It’s hard to imagine that any type of small business could thrive and grow in a developed country today without having a presence on the internet. Increasingly, the internet is where your customers are hanging out, interacting, shopping and being entertained. And that’s why the internet, when used properly, can be a powerful tool for promoting your business and advertising what it can offer.
Here’s our quick guide to the six ways SMEs can advertise and raise awareness on the web.
Make Your Business Easy to Find
While it’s often the biggest and most well-known companies and brands that appear at the top of a web search, this doesn’t mean you can’t grab a place on that first page too. These companies are there because their websites are updated regularly and they’ve invested time and money in SEO, so that their websites contain the right keywords, tags and content – not because they’re necessarily the best in their market.
If you’re not confident in your SEO skills (and if you need me to tell you that means Search Engine Optimisation then believe me, you’re not), brush up your knowledge with some training or employ the skills of someone experienced at SEO. This may be an ideal job to outsource.
Although your own website is important, make sure you literally ‘put yourself on the map’ too by adding your business to Google Maps and adding details such as contact information, a business summary and opening hours etc. If you’re not sure how to do this, Google has provided useful instructions.
Have A Great Website
A good website should explain clearly and briefly what your business does and promote your USP (Unique Selling Point). It should shout about your successes, advertise any special events or promotions, provide any extra information a customer might require about who you are and what your business does (including directions, if relevant), and even, if possible, entertain.
Sounds simple, eh? Well no, it doesn’t – but advice on what to put on your website and why is too long-winded to be included here, so take a look at an article I wrote for The Accountancy Partnership on Nine Necessary Features for Your Small Business Website.
That article mentions that ideally your website should have a blog – if you’re not convinced, read Five Reasons Every Business Needs A Blog. Initially, you should worry about the regularity of your posts rather than the frequency; better to manage a good post every week or fortnight than bits and pieces here and there).
Advertise on Other Websites
Think beyond your own website to the website of others; related businesses, bloggers, directories, trade associations. It may be just a listing or you could consider pop-up ads; paying a fee to appear on someone’s site sidebar; agreeing mutual advertising with another business; or even providing content and blog posts for other sites.
Gone are the days when Yellow Pages making it on to the internet was a Big Thing. You’ll find a host of local and national trade directories and specialised interest sites and forums that offer the chance to list your business or advertise.
Social media has become a phenomenon that impacts the lives of millions of people in a multitude of ways, and used correctly it’s a powerful promotional tool. Take your time to research the best ways to use social media for your business, including finding your target audience, tagging your content and adapting it for different platforms. Most platforms have guidance pages on how business can make the best use of them.
You need to consider if having a presence is enough; often, it it’s well-managed, it may be. However, you might like to consider paid advertising too.
Don’t try to do too much too soon unless you’re employing or hiring someone to manage your accounts; start on one platform and build from there. If you’re managing the social media yourself, acquaint yourself with the apps and tools available to schedule and automate posting, saving you precious time.
Remember: this is SOCIAL media. Nobody wants their feed/stream/timeline/board swamped with hard sell advertising. This is a place to entertain, connect and inform. Of course, you can mention your sales and special promotions; of course, you can link to your website content and blog posts (and you should). But people will want to see more from you than continual, ‘We’re great, buy this’ messages.
Reel in Customers with Readable Info
Relevant blog posts and content on your site will help it appear in more searches and potentially move it up the rankings. You can discuss products, produce how-to articles, write posts on related topics and include customer stories or testimonials.
It’s also another way to interact with customers, as they can leave comments on your blog posts (although any wise website owner will tell you to set your options so that you must approve comments before they appear live, protecting you from trolls and spambots).
Reach Out Via Email
If you can, give people options for email frequency and the type of emails they want to receive when they sign up. If their inboxes fill up with pushy promotional emails from you every day, they’ll soon unsubscribe anyway.
So think carefully about how frequently you send out emails and ensure that each one has something of interest or a promotion. Consider the seasons, any holidays or upcoming events and try to build your offers, articles and emails around these things, offering relevant discounts or product promotions.
Supermarkets email us with offers on beer and sausages as soon as the sun makes the briefest of appearances, followed by sun tan lotion offers and then, before you can blink, promotions on school uniform and stationery. It’s not a bad example to follow.
You could also consider personalising some of your emails based on which products or services a particular customer or group of customers have looked at, purchased or used before, ensuring you offer them the most relevant promotions and information.
Now there’s no excuse. You know where and how to put your business out there on the web, so go to it – and let us know what’s worked best for you and your business.