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We spoke to digital marketing expert Valentina Borbone who shared some invaluable lessons about the importance of a digital strategy.

What are your three tips for someone with a new business trying to get cut through in the digital space?

  1. Think of where your customers are likely to find you based on who THEY are; do they search, do they ask their friends, do they spend a lot of time on social, do they listen to the radio in a daily commute? Be present in the places where your customers are present. Digital is a big space with lots of channels and picking the right marketing tools to achieve reach is critical. Customers need to know who you are before they can consider you in the decision-making process.
  2. Your digital presence needs to have three things: consistency, recency and relevance. If you have a website, it should be functional and provide the content customers need to shortlist you or contact you in the consideration phase of decision-making. And you should have a website because it’s a core part of validating a business. If you have social media profiles, they need to be supported with content of high consistency to meet the requirements of the algorithms, or your content won’t be seen by your followers. Social is a beast of short, relevant and interesting interactions with your customers and potential customers. Old content and content that isn’t updated, works against you, as Google particularly is looking for the most recent information and in social media it looks like you might not be responsive, customer-service driven or at worst, not still in business.
  3. Try a few things at a time rather than everything all at once. You’re more likely to succeed if you pick a few tactics first and do them really well than spreading yourself too thin doing everything badly. Create a budget that is affordable for you and work backwards to your goals. Apply your budget to your objectives and be realistic about what it takes to achieve them.

For those who have experienced business hardship in 2020, what are some budget-friendly digital strategies for 2021?

Businesses have suffered dramatically in 2020, but there’s plenty you can do in digital that’s inexpensive. It might not cost you money, but it does take time.

  • Create content on your mobile phone. Images can look great using social filters and you have video at your fingertips. Create short videos of yourself in your workplace, with your customers, talking about your products and showcasing your effort in your local community. You can post these on your social platforms, upload them to YouTube and your website and include them in your email marketing campaigns.
  • Create your own database from your contacts and start communicating with them through email marketing campaigns. Many platforms are free to use if databases are less than 500 contacts and really inexpensive thereafter.
  • Get great at social media. Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest have all seen increased digital usage through the year. You have a captive audience waiting to be informed and entertained. Chat back with your audience, like their comments and respond at every chance. Share other people’s content and add your commentary to it to provide value. Social is being social and being yourself. Customers want to learn who you are and what you stand for, so they can align themselves with your brand.
  • Update your website and content. Most web platforms are easy enough to update and by creating new content like articles or blogs, videos or even customer reviews/testimonials. These updates signal Google that there is updated content and Google will reindex your site, giving you greater visibility against your competitors.
  • Double-down on your marketing presence in tough times. When everyone else is withdrawing their activity and you ramp it up, you increase your share of voice. With less competition, your marketing stands out. Communities want to support their local businesses and sharing how your business is operating keeps customers engaged.

What are some of the things the most successful clients are doing in web development?

  1. Redesigning websites so they are modern and functional. Customers have expectations when they see a brand online and if they can’t meet their needs quickly on a website, they move on.
  2. Connecting their ‘sign up to a newsletter’ from their website to their email platform, like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor. Using the newsletter function builds an active and engaged audience with a right to market to them. It’s easy to connect and then create automatic communications, like a thank you or welcome email, or a reminder of something a customer may have added to their cart but not finished the process.
  3. Correcting their SEO efforts. SEO is an important part of digital success, as keywords and phrases, content and website infrastructure are important ranking factors when customers are in search mode. Optimising a website for search is easy to do and is something that should be checked on regularly. When the search engines change the way they behave, you too have to adapt. As an example, not having a responsive website (a website that changes and adapts based on the screen size) is penalised by Google – if it’s not responsive, they won’t even show your website as a result for a search request, as they don’t feel your site is good enough to show their customer – the searcher.
  4. Marketing the website is the next step after launching it. You can’t just build it and expect customers to find you. Businesses need to actively promote their website as a destination of information to build confidence and trust in the customer relationship. Use your website as a hub or library of your business, continually building with valuable things to say. It should never be a ‘set and forget’ marketing tactic.

What are some of the common mistakes you have seen in web development?

  1. Picking the right platform can be difficult if you aren’t sure of the variances. Wix, Squarespace and GoDaddy are easy and free web builders to make a site look good, but they aren’t great for SEO, meaning Google struggles to find them and index them in a search result. It’s like buying a nice car body, without the engine. Websites are meant to be functional (like being found by a search engine). Websites don’t have to be expensive either, using platforms like WordPress are globally created (over 38% of the world’s websites are built on WordPress) and maintained within cost-effective rates. Websites don’t need to be hard-coded, meaning you need a web coder to update or make changes, anyone can update a WordPress site quite easily once it’s built properly.
  2. A common mistake is not starting a website development project without the right process. You need to start with keyword research about what words people use in relation to your business and including these in your content for the right pages. The architecture should be simple and visual, and the copy text needs to be a minimum of 300 words per page to assist with ranking. Take your time to get your website right from the beginning and it will pay off in the long run.
  3. Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to collate the requirements of your website. The build itself isn’t what takes the longest time, it’s getting the copy, the images and videos that create long delays. Start planning out what you want to say, think of it as a response when you’re at a BBQ: “so what do you do?”. You should be answering with simple sentences that address who you are, what you do, who you do it for and the results customers can expect.
  4. Getting caught out with monthly SEO services that offer a false promise of getting on Page 1 of Google. No-one can guarantee a page 1 position on Google. Yes, there are activities you can do to optimise your website for Google to find it, but the competition is fierce. There are limited organic positions left on a Google result on page 1, usually around 10. Many businesses sign up to monthly SEO services but aren’t sure of what’s actually included or delivered. As for clarity in your agreement and if you’re not sure what it means, ask directly.

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