Why does your business need an online presence?

(Photo: Pixabay user mohamed_hassan)

Today, if someone wants more information about a company, they’re most likely to do their research online, that’s why it’s absolutely essential for your business to have an online presence. Whether it’s a website, an e-commerce platform or a social media page being online will give you a competitive edge.

Building an online presence isn’t just beneficial to growing a small business it’s absolutely essential. By creating a blog, maintaining your site, and becoming active in social media, you’ll be accessible to a wider audience. You’ll also build consumer trust and be able to market effortlessly. Best of all, you’ll always be able to make improvements in all these areas. This article will look at the numerous reasons why even the smallest of businesses can benefit from online marketing.

Reach

Instead of waiting for prospects to visit your site and then start collecting leads you can easily place information directly in front of their eyes as email marketing is a very personal way of reaching new prospects within your target market. If you’ve targeted correctly and your content has quality information that captures their attention, engages their interest, and instils brand recognition then most people will not mind providing their email address. Emails can then be tailored to customer actions so that every communication is relevant to their interests. You can cover topics like changes in your company, victories, and request feedback from your customer; this list is virtually endless. According to The Radicati Group with 2.5 billion users, email is here to stay.

Whilst various studies suggest a business needs to dabble in several marketing channels to be effective, as a small business, email marketing is the one piece that really ties everything together. A powerful email campaign not only keeps the interest of your current customers, but it can inspire them to share your email socially and forward it to their friends and family.

When executed properly, an email marketing campaign can reach thousands for virtually no costs.

(Photo: Pixabay user mohamed_hassan)

Visibility

The Internet gives businesses an effective platform for showcasing what they have to offer. Although social media and other types of traffic can generate visits to your website, search engines are the primary method of navigation for most Internet users. According to a recent report from Fleishman-Hillard, 89 percent of consumers turn to Google to find information on products, services or businesses prior to making purchases. Google has now become smart enough to know the needs of the end-user.

People tend to trust the websites that search engines recommend high in the results page because it uses keywords it gets from it’s users. It’s important for your company to monitor the information on your website. Search engine optimization (SEO) is often about making small modifications to parts of your website using key terms that you think that your customers are likely to use while searching.

When embedding those terms in your description, title page, etc., they might seem insufficient improvements, but when combined with other optimizations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site’s user experience and performance in organic search results as opposed to ‘paid’ results.

Customer service

The internet has drastically changed the way we live our lives, conduct business, and find information. It is necessary for every business, large or small, to maintain a strong online presence. When a customer is having a problem, they’re looking for immediate answers and support from your business. If customers online aren’t able to seek the necessary help they’re looking for then they’ll move to another website for their products and services. For example, when the appropriate information is not available on the website then customers will seek elsewhere. There’s no reason why businesses should lose potential customers over something that’s so easy to fix. The best way to do that is by offering as many different ways as possible for the customer to contact customer services.

As more and more users and businesses embrace social media, the opportunities for its use as a customer service tool expand dramatically. Social media is all about building relationships and allows you to engage with your customers directly. Facebook, with more than 2.23 billion monthly active users, remains the world’s most popular social network. When creating a blog you’ll receive feedback about your product or service through comments and social media interactions. If you are only reaching a minimum audience then you should be taking every opportunity to engage with people who are taking an interest in your business. By including social media “share” buttons on your page/website you’ll will get your message out to more customers.

Reviews can be seen as a double-edged sword as there will always be that possibility of receiving a negative review, fairly or not. However, if you run your business honestly and treat your customers well, these should be isolated incidents, outnumbered by the many positive reviews left by your satisfied customers. Potential customers often check for reviews of a company or product before using either, so always encourage happy customers to leave reviews on sites such as Yelp and Google. Responding to online reviews is a critical element to creating and maintaining a positive online reputation for your business. This shows consumers that you take the time to acknowledge the voice of the public; it shows you’re listening and that you care.

(Photo: Pixabay user mohamed_hassan)

Competition

One of the most important, yet often unvalued, requirements when running a small business is to track and monitor competitors online. Knowing your competitor’s products and services isn’t about stealing their ideas but instead knowing what you are up against. It is important to pay attention to what is working for them and what isn’t. You can gain some insight and ideas of how to improve upon your own products or services by looking at what they provide and how popular it is. By studying your competitors and their digital efforts you can:

· See which SEO keywords and featured snippets are commonly targeted

· Understand which social media platforms are the most popular and why

· Gain inspiration for content ideas

· Know your competitor’s target audiences

· Learn how to engage with customers online and enhance that customer experience.

If you want to stand out from your competition, you have to be different from them. If you want to build a strong brand, you must pinpoint exactly what it is that makes you unique. Maybe you are cheaper, offer more value or provide a different service. Either way, you need to market that one thing that sets you apart.

Credibility

The key to building credibility online is establishing your authority in your industry and maintaining high standards for any content you publish online. It is not enough in today’s competitive market to have some business cards, pamphlets and a generic website. You need to develop your online brand and image in a way to make yourself stand out above your competition.

It is difficult for your audience to form an image of your brand in their minds, considering the noise on social media and the absence of direct contact. Bearing this in mind, you need to create ways for your brand to stand out and steal the spotlight. Standing out requires a strong personality and consistency across your presence on the Internet. Everything from the colours that you choose on your social media posts to the values that you stand for create impressions of you in the minds of your audience members.

Your audience decides if you are trustworthy based on their assessment of you (the source), and the quality of the message that you give with your overall online presence. A business without trust from its target audience will struggle to attract customers. Websites, blogs, and social media accounts enable reviews and comments about your products, try to respond to email as often as possible, most companies will give a window of 24 hours to respond to inquiries and issues. When you establish credibility and trust, people are more willing to express their satisfaction online.

Trust and credibility are two important factors and could either make or break your business’s online reputation. If you can over-deliver on your customers’ expectations, there’s a good chance they will spread the word about their experience. Take the time to earn your clients’ trust, and you’ll be rewarded with a strong brand image that will attract more potential clients for years to come.

(Photo: Pixabay user mohamed_hassan)

Verdict

It should go without saying that to develop an online presence you have to be present on digital channels. However, a large number of small businesses still rely entirely on traditional means of marketing. These businesses lack a website, social media profiles, a mobile app and so on. In 2017, Clutch’s study shows that 29% of small businesses still operate without a website, but that number is expected to shrink to roughly 8% by the end of 2018.

“Consumers have too many choices these days and they have to be constantly reminded that you exist. The best way to reach them is where they spend a good bit of time… which is online,” shares Jenny Servis, Vice President of marketing solutions company SnapRetail

Understanding your consumer’s expectations, behaviours and perceived value is a good measurement to which kind of marketing approach you should be looking at. “Near me” searches have increased dramatically since the rise of mobile. People now expect search technology to find the places in their area where they can get what they need. In fact, one-third of all mobile searches are related to location. As a business, in order to capitalize on this you need to ensure your business locations are updated and accurate, and more importantly, all information like business hours, phone numbers, latest offers are updated on your “Google My Business “dashboard.

It isn’t enough to just be present online; you need to be active too. No one is going to bother following a social media account that hasn’t been updated since 2012, nor is anyone going to revisit a website that has no new content or an out-dated design. You have to invest the necessary time if you want to be successful in building a digital presence.

As a result, the five areas to improve even the smallest of businesses online presence are:

· High rankings on Search Engines, so when customers are seeking solutions to problems you can help them with, you’re in front of them immediately sharing valuable help. SEO

· Established brand on relevant social media profiles with ongoing relevant activity that supports your company goals, values, and objectives.

· Great online reviews about your company, products, or services that you offered.

· Continued creation and evolution of your business. In this world you must be always growing otherwise you’re dying.

· Beautiful branding and compelling message.

References

Griwert, K (2012) 89 Percent of consumers use search engines for purchase decisions, Brafton fuel for your brain, https://www.brafton.com/news/89-percent-of-consumers-use-search-engines-for-purchase-decisions/

Leinbach-Reyhle, N (2015) The single most important reason why online marketing is more important than ever, Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicoleleinbachreyhle/2015/06/16/the-single-most-important-reason-why-online-marketing-is-more-important-than-ever/#7a6a481f3bff

Peacock, A (2017) Small Business Websites in 2017: Survey, Clutch, https://clutch.co/web-designers/resources/small-business-2017-website-survey

Radicati, S (2018) Email Statistics Report, 2014–2018, The Radicati Group, http://www.radicati.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Email-Statistics-Report-2014-2018-Executive-Summary.pdf

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