Eight down and one to go in the year end marketing review series to help small business owners get ready for a wonderful new year.
Before we plan our marketing activities for the new year, we have one more review – do you and your business exist online? As a small business owner, how you are perceived when people search and find your information will determine whether they contact you about your products and services. So as hard as it may be to know the truth, we must understand whether:
- We have an online presence or not;
- Our online presence consistently projects how we want to be perceived.
Do You Exist?
This may be the easier issue to deal with as you get to start with a clean slate and do it right from the beginning. Make developing your online presence and marketing your business online the major part of your marketing plan this year. If you’re not sure how to go about developing your online presence, it may just be worth it to hire someone to help you make choices. Make sure this person has strong marketing experience in both online and traditional marketing and understands the challenges of small business owners. Make sure this person will guide you through the entire process, from brand and message development through implementation.
Is Your Brand Consistent?
With all the new tools and applications hitting us regularly, it is very common for our brand identity to get out of alignment and become inconsistent from one social network to the next. Maybe you wrote your profiles from scratch each time rather than create one document from which to pull all your information. With profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Business Pages, Google, YouTube, FriendFeed, Technorati and … well you get it, it isn’t uncommon to find old information that never got updated when you updated one. And I bet if you go to your Website, your “about” section may say something different as well. Since you are already online, your marketing effort is to ensure consistency across all online profiles. This effort takes work and regular maintenance, but it is well worth it if you do take control.
What to Review and Tackle
- Start with a “vanity search” – that is search for your name and your business name and observe what comes up. Are you or your business easy to find? What is the first impression?
- Review your company name, logo and color scheme. Does it project what you do and who you are as a business? Does it work with your differentiators that you determined in part 4 of this review? If your brand no longer aligns with who you are, or you simply never had one developed, it is worth the investment to have one done professionally as it will be what people will see and associate with you. Not too long ago, you could manage with just your company name on a well designed business card. Today, marketing yourself online requires a visual identity that has strength and memorability.
- Do you have a Website and blog and are they up do date? If you don’t, get a quality domain name that aligns with your business name or a key differentiator. Have your Website built on WordPress so you can keep your content up to date. Add your blog and provide quality, relevant content that your prospects will appreciate.
- Which social networks are you currently using? Are your profiles consistent in what they project to your friends, followers and connections? Is there online content about you that you were unaware of and need to do something about?
- Once you determine the state of your online brand, update profiles for consistency and provide new content that will get indexed by the search engines. The more people can hear what you can do and how you can help them, the more likely they will think of you when they are ready to buy. Plus fresh, up-to-date content about you and your business is the best way to counter any old, negative information that may be out there.
- Plan to monitor your reputation regularly. Add Google alerts for your name, your business name and your field of expertise. See what people are saying and where your name is showing up.
Online Marketing supports Offline Businesses
Whether your business is a professional service or a local storefront, online marketing, including the use of social media, is a cost effective way to market your products and services. Your online “storefront” is always open for people to find out what you can do for them. And since 69% of people research online before making purchase decisions, your business needs to be online just to be considered. But once you are there, you must be consistent.
What does your online presence say about you and your business?