The Internet is a critical and mandatory component of any small business marketing strategy. Are you getting the most out of your online presence?
Old-school marketing is formulaic at this point, because we understand it well. There are heaps of marketing textbooks that advise you exactly how to craft a traditional marketing strategy.
While we understand traditional, offline marketing methods quite well, the Internet is still the Wild West of marketing. There’s still so much room to experiment and try more things—your online presence can be a creative canvas with which you can craft brilliant ideas to engage your customers.
The Internet is the best marketing gift anyone ever could have given your business. It enables you to personalize and target your advertisements, keep your customers in the loop, and drive customer loyalty like never before.
Let’s briefly explore each of these benefits.
When advertising on Facebook and other platforms, you can target your advertisement to an incredibly specific audience, taking advantage of their mind-numbingly vast amount of consumer data.
In the past, you could do targeted mailings, put billboards in the right neighborhoods, pick the right radio stations—but nothing even close to the targeting sophistication of the Internet.
You have so many online tools at your disposal to keep your customers in the loop. You can update your website, post on dozens of social media channels, maintain an active email list, or even create your own mobile app.
Marketers twenty years ago would think you’re a wizard with the amount of tools you now have at your disposal.
And since customers can talk back online, you can drive customer loyalty by creating a community.
People who use Facebook more than five times per day are 1.25x more likely to be “brand-loyal” than customers who only use Facebook once per month.
Brand-loyal customers are incredibly valuable as they’re guaranteed business—not just for one transaction, but over time, and don’t forget about these people’s referrals.
Engaging with your audience in the comments on your posts and getting your customers to talk to each other make them feel like they’re part of a big family of like-minded people (who love your product or service). I’d like to see you try to do that with a billboard or radio ad!
This is just a quick taste—we’ve written at length before about the numerous benefits of online marketing.
Let’s talk about how you can grow your online presence so you can take full advantage of its power to grow your business.
How To Grow Your Small Business Online Presence
Invest your time on the right social media platforms
The volume of social media platforms at your disposal is just staggering. If you maintained an active presence on even half of them, you wouldn’t have any time to run your business.
It’s important to pick the most strategic platforms for your business. Learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of each social media platform to decide which are best for you.
You definitely need to have a presence on Facebook and Google, at a minimum. Add in Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and others based on the specific nature of your business and the customers you’re trying to reach.
Don’t invest your time on each of them equally either. If you’re an artist trying to target young people, you should spend most of your energy on your Instagram. Likewise, if you’re a dentist, make sure you’re appearing high in the results when people search “dentists in [your area].”
Maintain an up-to-date, visually pleasing website
Even though you may get the most mileage out of social media, your website is still the cornerstone of your online presence.
You can spend much more time and energy updating your social media channels, but you must have an updated and visually pleasing website.
Your website doesn’t need to be ridiculously complicated. There are a few very simple steps and design principles you can follow to get your website up-to-par for 2017.
Not only should your site always have current information—it should look nice. I assume you wouldn’t hang an ugly sign outside your storefront or pass out business cards that look like a coloring book.
Grab a nice theme and get professional help if you need it. When in doubt, keep your site simple and clean. As long as your basic information is available, you’re in the game.
Rise in search engine results with SEO
SEO—search engine optimization—is vastly important for your online presence. SEO is basically a set of strategies to appear higher in search results on Google and other search engines.
Your search engine rankings are important as search traffic continues to grow.
And now, customers execute mobile searches on the fly to make quick decisions about where to go or what to buy. In fact, 95% of mobile users look up local information on their phones for the purpose of calling or visiting a business.
We have your back with 20 tips to increase your search engine traffic.
Update your information on Google My Business and Bing Places For Business
Skipping this simple, essential step is one of the most common mistakes I see businesses make with their online presence.
It only takes a few minutes to claim your business and update your information on Google My Business and Bing Places For Business.
It’s completely free and incredibly helpful. Why would anyone pass on free (and hugely important) advertising?
If your business isn’t properly listed on Google, you could see a serious impact.
I worked with an entertainment venue last year on their online presence. For some reason, in the middle of the venue’s busiest season, the address disappeared from the Google profile.
It took over a month to get it fixed due to some challenges with Google. In that time, we noticed at least a 10% drop in business, with dozens of other customers commenting that our profile was messed up.
The key benefit of mobile devices is convenience. So when customers use them, they want their experience to be as easy and seamless as possible.
Forcing them to embark on a research mission due to incomplete data is certainly not convenient.
Craft your posts to promote customer engagement
The impact of customer engagement on your online presence is significant and exponential. As more of your followers engage with your content by liking, commenting, and sharing, even more customers will see your posts.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and pretty much all social media platforms now are driven by algorithms.
Years ago, posts were displayed in chronological order. These social media giants figured out people will stay on their platforms longer if posts are selected and displayed according to an algorithm.
Your content engagement is the most significant determinant of how many customers will actually see your posts.
Create high-quality, unique content that sets you apart from your competition
You’re not going to get very far if you post pictures of the same burger from different angles every week, nor if you simply post reminders about your hours and specials.
Keep your content fresh or your customers will tune it out.
As customers stop visiting your page, leaving comments, and liking your posts—Facebook and other platforms will realize they’re not interested and stop showing them your posts entirely.
Or if customers engage with your content regularly over time, your posts are more likely to show up high in their news feeds—even without sponsored posts.
Get creative with your online channels
There’s a lot of conventional wisdom out there about the largest social media channels: Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Yelp…
But there are other channels you can take advantage of as well depending on your business.
Answering questions on Quora might be a great option for you. You can do content marketing this way, offering meaningful answers to Quora users’ questions and leaving links to your website in appropriate places.
One blogger used Quora to go from 0 to 1.5 million page views in just 30 days. And his story is just one of many who have taken advantage of the platform.
His results are compelling:
Sometimes you can get away with doing the same on Reddit. You might find smaller, more specific discussion boards of hobbyists as well if you have a highly specific niche business.
The key to success with this strategy is genuine engagement with the community. If you’re clearly just writing posts to promote your own business, the Quora or Reddit communities will see right through you.
They’ll “down vote” your posts, which means people won’t see them for long anyway. So if you don’t plan to genuinely give back to their readers, don’t even try this strategy.
You can also make sure you submit things on your local media websites’ event calendars and even try to get press coverage for any newsworthy business activities.
And with the tech community booming with startups putting out new apps constantly, being featured and active in one of them just might be a huge boon for your business.
Integrate your “real life” business and online presence as much as possible
Your core business and online presence should operate seamlessly and efficiently. This means something different depending on what your business offers.
If you sell products, I highly encourage selling products online by adding e-commerce functionality to your website.
If you provide a local service, you can add an online appointment scheduling system, integrate email reminders, and send surveys.
If you’re a photographer, maintaining an updated portfolio on your website and social media channels is important. You can even sometimes tag your photos for added engagement and visibility.
Build an email list
Some people think the email list is outdated. At least for now, email is still the king of online marketing.
Even though email isn’t new and flashy, it makes sense. When people opt-in to your email list, it’s extremely likely they’re interested in whatever product or service you offer.
For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect a return as high as $38. Sounds like an excellent return on investment to me.
Email marketing is certainly not dead, as some of the largest marketing companies out there still tout its benefits.
People generally open Facebook to read updates from their friends, not just from businesses. You’re competing with much more noise on Facebook than with email.
Grow Your Small Business Online Presence
All of this can undoubtedly be stressful and time-consuming.
I can assure you if you spend your time in the right places and execute the best strategies, your time investment will pay off in spades.
If you’d like to grow your online presence but you’re not sure where to start, get in touch with us for a free online assessment. We’d be glad to provide some specific tips to boost your visibility.