How to Advertise Your Small Business Digitally in a Post-COVID Economy – Drew Tonsmeire & Mark Collier, UGA SBDC

This pandemic has been the most transformative event in recent memory. And our, now, the post-COVID economy is very different from the economy we knew prior to 2020. There will be additional seismic structural shifts across nearly all sectors of the economy where digital and contact lists are now at the forefront of how everyday business is conducted. Evidence of this phenomenon is that aggregate spending on digital advertising surpassed television ad spending for the first time in history.

On today’s show, guest host and UGA Small Business Development Center consultant, Mark Collier, sits down with Drew Tonsmeire, Area Director at the UGA SBDC Kennesaw office.
Tonsmeire is a true subject matter expert on all things digital, and he’s going to demystify and clarify what digital transformation is all about.

Transcription:

Mark Collier:
Welcome in to ASBN, Drew.

Drew Tonsmeire:
Thank you, Mark. Glad to be here.

Mark Collier:
All right. This pandemic, Drew, has shifted things in an unprecedented manner. And digital marketing has now taken a forefront in companies’ strategic planning. So, digital marketing has many different facets, so how does someone keep up with it all?

Drew Tonsmeire:
It’s probably impossible to keep up with it all. So, what I suggest to folks is own a network. Own one particular digital forum, whether it be on Google, where it be SEO, whether it be social media, or one channel on social media. It’s better to be good at one than to be mediocre at all.

Mark Collier:
That makes perfect sense. So, you’re saying kind of pick a platform that you want to kind of dominate in from a marketing perspective.

Drew Tonsmeire:
Right.

Mark Collier:
And focus on that.

Drew Tonsmeire:
You want to pick the market where your customers are, not the one that you know how to do.

Mark Collier:
Makes sense.

Drew Tonsmeire:
So if you’re a B2B, maybe LinkedIn might be the network you need to be concentrating on. Versus a B2C, B to consumer, maybe it might be Facebook or Instagram.

Mark Collier:
That makes perfect sense.

Mark Collier:
And in terms of you as a digital marketing expert, I mean kind of tell me, share with me how you kind of developed that expertise over the course of your career.

Drew Tonsmeire:
Yeah. Some just is circumstance. My degrees are in marketing, so I’ve got a BBA in marketing, my MBA is in marketing. And then, we began to see a shift that was happening that marketing began to fragment. And this digital marketing kind of began in Y2K, as we began to see that digital format was starting to come a little bit more dominant. So, I began studying that.

Drew Tonsmeire:
And then, Google had a certified program that they began in around 2010 and I was one of the first small business certified trainers in the country. And just every year I’ve just kept up my certifications, my knowledge, and it’s really helped with my clients kind of keep up with the things that are important to them.

Mark Collier:
That is fantastic.

Mark Collier:
I know Google, they are such a complex company with so many different moving parts. So, to have experts like you, who are certified Google Pro is a great asset to small businesses.

Mark Collier:
And speaking of that and digital marketing, let’s talk about branding and digital marketing. And how does branding affect digital marketing?

Drew Tonsmeire:
Well, a lot of people think branding is about having a logo and a color. That’s only a part of it. Branding is more about journey. If you think about it is when people see your company, how they react to it. And then, over time, how they build a loyalty to that? That’s what branding is all about. And digital comes in to impact in these different parts of the journey, is sometimes that digital is that awareness factor. And then, sometimes that digital becomes the engagement where people become the raving fans and become the spokesperson.

Drew Tonsmeire:
So, branding is a lot more than just a logo and just your colors. It’s about the experience, about the user experience. So, if you’re trying to be a quality brand, but you don’t answer the phone when people call, you’re not living up to your brand image. So, branding is that whole user experience. And so, we want to use that experience. And digital allows us to measure some of the parts along the way,

Mark Collier:
That makes perfect sense.

Mark Collier:
And in terms of monitoring it, you made a great point, online reputations have also come under scrutiny nowadays. And so, how can a business best monitor their online reputation to kind of not only protect their brand, but also start to enhance it?

Drew Tonsmeire:
Well, that’s probably where it’s more important that your brand lives in your reputation. And so, you want to monitor those places where your brand is being talked about. And it might be on your Google My Business page, also known as your Google Map page. That’s where a lot of brick and mortars are going to get that impact, or that feedback about what their customer experience was like. How not only those customers respond but you, as a business owner, how you might respond to those reviews might lead to your ongoing reputation.

Drew Tonsmeire:
But Google actually has a service called Google Alerts that you can set up a free Google alert, and that any time one of your keywords, it might be your company name, it might be you, the owner’s name, or it might be a competitor’s name. Any time that shows up on the internet, you’ll get a notice of, “Hey, this is where it was mentioned on the internet.” And you can go and look at that. So, it’s a free service to go and check out Google Alerts.

Mark Collier:
That’s a great tool. So, businesses can initiate alerts based on any keywords. Can they also monitor competitors within industry as well?

Drew Tonsmeire:
Yes. And that’s what you want to do is you don’t live in a vacuum. You live with other choices that are out there. And understanding how are those other choices impacting my brand? So, you do want to set up these alerts, so you’re seeing how are my competitors doing? How is my overall reputation? How’s the industry reputation? That is all changing as well.

Mark Collier:
Fantastic.

Mark Collier:
So, besides Google Alerts, I know Google has some other tools as well, Google Analytics, as well as a Google Search Console.

Drew Tonsmeire:
Yeah.

Mark Collier:
So, kind of get into the difference what those benefits are to small businesses and the differences between the two.

Drew Tonsmeire:
Most people have probably seen Google Analytics. This is actually a free tracking service that you place upon your website. It’s a tracking code that is on every single page of a website. And it will give you statistics about some of the usage of what pages they go to, how long they’re on a page, what part of the country, or part of the world your visitors might be coming from? I believe there are probably 30 major reports within the Google Analytics. And then, you can vary it by looking at it by week, by month, by year, year to date comparison to last year’s year to date. So, it’s a very robust system.

Drew Tonsmeire:
And even if you have a another platform that has its own analytics, always like to compare because no data is perfect. It’s always an approximation. And that’s just one of the dangers that we see an empirical number and we think, “Oh, that’s the absolute truth.” Going “No, that’s usually what has been identified, what is in there.

Mark Collier:
Understood.

Drew Tonsmeire:
But there’s another part of the Google Analytics called the Search Console. It’s a separate monitoring system and it gives you a little bit more detailed analysis. One of the things that a lot of businesses are looking for is their SEO, their search engine optimization.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely.

Drew Tonsmeire:
How do I rank on an organic search? And the Search Console will actually give you your ranking by your keywords. And a keyword is not a word, but a phrase. So, now, when you’re really looking at is my SEO improving? Now you can really get some empirical studies of seeing how is my keyword, or that keyword phrase improving with my SEO efforts?

Mark Collier:
I’m glad you brought up keywords because, in the post pandemic economy, adding keywords such as digital, contact lists, touch lists, those types of things will that kind of increase traffic to your website? Because that’s where everyone is today. We’re not a contactless digital economy.

Drew Tonsmeire:
This is what’s been so hard about keywords it’s changed. It used to be that that keyword, we would type into a Google search and it was those one or two words. Then, we began what are called long tail keyword searches. We typed in longer phrases, or typed in a question. Now, we don’t even touch a keyboard to create a search. We have voice assistance that, through our phone or through home speakers, we’re now engaged in searches. And so, that’s shifted what keywords are all about it’s not only what people type, it’s what people speak.

Drew Tonsmeire:
And so, now, this is what’s changed in that SEO world is we’ve got to now kind of tailor our website to answer a question of what somebody might be speaking at home, that if we have the relevant answer, Google and these other search engines will search for that interaction, that relevant question, that relevant answer. And that’s how you rise up in the organic searches.

Mark Collier:
And that’s everyone’s goal is to get in that first page of Google.

Drew Tonsmeire:
Right.

Mark Collier:
Because the old joke and the old adage is true. Where do you hide a dead body? On the second page of Google.

Drew Tonsmeire:
That’s true.

Mark Collier:
But I’m glad you brought up websites because our websites, again, in our new contactless, digital economy websites are now king. So, what are some of the trends that are kind of happening nowadays around website development?

Drew Tonsmeire:
Well, I think a lot of people are using templates. So the template websites are vastly improved. Most people start off with a do it yourself website, which is great. But even if you hire somebody else to create your website, one of the recommendations I have is that owner, that business owner needs to set up those profiles. So, if you’re setting up by WordPress, you need to set up that account in WordPress, and then you give editing rights to somebody else. I’ve seen many instances where some webmaster create a website, they never gave control to the owner, and then they vanish. And then, the owner never has the ability to update, change, or even move. So, I always like owners, you own the properties, own all your digital properties, own your log-ins, then you assign assignments. So, that’s one of the things that we’re seeing is templates are taking over a couple things.

Drew Tonsmeire:
Just as we’ve been seeing the changes that happened from our pandemic of most of us were working from home.

Mark Collier:
Correct.

Drew Tonsmeire:
So, that changed the way that we were meeting. We were meeting now by screens. And we’re seeing the importance of video. Video is changing that it’s now on demand.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely.

Drew Tonsmeire:
So, websites need to change too. The internet is a visual medium, so we want it visually exciting. So, it ought to be pictures and videos. And videos can be large files, so we don’t want videos embedded on a website. We really want them on another platform like a YouTube, and then we’re linked to that. But we’re going to see that trend accelerate even more. And that’s one of the things that we saw from the pandemic is trends, they have been coming. We just got accelerated a little bit. This video world was coming, we just probably accelerated things by about three to five years. But video content is going to be critical for businesses. So, basically, if you’ve got something written in your website that makes for a great video content. Like how to get to your store, there ought to be a video about that. Meet your staff, new product introductions. There’s lots of things that you can do with a video.

Mark Collier:
Drew Tonsmeire area director UGA SBDC, Kennesaw State. This has been phenomenal, and very relevant information on the how to advance yourself during these post COVID economy times. I appreciate you taking the time to come in and, hopefully, you’ll come back more, and share more in the future.

Drew Tonsmeire:
Thanks Mark. I would love too.


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