The Common Mindset of Every Small Business Owner.
So you’ve got yourself a new shop! Congrats for making it through market research, product planning and brick-and-mortar construction. You hired the right staff, designed a modern interior and got yourself a toll free number, a free website by Vistaprint, and an outdoor signage. You’re probably thinking “We’re in business!”.
Truth is… not quite.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s really all you need to get up and running and start selling to aunt Suzi across the road, but have you ever thought of the potential clients you could get if you were to engage them beyond your own neighborhood? I’m talking inside their cars, homes and places of work? How about those beyond your own network? How about those who have chosen to do business with your competitors?
Don’t Settle For Just “Okay”.
Here’s the good news, you’ve got the goods. The bad news? You don’t have time for online marketing. The best news? There’s an easy solution:
A kickass website!
“But i already have one” you might say. Well it’s the same as owning a business run by a bad manager, or owning a Ferrari without a race driver. Most businesses invest so much in their products, shops and staff (which is great) but forget the most important aspects of small business success: A powerful website that delivers your message and sells. A website that grabs attention, delivers the company’s vision and drives hordes of potential customers to that Contact page.
Today, an Okay website is not enough anymore. Nearly every online business services site offers cheap or even free website building tools just so they can up-sell you later. Their design looks cheap and outdated, features are restricted to expensive monthly subscription packages and you’re left with a few bland text-only pages, a contact page, and a basic menu with your logo on the top left. This is enough if you don’t want more customers, or think that your facebook friends will do the word-to-word marketing for you.
But you know deep down that you haven’t reached your business’ full potential yet. You know you have a great product but you feel like you’re shouting in a busy crowd. We’ve all been there, but thanks to the advancement in online technology few businesses have tapped into the potential of rich visual media and powerful online marketing.
Here are 15 questions you need to ask yourself right now if you’re a small business owner:
- Do i have a company video?
- Is the company video prominently displayed on my website?
- Is my website optimized for search engines?
- Do i have social media sharing buttons throughout my website?
- Do i have or need a blog?
- Do i have professional photographs placed in key strategic places on my site?
- Does my Services page explain exactly what i do, in an exciting visual way?
- Do i have Call-To-Action buttons everywhere on my site?
- Do i have Google Business View on my Google Search results and Google Maps?
- Am i even on Google Maps?
- Are my social media profiles optimized for maximum conversions?
- Are my social media graphics aligned with my brand?
- Does my logo communicate my vision correctly to my market?
- Is my website design modern, cool and easy on the eye?
- Do i have website plugins running on my website?
If you answered NO to ANY of the above questions then you might be falling behind and could be missing out on a lot of traffic and missed opportunities and deals. I’m going to explain to you the importance of having a powerful online presence, point by point.
15 Ways to Enhance Your Small Business Online Presence.
1- Produce a Powerful Corporate Video.
There is no website text in the world that can substitute a great video. People are more likely to stick around if they can just hit play and learn all that is to know about you and your business in under 5 minutes. Corporate videos, or business videos, are professionally produced videos that outline your company’s products and services. These are usually 5 to 7 minutes long and include some or all of the following: Interviews with the owner and staff, testimonials from old clients, a voice over, various footage of your store, products being used, projects in progress, graphics and a cool music track.
Having a professionally produced and edited video also helps drive traffic from social media. It’s a versatile medium that can be shared virally on the internet through video platforms and social media and hence increase traffic to your site exponentially. A great looking video reflects good one you as it represents you and your business. If done badly, it can have negative effects on your image.
A corporate video, or company overview, can be composed of a combination of informational pieces, instructional sections, product demonstrations, testimonials, etc. If you don’t have a company video, you should invest in producing one right now.
2- Place Your Corporate Video Prominently.
Even if you do have a corporate video, if it is placed 5 levels deep in an old blog post, no one will see it. If you shared it a long time ago on Facebook, it’s probably buried multiple page scrolls deep under the rest of your FB posts. Having a small window on your homepage isn’t helpful either. Your video should be the hero of your website, placed prominently in near full screen near the top of your homepage for every visitor to see.
3- Have a Search Engine Optimization Plan – SEO.
Engine who? Search Engine Optimization is a nerdy art, and barely any small business owner pays any attention to. Having a website up and running isn’t enough for it to be found on search engines. SEO is a technique used to optimize every page of your site, and helps it to be found on search engines when users search for a specific term.
For example, if your business offers “affordable data recovery services in Houston” your website copy, images, tags and meta information should all reflect that specific keyword string so that Google bots understands what your site is about. Next time a user looks for that specific need, your website will have a better chance of showing up on the first page of Google search results, together with a combination of 200 other factors like link building, website authority, domain name age, social media shares, blog posts recency, internal links etc.
4- Install Social Media Sharing Buttons.
It is essential these days for websites to be social media friendly. Your social media profiles act as traffic magnets, that should all point back to your site. Your site then provides them with valuable information that they might choose to share with their network through social media sharing buttons. See those cool Social Sharing buttons near the top of this page under the title?
With a click of a button your page is then virally shared with the visitor’s network of people who, in turn, might click on the link and be taken back to your site. And the cycle repeats itself. Do you see the value of that trend now? Your social media sharing buttons should be present everywhere on your site, blog posts and even on images and videos so they’re easier to share.
5- Install a Blog.
A blog is a collection of articles that are regularly written and published on your site. The importance of having a blog, as opposed to the rest of your site which is static (written once and rarely updated), is that it offers fresh new content that search engines love.
Having an active blog tells search engines that your site is publishing new fresh content that could be of value to visitors and hence gives priority to such pages as opposed to the rest of your site. WordPress is one of the best open source website platforms out there that integrates a blog into your site easily. WordPress is very easy to use, and widely adopted. All our websites we build for clients are built on WordPress.
6- Hire a Professional Photographer.
Were you that kid at school who preferred books with big colorful images over long, boring and unending text? I’m still that kid. Having beautiful photographs on your site offers your visitors a place to breath, a place for their eyes to rest and their imagination to wander. But it also shows what you do best. The impact of poor pictures is the same as that of a weak video.
So be careful and think twice before you take out that phone camera at your next event. Hire a professional photographer to take shots of your products, your staff, your store and your events. You can then use these photos anywhere on your site, social media and your blog. The investment is well worth it, and as they say, a picture is worth a thousand word.
7- Rewrite All Your Web Pages With the Reader in Mind.
No one wants to land on a web page with a lot of text. No one has time. You have less than 5 seconds to grab their attention. You read that right.. Five Seconds! So make it count and layout your content in a way that is easy on the eye, and easily understandable.
Make lists, divide your content with headings and sub-headings, include images, divide sub-content into columns and service boxes, bold your most important sentences, delete repeat sentences, make it easy to understand and idiot-proof, use a large simple non-serif font, use plenty of empty space, contrast your content text with your background, highlight your links with a different color. People will only actually read the meat of the page if they’re hooked. So make it visually exciting and easy to scroll through.
8- Place Call-To-Action Buttons Strategically On Your Site.
Call-To-Action buttons are prominent buttons that entice a visitor to take a certain action you choose. It defines the next action a visitor must take at a certain location on your site. Having great traffic flow, website and content is not enough if you’re not dictating the next action users should take when you wan them to. At the end of the day the last thing you want users to do is to leave your site after spending their precious time reading through your content.
If they come, read and leave, we’ve done nothing. Ultimately, you either want them to subscribe to your newsletter, download an eBook, book your services, read related articles, follow you on social media, or visit your contact page. Usually a big, striking and enticing button does the job. Some Call-To-Action buttons are complimented with an incentive, like Subscribe and get a discount, or Call us now for a free consultation.. you get the point. Check out an example at the very bottom of this page.
9- Adopt Google Business View.
Google Business View is a new feature by Google that allows customers to virtually walk through any store from the comfort of their home, on their desktop, phones and tablets. It’s a 360˚ Virtual Tour that displays next to your business details on Google Search results, Google Maps and Google Plus. It’s a fantastic new tool for small business owners, especially for those who rely on getting new customers online.
Having a “See Inside” window next to your Google search results will not only boost walkins, but also make you look cutting edge and cool compared to your competitors. 80% of customers prefer to visit a store with Google Business View over its competitors, since it adds an extra motive behind their decision making. Google Business View is hosted by Google for free with no recurring charges and is very affordable compared to your other marketing costs.
10- Get Yourself on Google Maps.
Small business owners think they can automagically appear on Google Maps because.. well it’s Google and they know everything. Wrong. Google Maps pulls its data from Google My Business, a business social portal specific for every type of business that you must own and customize to your liking. You should claim your Google My Business and link it to your Google Plus page.
Attach your virtual tour to your Google Business Page and your online marketing arsenal is on fire. People look you up on Google search, visit your map, click on See inside, tour your store and look through your pictures, then follow your business news on Google Plus or come by your store. It’s the perfect ecosystem for every business and one that every business should understand and adopt. These days, if you’re not on Google, you don’t even exist.
11- Optimize Your Social Media Profiles.
Social Media Profiles are your website traffic magnets and your portal to your customers. Having an active facebook page proves you’re genuine, human and reliable. Make sure your social media presence is claimed across all major social sites, and that the tone of your social posts is properly aligned with your corporate culture.
Note that each social media channel is different and has a different audience, hence your tone and style of posts should differ from one network to another. For instance don’t address your LinkedIn connections the same way you do your Facebook page fans. Make sure your social media handles are all the same. Fill in all your bio info, business summaries and details, contact info, place your website links everywhere you can, choose an appropriate profile picture, a great cover picture, and most of all stay human and help, support, and reply to each and every comment individually, do it regularly.
12- Align Your Social Media Graphics With Your Website.
You can choose to upload your business portrait on all your social media profiles, or use your own logo or a certain graphic that highlights a service, or use a combination of these, whatever you choose make sure it’s consistent, looks great and is of high quality. Your social media profile pictures are your business cards to the world so don’t let these reflect poorly on who you really are.
Use the social media cover images to your advantage and promote your business, or use a simple beautiful picture instead. Again whatever you do, make sure it’s consistent throughout your online presence, communicates a certain skill, service or vision, and compliments your website, business cards and offline marketing colors. If needed, hire a professional graphic designer to design all of your social media profiles picts or cover images.
13- Review Your Logo.
This is where it gets tricky. Should you review or change your logo when you have used it on all your marketing material? Absolutely. Don’t let this scare you. Be bold and progressive alike all the major brands and websites who constantly update their logos to be in tune with current trends. It is best to hire a professional designer to do this for you, having a pro review your corporate identity allows for an objective review.
Make sure your logo communicates your vision, style and corporate Unique Value Proposition (UVP). Delete unneeded objects, words or details and make it as simple as possible. Don’t forget that you can have many logo variations and options, each suited for a particular use. Your website logo might be slightly different than your business card’s or your social media profile pictures. And for the love of you, do not under any circumstance use your nephew or any free online logo makers to create your logo, invest and hire a pro.
14- Install a Professionally Designed Website Theme.
This is my favorite part. Having a professionally designed website could be the difference between losing your visitors and landing deals. Imagine you land on a website with a complicated logo, an awful colors scheme, small text, a lot of menu links, complicated navigation, small low resolution images and no empty space to breath. Will you stick around? Of course not.
Don’t let this step overwhelm you, you can of course hire a designer to customize a design for you, if you have the budget, but generally speaking you don’t have to. There are literally tens of thousands of professionally designed website templates out there to choose from, available at a fraction of the cost of hiring a web designer.
15- Supercharge Your Website With Powerful Plugins.
Plugins are small programs that run behind the scene and can provide your website with extra functionality. There are thousands of plugins for any kind of operation such as security plugins, social media, SEO, RSS feeds, newsletters, contact forms, website speed, links building, performance and maintenance, analytics and so on.
Most of these plugins are available across all website platforms from WordPress and Joomla to Drupal and eCommerce platforms. Don’t worry about these for now, most of our online marketing packages come packed with all the necessary plugins for your site, out of the box.
And there you have it! If you’ve read through this lengthy post, you’re half way closer to completely overhaul your online presence, reach new markets and look great to thousands of potential clients who are eagerly looking for you as we speak.
That concludes our 15 Ways to Enhance Your Small Business Online Presence checklist. Please share your experience or challenges with your current websites or social media profiles in the comments below.