?)
If we think about all the big entrepreneurs who reach audiences like Steve Jobs, they all stand up in front of their companies and they tell stories.
“The best way to sell is to tell stories as part of the sales technique. Every business owner has had to use storytelling to grow their business,” Deb continues.
“The change today is that you’re not going to get an opportunity to sit in front of that person or have that sales conversation if you don’t pass this digital hurdle of a good online presence.
Telling stories online is the best way to layer that message.”
Back to our friends at Romar Manufacturing…
We’ve written stories on Nanopatch, Frank Green, Q-Flo…
These stories are delivering massive orders from the UK, orders from the States, orders from Australians.
It’s working because people can identify with the stories.
It’s been a tricky time for financial services with the Royal Commission. So, a really big part of marketing financial services is being able to build trust.
For First Financial, we got their clients to talk about how they trust their financial planner through video storytelling.
They spoke about how they could never see themselves trusting anyone to handle all their money, ever…
…until they met First Financial.
Now that’s a powerful message. First Financial is now seeing strong leads coming in and the business is growing.
Optical Solutions Australia
Manufacturers and distribution companies tend to do the driest case studies. They use too much engineering speak, and it doesn’t work.
What these companies need to do, as we’ve done for OSA, is really engage with their prospects in their case studies.
We have delivered business to these companies just by telling really compelling stories about their work.
We have told a story for a wonderful lawyer, Sharon Moss, in Dee Why who we’ve worked with for years. We talk about the fact that she prefers her clients not to go to court. She prefers amicable resolutions.
That story delivers outcomes because prospects already know what kind of lawyer she is; she gets the right clients contacting her.
And we do a lot of work in Marine Sales at Brilliant Digital. We tell stories about boats rather than just talking about the features – it’s a great way to sell and a great way to connect. And it works for any luxury goods.
Another cool thing you can do with storytelling is recruiting more effectively – recruitment is an area businesses from all industries often struggle with. You can actually tell stories about your business to get good employees.
For example, with OSA we simply recorded a video of all the people in the company talking about how great it is to work there.
It’s an effective way to tell a story and to get the right talent coming into the company.
“My take-home message with stories is twofold,” says Deb. “Firstly ‘People do business with people’- that’s never, ever going to change. We’ve got this digital space in front of us, but the ‘people’ component of it is really important.
Secondly, use structured and relevant storytelling to show, not tell.”
You’ve got your message down and it says what you do for whom and why.
You got compelling and engaging stories to back that up.
And guess what? You have enough information to go and see a designer.
And yes, you can start talking to someone about a social media strategy.
Now you need to decide where you’re going to put it all – what digital platforms are you going to use?
Before you set off on this next step, Deb advises caution with your content. “Content is the currency online and it’s expensive to produce. Even if you do it yourself, it’s going to take you a few hours to write a blog, upload it, put the pictures in … and every single time you create content, it’s going to cost you money in some way or another.
LinkedIn, Facebook and all these social platforms are also trying to get your content from you. So, keep ownership of your content.”
Follow a content framework
The way to get a consistent return on investment with your content is to follow a strategic framework.
Your brand website sits right in the middle. You own that; that’s yours. No one can advertise on your website. No one can take it down.
The first stage of any digital marketing success story is to create a brand website that you know will convert to leads and sales, or at least increase interest on what you do.
“Concentrate on your website… put your bricks down in the digital space.”
Then we’ve got to consider where and how you attract new markets: Google ads, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn…
“Think of all of those things like a sandwich board in the street. They’re footprints in the sand and will wash away.
Fashions that come and go. You don’t own these.
Your brand website is something that you will own for the life of your business,” Deb says.
We also have retargeting – targeting the market around you. Google estimates that professional services need around seven hours of content and 11 touches across the four platforms. It’s unlikely that people will buy from you on their first visit.
Retargeting can be simply your developer putting up a cookie in the back of your website and using Facebook or Google Retargeting or through database marketing with email addresses.
It is really crucial to get a consistent brand message in front of your audience.
This strategic inbound structure has worked for us for years at Brilliant Digital. All our websites follow this framework and we always let the content dictate the design.
Deb follows on, “You’ve written your main message and your stories, you can go to a designer and say ‘this is what I want’, rather than a designer saying you need to squeeze your content into this template because this is what I have available or feel like designing. Doing your content first allows you to dictate the terms.
Additionally, your designer and web developer must be across Google. Google is not going away – people still trust Google for serious business and that’s not going to change anytime soon.
So, making sure that your website designer and coder are across Google and know how to get your website ranked on Google is incredibly important. And remember to choose a company with a history of results, not just pretty websites.”
Crucial to launch is understanding SEO.
SEO delivers free Google listings.
We believe SEO is still the gold standard in getting results with digital marketing.
And effective SEO strategy is a combination of two things – the technical code at the back of your website and human behaviour – what do people do when they get on your website?
Deb says, “When I first started my business 10 years ago, you could manipulate Google with techy stuff at the back of the website and put businesses at the top of the Google ranking. Those days are over.
Yes, you still need a little bit of technical stuff at the back of the website.
But the most important thing that makes your website rank is human behaviour. Google’s watching what’s going on when people land on your website. If they land on your website, don’t like what they see and navigate away, your Google ranking will go down…
If people love your website when they land, look at five pages and explore, your website’s ranking is going up.”
The most important part of SEO is making sure that your target market likes your website. And that all comes back to content.
Content grows trust and builds relationships. It provides fodder for social media and will rank your website organically.
Google Search Ads are a way for you to pay to be on top of Google. But it’s not sustainable as your one and only long-term strategy.
If you rely on paying to be on the top of Google to grow a long-term business, you will go out of business.
Google AdWords does have its uses. It’s great to get your business off the ground, and it’s great for a new product. And it can work for certain sections of the market. If you want to be dominant on a few keywords, it’s fantastic.
But if you are going to use Google AdWords, you must make the most of it and retarget.
“Facebook organic growth is dead as a tool to grow your business,” insists Deb. “The days of paying someone in your office to write Facebook posts to make your business grow are gone. Facebook is not that place anymore.
You need to write some information on your page to keep it relevant, but realistically, you’re not going to grow your business through Facebook organic traffic.”
When Facebook advertising came out, we thought we could target a certain demographic – 30-year-old men, boat owners etc and put a product in front of them. But it doesn’t work like that.
You may get them to your website but they’re very unlikely to convert. You must entertain and inform and engage your target audience. You must retarget. You must make sure that you show your ads to them over and over again. And make sure you make the most of that Facebook spend.
You can get organic attraction with LinkedIn if you know what you’re doing.
You can target the right people approaching you through LinkedIn and then retarget through Google and Facebook and see some results.
“It’s a good platform to work with if you’re in that B2B space – you can pay for the premium part and you can target specific audiences.
LinkedIn advertising is too expensive for small businesses, but you can work LinkedIn if you’ve got the time and energy to do it,” Deb advises.
Database marketing doesn’t work if you go to a cold list. We’re all getting way too much email so it isn’t going to cut through.
But when you’ve got a warm list of prospects … a list of existing clients that you can tempt with small snippets that link back to bigger articles with great information, that’s a different story.
You can reach out to them every month and you can get some really good results – you can grow the number of prospects converting to sale.
“Marketing is not a trivial investment, and it’s hard work,” acknowledges Deb. “You really need to be strategic to get results in digital marketing.”
What’s measured improves
And from our analytics, we can see exactly what’s working and what’s not with your digital marketing strategy.
Let’s consider conversion rates for a financial services business.
In our report, organic search is at the top with a bounce of 10%. Google organic always gives you the best numbers.
And then the time on the site: two minutes, twenty-three is the longest stay and the conversion rate is 1%. The conversion rate is also higher for Google organic.
Don’t rely on social media
Social traffic from Facebook is often thought to be the best. Actually, it bounces at nearly 80% and that’s fairly standard. It stays on your site for a reasonable amount of time.
But none of it will ever convert on the first time though and that’s pretty standard. You need to retarget to keep them coming your way.
You can also measure the page visits. This is basic, but looking at the pages lets you understand what people like and what they don’t like. If they don’t like something you can change it.
Focus on Google organic
“In a particular case in the distribution industry,” Deb adds, “we’ve been getting some really good results.
We’ve paid Google Search in specific places just because of the way industry is.
But again, that consistent conversion from Google organic starts coming. Social media has a tiny conversion of 0.5%. So don’t get excited about social media alone growing your business.”
Manufacturing is the same story. Social media has very, very low conversion rates. And we get superb conversion with manufacturing through organic search and Google paid search.
“If you’ve got a business that you want to grow for a long time, invest in Google organic and invest in content on your website.”
The Digital Marketing Success Workshop audience got the opportunity to pick Deb’s brain … our top deep-dives are here:
Audience member 1: “You’ve mentioned in database marketing trying newsletters. We’ve sent hundreds of newsletters. People are actually opening their emails usually on smartphones and stuff but the attachments are not usually effective…”
Deb: “The trick to that is to put that content on your website instead of sending an attachment. Whatever you wanted to tell them, put that information on your website on a beautiful webpage. That’s going to give you more Google Search.
You just give a little snippet in the newsletter and then get them to click through to the website.
By clicking through to the website, you also know what they’re doing, you know what they’re looking at. And you can tweak your website based on that information. And you can then follow them up with the cookie, a Facebook ad and a Google ad.
You never have to send an email with an attachment again.”
Audience member 2: “Can you tell us more about brand strategy?”
Deb: “You have to think about what you want in five years or 10 years’ time. Do you want to be able to separate yourself from your business and retire? That’s a decision to think through. And if so, then it’s quite important to have a strategy in place if you’re going to grow your brand. As you grow, do you want to bring in people underneath you and make the brand about more than you?
The quickest way to grow a business is to stand up in front of your brand. People do business with people. So, if you’ve got a person on a team you can stand up in front of your brand and tell stories like Steve Jobs, you know you will grow your business way more quickly that way.”
Audience member 3: “There’s a bit of confusion about company Facebook pages and Facebook marketing. Can you talk about that?”
Deb: “You won’t find an awful a lot of people going through your company Facebook page. It’s Facebook’s attempt to take your content and have your website link into their platform. People may just look in and check you out. And they may click the Facebook icon at the bottom of your website and have a look.
I think you end up paying lip service to the page – putting two or three posts on a week, just so it looks current. But realistically it’s not going to do a lot for your business.
Now, with Facebook advertising, you pay to drop content into people’s newsfeed. So, you scroll through your Facebook newsfeed, you read something about your family: for me, my family in England, and then there will be an ad.
That’s what you’re paying for when you pay for Facebook ads. You’re paying for sponsors posts to drop into that feed. It’s got nothing to do with your Facebook page. Facebook wants to try and get you to drive traffic to the Facebook page.
But instead you should be sending them to your website and getting them off Facebook as fast as you possibly can. You don’t want to give Facebook your content.”
Audience member 4: “What about accountants – can they use Facebook advertising?”
Deb: “An accountant could for example target 30-45-year-old-males within a 15-mile radius of Parramatta. It seems fantastic. But the mentality isn’t there.
While we’re on Facebook we’re just looking to be entertained. We might click through on the first thing that vaguely interests us in our newsfeed, but we’re not in the mood to make a decision.
Whereas when we go to Google and ask for an accounting practice, we’re actually looking for accountants. It’s a very different mindset.
You might think Facebook advertising is going to solve your marketing problems. But it doesn’t. It’s good for awareness, sure, but then right away you want to get people back to your website.
And you want to have a good website because you’re paying a lot of money to get them there.”
Audience member 5: “You mentioned the strategy of doing the website for a brand and social media if, say, the business is more visual, with events and photography. Would that strategy work?”
Deb: “The straight answer is no. Sometimes you haven’t got $10K to spend on a website, though. And at that point, really all you can do is to look to a social media platform. That could be Facebook, that could be Instagram, or a combination of two.
As soon as you can realistically afford it, get your content off those platforms and onto your own website. That would be my advice.
A lot of businesses have started out small; they’ve done what they can with Facebook and Instagram. But there are a number of businesses whose Facebook pages have been shut down because competitors complained and it’s gone overnight. That’s all of their marketing gone.
We had a client that came to us with that exact problem. She had her Facebook page for many years. She had 10,000 likes and one of her competitors made sure it got shut down. We couldn’t help her. Facebook wasn’t interested.
This is really valuable IP that’s at risk. It’s really important to realise how valuable the content is that you’re creating. As soon as possible, make sure you own your platform and don’t rent it. Invest in your digital bricks and mortar for the long run.”
By now you should have a good idea about what platforms to use and what skill sets are required for successful digital marketing.
You’ve got more knowledge about where to invest your dollars, so you don’t burn through them without a return on investment.
And you understand that content writing is the most important skill in digital marketing.
Hopefully, you’ve got some ideas for the future of your online presence … ideas that will make your next networking event a delight because you have a website that will dazzle your new connections.
Our business delivers a turnkey, digital storytelling and marketing solution. We are a team of storytellers. We have a broad capability across a very wide range of brand strategy, message creation, website build, digital strategy, marketing delivery and modification.
We get big bang results. We are Brilliant Digital.
Get in touch to take the first step towards growing your digital footprint with a proven process that delivers results.