What is your Digital Footprint?
Your digital footprint encompasses all of the various ways people find you online. The internet is changing drastically all the time, and the channels your customers use to discover your brand are also evolving. In recent years, mobile device usage has skyrocketed, accounting for approximately half of web traffic across the globe. Local search has also become a major player in the game thanks to changes by Google and other search engines that highlight local businesses that are near their users’ locations. And voice search has come out strong as a trend that’s becoming a household necessity. A study conducted by PWC found that 50% of its respondents have made purchases using their voice assistants and another 25% would consider doing so in the future.
In other words, there are tons of ways for people to engage with your company online, and you want to make sure your business is set up to interact with people in as many places and ways as possible. With all of this media coming at your customers all the time, it gets harder and harder to stand out above the competition. Because there are so many ways for people to consume information, you want to make sure that the content you’re producing is high-quality and valuable so they can understand it and know how your company can solve their problems.
Your digital footprint is made up of several elements:
- Brand. Business name, logo, phone number(s), street address, years in business, awards
- Citations. Website, review sites, local listings, maps, ads, social media
- Content. Blog posts, photos, videos, social posts, reviews, Google posts
Because there’s such a wide net of ways people can find you, maintaining your digital footprint can feel like you’re trying to put together a 500-piece puzzle without the picture. You’re trying to put the pieces together in ways that really show people who you are and why you’re the best company for them to work with, but you don’t always know where to start or what that process actually looks like. This is why understanding the customer journey can help you tailor your marketing efforts to the people you’re trying to attract to your brand.
Understand Today's Customer Journey
When we talk about customer journeys, we’re talking about the general ways that customers will research the things they need help with, how they’ll find you, how they’ll learn more about your company, and hopefully, what caused them to convert into paying customers and loyal followers of your brand. Before you can convert local website visitors into leads, you must first understand not only the journey that people within your target market are on, but also where each visitor is within that journey.
While the ways that people can find you have become more complex over time, generally speaking, the way they work through your system is primarily the same. There are five stages to the customer journey:
- Discovery. How did they find you? When people are initially researching your services or what you’re selling, how do you help them initially find your company?
- Consideration. How do they decide to work with you? Once they’ve found you, how do you make sure they choose you? They’ll look at your pricing, how close you are to them, what services you offer, and which services you can provide to them. At this stage, they’re probably deciding between a few different businesses, so you want to give them the information that helps them make the correct decision to work with you.
- Purchase. This is when they decide to actually purchase your product or service. Once someone chooses your company, you want to make sure that you continue to stay in contact with them and answer any questions, even after the purchase has been completed. This leads to customer retention.
- Customer Retention. How do you follow up with those people in your pipeline in the future? Once you sell someone a product or service, you now have that customer in your database. You want to continually reach out to them to get referrals and to ensure that they become return customers.
- Brand Advocacy. How do you get your customers to help you grow, whether they’re coming back to you as return customers or helping to promote your brand to others? When the people in your customers’ circles ask for advice, you want them to say, “Oh! I know this great company. Here’s their information. I’ve worked with them, and they were great!” Brand advocacy helps grow your sphere of influence organically.
Your digital footprint is a vital way to connect with people along their journeys today, particularly since internet usage is at an all-time high and people are searching for local businesses online. Consumers want to connect with local businesses, so it’s up to you to give them the tools they need to make informed decisions about your brand. People do want to support local businesses and they make efforts to find companies in their area that can help, which is why you need to help yourself stand out from other companies in your community.
How to Optimize Your Digital Marketing for the Customer Journey
Now that you know what the five stages of the customer journey are, let’s take a deeper dive into each phase. As you learn how to optimize your digital marketing for the customer journey, you’ll begin to better understand how to speak to people who are in the different stages of their journeys so you can address their specific needs and desires.
When people are going online and researching services or companies, how do you get them to choose you? Most of the time, when people go online and do a search, about 84% of the time, it’s for discovery. At this stage, people don’t know who they want to work with yet, so they’re starting down the road of researching companies, trying to see who’s in their local area and who can help them with this service. That’s what a lot of searches are going to be.
When we talk about discovery, we have to think about how you get found by searchers. There’s a list of things people will look at when they’re trying to discover a company.
- Local search. They’ll go online and search for your services to see who pops up.
- Website. They’ll look through your website to try to decide if your company is who they want to work with.
- Voice search. A lot of people are using their smartphones and mobile devices now to do searches like this.
- Listings. Your potential customers will browse your listings on various other websites (besides your own) to get a feel of your business and review the things people say about your company.
- Ads. Your ads should be enticing and informative so people are encouraged to click on them to learn more about you.
- Core Web Vitals. Is your website set up in a way that makes it easy for Google to know who you are so it can easily promote you to its users?
When Google’s algorithms are crawling the web and deciding which companies’ sites to put before its users, they look for a few key components.
- Recency. How often are you publishing new content on your website, directories, and social media?
- Relevance. Is what you’re creating valuable and useful? Does it provide answers to the questions people are searching for?
- Availability. Are your business hours set to open in the moment someone is performing their search?
- Distance. Where are you in relation to someone’s search? Does Google know you service the area from which that person is searching?
- Prominence. Do others link to your website as a source of knowledge and expertise?
Getting Found on Google
When somebody does a search online, there are a few different places you’ll show up. So, if someone goes to Google and searches for your services, you might show up in the organic (non-paid) search results, particularly if your website and content are optimized for SEO. The information on your website is Google’s primary source of knowledge when it’s deciding which businesses to rank on the first page of its search results.
Google’s Local Pack is another way you might show up, which is also free to you. Local Pack relies on your Google My Business page and usually shows up about one-third of the way down the search results page, where three companies that Google recommends will be displayed. The search engine considers its users’ needs and inquiries, then determines which businesses it thinks are the best bet for them to contact, which is why it’s imperative to have your Google My Business account set up and filled out with all the correct information pertaining to your business at all times.
Best Practices for Website Refinement
As you develop or refine your website, make sure you’re giving Google everything it needs to understand your business. If you’re a service provider, make sure you have a service area page that tells Google where you work. Remember, the search engine isn’t just going to know where you serve customers; you have to tell it. On your service areas page, list out the cities and counties you work in, then do an individual build-out of each region. In addition to creating the page for customers (the front-end view), you also want the back-end portion (schema) to be set up properly so Google can quickly and easily understand your business.
On top of that, you need to focus on the speed of your website. How fast does it load? It should load fast and be easily readable on any device. Make sure your text is easily readable, links and navigation are simple to click on, and that it’s easy to consume your content when viewing your website on a smartphone or tablet. 52% of all web traffic is mobile, so it’s important to optimize your site such that it’s mobile-friendly. Additionally, 66% of emails are read on a smartphone or tablet and 52% of pay-per-click (PPC) clicks come from mobile.
How to Approach Voice Search
People are now searching in the form of questions, not necessarily keywords like they would with text searches. 90% of your voice search readiness score is determined by Google, Yelp, and Bing. Having accurate business information online is a foundational element to ranking in voice search results because the better your review score is, the better your chances are of securing that top spot in local voice queries. Despite its importance, only 4% of local businesses are currently voice search ready, which gives you a big opportunity to make ground above your competition if you ensure that your site is optimized for voice searches.
Leverage Paid Ads to Give Your Digital Footprint More Lift in High-Visibility Places
Be sure to set location parameters (and other targeting parameters) for the best results. Google, Google Local Services, Bing, Facebook, and Yelp are great places to focus your attention. You want to utilize the platforms that make the most sense for your business’s specific goals.
Pay Attention to Core Web Vitals
In May 2021, Google will start combining a website’s loading speed, responsiveness and interactivity, and visual stability into a new SEO ranking signal. Here’s what you should know:
- The time it takes for a page to load should be less than 2.5 seconds.
- The time it takes for a page to become interactive and ready for input should be less than 100 milliseconds.
- The rate of “content shift” (such as intrusive ads or videos) should be at a bare minimum.
- Other factors considered in the Core Web Vitals (CWV) include how well a site is optimized for mobile, safe browsing, and HTTPS security.
For the discovery stage, you want to focus on:
- Maintaining an active digital footprint
- Having a clear message and unique selling point (USP)
- Marketing with purpose
- Providing facts and education
- Going above and beyond to offer convenience
At this stage, people are considering options and debating value (convenience, pricing, products, and services). They are weighing benefits. This is where you need to set yourself apart. Why should people work with you and not somebody else in the area? Did you know that 73% of customer engagement happens off your website? These are called off-site conversions.
When people decide if they’re going to use your business, there are a number of factors they consider, including your:
- Branding. What does your company’s name mean to them? When they hear your business’s name, what do they associate with it?
- Content. Is your website set up in a way that provides accurate and educational content so that when people read it, they can easily consume the information you’re giving them?
- Social Media. Are your social media accounts set up such that when people go research you on the various platforms, they can see that you’re putting out consistent information, showcase your services, and boast about the great things your team is doing?
- Reviews. Many people will go look at your Facebook, Google, and Yelp reviews to determine if you’re valued by your existing customers. You can prove this by having a large number of high-quality reviews.
As new customers begin to compare your brand with your competitors as they’re deciding which business to work with, there are a few key elements many people will specifically look for. As you embark on your journey to build brand awareness by way of understanding the customer journey, think about how your current brand image measures up in the following areas:
- Consistent & Accurate Information. Your business name, logo, phone number(s), street address, years in business, business, description, awards, and other information need to be accurate in every listing, site, and platform across the web. If you have different versions of your company’s information floating around online, people will get confused and not know which details to trust.
- Easy to Find Online. Your pricing, ‘request a quote’ option, the types of services you offer, and detailed descriptions of those services should be easy for new customers who are unfamiliar with your business to access.
- Fast-and-Friendliness. How fast and friendly are you when it’s time to respond to request for quotes and inquiries.
- Speed, Relevancy, and Quality. Do your follow-up materials (such as emails, quotes, outlines of work deliverables, and schedules) get delivered quickly, demonstrate relevant information and offer the quality your customers are expecting from you?
- Pricing and Differentiation in Value. Is your pricing competitive, and are you showcasing your value in ways that help people understand why you’re better than their other options?
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. If you were them, what would you need to know about your business? This will help guide you as you create content to attract customers who are in the consideration phase. Your customers are looking for diversity in the content you create when comparing your business to another. This means the information you put online should focus on:
- Education. Blogs, infographics, and Google My Business posts are great ways to draw attention to your brand.
- Differentiation. Comparison pricing, team photos, and partnerships let people know how your business is different (and why it’s a better choice than the others).
- Social Proof. Videos, images, customer stories, and podcasts can showcase your happy customers. Reviews are also vital. One of the best things you can do to attract and win new customers is to maintain a high star-rating on the most popular review sites like Google, Yelp, and Facebook. Strive to get three to five new reviews each month, and always respond to new reviews within 24 to 48 hours, no matter if they’re good or bad. 33% of people who left a negative review turned around and gave a positive review after they received a response from the company regarding the poor feedback and another 34% deleted the original negative review. 97% of consumers aged 18 to 34 read online reviews to judge a business and 48% of consumers only pay attention to reviews written within the past two weeks, which is why it’s vital to continually get new ones.
It’s safe to say that almost nobody is going to look at one single piece of content when they’re in the consideration stage. 47% of prospective customers will look at three to five pieces of content before engaging with a business. The more content you create, the higher the chances are that you’ll appear in search results, on Maps, and in other places where your future customers are looking.
Did you know that 79% of people in the U.S. have a social media profile? Your customers want to connect, engage, and build relationships with the businesses they choose. To facilitate this, you should maintain consistent messaging and branding on every platform. Be sure to engage with your followers and ask them questions to build relationships and foster two-way conversations. It’s important to monitor what your competitors are doing on social, too, so you can better understand both your competition and the customers you’re competing for. Take the time to analyze the results of your posts and determine what content receives the best engagement and causes new customer inquiries to occur.
In the end, authenticity is the most important attribute to creating trust and building brand love. It enables you to build relationships with your customer through personalization and storytelling. People want to know that you are who you say you are and that you’re trustworthy. When your customers demonstrate brand love, they’ll promote you to other people who are looking for your services. The way you talk about your business can ultimately be a huge deciding factor in the consideration stage.
For the consideration stage, you’ll want to focus on:
- Creating relevant content consistently
- Providing value and differentiation
- Getting more online reviews
- Building your brand and reputation
- Providing social proof that features your customers
The purchase phase is what you’re ultimately shooting for. Your customers have researched what they need, found you, and decided to buy from you. Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer, so while it’s vital to keep new customers coming in, it’s also important to retain them once you’ve attracted them in the first place to get the most mileage out of your ad spend and marketing efforts.
When it comes to building relationships and delighting your new customers from the start, there are four key factors in play:
- Email marketing
- Customer surveys
Make sure people understand what they bought from your and the timeline of said purchase. If they have any questions after they’ve made their purchase, such as whether that was even the right decision, keep reminding them about why they chose your business in the first place. Share tips and tricks to help them make the most of your products or services and let them know how they can get in touch with you if they have any questions.
As part of your onboarding process, make sure you’re collecting the following feedback:
- How did you find our business?
- Which channels did you use?
- Why did you choose us over our competitors?
Learning these insights can help you improve and fine-tune your marketing in the discovery and consideration stages. Use your customers’ information to fuel your efforts going forward.
For the purchase stage, you’ll want to focus on:
- Going out of your way to satisfy your new customers and showing them you care
- Using content and emails to help new customer relationships start off on the right track
- Employing customer surveys to identify process improvements and potential red flags and to fine-tune your marketing in previous stages
Customer Retention Stage
By the customer retention phase, you’ve finished up with your customer and you wait to retain them. As we mentioned, it’s much cheaper to retain existing customers than it is to acquire new ones. It’s worth noting that a 5% increase in customer retention can increase profits from 25% to 95%.
When it comes to retaining customers, there are three key factors at play:
- Email marketing
Your reputation is one of the most important elements of your small business. Make it a priority to ask your customers to review you online because, once they’ve reviewed you or referred you to a friend, family member, or neighbor, they’re more likely to stay with your business.
Let’s take a second to discuss the net promoter score (NPS). Your NPS is the percentage of customers rating their likelihood of recommending your business. There are three categories of NPS respondents:
- 0-6 are Detractors. These customers are very unhappy customers who can damage your brand by leaving bad reviews.
- 7-8 are Passives. These customers are satisfied but not enthusiastic customers. Because they’re not completely thrilled with your business, they’re vulnerable to your competitors.
- 9-10. This is your ultimate goal! These people love being your customer. They’re the fuel to grow your business, and these are the customers you’ll want to solicit and incentivize to leave you a review or referral.
By sending out surveys after your work is completed, it’ll help you get to know your own company and customers better and help identify if there’s anything you need to fix with individual customers.
Email marketing is a cost-effective way to stay in touch with your customers. It keeps your brand name popping up in their inboxes so they remember who you are for their future needs. Set up nurture email campaigns to:
- Keep your business top of mind
- Check in on customers’ levels of satisfaction
- Keep your customers engaged
You should also keep your customers engaged with content. Great content provides ongoing education and support to existing and past customers. You can use your content to share special offers, which then drive repeat business. Additionally, you can show your customer you care about them by praising them on social media, your website, your Google My Business account, and across your entire digital footprint. Get photos, videos, and testimonials from existing clients to promote your business while simultaneously letting the world know how much you appreciate your customer base.
For the retention stage, you’ll want to focus on:
- Being there for your customers, whenever they need you
- Delighting your customers from the start with an exceptional service experience
- Being engaging and conversational
- Maintaining an active digital footprint that puts your customers front and center
- Using surveys to start getting a sense of who your truly happy customers are
Brand Advocacy Stage
During the brand advocacy stage, you want to get your past customers to help you bring in new ones. If people are happy with your products and services, use their voices to bolster your brand. Why is this important? Because 92% of people trust user-generated content and word-of-mouth marketing more than advertising. This is why reviews and testimonials are so important; they showcase past customers talking about how much they liked you.
When it comes to inspiring your customers to shout your praises and promote your business, there are two key factors at play:
- Social media
As you’re going through your setup, think about how you can make the buyer’s journey an inclusive experience. Here are a few ways you can elevate your brand to a level that inspires your customers to promote your brand:
- Throw customer-only virtual events
- Send out thank-you gifts
- Always have fast response times
- Maintain availability and make sure you’re there in the moments that matter
Be mindful that your brand is also a reflection of your standing within the local community. Get yourself out in the surrounding neighborhoods and show off who you are not just as a company, but also as the people who own it and work at it. You can get involved with the following to help build brand advocacy within the community at large:
- Local businesses
- Youth sports
When you get involved with these types of situations and organizations, you can get both your name and website out to the world, which helps drive traffic to your pages. It also gets people thinking about your brand name when they’re considering the products and services you offer.
Besides attending in-person or virtual events, you need to maintain a healthy social media presence. Many companies don’t focus on this, but it really does help. Like email, it keeps your brand top of mind and helps people feel more connected to your business. This, in turn, encourages people to engage back with you. To maintain an active social media presence:
- Ask questions
- Share tips and tricks
- Use videos and gifs
You need to post consistently to stay at the top of followers’ news feeds. Otherwise, people will forget they’ve even followed you and will ultimately forget about your brand as a whole.
For the brand advocacy stage, you’ll want to focus on:
- Being fast and efficient with customer responses
- Going above and beyond to deliver the best possible service experiences
- Building your brand reputation on social media
- Engaging and connecting with your customers
- Maintaining and continuously building your reputation
Final Thoughts Moving Forward
You need to make sure you maintain your digital footprint so your brand stays relevant and demonstrates recency in your content. You also want to diversify your content across the customer journey, focusing on education, how-tos, comparisons, and social proof, depending on who you’re talking to and at which stage they are. Once you build an engaging and personable brand presence, it will be easier to attract and retain customers.
Surefire Local’s software is a huge piece of our clients’ puzzles, and it can help solve your marketing mysteries, too. It helps take all of this information and put it into one place. If you’d like to schedule a demo, we’d be happy to show you around!