According to research from Verisign, 91 percent of consumers use the Internet to look for local goods and services.¹ If your local business is not online, you may be missing out on a significant number of potential customers.
Getting online and establishing a presence for your business doesn’t need to take much time or money. Here are three ways to get started today:
1. Add your business to online directories.
If you are still relying on that thick, dusty yellow book to find new customers, you may be missing a lot of opportunities. Today, many consumers turn to online directories first to find information about local businesses, and your business needs to show up in those searches. Here are a few types of directories to consider:
- Search engine directories: List basic information about your business, like phone number, address and business hours, on places like Google My Business, Bing Places for Business or Yahoo! Local.
- Local directories: Claim your business on some of the sites that specialize in listings by city or region, including YP.com, Citysearch and Local.com.
- Review-centric directories: If you rely on customer reviews to drive business, consider sites known for consumer ratings and reviews. Registration is also free at many popular sites like Yelp, Angie’s List and Merchant Circle.
- Industry-specific directories: If your business is in a specialized industry, an easy way to find relevant, high-traffic directories for your area of expertise is to do a quick online search of your profession (e.g., “attorney”) or your profession + “directory” (e.g., “attorney directory”). The search results should include links to directories that you may want to focus on.
With so many directory choices, don’t feel overwhelmed at the possibilities. Just choose one or two that you think your customers use the most. Also, your business may already have a listing on these directories as search engines can automatically build one for you. In that case, all you’ll need to do is claim it and make sure the information listed is correct.
2. Set up a social media page for your business
Nearly two-thirds of American adults use social networking sites², so it makes sense to harness the power of social media to help promote your business. But what social media platform is right for you?
Social media channels have unique features and services, so knowing your goals can help you determine which social networking site will help you reach your target customers. Think about where your customers may spend their time online. Don’t assume it’s a popular platform like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter because that could limit your reach. For example, if you sell to consumers, LinkedIn may not be the most appropriate site.
Select one platform to serve as your primary social media presence. This will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed and help you to learn to use the site effectively for your marketing efforts. When you’re ready, consider advertising through social media. You can target your ads to people in a specific region and by demographic.
3. Start email marketing.
Email marketing helps boost customer loyalty with your brand, drive business to on- and offline channels, integrate multiple marketing channels and fuel the growth of social networks. Before you start, think about:
- Your list of subscribers: Do you have a customer list? Make sure everyone on your list has opted-in to receive marketing emails. Also, how will you get new subscribers? Some ideas to consider are collecting email addresses at events and/or in your social media efforts.
- Creating content to send to subscribers: You could promote your products and services, inform customers of special offers or even start a newsletter. Remember to create engaging content that your customers will find valuable and want to read.
- Selecting an email service provider: Consider a solution that will help you grow, is low cost and doesn’t lock you into a lengthy contract. Make sure you have an idea of how many subscribers you have and how often you plan to email them. Most email service providers base their pricing on these factors.
The key to successful email marketing is to test your efforts. Plan to send out a few test emails to get an idea of the types of subject lines and content that your subscribers engage with the most. You may also want to test sending emails on different days and at different times to see if there is an optimal time to send your emails for the highest engagement.
Tie It All Together With a Domain Name
The three options to market your business online discussed above are important first steps to creating an online presence for your business. But, how do you tie it all together with your brand? Easy. Register a domain name, or Web address, to serve as the hub for your online brand.
Do you want your customers to go to an online directory page or your social media page? Whatever you choose, use your domain name to redirect to that site. Called domain forwarding, this option is usually easy to set up when you register your domain name and often takes as little as five minutes. In essence, you create a rule that automatically redirects anyone who visits your domain name to any page you designate.
You can also use your domain name in your email marketing campaigns by making it your custom email address for your business. Company-branded email shows your customers that your company is established and professional. Sixty-five percent of U.S. consumers believe a company-branded email is more credible than a business using a free email account.³
Having your own domain name makes it easy to tell people where to find you online. And, if you want to create a website in the future, you already have a great Web address that your customers know.
Now that you’ve made the decision to take advantage of the benefits of online marketing, read the First 5 Things to Do After Getting Your Business Online.
¹Five Reasons Every Small Business Needs a Website. January 2016. http://www.slideshare.net/VerisignInc/5-reasons-every-small-business-needs-a-website
²Social Media Usage: 2005-2015. Accessed April 6, 2016. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/08/social-networking-usage-2005-2015/
³Five Reasons Every Small Business Needs a Website. January 2016. https://www.verisign.com/assets/ebook-5ReasonsSMBWebsite-Jan2016.pdf
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