The small business guide to perfecting your digital strategy
Niamh Lynch is a digital strategist who founded digital strategy agency Clockwork Blog in 2015 when she realised that small businesses were literally losing their sanity by trying to implement all the digital advice they were exposed to. Niamh helps these businesses by making solid, minimalist day-to-day blueprints for what you need to do online to help your business thrive without going mad or burning out. Niamh is Irish and a mother of 1 and has lived in Spain since 2006. After 5 years as an in-house content specialist, she went freelance in 2014 and promptly nearly drowned in the chaos that is online marketing for small businesses. She quickly realised the importance of a “less is more” approach, and now helps other businesses find their zen among the digital marketing madness.
What services do you offer? Can you de-jargon them for the layman/woman?!
Sure, I work with businesses to create digital strategies to help them reach their online business goals. These are day-to-day roadmaps for deciding what your business needs to do online, and helping you actually get it done.
What size of company do you most commonly work with?
There are two main groups: First, experienced solopreneurs and very small businesses (2 – 3 people). In this scenario, one person does most tasks, but they notice that the ad hoc approach they’ve used until now might not be the most effective or is causing them stress. Second, SMEs that haven’t yet hired a specific marketing or “digital” person and need help or direction when starting a new project, or refining an existing one.
How do you work with companies to get the best results for them?
Together, we look at their business plans and see what digital channels and actions will add most value. We also look at existing digital channels and ensure they’re actually seeing results. Then we create a clear and simple plan to guide them in these efforts on a day-to-day basis.
When you talk about ‘digital strategy’ what exactly does that mean?
It’s the part of your business plan that deals with what your business does online, why and how. It’s an umbrella term that covers all of the things that a company might do on the internet, like have a website, operate social media accounts, plan online marketing campaigns, establish an online brand, reach out to customers, etc.
What are the main pitfalls companies make with online marketing?
From my point of view, equating marketing with strategy. Strategy is holistic, looking at all the aspects of helping a business succeed online and marketing is one of those aspects. When you approach digital by just focussing on marketing, you run the risk of missing other aspects, like basic digital skills, copywriting, SEO (helping your website show up on Google when people search), website usability, and user experience. Trying to “do it all” is another, especially smaller companies who really don’t have the resources. There’s so much information out there and small businesses are so ambitious that they try to have a finger in all the digital pies (websites, social media, marketing campaigns, ads, content funnels, etc.) but it ends up burning them out and only sometimes producing any quantifiable benefits. Another problem is a lack of monitoring and assessment. Businesses fall in love with an idea, put all their efforts into it, and then fail to follow up.
What is content marketing and how can companies use content to enhance their leads and branding?
Content marketing is marketing that involves creating ebooks that no one wants to read and trying to get people that will never become your customer download them! No, I jest! It’s a mode of marketing that involves producing attractive, useful content designed to draw in and captivate your target audience. It’s content like blogs, ebooks, white papers, videos, webinars, infographics, etc. It can help reach new customers and establish brand authority, but it takes planning to make sure it’s done right, is on-brand, perfectly targeted, and there is a solid funnel in place to guide the reader to a sale. That process is mentally and physically intensive, meaning that businesses with fewer resources should think hard about the expected returns and ability to maintain the funnel before launching a campaign.
If a company had to do one thing to improve their digital strategy today what would you suggest they do?
Oh, that’s a tough one! I’d ask them to take a long, hard look at their overall business goals and to ensure they had all their brand/product attributes (USP, target market, purchase process, etc) very clear in their minds and visible when they were making any decision about what they do online. And I’d get them to play a recording saying “less is more” very quietly while they sleep…
What do you think the most effective way of using social media is at the moment?Social media has changed beyond recognition in the last 2 years. Many businesses haven’t quite caught up and are still ploughing the Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn triad, Businesses need to examine analytics and find what is truly bringing in the most profitable leads (by profitable, I mean visits working towards your goals, like things leading to conversions, leads, sales, etc,). Then I’d focus all or most of my energy on that, especially if that’s a medium you like or are good at, like photography or video or writing. That might mean reducing or eliminating the other channels, but consider putting all or most of your creativity and effort into the one bringing you the most vibrant leads. Right now, for example, 90% of my leads are coming through LinkedIn, so that’s where I focus my attention (although admittedly I’m not being very creative!). I have Twitter and Facebook, but they’re mostly automated with MeetEdgar, and a personal Instagram. I spend no more than 1 hour a week on social media, because right now, the results just aren’t demanding more. There’s an argument to be made that of course, unless you’re putting in new effort, you won’t see new results, but when you’re a small business, you have to be ruthless about your attention and, right now, social’s just not worth it to me.
What about video, what works and what doesn’t? Where and how should video be used?
Video is firmly in the social media/content marketing category, so I see it in the same light. If it is something you enjoy and see results from, by all means, invest your energy there, but it may mean eliminating something else. Likewise, if it’s a terrible strain on your personality or resources, or you’re seeing no or “vanity only” results, it’s just not worth it.
After all my dire warnings, though, video can be absolutely fantastic when done right. Look at Mari Smith, she’s a great example of a personal brand/coach that is dominating with video. Satorisan is a retail company that makes great videos. But both of them show you how it should be done – you don’t have to be at that level as soon as you start, but that’s your competition. You’ll need to invest time – or money – in getting up to scratch.
How does digital strategy tie in with SEO?
It’s absolutely intertwined. Everything you do online is an extension of or opportunity for SEO and the best thing about it is that it doesn’t really take any special skills, just an awareness. If you don’t have any experience, the most important thing is to remember that 70% of SEO is simply making your intention clear in everything you do – when you do something online, be motivated by the intention to really help a prospective customer understand you, your product, and how it can help them. Use your keyword frequently (the word or phrase that best describes your business), respond to feedback, keep your website fresh and responsive, etc. This article isn’t the newest or the most popular, but I think it’s a good read for total SEO beginners. The other 30% of SEO is more technical, but you can outsource that or learn it later. The important thing is to work on the 70% on a continual basis.
What about your own personal experience of arriving in Barcelona, how did it come about?
It was completely random! I’ve always loved Spain and was living in Madrid when I decided I no longer wanted to be a translator. I looked for a job that would allow me to continue to communicate with people but that was a little more tech-focussed. I would have taken the perfect job anywhere, but I found it in Barcelona!
You used to be a translator – why did you give it up and does it help with your current job?
I love languages and writing, and that’s why I became a translator.. After a few years of working professionally, though, I realized that I wanted something more. I was seeing all of these fascinating developments in the the world of tech and the internet, but in the world of translation, it just wasn’t happening. Of course, it did happen eventually, but it was too slow for me, so I moved on in search of something newer and more dynamic – see above!
Translation, and my politics degree, are a fantastic base for working in digital. You need a certain flexibility with words and thoughts to write effectively for the web and if translation teaches you anything, it’s verbal flexibility!
How did you find the process of establishing a company in Barcelona?
I’m self-employed, but establishing a company is in my near future, I think. The self-employment situation here completely discourages entrepreneurism and the kind of employment flexibility that our quickly-changing world needs, so until serious change happens, I stick my fingers in my ears and la-la-la though the crippling deductions and payments!
What do you think the future is for digital marketing?
I’m hoping that the message trickles down to smaller businesses that just because all the coolest startups are doing something, it doesn’t mean that it’s desirable or necessary for you. No single aspect of digital marketing or online decision will make or break your business! The internet makes the world a very egalitarian place in some regards, but just because you could do something doesn’t mean you should, especially when it comes to your business.
There’s hype around digital marketing and I think it’s grown to a occupy a much bigger place in people’s heads than it needs to. I’m hoping time cuts it back down to size, and people realize that running a business online is very similar to running one offline, and just like for a bricks and mortar store, marketing is only part of the puzzle!
If people are interested in your services how should they contact you?
Send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll set up a call. Every potential project starts with a 15-minute or so call – I’ll call you, and it’s completely obligation free! Consulting can be done in person or online; as long as we can chat it’s equally effective.
I also do in-person digital skill courses and training in Barcelona, and you can find out more about them here.