Whether it was a Facebook page or a website, you’ve finally done it: your business is online and searchable to millions of potential customers and partners. You’re proud, but a little uneasy about the next steps.
You’re not alone.
For many businesses, the steps you take once your business is online can make or break your plan for success. Here are five key items you shouldn’t overlook.
1. Establish your brand
Whether you have a domain name that you redirect to a social media page or one or more domain names pointing to your website, your Web address is your online brand. Make sure it’s integrated into everything: business cards, ads, signs, email signature, and other elements.
Some small businesses overlook using their domain name as a professional, branded email address but it’s an easy and cost-effective way to appear more credible while building your brand. In fact, 74 percent of consumers trust a company-branded email more so than a free email address.1
The service you registered your domain name from can help you set it up, or try Google Apps for Business if you like your Gmail account. Lastly, make sure any offline activities are visually connected to your online brand.
2. Content, content, content
You’ve now got a platform for communicating with customers. Use it. Without compelling, high-quality content that reinforces your brand and differentiation, you could risk blending in with your competitors. There is plenty of advice out there about content marketing, but a few of the more useful ones follow:
- Stick to what you know: You are bound to be more compelling to your readers if you stick to topics for which you have a passion.
- Keep it simple: A blog is a good and simple way to start getting content onto your site without breaking the bank or taking up a lot of time. Stick to 2-3 paragraphs each, and have someone else proof your writing before posting.
- Measure up: Both social media and websites can be configured to provide regular metrics such as clicks, views, etc. Use this data to consider your efforts, see what is working, and most importantly, what isn’t.
3. Start finding customers (email and social outbound marketing)
91 percent of consumers look for local goods or services online2, but with millions of businesses, websites and social pages, you can’t expect customers to come running to you. You have to get out there and actively find them. Here are three effective ways to help find new customers:
One of the most effective ways to market your target audience is to start email campaigns. Learn more about leveraging your email marketing.
Many social media platforms have paid promotional programs specifically for small business owners that are easy to manage. Learn how to advertise through social media.
4. Market and monetize
If you plan to sell directly online, you’ll need to enable some commercial capabilities that allow you to take orders, process payments, and communicate for support. Even if you don’t plan to sell products online through standard e-commerce functionality, you should still enable lead capturing and processing with your website or social page. Websites can be embedded with links and forms meant to capture prospect information for further sales follow-up. Most social sites are developing ways to do the same, such as Twitter's “lead generation card” functionality.
5. Prepare for the next step
Regardless of where you came from, by the time you reach this step, you should be prepared to take the next big challenge. Whether it is making the jump from a social page to a full-functioning website, or growing the capabilities of your website to include mobile optimization or e-commerce, you’ll need to develop a more nuanced plan for your specific business goals to stay ahead of the competition and the market.
1 Verisign. 2015 Online Survey: 97 Percent of SMBs Would Recommend Having a Website to Other SMBs. Oct. 1, 2015.
2 Verisign. 5 Reasons Every Small Business Needs a Website