4 Ways to Market Your Business Online
By George White, marketing practice director
If you asked small business owners who will impact their business the most in 2017 and the next few years, many would tell you it’s the new president. But I would argue it’s actually Google, the 900-pound Gorilla of the Internet. The Internet continues to change the way Americans work, play, and do business, and more than any other company, Google is the greatest driver of this change.
As a small business owner, you can either embrace and benefit from this change, or stand on the sidelines while your competition moves forward. Marketing is not most small business owners’ favorite topic, and thinking about online marketing in particular can be overwhelming, because it’s hard to know where to start.
The best way to market your business
If you’re relatively new to online marketing and take some time to educate yourself via any number of online sources, your head may start spinning. Should you work building out your web site? Focus your efforts on Yelp or specialized review sites for your industry? Invest your efforts in social media? Or just buy ads on Google or other ad networks.
Unfortunately, the short answer to all these questions is “maybe.” All these strategies have merit and can be utilized very effectively. But running off in multiple directions and implementing these online marketing opportunities less than optimally will add up to lost money and time, more often than not.
As you might imagine, my advice is to hire an expert to do your marketing, so you can focus on what you do best. After all, you probably got involved with your product, service, or profession because you had a passion for it – which was likely inspired by, or led to, your mastery of your field. Every minute you spend doing anything other than what you do best is shortchanging your business – and by extension, your customers – of the value of your expertise.
But if you aren’t quite ready to take that plunge, there are some things you can do yourself. Here’s 4 things you should do to better position yourself for online marketing success in 2017 and beyond.
1. Claim and optimize your Google My Business listing
Google My Business (GMB) is Google’s free tool you can use to manage the way your business shows up across various Google services, most notably, search and maps. It’s very important to get control of your listing and keep it updated with accurate information. You can get started at https://www.google.com/business/
The most critical aspects of your GMB listing are your business name, address and phone – what is sometimes referred to as NAP (name, address, phone). While that seems obvious, it’s surprising how many businesses have bad information listed.
You also want to make sure other all details are correct, and be sure to add several photos to your listing. There is ample evidence which indicates that prospective clients are more likely to click on and interact with a listing that includes photos.
It’s important to remember that the info in your listing can get changed by Google, and other people can also add photos to your listing. There are even reports of inappropriate photos being added maliciously to some companies’ listings, perhaps in an effort to negatively influence public perceptions about that business. So it’s critical to periodically review your listing and make any needed changes. Creating a Google My Business is not a “set and forget” proposition.
2. Claim and optimize your Yelp.com listing
While it’s easy to think of Yelp as primarily a review site, it’s also a leading way for people to discover businesses, so it’s vital to make sure people can find your small business there.
Optimizing your Yelp page is similar to your Google My Business listing. NAP, business category, web site address, and operating hours are all basic information that must be complete and accurate. Log in at https://biz.yelp.com/ to get started.
Photos are also very important on Yelp. While photos posted to your page by customers are best, you should still add at least the to five photos. Most critical are images of the outside of your business, if you have a place of business open to the public. Remember, helping people find your business is what it’s all about. If people are circling the block looking for your store or office and can’t find you, a photo on Yelp can make all the difference.
3. Make asking for reviews part of your DNA
According to a 2016 study, 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business.
The same study found that 70% of customers will leave a review for a business when asked. But just over 70% of survey respondents also stated they value recent reviews, and think reviews older than three months are not relevant.
What does this mean? You need to ask every customer for a review, every time they interact with your business.
4. Start with an online marketing analysis
Marketing is a goal-driven process. Small business owners invest in marketing programs to build the value of their business, as measured by key performance indicators such as new customers acquired, repeat customer purchases completed, and increased revenues. But you can’t establish future goals and objectives if you don’t know where you stand today.
When it comes to online marketing, the first step is to evaluate your current online presence. This analysis will reveal opportunities for improvement and help focus your marketing efforts into the most beneficial direction.
Whether you’re running a business that’s been in the family for years, or are starting out today on your kitchen table, marketing your business online without first conducting a comprehensive online marketing analysis is an easily avoided pitfall: click here now to request a free marketing analysis.