by Jim Martin
It isn’t enough to simply establish an on line presence. You have to maximize your contacts by ensuring you catch the attention of prospective customers. We’ve compiled a list of ideas that can help you. Start with the ones that you can implement most easily. Add others as you have the time. Don’t try to do everything at once. The results will please you.
Get More Positive Reviews for Your Business. Online reviews can impact how people view your business. People are more likely to invest in products or services if they know that other people have been satisfied with them. How do you get positive reviews? First, find out which sites review businesses like yours. Focus on a handful of regular customers (who would not keep returning if they were dissatisfied) and ask them to review you on those sites. Google yourself up, find reviews that are already out there, and create a link on your site to the most favorable ones. Most importantly, fix any faults that are noted in the reviews you find.
Reward Business Referrals. Referrals from your customers can really help your business. You can benefit strongly by providing incentives for your existing customers to refer others to your business. Keep in mind, you need to be able to identify new customers as new. This will work better for service companies who work directly with customers than for businesses like bakeries and florists who have a high transient trade. To encourage referrals, design an attractive card that has your business address, location and on-line address. Have a space for “I was recommended to you by________.” You can also accommodate direct on-line referrals by including a block on your new customer registration form for them to enter the referrer’s name. Make sure that the incentive is worth having, but inexpensive enough that the new business will allow you to recapture the cost.
Set an Online Marketing Budget That Drives Business Growth. Any online marketing plan needs a budget. If you can create a budget that will actually drive business growth, your spending will be more productive. This is an area where you might want advice from your SCORE mentor. Consider what on-line tools will drive growth. Blogs, Face Book and tweets will keep you visible to potential customers. Keep everything dynamic. Focus on what is useful to those customers. For example, rather than touting your product, discuss what it can do for them. A good budget item might be an occasional contest for the best application for a product whose sales you’d like to boost. If you are computer or graphics challenged, budget for outside help (but research costs to ensure you budget correctly). Perhaps you will want to put together a list of what you can and cannot do yourself. And remember: You should budget both time and money.
Get Your Brand Listed on Top Lists. Customers who browse online for products or services may access lists that include businesses in your particular industry or category. If you are able to get your business well placed on those lists, you better your chances of getting found. Look at those who are listed. If you can figure out what they have in common, you will have some ideas of how to change your site. Research your industry on several search engines to see where your business appears.
Pay Close Attention to Your Landing Page. Your landing page provides a first impression of your business to customers. It’s important to create a good one. Ensure that a landing page is not a stopping page; make navigation through your web pages clear and simple. Make the content attractive and relevant. Don’t include flashy gimmicks that don’t really contribute to your business. Be sure to include easily spotted links for news-letter sign-ups, sales alerts and other items critical to bringing customers back. Have a comment block on the landing page to encourage customer feedback. Avoid clutter. Your product pages may have to be cluttered, but your landing page should remain unburdened and attractive.
Always Emphasize Value. Your customers want value. If they are convinced you offer more value than your competitors, they will return to you again and again. Focus less on your products and more on their applications. Emphasize useful features that others lack. You might sponsor application contests, rewarding customer ideas with gift certificates. Post letters from customers on your web site. Start a blog that emphasizes features, applications and benefits. Encourage customers to contribute.
Try to Understand Information Technology. If you want to make the best possible business decisions in the IT area, you need to understand at least the basic elements. You don’t have to learn to write code, but a weekend spent with a “For Dummies” book on the internet will allow you to deal with the people who will write the code for you. The IT professionals you utilize should be able to explain in clear terms those items that seem to baffle you. If not, ask your 8-year old granddaughter.
Use Automated and Outsourced Internet Marketing Tools. Marketing your business to online customers can be a time consuming process. But it doesn’t have to be. There are many available tools that could help you minimize the time you personally spend updating your we pages. Do some research on which will best meet your needs, and work closely with your IT expert (who probably understands your needs better than you do).