8 things a small business must do to be successful online
Create a website
This may sound obvious, but many small business do not yet have a website or have a website that is not up to date with current standards and consumer trends. Launching a website is one of the easiest things that you can do to promote your business online. There are software platforms popping up all over the web that allow you to get online for a very low cost (sometimes even free). Try services like Godaddy.com, Wix.com, WordPress.com and Instapage.com – for a few hundred dollars a year (at most), these services will offer you a platform and support (including hosting, email + free add-ons) to get your business online.
Make sure your mobile
Most software as a service (SAAS) website creation platforms these days allow for mobile optimized versions of your website that will build off of your desktop website. The platforms listed above all have mobile add-ons that should be free. The key is to build your website once, and make sure you are with a leading platform or CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress that will allow you to be responsive and mobile friendly so that your customers can reach you from any device and on the go. Being mobile friendly should not be an effort; it should be a side effect of good web development. Use a leading CMS platform that automatically makes your website mobile friendly!
Another obvious tip, but yet so many businesses fail to create valuable content that will engage their visitors and turn them into customers. Content can range from your basic business details and products to engaging your audience with topics that are pertinent to their needs (ie. answer their questions!). Using a CMS like WordPress will make content creation a lot easier. Look at what I am doing with this article – I am creating content that will help guide your thinking and hopefully engage you to contact me for a free consultation on how to best grow your business online.
Get a local presence
This is the lifeline for many small businesses. If you have a shop or office, whether you greet customers there or not, make sure you submit your business to platforms like Google my Business, Yelp, Yellow pages, Craig’s list and present your products and services. You need to do a little research and find local listing platforms relevant to your customers in your area. This can be very different between different regions and countries. A great place to start is Google my Business!
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
This is one of those things that you need to get right from the start as it will help you acquire free visitors down the road once your pages start to rank in search engines. Paying for your traffic via services like Google Adwords is a very expensive game these days with bidding competition and rising costs of acquiring visitors. Making sure your pages are SEO friendly, optimized and targeting the correct keywords will help you enormously down the road (usually takes a few months to kick-in).
You would be amazed at how many of your existing and future customers have social profiles. Just about all of them interact with social media ranging from Facebook to linkedin to Twitter. There are 100’s of social media platforms out there and the key is to start with the ones where your customers are mostly active. If you offer a B2B product or service, this maybe linkedin, if you offer a B2C product or service, this may well be facebook. If your product is highly graphical in nature (eg. artist), this could be instagram or pinterest and finally if your product can be communicated by video (eg. coaching), your platform of choice may well be Youtube. This list goes on and the key is to understand the best way to communicate your business offering and where your audience is most likely to find, consume and appreciate your content.
Build a following
This is something many businesses still fail to get right. When I say build a following I am talking about an email list or any way to get in touch with your customers and fans/followers through a digital channel. The easiest and most effective way to do this is through email. An email list can become the lifeline of your business if you build it the correct way. Use a platform like Aweber to get started at almost no cost.
Give things away!
A business relationship is built on trust. Whatever you do and wherever you are in your digital journey, you need to give things away for free and add value to your existing and future customers. This is likely the single most important factor from this entire list of things to do to promote your business online (you are likely already doing this offline). People love to get free and useful things for free. This allows you the chance to engage with your visitors and fans in meaningful ways and build trust with them. With that trust will come business. Things to give away can be as simple as your advice and expertise through content creation (as I am doing right now with this article). It can be through discounted products, free samples, giveaways, ebooks, trainings or whatever you feel could be of value for your customers.