Here's something many small-business experts already understand: If your small business is growing, your website has to grow along with it.
Letting one trail behind the other is tantamount to leaving money on the table. Yet many small-business owners don't understand the importance of their online initiative.
"For SMBs today, particularly those on Main Street, going digital can be a daunting task," says Lance Brown, vice president of product development for Huzzah Media, which provides digital and mobile solutions for small businesses. “The truth is, businesses that understand how to approach their online program will be better poised to compete and thrive. As overwhelming as it may seem, there are simple things small-business owners can do to get started today.”
What follows are five key steps—practical moves any small-business owner can make that won't overwhelm already hyper-busy management and that also won't break the bank to put them into place.
Linking Your Offline and Online Worlds
Strategies for keeping your digital presence on track with your "real world" success don't have to blow up your budget. Digitally speaking, much of what makes sense for small-business owners is closely aligned with what you probably already think about your brick-and-mortar operations. Consider the following five dos and don'ts for linking offline growth with similar success online:
1. Do start with your website. Keep your digital storefront as fresh to the eye as your shop is to your visiting customers. Update it in noticeable, meaningful ways on a bi-weekly basis. One way to approach this is to think about your audience: Who are your customers and your potential clients? What problems do they have that you can help solve?
2. Don't neglect the power of search. Recent research reveals only 28 percent of small businesses are happy with their company’s Google rankings. Search not only has a big impact on reaching your customers, but it can give you valuable insight into how they're finding you and what other stores and terms of sale they're looking at online. Start examining the search data that surrounds your business by opening a free Google Analytics account.
3. Do take it social. Customers engage with brands online. So establish and maintain your company profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like. Remember to keep up with them after getting started; otherwise you risk losing the chance to thank a customer who thinks you've done well—or to solve a problem for someone who might have a concern.
4. Do reward the loyal. Repeat business is fueled by a smart rewards program, which can help you better compete with larger businesses. Bringing your program into the digital space, and rewarding customers who comment, post, review and otherwise help you grow, is just the ticket. The sense of being part of an appreciated community will help create increased enthusiasm among your customers—and enthusiastic customers often choose their favorite business's products first.
5. Don't disregard the power of an app. Many small businesses neglect to take their digital presence into the app landscape. With an app, you can easily inform your customers about discounts, deals and exclusive offers in new and direct ways.
"We initially got the app for bragging rights but quickly realized it's helping us do more business and be more effective," says John Rodriguez, owner of Orlando, Florida-based Blade Runners Commercial Landscaping Inc. "Today, everything's on the phone and everyone's on the go, so providing access via our mobile app has made it exponentially better for us and our customers." New technology is allowing businesses to tap into out-of-the-box app solutions—when it comes to apps, you don't need to build them from scratch anymore.
Start with the shortlist above. Be sure to map the territory where your physical sales and your online leads intersect. Knowing how to navigate the two spaces will not only allow you, in the short term, to grow your business into a modern model, but it will also help you build a business that has the flexibility and stamina to prosper in the long run.
Read more articles on online marketing.