Customers are the lifeblood of all businesses. Without people visiting your business and ultimately buying something, you have no business. Another term for visitors is traffic. How much traffic walks into your storefront, or how much traffic arrives at your website, will directly impact how much you will sell. And to attract as much traffic as possible, you need to promote or advertise your business, services, and products. Whether you are an offline business with a website, or you run your complete business model online, here are Five Practical Tips to help you promote your business online.
One point that should be noted, however, is that when we at Ignited Biz. LLC, say “practical,” we mean both free and paid methods. Obviously, you need to decide what model best suits your budget and act accordingly. Further, any promotion is hard work. You need to devote the time, energy and sometimes expense to get the word out there. But, at least these five tips are easy enough to do without taking a college degree to begin.
Tip #1 – Small Business Marketing Must Use Brand Recognition
To be effective when local marketing for your business online, you need to be consistent not only in the frequency of communication but also, in the message you impart. In other words, you need to brand yourself, your business, or your products. To do that, you need to use the same name throughout the internet. So, regardless of which site you use or what methods of advertising, there needs to be a constant name so that potential customers and existing customers know the ads are from the same company or person. As time passes, customers need to be able to recognize your brand, and that only comes from getting the same name out there. If you are wishy-washy on what your brand is, then you dilute your online efforts.
Tip #2 – Use Social Media to Announce Sales, Special Events, and Product Recalls
Sites like Twitter and FriendFeed are great for announcing special events and sales. You don’t have to be particularly fancy or long in words when letting people know about your store. You can mention a few brief things and get people back to your website for details. The goal is to create some excitement and get people interested in finding out what is happening. But, the key to social media is staying active and being consistent. You need to post snippets on a regular basis so that followers will continue to follow. And, if you expect them to pass the word around, you need to be around for them to stay interested.
Another excellent use of social media like Facebook is for product recalls, or even product knowledge. Let existing customers see information that the average public does not see. It keeps them informed post-purchase and makes them feel welcome. But, also remember that you it can have the opposite effect if you don’t monitor the site. If you ignore questions or comments and show no interest, you can lose customers just as quickly as gain them.
Tip #3 – Press Releases
Press releases are important on the internet, just like there were offline in print media, radio, and television. Many sites accept press releases, and you really should write a strong feature on what you do, the benefits of buying through you, any factors that differentiate you from the competition, your hours of service, and anything else that is both informative and interesting. The neat thing about the internet is you do not have to rely on newspapers and services to get your press release published promptly.
For example, you can publish PRs through sites that focus solely on press releases but send yours also, to relevant sites that might post it for you as a courtesy to their customers. There are many ways to tie in your products with other companies without being a threat to their businesses. Further, you can publish the press release on any number of free blogging sites with links back to your main website. In fact, press releases are an excellent way to promote your business online.
Tip #4 – Guest Blogging or Article Writing
Admittedly, this form of promotion can be a lot of work, especially when you are trying to keep your head above water and get your new business going. But guest blogging or article writing is no different than attending business meetings to network. One of the first things experts say is to join the local Chamber of Commerce so that you can meet others in your community. Well, online, you want to meet others and get your name out there, but you do it uniquely. Find sites that would benefit from your expertise and knowledge, then contact the owner or manager of the site. Send a pleasant note introducing yourself and outlining what you would like to do for them. Let them know that you would expect a link back to your official site and that your name would remain on the article. Many site owners are pleased to get outside contributions.
But one word of caution here. This is not an advertisement. Do not take advantage of the willingness of others to sell your service and products. Show yourself as doing something helpful for their users. Choose a topic that serves a purpose to their audiences, which in turn will bring you targeted traffic. You want to be known as someone who is willing to contribute with bona fide ideas and support, not someone whose sole goal is to spam and take something for nothing.
Tip #5 – Advertise on Relevant Sites
Paid advertising has always been a huge component of any business budget and financial forecast. And, depending on your type of enterprise, it may be a substantial factor in your financial statements. But, unlike newspapers, where you took a specific sized ad and hoped for the best, the internet allows you to be more discriminating in your choices. You can hone in on specific niches that fit your market and go after those websites that offer sponsorships or other types of paid ad spots. Just be sure that you complete significant due diligence before sending a considerable sum of money. Understand the site’s market, understand how the traffic numbers work and if they are legitimate, and finally, set in place a system for monitoring the traffic to your website.
Finally, regardless of what methods you choose to promote your business online, there are a few pointers that you should follow:
a) have a game plan on paper, so you know where to start and what you want to achieve,
b) know your brand and promote it consistently through all channels,
c) be persistent in your promotional efforts, and
d) only spend money when necessary and understand your budget constraints, as there are many opportunities on the internet that can distract you and ultimately, destroy you financially.
Getting started in the hardest part. Like Nike says “Just Do It!”
There’s a lot more great information on the web; so check out these great sites to get started…