In the small business world, some small business owners aren’t up to speed on what’s happening online. At the same time, some of the younger business owners seem to think that everything should be digital. They dis- miss anything offline as old-school, slow, and ineffective. The truth is in the middle (as usual). How you use the Internet to market your business really depends on your business and your target market, but here are seven mini- mum steps to follow.
1. Have at least one Website
Your main site is your “branding” site. In other words, this tells your story. Remember a brand is nothing more than what people say when you are not around. Guess who manages that? You do! Your brand has to come through loud and clear on your site. The first thing people do today when they learn about you is go to your site.
Will they fall in love? Will they run? There is no telling how much damage is being done to small businesses because of horrible Websites. If a customer comes to your site and finds something old and tired, guess how they think about your business. You may not need the flashiest site around, but your image does need to be positive. Since you want to have fresh con- tent, you may consider having a platform where you or someone else can post regular updates or have a social media plug-in.
2. Have an opt-in
A huge mistake I see many small business owners make is not having an opt-in on their Website. An opt-in is a way for prospects to give you their email addresses so you can communicate with them. Offer something free that will benefit them (see the Free Trial Offer for examples). Don’t ask for more than the first name and email address at first, because many who visit your site may not be ready to give you a lot of information yet. So, just a contact page isn’t good enough. You are asking for too much information without any return for them.
Have a compelling opt-in that offers a solution to your target market’s biggest problem. “Sign Up for Our Free Newsletter” isn’t compelling enough unless you tell then what the benefit of getting the newsletter is. On my main site, I offer free business building tips by email, free videos, and webinars. I ask only for the first name and email address. But once the person clicks submit, he or she is taken to a page that offers something more valuable. At the time of this writing I am offering a free CD that would be mailed. The audio program reveals the “5 Secrets of a Phenomenal Business.” If your business isn’t very phenomenal and you want it to be, then you’ll order that! And we did get many opt-ins for the free CD program. There are many things you can offer, but the key is to get something prominently posted on your site.
To take that up a notch, have an auto responder (an automatic system that automatically sends an email response to each opt-in immediately). You can customize this to say whatever you want it to say. And if you want to take it into the stratosphere to “Planet Phenomenal” you can create a series of responses over time that brings them step by step to the sale, or takes them through a learning path. By the way, this can be done for every prod- uct or service that you provide at every level. It can be as sophisticated as you want. I won’t recommend specific programs here because by the time you read this, it could be outdated. But there is no shortage of programs to choose from. This brings me to the next part of your Phenomenal Internet Marketing System.
3. Have a regular outgoing email newsletter
An email newsletter that adds value to your prospects and clients is a powerful tool. As you give them solutions to their problems and offer solutions that your competitors aren’t even talking about, you position yourself as the “go to” person in your industry.
4. Have a strong social media presence
At this point, in most cases, it’s not whether you should use social media or not, it’s which one(s) to use, and how to use them effectively. The way I see social media is like a worldwide networking group that’s happening 24/7. Remember that all of business is about relationships. Using social media can help you build and deepen relationships.
Ironically, as I was writing this section, I was on the Sunshine Coast of Australia, overlooking the ocean from my balcony and I had my Facebook page open. I was communicating with people all around the world, and a business associate noticed I was in Australia and contacted me for lunch. Three hours later we were having lunch and set up a business deal. Remember that networking and engaging people on social media doesn’t mean you are just going after business deals. You are building relationships that may become business deals.
Use the social media platforms that your clients and referral sources are using. Instead of picking the one you like, find out where they are and plug in. Social media doesn’t need to own your life either. Once you get familiar with posting, simply make a post once or twice a day (depending on your business and the platform). Always respond to comments, acknowledge retweets, etc. The key is engagement. Don’t over promote. Remember, it’s about building relationships.
5. Understand SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is optimizing your Website so that search engines rank it as a superior site for keywords and terms. Most small businesses want to be number one on Google and most marketers and business consultants will tell you that’s where you want to be. I’m going to be a little controversial here and say it may not be the most important thing in the world, and it is not required to be successful in business.
If you are putting all your effort into SEO and not marketing to your past clients, in most businesses, I would say you have your priorities mixed up. Think and strategize before putting time and energy into SEO that you could be putting into building powerful referral sources. And by all means do not respond to the spammers and telemarketers trying to sell you SEO services. Get a referral. And don’t do it yourself if it is going to take you away from more important things.
6. Understand paid online advertising
When it comes to Google Adwords, banner ads, and such, follow the guidelines in Phenomenal Direct Advertising and make sure you understand what your plan is! Do not get into the world of paid advertising without studying and understanding it. That’s kind of like showing up to a gunfight with a dull pocket knife!
7. Use a branded email address
When you are communicating with people, use an email address that has your branding domain in it. Example: howard@howardpartridge. com. Using a Gmail, AOL, or Yahoo email to communicate with business associates devalues your brand. Having your Website address present encourages people to visit your site. Also, have at least your contact info in your email signature (address, phone, Website, etc.), and maybe even an opt-in and a photo.