For a local business to grow and really achieve small business independence, you need to attract new customers. No matter the business, it’s a simple equation.
Historically, small businesses have relied on advertising and word of mouth to bring in new customers. The Internet has changed all that, presenting opportunities that are limited only by your imagination.
In this post, we’ll describe five ways you can use the Internet to create a unique online presence that will enhance your company’s reputation, and strike a blow for its small business independence.
1. Write a Blog
Don’t let anyone tell you that blogging is dead. A blog is a marketing tool, and you can use yours to position your small business and its products or services before the widest possible audience.
The main reason people go online is to find information. As a small business owner, you’re the expert about what you do. By sharing your expertise, you provide customers, and potential customers, with information they can use.
By establishing yourself as an authority, you establish your business with potential customers.
2. Improve Your Website
Most customers visit your website to find out about your products or services. Getting it just right is, therefore, important. It should be easy to navigate, and written in simple, concise language.
Include general information about your business on the home page. “It’s incredible how many sites you visit and you’re not sure what the company offers,” said Alice Bredin, of Bredin Business Information, a Massachusetts consulting firm.
Include complete contact information: a phone number, an email address, and a physical address. Place it at a specific location of each page – a side column, or at the bottom – to it’s always there.
Reserve a page for third-party validation – customer testimonials, client lists, and any recognition you’ve received. Include excerpts from, or links to, any positive media attention. (This is described in more detail, below.)
Provide an FAQ, and a way for your customers to reach you, either with feedback forms or email links.
3. Take Advantage of Social Media
Social media has helped many realize small business independence and reach new customers. You can use it to:
- Start a conversation
Get people talking! Let them know their opinions matter.
- Give stuff away
We all love free stuff, and it helps create a positive buzz about your business.
- Add value content
Share interesting information: movie facts, sports trivia, or research that relates to your niche. Make it content your customers will appreciate, and associate with you.
4. Manage Online Reviews
There is no disputing the power of online reviews: most consumers read them before making a purchase. When negative reviews happen, it’s important to respond properly.
Is the negative review valid? If it is, explain your side of the issue in a comment, but don’t be hostile or defensive.
- If it isn’t valid, you can either ignore it, correct the negative statement in a comment, or request that it be removed from the site.
Showing that you care about online reviews demonstrates that you take your business seriously. You can always get help managing them.
5. Generate Positive News Coverage for Your Business
Positive media coverage can really ramp up your sales and your customer base.
How do you get the attention of local media outlets? Tell your story in a brief press release that has the news essentials: who, what, when, where, and why.
The media loves:
Designate one day a month to donate a percentage of your profits to a worthy cause. This shows community involvement, and the positive publicity is bound to pay off with new business.
- Interesting People
Everyone loves a good human interest story. Maybe you’ve overcome adversity, or maybe your business only uses recycled material.
Sponsoring local events make irresistible human interest stories. Like donations, they present you as a solid member of the community.
Media people are busy, so be persistent and know the market. Don’t send your business story to the sports editor!
Reputation Is Essential
It can be challenging to navigate the online space, and a respectable, positive reputation is essential to your success. Your small business independence stands or falls by what people are saying about it online. Professional reputation management ensures that you’ve got it right.
You may be a small business, but the Internet levels the playing field. By enhancing your online presence, you can build a stellar reputation, stand out from the competition, attract new customers, and continue to grow.