Businessing Magazine recently had the opportunity to speak with D. Scott Bowen, Vice President and General Manager of Vistaprint Digital. Vistaprint Digital helps millions of small businesses develop their online presence by offering tools that assist with website development, social media, email marketing, and SEO. Their digital marketing tools are designed to work in harmony with more traditional print marketing materials, so small business owners can reach customers across both digital and physical channels, while portraying a consistent brand identity.
Read on for Bowen’s insights into small business marketing, as he answers our questions about websites, print marketing, branding, and more.
Would you say that a website is an absolute necessity for all small businesses? Why or why not?
I would say that an online presence is an absolute necessity for any small business, and for the vast majority this means a website. Other forms of online business identity like search engine listings or social media profiles can certainly help, but for any business that is hoping to grow—or at least to defend their current position in the marketplace—a website will be a must. Even if a small business is happy with its current state, changes in market conditions, competition, and technology may inevitably upset that balance, and they will need a way to reach new customers in their local community and across the web. Our studies show that 36% of consumers discover small businesses through online research today.
What are some of the basic things that should be included in a small business website?
For the most part, people visit a website to find out practical information, so don’t feel like you have to have an extensive website ready to go before you hit that publish button. We’ve found that information about your products or services, directions, and store hours top the list. As long as you cover those basics, you’re ready to go live. You can always add more information that helps visitors connect with your brand and your team over time.
For small business owners with limited marketing budgets, where would you say their money would be best spent when it comes to digital marketing?
The basis for all of your digital marketing efforts is a solid website to which you’ll drive visitor traffic, so make sure you start there. Optimizing that site so it’s found by search engines (SEO) is the next logical step, because it will help you make the most of the work you’ve done—and it’s free to do!
The marketing strategy that offers the best bang for your buck depends on your goals. If you need to grow your customer base, then social media is a good choice. You can do a lot to establish your brand and expand your online footprint through social without spending a lot, and when you do have the budget for advertising, the audience targeting available on Facebook and other social platforms lets you hone in on those prospects that are most likely to make a purchase.
If your goal is to activate the leads you currently have and encourage them to make a first time or repeat purchase, email marketing is a tried-and-true tactic. If your business has an established following, and you’ve been able to collect a good set of email addresses, getting your message directly into those inboxes is an effective and affordable way to connect with people you already know are interested in what you have to offer.
How can small business owners use website traffic statistics to help them grow their businesses?
Even if your website doesn’t have a lot of traffic yet, it’s crucial that you know your stats. Our website platform, for example, can tell you which pages on your site get the most traffic, what sources your traffic is coming from, if traffic has spiked at any point perhaps during a promotional campaign, and what proportion of your visitors are coming from mobile.
These insights can help you optimize your website to give visitors even more of what they are interested in, and it can help you make decisions about where to focus your time and money in promoting your site.
If you find that a high percentage of your traffic comes from social media organically, then it’s likely that putting some money behind promoting your posts would grow your traffic. If you’re getting very little traffic from search, then your website probably needs an SEO tune-up. If you have a high percentage of mobile traffic, it’s crucial that you make sure your mobile website (and mobile checkout experience if you do ecommerce) is top-notch.
What about traditional print marketing? Is there still a place for it in this digital age?
People often like to pit print and digital marketing against one another, as if the two are mutually exclusive. This is simply not true; in fact, our research shows that nearly 70% of micro businesses owners take advantage of both online and offline marketing. The key is to look at your marketing portfolio holistically, and make sure that you are expressing a cohesive identity for your brand across both the physical and digital worlds. Small businesses that take full advantage of marketing opportunities in both these realms will be the ones that come out on top.
Why is it important for a small business to have a consistent brand identity, and how would they go about achieving that if they don’t have a dedicated marketing department or person on staff?
A consistent brand identity is critical for a small business, not only because it gives you the professional look that consumers expect, but also because it will help you fend off competition from bigger companies. If you run the corner coffee shop, chances are you’re competing with you-know-who and let’s be honest; you simply won’t be able to match their large-company and big-budget marketing prowess. But if you have created a consistent and reputable brand identity for your business, the connection you’ve built with your customers will weather the competition.
You can achieve that consistent identity—even if you don’t have a marketing staff—by taking the time to set the standards for your brand that will apply across everything you do. Invest in a logo, decide on a color palette, choose one or two fonts, and write down the attributes of your brand voice (helpful, edgy, fun, elegant, etc.)
Choose marketing products that automate consistency as much as possible to help you save time. For example, our website builder pulls in images, backgrounds, and design elements from popular Vistaprint print products to help our customers create consistency from the start.
Leverage common assets across all of your print and digital marketing, and you will be well on your way to a professional identity that meets customers’ expectations and helps them form a meaningful connection with your business.