Online presence for your small business
In the old days (before tech got big), starting up a new business was cumbersome, laborious and tiresome. What with completing all the paperwork, submitting in triplicate, and waiting for “the man” to approve all your submissions. Nowadays the whole process is made a-lot simpler, thanks to technology. You can start up your business in the morning, and be selling your product/service by the afternoon. This is great for you, but it is also great for your customers. It means they can see how great your business before they make a purchase with you.
Why do you need an online presence?
Did you know 81% of customers (84% in business-to-business) do this now. This means that your online presence is your new shop window, your new showroom, and the first place they go for reviews. With this in mind, your web presence, whether it be your website, social presence, or presence on review sites needs to make the customer want to spend their money with you. as has always been the case, first impressions count.
Your customers are more tech savvy than ever. They’ll check out your website, social media profiles and reviews before even contacting you about your product/service. With this is mind,
How do you make my online presence the best?
So, I hear you asking, how do I make my online presence the best on the market for my product/service? Well in my experience, your website is the first place to start. Make it easy to navigate, accessible across all devices, and look sexy as hell! there are many ways people think you should do this, and you should always go with the method you think best suits your business. You know your customers better than your web designer, better than your social media professional, and better than just about anybody else.
Making your website the best it can be
I believe there are three critical components to your website. content, image quality, and speed. Without great content, your customers wont know what you are selling. Without great quality images, your customer will think you are not as good as you say you are. Speed, when I refer to speed, I’m referring to the time it takes for your site to load. bear in mind, not everybody has the same connection speed, and if the customer has to wait ages for your site to load, they’ll go elsewhere.
Creating the content to bring the clients in
I have found that everybody has different ways of saying things. how some people word a sentence may be better suited to their clientele, where if someone else writes, they may open themselves up to a whole new market. Try to write in a light, informative manner, especially if you are selling a service. You want your customer to feel comfortable with you as a supplier.
Why quality images make all the difference on your site
Too many times I’ve seen great websites, that are let down by poor imagery. This is especially important on e-commerce websites, where the images of your products are ultimately what will convince the customer to purchase. I’m not just talking about high resolution images (they can also make your site slow to load, which ill talk bout later). They need to be images that you would be happy to have on your printed media (business cards, flyers, posters etc). Don’t forget, that your website is your shop window, and your customers want to buy from a quality outfit.
Site speed, how and why it can make such a diference
The time it takes your website to load can make all the difference. Between a customer wanting to see your awesome site, and leaving before they even get there. imaging if you had to wait 15 seconds for a page to load, or 30, or even a minute. That would be enough to put anybody off. You have to bear in mind that not everyone has a fast connection speed. You have to strike that balance between speed, quality, and features.
for instance, images can make a huge difference to page load times. if you’ve got 10, 3 megabyte images on your page, each user of your site will have to download all of them before even seeing our page. Whenever im editing images for sites, i lways use an image compression tool to make sure they are as small files as possible. Also, if the picture is particularly large, i always reduce the size to a maximum of 1600 pixels wide. this should make sure your image files arent too big, and you also get decent pixel density (basically it doesnt look blocky on the page)
Whenever I’m building a website, i always measure its performance with GT Metrix. It’s a free online tool where you can measure your sites speed, and gives you tons of recommendations on how to make it run faster.
Social media, how i did it (do what works for you)
Next i would move onto social media presence. You can use any social media platform you like, the more the merrier. My only word of warning is don’t over-commit yourself too early on, because if you’re too busy running around all your social media profiles, your probably not running your fledgling business. People “check-in” to places now even before buying. So if you have your social media presence set up correctly, even your potential customers are doing your advertising for you.
I personally started with facebook. You can start where you like, but this was the platform i felt most comfortable with. tell your friends your starting up, and in my experience, they’ll be more than receptive. (and probably even help you get your first few customers!)
After facebook, i went and set up my google places listing. this is really great for your google search results. don’t forget, google places is googles own product, so they will put anything on thee, way above any of the natural results (the ones that most search engine optimisation experts will attempt to get you to the top of).
I then went on and set up my twitter page, linkedin profile & I already had my flickr account. I do stress, do what your comfortable with first, and expand slowly from there. you don’t want to feel swamped by the amount of content you need to start generating)
Review sites, what are they and what can you do about them?
review sites (like trustpilot, yelp, which? etc) are places your customers can go online and leave reviews about your business. they all have a service where you can set your business up on them. So you can start by setting those up, so when your clients leave a review, you already have a presence there. They also normally let you know when your clients submit a review of your business.
Do interact with the reviews, especially bad ones. see if you can find a way to make the customers experience better, in a public form. Be sincere with your answers, and don’t try to make out that they’re just submitting a bad review for the hell of it, that will just make things worse.
I wish you all good luck with the journey of your online presence. because that’s what it is, an ever twist, changing journey. It’s not a ‘set it and forget it’ thing, you have to nurture your online presence, an interact with customers when they interact with you online.