I often take it for granted that every local business has a website. The reality is that a large percentage still don’t have an online presence. Last week’s Cambridge Times carried a column written by the advisor of the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre. The title, “Website a Must for Business”. Roy Weber, the author, likens not having a basic website today to being without a telephone.
That’s a powerful example. Would you ever try to run a business without a phone? Even the companies that are too busy to provide personal customer service at least have an automated system that answers some of their client questions. But many consumers today go straight to the Internet when they want to find a local business or service. Without a website, you don’t exist to those people.
A basic website can provide information regarding hours of operation, location, answers to frequently asked questions. Add topic related content and a way to collect the names and email addresses of potential customers. Now your website becomes a means to interact and keep in touch with those people. Your target market has given you permission to ask what they would like from you, to send them announcements, even to sell to them. All for less than the price of a coffee a day. Include social media in your marketing plan and your customers become your tribe and look to you as the expert in your field.
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. What is your target market? Local only, or would you like to expand your reach and share your expertise using online methods? For example, a veterinarian in Vancouver not only treats local animals, but has a membership site to teach people all over the globe how to properly care for their pets. Those members gladly pay a monthly fee for the information.
2. Do you already have a website?
3. Will you get traffic to your website using organic search engine methods or Pay Per Click?
4. What methods of advertising are you currently using? Offline? Online?
5. Are you listed in Google’s local search at google.com/places?
6. What keywords do you think people will use to search for you on Google? Have you checked at freekeywords.wordtracker.com to see for sure?
7. Do you have an opt-in form on your website so that people can sign up to your mailing list? Is it visible right away and does it require confirmation (this is called double opt-in)? Why would someone want to give you their name and email information?
8. How do you plan to use your mailing list? For a regular newsletter? To send blog updates? To send one time announcements? To send an informative series? As a membership model?
9. Do you currently make use of social media? Which ones – Twitter, Facebook Fan Page, LinkedIn, bookmarking?
10. Do you have social buttons on your site so you can easily be followed?
If you’ve been putting off marketing online, don’t wait any longer. Promoting your business on the Internet is like driving a car. Once you start, you’ll wonder how you ever managed before.