We all know that Google and Facebook are the primary drivers of traffic to Small to Medium Business websites. When examining your Google Analytics take a look and you will see a variation of the following sources:
Naturally, entrepreneurs and marketers grew accustomed to the free flows of traffic. A quick journey in time shows you that the yellow pages did not charge businesses to list in it. It was an alphabetical resource, by category, to find local products and services, i.e., plumber, veterinarian, electrician. As a widely disseminated no-cost resource in every household, the publisher made money selling premium space to advertisers that wanted more exposure. Just about every business was listed, quite literally.
Businesses were comfortable relying on this, year in and year out, to garner new customers; thus, it became second nature to take it for granted. That wasn’t a problem until people stopped using the yellow pages. If your business card was in their Rolodex, or menu in their kitchen drawer, or salon rewards punch card in their purse, you succeeded in starting a direct conversation. They didn’t go back to the yellow pages; they used your marketing collateral to find your number or address and reconnect with you.
Consumers will not stop using Google and Facebook anytime soon for their digital content marketing strategy. However, you are at the mercy of their business models. Facebook made a huge change, practically overnight in 2015, when they stopped letting you communicate to “likes” for free. Google is slowly phasing out SEO. Nearly 50% of searches never leave the search engine here in 2020, compared with less than 15% back in the early aughts. Even before the world shut down from COVID-19, TripAdvisor.com, Booking.com, and other 3rd party travel platforms were laying off hundreds of employees, pinning the blame directly on Google.com/Travel and the slowly decreasing SEO. Your organic traffic is likely dwindling, too, if you’re not countering with strong SEO efforts. Run your GA over the past 24 + months and see for yourself. You can also use a tool like SEMRush.com. With other direct channels, like email, you are not susceptible to these changes.
What does this mean in the realm of the customer journey? If you’re re-engaging your customers at every touchpoint on those external channels, you lose control of the next conversation to a competitor or 3rd party giant in your vertical. HomeAdvisor.com, DoorDash, TruGreen, and countless others use their behemoth search ad budgets and programmatic tools to intercept follow up searches, not only for broad match industry searches, but also for people looking specifically for your brand.
Regardless of your target demographic, it’s well documented via a plethora of online research that Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z all want fast, direct communication via their preferred communication mechanism. Chat, text, voice, email, in-person, digital assistant, doesn’t matter. You might have a bias toward one of the tools mentioned above, but your customers likely don’t share it. Would taking your phone number off the website, or making it difficult to find, turn people away from your business? Obviously yes. (If you said no, please stop reading.)
You’ve probably been on websites that had too many distracting CTA’s, and are worried you’ll be perceived as too salesy to potential customers. The general manager of a luxury hotel I worked with for 8+ years, said, “I hate those pop-up things! My job is to drive revenue for the property, however, so let’s test it and see if it works!” It worked.
What better intent signal than a website visitor giving you their email or mobile number? OR BOTH! It means they want direct communication from you, not Facebook or Google. Get your menu in their kitchen drawer!
Are you asking them for this information when they visit your digital storefront? Having a static “sign up for our newsletter” form hidden someplace on the bottom of your website, or on the “contact us” page is not impactful here in 2020. It almost seems like marketers are embarrassed to ask, and this is critical for your digital content marketing strategy. Look at data on your site, how many visitors over the past 12 months signed up for your newsletter? You’re likely in the .5 – 1% range if you’re request form is hidden. Businesses with a more proactive approach, like pop-up forms, see anywhere between 3-10% depending on the content within the conversion box. Now you can communicate directly with that many more customers. You generated the lead on Google, but now have a higher chance of them bypassing the search engine and coming back direct as they get closer to purchasing your product or service.
If you’re too young to remember that book with all the business listings I’m talking about, ask a more aged seasoned family member, friend, or colleague. And of course, you can always Google search “What were the yellow pages?”