Getting a counselling business off the ground is no cake walk. Among other things, you need to create a smart business plan, secure funding, hire the right people, identify your target audience and develop a sound marketing strategy. The last thing you want is for all that hard work to have been in vain because of some avoidable mistake.
MOST SMALL BUSINESSES FAIL
A host of studies have concluded that the lion's share of small business startups fail. Some put the failure rate as high as 90% (that's the assessment from Forbes). Others are bit more nuanced—for example, Fundera estimates that just half of small business startups make it past year 5, and only 1 in 3 is still around to celebrate its 10th anniversary.
But regardless of how you crunch the numbers, the point is that most small businesses don't make it. They fail for a variety of reasons, everything from weak leadership to anaemic cash flow, a saturated marketplace, products or services consumers don't want and the failure to exercise due diligence (like not securing adequate business insurance).
Some of the problems small businesses face are beyond the control of the entrepreneurs who founded them, things like the unexpected appearance of a competitor who can offer the same services for a lot less money. But some of the protracted challenges facing small business are fixable—and chief among these is the creation of a solid digital marketing strategy.
DIGITAL MARKETING IS NOT JUST FOR BIG BUSINESS
If you think digital marketing is about some Fortune 500 company trying to add a few more dollars to its already bulging wallet—think again. If anything, a sound digital marketing strategy is even more important (and arguably more of a game changer) for small businesses.
Why? Because, among other things, effectively executed, digital marketing can level the playing field better than traditional, outbound marketing strategies—and it can do so more cost effectively.
This is how Small Business explains the value of digital marketing for small businesses like yours:
"A digital marketing strategy is an important part of the overall marketing strategy of a business. This is true whether or not a company is doing business online. It is also true for a small, medium or large size company but especially true for a small company. Small business marketing for a local company can include many offline local advertising methods but needs to include a healthy portion of digital marketing strategies to be successful and maximise sales in today's economy. A small business that is doing most or all of its business online needs to embrace a digital marketing strategy that helps it be seen by online users."
HOW CAN YOUR SMALL BUSINESS HARNESS THE POWER OF DIGITAL?
Digital marketing is not about reading a few articles, or creating a blog on your website, or taking a few tepid steps into the world of social media. Although those actions are a move in the right direction, executed in isolation, they'll do little to move your company closer to your principal marketing objectives.
Success with digital marketing is about executing best practice digital strategies in a unified fashion, each strategy supporting all the others. For example, creating compelling site content isn't especially effective if you don't also have a smart search engine marketing strategy to drive prospective customers to your website.
That said, some digital marketing strategies are more effective for small businesses than others—including the following 4:
1. GET THE SKINNY ON SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION (SEO)
Admittedly, SEO is among the more complicated and confusing aspects of an effective digital strategy, and doing it right probably means you'll need some help from an experienced digital agency. But ignoring it means consumers searching for the counselling services you offer are a lot less likely to see your business in search results—and a lot more likely to see one of your competitors.
Said differently, you as business owner don't need to understand all the nuances of search engine marketing, but you should at minimum understand in general terms how it works. You should, for example, understand what keywords are and which best capture the search intent of customers for your business. You should also understand that one of the principal drivers of a smart SEO strategy is posting relevant and valuable content on your website, the kind that search engines like Google love, and for which they'll reward your business with higher search rankings.
2. FOR SMALL BUSINESSES, LOCAL IS WHERE IT'S AT
Most small businesses cater to local customers, which means you need an effective strategy to put your business in front of them. You can do that with so-called "location-based marketing."
There are several elements to local search strategy. One is to create a Google My Business account—a free tool that helps local customers connect with your business through Google search and Google maps. Another is to design a local keyword strategy—things like adding "near me" to top keywords (as in, "holistic counsellors near me"). These 2 steps are relatively easy to take—but they can add immeasurably to your visibility with the local customers looking for the services you offer.
3. CONTENT IS KING
Content marketing is the very heart of a smart digital strategy. Using content to build trust throughout the buyer's journey will help you generate more leads, effectively nurture those leads, boost conversions and increase sales.
Remember that consumers are, to put it bluntly, fed up with traditional advertising. By one estimate, they see as many as 5,000 such ads every day, ads about products and services they don't want. Giving your customers the right content—meaning content that answers their questions and helps them solve their problems—breaks through all that noise, building trust in your business and adding to your customer base.
4. GET SOCIAL
Rule number 1 of any marketing strategy is to meet prospective customers where they are, and where they are is on social media sites, especially Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Snapchat. For your digital marketing strategy to succeed, you need to learn the rules of engagement on these sites and how best to leverage their power and influence. That includes things like learning how to connect with your target audience through Facebook and Instagram ads and posting articles with useful information that link back to key pages on your website.
Digital marketing can be challenging, especially if this is your first go at it—but designing an effective digital marketing strategy is one of the best ways to ensure your counselling business succeeds. Another is to make sure you have the insurance you need to protect your business.
To learn more about IICT membership—your gateway to discount counselling insurance—contact us today.