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Research shows that, even in 2014, small businesses still miss the boat when it comes to their online presence. Building an online presence requires more than just creating a website with your business address, phone number, and a list of products that you sell. Think of it as a virtual version of your business. A 24-hour digital showroom. What kind of impression is your digital doppelganger creating?
There are many reasons why having a strong internet presence is important for small businesses, but let’s just take it slow and focus on the top 5 factors.
1. The Internet has Changed the Way that People Shop:
· 97% of consumers search for businesses online. You read that right. 97%.
· 81% of consumers research online before making a purchase.
· 55% of purchase-related conversions occur within one hour of an initial mobile search.
If you’re a business owner, these numbers should be enough to convince you. Bottom line: your customers are online, and you should be too.
2. You Want Your Customers to Find You: Let’s face it. When you’re going to buy something, anything, do you ever pick up the phone book and call around? Do you get in your car and drive from store to store? I didn’t think so. The first thing many shoppers do is look online to see who has the product they need. If you don’t have a website, or you don’t show up in their search results, you better believe you won’t be getting their sales. We’re not going to get into SEO, PPC, or any other acronyms associated with optimization in this article, but once you have your website, you should also look into these practices to get your site found online.
3. The Internet Provides Opportunities for Brand Building: Your website and social media presence should contribute to your overall branding effort. There should be a consistent look and feel to all of your marketing materials and, believe it or not, your website is one of them. Today, just about everything on your website can be custom designed to reflect your brand. You have the opportunity to create an impression every time someone visits your website or social media page. Don’t make the mistake of settling for a generic internet appearance, or you’ll get lost in cyberspace.
4. Social Media is Not Just for Personal Use: Social media has opened a new door for marketers in terms of needs discovery. You can gain some very useful insight into what your customers think, feel, and need, and who they really are. You can ask questions, conduct polls, and communicate directly with them. You also have the ability to see what they’re interested in and can ask them to refer their friends to your business.
At the same time, you have the opportunity to show your customers a more personal side of your business. Social media posts should create a personal touch but still reflect your business; content should be relevant to your industry and meaningful for your customers. The key to social media for business purposes is value creation. Repeat after me, value creation. You have to give them a reason to keep coming back. Do you consider yourself an expert in your industry? Try providing daily tips and advice, or holding a Q&A session.
5. The Internet Is a Powerful Relationship Building Tool: The internet provides a unique opportunity to build lasting relationships with your customers and potential customers. Think about it. How many internet users are on social media? Something like 1.5 billion between Facebook and Twitter alone. What are they looking for? They’re looking for a personal connection –BUT- just because you’re a business doesn’t mean that they can’t have a personal connection with you. They can, and they should. Creating personal connections with customers online can strengthen their sense of brand loyalty and increase customer retention.
For many small business owners, managing an online marketing strategy can be very overwhelming. Building an online presence requires not only the knowledge and skills to maintain a website, but the time and dedication required to perform regular updates, maintain social channels, and produce quality content. Just remember, when it comes to your company’s image, your web presence dominates. You get back what you put in, but if you follow these guidelines, you’ll see a much higher ROI.