Beyond Covid-19: A Simple Guide to Take Your Business Online

The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the foundation of how we do business. Despite retail restrictions being eased in most areas, foot traffic remains lower than it was before the pandemic, and consumers are discovering and accessing products differently. Traditional marketing channels, like word-of-mouth recommendations and outdoor signs, have taken a backseat during the era of social distancing. Meanwhile, with internet usage up by 50-70% in most households, the relevance of digital marketing has increased significantly.

Though these changes have happened rapidly, most experts believe the recent increase in e-commerce is here to stay – even if public health measures curb the spread of COVID-19. The pandemic has forced older consumers (i.e., Baby Boomers and Gen Xers) to adopt digital purchasing habits similar to those of Millennials, effectively erasing the generational divide between online and in-person shoppers. It’s very likely that the convenience of online shopping will continue to appeal to older consumers after the pandemic is over, especially those who have health or mobility challenges.

Right now, no matter who your target demographic is, knowing how to take your business online is vital to long-term survival. In the guide below, we’ll outline the best ways to bring your marketing strategy up-to-date, so you can stay relevant during and beyond COVID-19:

1. Invest in an app for your business.

We recommended mobile applications for businesses long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but recent events have made apps absolutely essential. According to Social Media Today, app usage increased by 20% during the pandemic, and in-app spending increased by 15%. This trend is driven by consumers’ need for a fast, convenient way to connect with businesses, particularly while completing “buy online, pick up in person” orders.

In addition to making your services more accessible, apps offer several less-obvious advantages that will give you a competitive edge after COVID: They’ve been shown to build brand awareness and loyalty, which is particularly important at a time when businesses can’t rely on in-store experiences to make their brand memorable. They’re also one of the most efficient channels for providing customer service and promoting spe2.cial offers.

2. Optimize your website.

Most businesses have some form of online presence, whether that’s a website, Facebook page, or just a Google My Business listing. In 2020, however, simply being online isn’t enough: With websites increasingly expected to fill in for physical storefronts, you’ll need to make sure your site is fully optimized and up to the task of meeting customer demand. Some areas of improvement to focus on include:

  • Making page load times as fast as possible.
  • Assessing the structure and layout of your website: Is your site easily navigable? Is your online ordering system simple to use?
  • Ensuring your website is fully responsive (that is, it can adapt to any screen size without losing readability or functionality).
  • Performing a search engine optimization (SEO) audit to identify areas where your SEO strategy could be improved.
  • Adding new content and updating old content, as needed. Create content that’s both engaging and actionable, with a call to action at the end of each page.
  • Making your website as informative as possible. Include your contact information, an integrated map feature, links to your social media accounts, and an “About” page that introduces your team and describes how your business originated.

3. Build your online brand.

As we alluded to above, one of the greatest challenges of the COVID-19 marketplace is creating a memorable, influential brand without the aid of in-store experiences. Before you get started, it’s vital to understand that online branding hinges on your brand’s visual impact and the emotional resonance of its messaging.

The graphical elements associated with your brand (i.e., your logo, social media banners, website, and online ads) must be striking and unique; otherwise, your brand won’t stand out from the competition. Never use generic stock photography, bland graphical elements, or website templates when building your business’s online presence. Instead, work closely with a professional graphic design team who can create custom content to reflect your brand’s individual identity.

During the era of COVID-19, you’ll also need to pay very close attention to your brand’s messaging.  Right now, brands need to strike a careful balance between optimism, compassion, and realism to inspire people without looking tone deaf. Focus on cultivating a socially responsible, empathetic brand voice that emphasizes the power we all have to make a difference in each other’s lives – even if we’re doing so from a distance. Look for opportunities to donate to charitable causes, make your business more environmentally sustainable, and help your customers manage the challenges of life during a pandemic. For instance, you might consider offering free shipping until the virus is fully under control, so people who have to order items online face less financial hardship. You should also invest in text and video content that provides useful, supportive information to your customers; e.g., if you sell children’s toys, why not write a blog with tips on how to keep kids entertained at home? Or try producing educational, child-friendly YouTube content?

4. Purchase paid ads.

SEO is the best way to increase your brand’s online reach, but it’s a gradual process. Even the most effective SEO strategy will take about 6 months, on average, to generate noticeable results. To get the word out about your business more quickly, we recommend purchasing “pay per click” (PPC) advertising. Though this form of advertising used to be restricted to established businesses with ample budgets, today, most small-to-medium sized businesses can afford to at least try PPC ads. In fact, the cost of PPC advertising has actually fallen during the pandemic because there’s less competition for ads and viewership has increased. This has increased the average return-on-investment of PPC ads by 71%.

            If you’ve lagged behind the digital curve for years, adapting your business to the online marketplace probably feels like a Herculean task. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could optimize your website, get a mobile app, and generate creative content, all in one place? Good news: If you’re in Ontario, the team at AllinBrand can help you do exactly that. Our comprehensive branding agency in Toronto offers all of the services you need to take your business online, at affordable prices. Contact us today to find out how we can help you master digital marketing and e-commerce.

 

 

Local SEO 101: Why Local SEO Matters & How to Start for Small Business

What if you could connect instantly with local customers, without having to advertise to them directly? In 2020, when small businesses can no longer rely on foot traffic, in-person events, or traditional marketing channels to attract new customers, this question has taken on a whole new level of relevance. Fortunately, the answer existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic: Through local search engine optimization (SEO), you can reach your target demographic and grow your business in a reliable, budget-friendly way. In the local SEO guide below, we’ll explain how to get started with local SEO and how to streamline your strategy for long-term success.

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is the practice of optimizing your business’s web presence for geographically-targeted search results. If you’ve executed a successful local SEO strategy, your business will rank prominently when consumers in your area search for location-specific terms (e.g., “Web designers near me,” or “Web designers in Toronto.”) You’ll also show up automatically on Google Maps, making it easy for people to find your location and other relevant information about you, like your hours of operation.

Local SEO is vitally important for small businesses: Research by Go-Globe shows that 60% of people use their smartphones to search for local products and services, 50% of people rely on local searches to find information about businesses in their area, and 78% of local searches result in in-store purchases. Local searches are, simply put, the main way modern consumers connect with small businesses near them.

4 Ways to Optimize Your Small Business’s Local SEO Strategy

1. Don’t wait to begin optimizing for local search results.

Though having a business website is essential, you don’t have to wait for your website to be complete before you start using local SEO to your advantage. As soon as your business has launched, you should sign up with any online directories relevant to your niche. Google My Business is the most important directory, but there are many other services worth considering, including Facebook Business Pages, Bing Places, and Yelp.

To create a Google My Business listing, simply head over to the GMB “Create” page and complete the sign-up process by entering in your business’s name and address. Specify your service area, then verify your listing. Once it’s been verified (this process can take up to a week), you’ll want to return to your listing and add your hours of operation, photos of your location, and a link to your landing page (if you have one).

Using GMB is completely free, and it will ensure your business shows up on Google Maps and in the listings alongside the Maps panel, even if you don’t have a website yet. As such, it’s considered the number one way to connect with local consumers.

(Still not convinced? Check out these 8 compelling reasons to sign up with Google My Business.)

2. Find and utilize effective local keywords.

To generate organic local traffic, you’ll need to target the specific long-tail keywords people are using to look for businesses like yours. To find these keywords, you can use a free tool like Google Adwords Keyword Planner or a Bulk Keyword Generator. These services will produce a list of keywords specific to your area and sector, and they’ll tell you how much competition there is for each search key. As a small business owner, you’ll want to avoid optimizing exclusively for high-competition keywords, as this will put you in direct competition with much larger, more established firms. Instead, use varied keywords with moderate competition.

Once you’ve selected the best keywords for your business, strategically place them throughout your website content. Different location-targeted keywords should be integrated into your page titles, image alt text, headers, and subheaders. They should also be sprinkled throughout your long-form content, but don’t overdo it: Google penalizes websites for keyword stuffing, so you should aim for a keyword density of no more than 1-3%.

3. Regularly publish high-quality content with a local focus.

Have you ever wondered why so many small business websites feature a blog? In addition to being a great way to express your passion for your industry, running a blog can jump-start your local SEO strategy. Blogging once or twice a week generates fresh, high-quality text content for your website, which is exactly what search engine algorithms look for.

By including local keywords in your articles, you’ll naturally target more local search queries, making your business rank higher in search results. You’ll also encourage people to link back to your website, thereby increasing its reach and authority.

4. Work with a company that specializes in local SEO.

Google is constantly updating its algorithms, so keeping up with the ever-changing local SEO landscape is a time-consuming and sometimes confusing endeavor. Likewise, certain elements of local SEO – like blogging and reputation management – require specific expertise and even more time commitment. As your business grows, you should therefore consider hiring a professional digital marketing agency, both to fine-tune your strategy and to safeguard your SEO efforts against neglect.

Are you ready to fully tap into the power of local SEO? We can help: As an all-inclusive Toronto digital branding agency, AllinBrand has the tools, experience, and insights needed to grow your online presence. Contact us today to learn more about our innovative approach to SEO.

2020 Essential Holiday Calendar and Strategies for Small Business

When you run a business, you can’t afford to let the holidays sneak up on you. Not only does the revenue from holiday sales now add up to over 720 billion dollars annually, holiday spending also accounts for 20-30% of total annual revenue in most sectors. Furthermore, these figures are just as relevant to small and medium-sized businesses as they are to large franchises: Every year, over 80% of consumers do at least some of their holiday shopping at small local retailers. Whether you’re a business veteran or just starting out in the world of retail, having a holiday plan that makes the most of seasonal events can seriously boost your bottom line – Especially if you come up with creative marketing campaigns that ensure you stand out from the crowd.

What Should Your Yearly Holiday Marketing Plan Include?

At the beginning of each year, you should sit down and create a detailed marketing strategy with clearly-defined seasonal goals. By planning your holiday marketing well in advance, you’ll give yourself enough time to prepare for each event. Your holiday marketing plan should include the following elements:

1. A review of last year’s holiday sales. 

By assessing how much you sold during last year’s holiday events, you can get an idea of how much inventory you’ll need to stock to keep pace with this year’s promotions. You can also identify which marketing campaigns were especially successful, and try to replicate that success. (Remember to factor in engagement metrics, such as social media response and email newsletter subscription, when you measure success.) If your customers responded particularly well to a giveaway event, for example, you’ll probably want to incorporate more giveaways into your marketing strategy.

2. A budget. 

To make money over the holidays, you’ll first need to spend money. Creating ad campaigns, stocking extra inventory, and hiring extra staff to handle holiday orders isn’t cheap, after all. Part of your holiday marketing plan should therefore involve setting aside some of last year’s profits to pay for this year’s promotions. If funds are scarce, you may want to secure a business loan to help you manage unexpected costs.

3. Website updates, as needed. 

E-commerce accounts for a substantial portion of holiday sales, and it continues to increase in popularity each year. According to Deloitte, e-commerce sales will grow by up to 22 percent in 2020 and make up over half (57 percent) of all holiday purchases. To benefit from this surge in digital sales, you’ll need to make sure your website is responsive (that is, it provides a seamless shopping experience across multiple devices), with short load times even under heavy traffic. 

4. Strong visuals.

Ideally, you should update your brand’s appearance during each major holiday. Meet with your design team and brainstorm ideas for how to incorporate festive themes into your logo, newsletter, and social media headers. These eye-catching visuals will let your customers know you’re doing something special for the holidays before they read any of your written content.

5. An outline of which holidays you want to capitalize on. 

Some holidays, like Black Friday and Boxing Day, are relevant to businesses in virtually every sector. Others, however, are more specific to certain demographics. If your customers are primarily young people or parents, for example, you’ll absolutely want to have a “back to school” sale. Conversely, if your customers are mostly elderly people or childless professionals, such an event may not produce significant dividends. When you plan your holiday calender, focus on the holidays that are most relevant to the consumer demographic you’re targeting.

Which Holidays Should You Consider Adding to Your Marketing Plan?

To avoid slumps in sales, think about which Canadian holidays you can leverage during each of the four seasons:

2020 Holiday Promotion Calendar for Small Business Marketing

In addition to seasonal holidays, business milestones are a great opportunity to host promotional events. If you’re opening a new store location, for example, you can mark the occasion with a special discount or giveaway. You can also choose to celebrate your business’s yearly anniversary or develop creative off-peak hours events, such as “midnight madness” sales. Remember that surprise promotions can help you increase sales during periods of the year when retail activity slows down, i.e., after New Year’s and during the summer.

A comprehensive holiday marketing strategy can put your business on the map and help you get an edge over the competition, but only if you have the branding expertise and data to make it work.

If you’re stuck on creating a website or developing marketing materials, our team can help: Contact AllinBrand to learn more about professional digital marketing services in Toronto.

How to Effectively Build An Online Presence for Your Business

In the early days of the Internet, an attractive website was all you needed to establish a memorable online presence. Fast-forward to 2020, and things couldn’t be more different: Today, people browse the Internet via multiple channels, and your web presence has to extend to all of them. There’s also a lot more competition for consumers’ attention, so businesses have to be strategic about cutting through the “noise” to leave a lasting impression. 

What is an Online Presence?

Put, an online presence is a quality of being “searchable.” If you’ve built a robust online presence, your business will be easy to find, whether your customers are using a conventional search engine (like Google or Bing) or social media. Ideally, your online presence should incorporate a consistent tone and visuals to establish a strong brand identity.

8 Ways to Build Your Online Presence in 2020

The exact techniques used to establish and maintain an online presence vary somewhat between industries. Still, there are certain “best practices” that virtually any business can use to boost their reach:

1. Build an email list

There’s a reason almost 4 billion people are still using email in 2020: Email is direct, personal, simple to use, and accessible on any device (while requiring very little mobile data). Email usage is also set to grow substantially because over 90% of Gen Z (people aged 15-24) regularly send and receive emails. Email is one of the only forms of online communication that appeals equally to all age groups.

how-to-build-email-list-boost-online-presence-small-business

Fortunately, building an engaged email list is almost as easy as using email: Offering your customers an incentive, like access to exclusive offers and discounts, is usually all it takes to persuade them to sign up. To retain their interest, keep your newsletters exciting and informative: In addition to great deals and new products, your newsletters should serve as a portal to your business’s video and blog content.

2. Master SEO

The bad news about search engine optimization is that it changes frequently. The good news is that, by staying abreast of these changes, you can potentially gain the edge over your competition. Integrating the latest SEO tactics into your online marketing strategy will push your website higher in consumers’ search results, so they’ll see you before they see your competitors. 

Local-SEO-optimization-build-business-online-presence

To master SEO, perform regular SEO audits where you reassess the keywords you’re using to make sure they’re still performing well. Keep your site up to date, both by conducting on-page content updates and by blogging at least two to three times per month. Off-site, make sure you share your published content across social media channels and try to earn high-quality backlinks. Finally, don’t forget to complete your Google My Business profile and give your customers incentives to leave positive reviews. 

3. Have a social media presence

Social media is a great place to share your content. Still, its benefits don’t end there: Social media has become one of the consumers’ favourite ways to engage with brands, whether they have a question, a customer service issue, or want to pass along a favourable recommendation. Did you know, for example, that more people follow brands on social media than follow celebrities? Over 80% of Instagram users alone follow at least one brand, for instance. If you don’t already have a Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram account for your business, you’re missing out. 

social-media-marketing-build-business-online-presence

Credit: on image

4. Make a website

The vast majority of businesses already have a website, but they don’t always know how to make their website engaging and memorable. When creating a website for your business, try to stay away from generic template sites. They might look professional and be very easy to use, but their prepackaged designs have become ubiquitous. This makes it all but impossible to create a recognizable brand image without turning to custom web design. If you aren’t sure how to create a memorable website yourself, work with a local web design firm to get the job done right – Your investment will more than pay for itself over the long run.

5. Produce content

Content – notably blog articles and videos – should form the backbone of your SEO strategy. Producing high-quality content will organically generate backlinks and new leads, especially if people start sharing (e.g., liking and retweeting) your content on social media. Creating content that is informative and entertaining will also enhance your brand image by encouraging consumers to view your business as helpful and personable. 

content-marketing-visual-content-build-online-presence

6. Experiment with online (paid) advertising

Paid advertising is another “shortcut” option you can use to boost your online presence while you work on steadily building organic traffic. By advertising on major search engines, like Google, Bing, and Facebook, you can push your website to the top of consumers’ search engine results. 

paid-advertising-build-online-presence-local-business

7. Show up where your audience is

Before you start posting on social media, you should do some fundamental data analysis to determine which platforms your customers are using. If 80% of your customers use Facebook every day but seldom use Twitter; for example, Facebook is where you should concentrate your marketing efforts. 

To find out which social media platforms your customers prefer, try performing a necessary customer survey. You can also look at which social media services your most successful competitors, prioritize. 

8. Automate your process

marketing-automation-statistic-build-business-online-presence

Image credit: Salesforce

The number one barrier to establishing a memorable online presence isn’t skill or technical savvy – it’s time. Managing multiple social media accounts, creating content, and maintaining a website while simultaneously running a successful business is challenging, and often overwhelms small teams. Wherever possible, you should use your content management system (CMS) to automate processes that don’t require a human touch, like data and payment collection. You should also outsource labour-intensive tasks, like content creation, to freelancers or content marketing firms. 

If you don’t have time to build an online presence yourself, AllinBrand can help. From data analysis to web design, content writing, and more, we have the tools you need to thrive in today’s dynamic digital environment.

Small Business Marketing: 5 Benefits of Video Marketing

You don’t need to look far to see that video has taken the internet by storm: From Youtube to SnapChat, Tik Tok, and beyond, more and more people are using video to convey their ideas. Video is a vibrant, informative, and expressive medium, so its popularity comes as no surprise. Leveraging the power of video for small business promotion, however, isn’t as clear-cut as using this medium for social sharing.

If you’re new to the world of video marketing, you’ll need to review this strategy’s various benefits – and learn the best ways to implement it – before you get started.

 

What is Video Marketing?

The first thing you’ll need to understand about online video marketing is that it’s different from traditional television commercials. While some of your videos will highlight your services and make customers aware of upcoming promotions, most of your videos should provide useful information for viewers.

3D explainer videos, for example, are a great idea if you’re catering to a niche like home improvement or automotive repairs. Tutorial videos are also ideally suited to the beauty industry, housecleaning products, pet care, and virtually any other product that involves the use of specific skills. Service-based industries, like restaurants, can use video to make their services more interactive, such as by implementing digital menus. 

Videos are also a great way to forge a more personal connection with your customers: Videos can give viewers a “behind the scenes” glimpse into your workplace and company culture. This kind of social sharing lets people get to know you, which builds trust and reputability. Creating a personal connection with prospective clients will make your business more memorable, too. 

What are the Benefits of Video Marketing?

In addition to increasing trust and memorability, video marketing has several established benefits:

1. People engage more with videos.

Video Marketing Benefits Small Business

Image Credit: Oberlo

Video is one of the most “shareable” forms of content, according to a survey conducted by Ursv. Consumers are 39% more likely to share videos and 36% more likely to comment on them, as compared to text-only content. Videos also have a 56% percent higher ratio of “likes” on average.

2. Information presented in video format is more natural to process.

We all know that watching a video is more convenient than reading text when you’re using a mobile device, but what many people don’t realize is that video is more accessible for the brain to understand. Our minds can process information presented in a video 60,000 times faster than information presented in the text. Adding videos to your marketing strategy will help you reach people who are busy or those who are just casually browsing your site because it’s so readily accessible. 

Furthermore, if your video content catches someone’s attention, they’ll be much more likely to stay and read the text content on your site. It is important because the active effort required to consume text builds engagement and enhances the memorability of your message. In the perfect marketing strategy, video and text work together to entice and retain customers.

3. You’ll reach a broader audience if you include videos in your marketing strategy.

Video Marketing Engages More People - AllinBrand

Image Credit: Oberlo

Research shows that many people have consistent preferences when it comes to how they consume information. Some people usually prefer to read, whereas others gravitate more towards video. By incorporating video into your marketing strategy, you’ll make sure your content appeals to all audiences.

4. Video is growing – fast.

video marketing growing trend 2020 - allinbrand

Image Credit: Oberlo

Tapping into the power of video is a great way to prepare your business for the future: As more and more people use mobile devices as their primary mode of browsing the internet, video consumption is expected to rise sharply. The provision of more affordable mobile data is also expected to enhance this trend. By 2022, online videos are expected to account for over 82% of all consumer internet traffic, according to Cisco’s predictions. Mobile video consumption is currently doubling every year.

5. Videos are simple to create than you think.

Many small businesses avoid using video marketing because they aren’t comfortable creating videos themselves, and they assume professional video creation is beyond their budget. Usually, this isn’t the case: Like other content creation and marketing services, video production can be outsourced efficiently and affordably. To get started, try researching small marketing firms or freelancers in your local area and ask about their rates. Both of these options tend to be more budget-friendly than working with a large firm.

If you need video marketing in Toronto, the experts here at AllinBrand can help. Our team of experienced content creators and marketers can translate your brand message into engaging videos that resonate with old and new customers alike, giving you an edge in today’s mobile world. 

Ready to get started? Just contact us online or by phone, and we’ll tell you all about our various video marketing services.

Credit: The video data images included in this blog post are from https://www.oberlo.com/blog/video-marketing-statistics