Your business is online. Whether it’s your own website or a Facebook page, you have established your online presence.
Congratulations on your accomplishment!
With your digital presence there are five critical steps to consider to keep your business moving forward.
1. Branding: Use Your Domain Name to Help Promote Your Brand
Your domain name is your online identity where people can find you.
In some cases, your domain name may redirect to your social media business page on Facebook or LinkedIn, or it may go directly to your website.
Either way, as your Web address is your online brand, putting your domain name on everything related to your business — business cards, signs, email signatures, invoices, and packaging — will make it easier for people to find you.
And don’t forget to use your domain name as your company’s email address. A branded email address can help you appear more professional as you build your brand.
Ninety percent of consumers are more comfortable becoming a customer of a small business that uses a custom email address (e.g. info@GraphicArtsbyBen.com) than one that uses a generic email address (GraphicArtsbyBen@gmail.com).*
If you need help setting up branded email for your domain name, contact your registrar. Or if you are a user of Google Apps for Business or Office 365, you can also use your own domain name with your current email program.
2. Create Content, Content, Content
Now that you have an online presence, you also have a platform for communicating with customers and the world.
Content is what will attract people to pay attention to and remember your brand. A good content marketing strategy differentiates your brand so that you stand out from competitors.
Here are three tips on content marketing:
- Stick to what you know and what you’re passionate about. Your content will have the ring of authenticity and be more compelling when you generate content about what you know and like.
- Keep it simple. A blog makes it easy to put content onto your site and is adaptable to many styles. If you’re not a natural writer, keep posts short and manageable. Besides, a few shorter posts likely will bring just as much or more traffic as a longer one. On social media sites, upload images and videos whenever possible to add visual interest.
- Measure the impact of your content marketing. Analytics are available for your website (try Google Analytics) and most social media platforms have built-in analytics. Or use a social media monitoring tool such as Hootsuite. See what’s working and what isn’t, and adjust your activities accordingly.
3. Seek Out Customers (Email and Social Outbound Marketing)
Ninety-one percent (91%) of consumers look for local goods or services online*. However, with billions of Web pages, getting noticed is the issue.
You have to get out there and actively connect with them.
Here are three effective ways to find new customers:
- E-mail marketing — One of the most effective ways of marketing, you will need to start collecting email addresses of those who choose to receive communications from you. Start with a simple signup box on your website. Most email marketing software services have them.
- Social media marketing — Many social media platforms have paid promotional programs specifically for small business owners that are easy to manage.
- Search engine marketing — Pay-per-click ads, or paid search ads, can drive traffic almost immediately. You choose keywords relevant to your business and then put in your maximum bid and budget level.
If you plan to sell directly online, you’ll need to enable some ecommerce capabilities that allow you to take orders, process payments, and communicate for support. See more in: Preparing to Sell Online.
Even if you don’t plan to sell products online through standard ecommerce functionality, you should at least capture leads. Websites can be embedded with links and forms meant to capture prospect information for further marketing and sales follow-up.
More social sites are enabling lead capture, too, including Twitter Cards and SlideShare’s lead gen features.
5. Be Open to Learning and Use it to Prepare
Whatever your efforts to date, most of us plan to build on our progress and improve.
Keep track of what you learn and don’t be afraid to make adjustments along the way. As your needs change, you may need a full-fledged ecommerce site or you may want to make your website mobile-friendly.
If you develop a plan, you’ll have experience to draw on for your business’s next phase.
* Verisign US online survey 2013
Computer Photo via Shutterstock