“82% of smartphone users consult their phone on purchases they are about to make in-store.” In a 2018 ROBO study, 4.59 million buying signals across 32 global retailers in 9 countries were examined, and the results were incredible. 56% of online shoppers and 45% of brick-and mortar buyers read online reviews before they make a purchase.
“ROBO” simply means Research Online, Buy Offline. In other words, the overwhelming majority of people will research what they are interested in online, even if they are going to purchase in person!
Here is the application for you: You have an online business even if all of your transactions happen offline.
CREATING AN ONLINE PRESENCE FOR YOUR SMALL BUSINESS
People are looking for you online, and what they see is called your online presence. In this digital, wireless, smartphone age, a strong online presence is essential for your business to reach its full potential.
Still not convinced? Let’s bring out the big guns from a recent study by Deloitte. According to their study, when a business created a strong online presence they experienced the following results compared to those businesses that struggled with their online presence.
- Earned two times as much revenue per employee
- Experienced revenue growth over the previous year that was nearly four times as high
- Were almost three times as likely to be creating jobs over the previous year
- Had an average employment growth rate that was more than six times as high
- Were also three times as likely to have exported over the previous year
THE FOUNDATIONAL 5
Your online presence matters no matter what industry you are in! Let’s take a look at the Foundational 5 for a Strong Online Presence.
1. Your Website
Your business needs a home base; a place where customers can come and learn about you and all that you have to offer. Your business needs a website. Think of it as a business card of the modern era. Much of your value will exist on your website, making it one of the biggest and most important pieces of your online presence strategy. This is where clients and customers can come and get information about you and your area of expertise, buy your services or products, and find answers and solutions to their problems.
Anyone who visits your webpage will be doing so for a specific reason. Whether it’s to purchase an item, request a service, or simply to find out more, they will have a set goal in mind. Your website should seamlessly provide them with everything they need along every step of the buyer’s journey. If you do this successfully, you are guaranteed to leave them satisfied.
Providing valuable content on your website will demonstrate that you’re a legitimate business and will give visitors an effective way to communicate with you.
When you are evaluating the design of your website, keep these three key website tips in mind:
Don’t overdo it. Keep your website simple and easy to navigate.
Design your website with your visitors’ needs mind. Guiding your customer through a process makes it more likely to be effective.
People tend to migrate towards what they know, so keep your layout and design familiar to them. If you get too complex, you may scare potential customers away. Once you have the design you want, make sure it’s optimized for mobile use. In order to make your online presence valuable, you have to make it visible. That brings us to the buzz phrase of the day: Search Engine Optimization or SEO.
Learn More: Growing Your Business with Good Web Design
Search Engine Optimization means using keywords and search-engine-friendly strategies to make your information easy to find online. Most people will use a search engine like Google to find your website. Optimizing your website for the search engines is an extremely valuable marketing investment for your website.
Here are a couple basics for SEO on your website:
- Relevant Keywords: Keyword research can help you determine the best and most searched-for words in your niche. For example, if you are an auto mechanic, using the most popular words related to mechanic work throughout your website will help you be seen when someone does a search on the subject. Once you know what those keywords are, use them in the content throughout your website to increase your SEO rankings.
- A Regularly Updated Site: Running the updates on your phone helps all of the features continue to function properly. The same goes for your website. Maintaining your site regularly helps keep everything running well. It also helps the search engines see your site as both useful and valuable because it is receiving fresh content on a regular basis.
Learn More: 10 Tips for Better Web Conversion
Your website is one of the best ways to provide customers with information that will help your business stand out from the rest.
2. SOCIAL MEDIA
These days, social media is one of the fastest and most effective ways to connect and communicate with your customers. Building your customer base is all about building relationships, and that’s only possible when you are engaging and networking with others.
Regularly utilizing your social media platforms gives you a way to communicate with customers and keep your business fresh in their minds. Use it to update customers about what your business is doing, solicit reviews from people who are happy with your services, and offer support or resolutions for those who have a complaint.
Social media platforms provide easy and convenient ways for your customers to stay connected with your business. They help humanize your business and make your products and services more attainable. Not to mention, the use of social media is a great way to provide value and share information with both current and potential customers. Through your social media platforms, you can focus on making every interaction with your customers both personal and meaningful.
Having a content strategy is a huge part of having success with social media. Not only does it elevate your content, but it maximizes your time.
Here are a few ideas for developing a solid content strategy:
Part of your strategy should be determining how often to post. It’s better to choose a frequency you can sustain than get excited and try to post every day only to hit the wall and quit posting. Look at your calendar and determine when you are going to post for the next month.
Once you’ve laid out your calendar and know how many times you are going to post each week, you know how much content needs to be created. Instead of waiting until the day of your post for inspiration to strike, think of your posts in terms of categories. For example, if you post 3 times a week you may develop categories of posts like industry insights, customer testimonials, and everyday advice. Knowing you have these types of categories can help you stay on top of what you need to create to fill your calendar.
CREATE IN BULK
Instead of creating one post on the day you are posting, try setting aside a block of time to create all the posts you need for the week or month. You will save a lot of time by doing all of your content creation at once when you can get in your peak creative flow versus trying to create at random times spread throughout the day or week.
AUTOMATE YOUR POSTS
Once your content is created you have to remember to post it or else it was wasted effort. Hire someone to help you – in the form of an app that posts the content you created when you schedule it. That way you can set it, and… not forget it!
RESPOND TO COMMENTS
Remember the social part of social media. If you post something and get comments, respond to them. Not only does it increase the connection with those reading your posts, it also boosts your post to be seen by more people.
3. ONLINE REVIEWS
With the widespread use of mobile devices and smart technology, access to real-time information has never been easier to obtain. These days, one of the best ways for you to be seen is through the use of online reviews. Online reviews have the power and potential to make or break your business and your brand. They allow curious clients to get a feel for your products and services from real people who have already personally experienced them.
Everybody wants great reviews, but how do you get them? Not to be too obvious, but before you get a great review you have to deliver great results. If you are aren’t committed to great customer experiences, you shouldn’t work for online reviews. If you do, your customers may tell stories of your business you don’t want others to know.
Since you are the type of reader committed to giving your customers a great customer experience, here are some suggestions for making the most of your online reviews:
SET THE EXPECTATION
If you are in the service industry, set the expectation. As you are discussing your ability serve them, let them know up front that it is your goal to provide them with such excellent service that they want to give you a glowing online review.
ASK AT THE HEIGHT OF HAPPINESS
Don’t wait too long to ask for a review. Figure out when your customer is at the height of their happiness with you, and ask them to write the review then.
RESPOND TO REVIEWS
Take the time to thank people for positive reviews they leave you. This is a way to connect with someone who is your fan and hopefully encourage them to continue being your customer.
DON’T GET NEGATIVE ABOUT NEGATIVE REVIEWS
You can’t please everyone. Eventually, you are going to get a bad review. When it happens, your feelings will be hurt and chances are, you will be mad. Wait to respond until you have calmed down. Apologize for their bad experience and let them know your desire to make it better. In the end, take comfort in knowing that when most people read that overly-angry rant on your review, they know it says more about the person writing the review than the person getting the review.
Learn More: Hollaback Y’all
4. PAID ADS
Used in the right way, paid ads are a great way to supplement your online presence. Our word of caution about ad campaigns is that it should be a part of your online strategy, but not your entirety of it. Why? Because it is a zero sum game. In other words, the amount you show up will always be what you paid for. So if you stop paying for it, you will stop showing up.
With that being said, if you are creating an organic online presence by optimizing your website, earning reviews and leveraging social media, paid ads can be an effective addition to your online presence.
Digital advertising is still one of the most cost efficient ways to advertise. On top of efficiency, digital ads can produce a higher level of specificity that you can use when going after your ideal client. Instead of paying for everyone to see your ad, you can be much more specific with who you want to see it and only pay to reach them.
When it comes to paid ads, we are regularly told that a potential client has tried paid ads and it didn’t work. When we ask the follow up, “Tell me what you did.”, we typically hear something like, “We spent $100 on Facebook and didn’t get any results”.
Paid ads can often be like investing, in that randomly tossing some money in will likely not produce sustained results. It takes a strategy to be successful. Think about things like where your ideal client is most likely to see your ad. If your ideal client is 18-30 years old, you may consider advertising through Instagram instead of Facebook. If you are a B2B business, think about advertising on LinkedIn. Once you know where your ideal client is, think about what they are looking for and how your product or service connects with that want. Make sure clearly advertise what you are offering. Some people get so “creative” that you have no idea what the offer actually is. When it comes to digital ads, clarity is the pinnacle of creativity!
CALL TO ACTION
Finally, have a call to action. If you are going to spend the money on an ad, make sure your audience knows what to do if they are interested. This could be as simple as being clear about how to get in contact with you. Your call to action could vary between ads, but make sure there is some clear way to respond.
5. TRACK YOUR RESULTS
Keeping track of your results will help you determine what is working and what is not. Why move forward with the same strategies if those strategies are not actually bringing you business? Tracking your results also helps you know when you have met one goal so that you can focus on the next. It can keep you motivated as you watch your audience and customer base grow.
Oreo, Starbucks, Pampers, Netflix, Dominos, Dove. What do all of these well-known companies have in common? Their huge online presence and extraordinary use of their social media platforms. Not only do they keep things interesting and entertaining for their customers, but they earn their trust and their business by providing amazing customer service and engaging with them online. And guess what? They notice! When it comes to growing your business, the need for an online presence is undeniable. As a business owner, it can help you build relationships, win customers, increase sales, and hit milestones that would otherwise be impossible. Using these 5 foundational tips, you’re well on your way to having a strong online presence that is sure to help your business grow, and grow fast.
If you’re ready to dive in and invest in the development of your business, give us a call! We would love to chat with you and help walk you through the process.