By Shashi Bellamkonda
We’re in the New Year and the time for making resolutions about health, wealth, family and oddball bucket lists. Don’t forget about making resolutions about your online presence as well. Your website 2012 resolutions should include content, communications, community, conversations and conversion. The secret of successful small business owners is that they spend more time “on the business” than “in the business.” One of the tools for spending on your business is your web presence.Small businesses are great at customer service and realize that their next customer will come from a current customer – Word of Mouth. In the digital world word of mouth is “word of mouse” a powerful tool to gain new customers. A new era of marketing is unfolding and digital marketing helps you in your objective to influence behavior to change positively towards you. The audience who need your product and services are increasingly searching for them online. It is interesting to see how the communication tools are coming together.
We hope you are convinced that even your brick and mortar business needs to be on the web. Guess what - “92% of online adults use search engines to find information on the Web” according to a May 2011 Pew Internet Survey (PDF).
Without further adieu, here are some 2012 resolutions you should include in your business list. Five “C” online resolutions for small business:
- Not having a website for your business is not an option anymore. A website or a blog all count as establishing your web presence.
- Resolve to update it constantly. Once a day, week or even a month as long as you are consistent.
- Show your thought leadership through content. Publish your thoughts on your industry, peers, products, good news about your community.
- Education through content – provide tips to your customers, answer the most asked questions on your website or blog.
- Fresh and updated content is a good way to ensure search engines are indexing your site often and your chances of appearing in search results will be better.
- Email Marketing is still a top performing marketing channel for businesses. Embrace it and use it to flourish.
- It is important for you to get email branded with your business name showing consistency and credibility.
- Communicate with your customers to solve their problems with your product rather than selling your product.
- If you are sending an email newsletter you should try to use software like Constant Contact, Exact Target, MailChimp or other professional tools. Many of these tools make it easy for you and also guide you to succeed in email marketing.
- Establish communications with customers using popular social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. Before you decide on setting up your social profiles, asking your customers where they would like to connect with you is a good idea.
- Food trucks use this medium very well to let customers know their location.
- Last minute availability of appointments at doctors, saloons.
Your website should have the components of a Web 2.0 site – ability for your web visitors to comment, share your content and bookmark it. Your blog, social media tools are all communication tools and working together with email make great marketing tools.
- Every business should nurture their customer communities by providing them with tools to spread word of mouth.
- Customer appreciation days
- Special offers for regular customers
- Formal or informal meetings with customer advisory boards
- Asking customers for ideas to improve products or suggest new product features
- Provide easy ways to give you feedback or review your business
Face to face networking is important Attend local events Business networking and educational events Set aside time and budget to attend and learn ways to increase your business Sponsoring local community events – get involved in local community events, PTA organizations, schools , scout groups.
Cutting edge Technology
- While investing in technology evaluate the benefit to your organization and avoid any impulse buys.
- Upgrade your Internet speeds if you feel it will increase the speed of your customer transactions.
- Get a new smartphone if you are away from your computer a lot and your business depends on emails and orders from customers through the web.
- Invest in a tablet if you would like to carry an electronic portfolio to show customers.
- Attend trade shows or subscribe to trade magazines to see what new technology can help make your business more efficient.
- Consider having an advisory board of people you know who can advise you on new technology.
Conversion: All your resolutions should lead to your objective of growing your business.
- Make sure you spend your time on activities that help your business grow.
- Social tools can be distracting. Consider them as communication tools and allot enough time to nurture your communities there.
- While only talking about sales in a social context is sometimes in poor taste, look for opportunities where you answer peoples questions and offer to help.
- Definitely use analytics programs to see where your traffic is coming from and which keywords they are using to find your business online.
- If you are a brick and mortar business like a restaurant, try to ask your customers where they found you.
Remember you don’t have to do all these tasks yourself. Weigh the time you would spend with the cost of hiring people to tell your story and concentrate on what you do best – working on your business. What did you add to your New Year business resolution?
New Year Resolutions List Photo via ShutterstockShashi Bellamkonda is Sr. Director of Social Media, AKA "Social Media Swami," at Network Solutions. Visit Shashi Bellamkonda's blog. He is also an adjunct faculty at Georgetown University. Shashi is a regular contributor to the Washington Business Journal, DC Examiner and other tech blogs like Smallbiztechnology and Techcocktail.
Shashi is literally the "swami" of Social Media - and ecommerce. We can all learn a lot from him as technology advances. He never forgets the basics!