In case you haven’t noticed, there are thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions of websites in the world! The beautiful thing about this is that you can find information about virtually anything. The bad thing is that it makes it difficult for your business to stand out in the crowd.
Luckily, we’ve put together a list of some of the most important things you can do to get noticed and help your business grow. From building a website to collecting email addresses and creating great content, we’ve got you covered right here! Below we will be addressing some of the most common small business solutions to help grow online.
Create an Online Presence
One of the most important first steps in building your business is to create an online presence. Most consumers find what they’re looking for by first searching for it on the web. It comes as no surprise, then, that websites are one of the first impressions a customer will have of you and your business. But your online presence doesn’t stop there. It also includes social media platforms and other touchpoints like email.
Let’s begin building your online presence by creating an efficient and functional website. In small businesses, the name of the game is user experience! Your website needs to be simple in design and easy to navigate. It also needs to be really clear about what you’re selling, how to buy it, and how to get in contact with you. To accomplish this, try some of these key elements:
- Find a platform that is easy to work with. This probably seems like a no-brainer, but many new businesses spend a ton of time and resources trying to build a website on a super complicated platform. However, if web development isn’t your skill set, you can still create a nice, easy-to-use website that will get the job done. Consider WordPress or Wix as a starting point. They offer a variety of templates and packages to fit every budget.
- Develop a site that’s easy to maintain. Regardless of which website platform you choose, you need to build it in such a way that it’s easy to maintain. Automate as many processes as possible, including email opt-ins, auto-replies, payment processing, shopping carts and other necessary functions. It will take longer on the front end to automate these things, but you’ll be thankful later on!
- Choose a design that is easy to navigate. Nothing is more annoying to a potential customer than a website that is impossible to navigate. If you want them to spend money with you, then you need to make that process as simple as possible. Use simple navigation bars, clear language, and an easy payment processing system that does NOT re-route the customer to a third-party website.
- Make it easy to contact you. Whether your customer has a question, needs customer service, or wants a refund, make it easy on them! Although no business owner wants to think about processing refunds, you also don’t want to be faced with chargebacks in your merchant account because the customer couldn’t get a hold of you. Today’s consumers want an easy process and a guarantee that someone will respond in a timely manner. Give that to them and you will build loyalty quickly.
- Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. More and more consumers are doing business on their mobile devices, which means your website needs to function flawlessly on phones, tablets, and PCs. When you’re building the site and choosing a template, be sure to test it on mobile devices before going live. Most website builders have the ability to test it out before committing to a theme.
- Pay attention to website speeds. Customers expect instant gratification and will not stick around much longer than a few seconds. This means that not only do you have to grab their attention quickly, but you need to get them to what they want quickly, as well. Be sure that your web host has the ability to support whatever graphics, videos, and other plugins you’re running on your site so it doesn’t get bogged down.
Social Media Platforms
The next piece of the puzzle for an online presence is social media. Different social platforms work better for different businesses, so it’s important to think about each platform and whether or not it will work for you. Here’s a rundown of the most common types of platforms and how they are best utilized.
- Social Networking Platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are examples of social networking platforms. Users come to these platforms to engage with other people and brands. As a business, you can set up a profile, include links to your website, and respond to comments and questions from customers. You can also set up groups where people can interact with one another about specific things. If you do a lot of B2B transactions, you should definitely consider a LinkedIn account for networking and brand awareness.
- Photo Sharing Platforms: The two main photo-sharing platforms are Instagram and Pinterest. These types of platforms are awesome for businesses that are highly visual. If you have a brand that is visually appealing, this can be a great way to create awareness. It’s also awesome for micro-vlogs or short videos that tell potential customers about your product or service. Although you can’t directly share links until your account is verified (more than 10,000 followers), you can still provide lots of info about your brand.
- Video-Sharing Platforms: You can certainly share videos on Facebook and Instagram, but that is not necessarily their primary function. When we’re talking about video-sharing platforms, we’re talking about things like YouTube and Vimeo. Many marketers tout video content as their highest ROI-producing content. It allows you to connect and engage with consumers and if you do it right, you can ultimately get them to click and buy!
- Blogging / Community Platforms: Although these go hand-in-hand, they really are two different types of platforms. If your website has a blog, you can write articles about your industry and give your audience helpful tips, recipes, user guides, and more. Even better, blog content is super easy to share on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. If you want to do market research, jump into Reddit or another platform to get to know your potential customers and learn what they’re looking for.
The really important piece to remember about social media is that you should be using it to build your email list and drive traffic to your website. You want people to go to your website, not only to make purchases but to browse around, read your content, and opt-in to an email campaign. This gets them more educated about who you are and boosts your SEO results at the same time.
All the websites and social media platforms in the world will not help if you don’t have anything of interest to post on them. Now that you’ve set up all your profiles and made your site easy to navigate, you need to have strategies on how to capitalize on your page visitors.
First, you need a content strategy for your business. This includes the topics you will discuss and how you will present them. For example, if you own a restaurant and you want to provide cooking tips, you can do this in a mini-blog or a short video format on Facebook or Instagram. If the videos are longer, you might want to consider starting a YouTube channel of cooking tips and recipes.
Along with the content strategy, you need to focus on content creation. If your strategy is to provide a new recipe each week for your audience, you need to have a plan for how to produce that content. What mediums will you use? Video? Blog? Photos? All of the above?
Having this mapped out ahead of time will help keep you on track. Nothing is worse than a blog or social media account with nothing on it. You have to keep your audience engaged on a regular basis, which means creating consistent content. Sometimes, the best strategy is to book yourself for an entire day to just create content. Then you have a bunch lined up for several weeks and you can just schedule it to post at regular intervals.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to use both social media and your website to build your email list. As your list grows, you should be sending emails at regular intervals with content that is interesting and/or useful to your customers. Whether you’re in the tech industry or the fashion industry, there is always something new to talk about. Consider sending a newsletter or other type of communication a couple of times per month. This will help keep your brand top-of-mind for your consumers.
Finding highly active bloggers, YouTubers, or social media influencers to promote your brand can be extremely beneficial. It is definitely not the cheapest way to get your name out there, but it can really boost brand awareness. Many of these marketers utilize a pay-per-action scheme where they encourage their followers to purchase something from you and in return, they receive a commission or a percentage of the sale. If you’re in a very niche market, this can work wonders for your business!
This is also known as pay-per-click or PPC. Basically, you can choose different platforms on which to advertise. Each time someone clicks on the ad, you get charged a fee for that click. It doesn’t always equate to sales, but can drive traffic to your website or store. Some of the major platforms where this technique is used are Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram, Waze, and Yelp. Depending on whether you’re an online business or a brick-and-mortar store, different platforms will work better for you.
This is not an exhaustive list of small business marketing strategies or necessities for your business to be successful. However, it is a solid foundation upon which you can build your company and your goals for growth. Starting with these methods will get you moving in the right direction and get your brand in front of people right from the start. You will learn new techniques and ideas as you go, and you can incorporate them as you see fit. Happy building!