Saturday

How to grow your small business online

Congratulations, you’re finally ready to open. You’ve completed the 13 steps to marketing your business before you launch, now let’s talk about how to grow your small business online.

If you’re already (or about to start) filling orders or booking appointments, you know that you need a strategy for growth so you can make your mark on the world. People need you and what you offer, so how do you get the word out?
Your small business online

Hopefully you realize that a website or some other platform is essential to your business. But no matter what kind of website you need, a professional, informative website should be part of your sales strategy. If you do a good job of creating a brand online, I guarantee that you’ll make the money back in sales. I totally disagree with those that would tell you that you can use Facebook instead of a website. Sure a Facebook page is helpful and easily searched…but what kind of message are you giving your potential customers by not having a site? To me, it says loud and clear; “I can’t afford to hire a web designer because I’m not making enough money.”

And while this may be the truth since you are just getting started, I would argue that even a cheap site is better than nothing at all. There are great options out there for limited budgets such as WordPress, Tumblr and Squarespace.
  • The best bet for those of you on a budget, find a web designer that works with WordPress and hire them to customize a template for you. Many times you can get a website online for less than $2,000, depending on what features you want. If you go this route, make sure to at least pay for a professional logo and header design. Do not skimp on this. 
  • If you want serious clients and serious sales, hire someone to brand your company and web presence for you. A professional site WILL lead to more sales. Buying online is all about trust and nothing says “I”m a true professional that you can trust” more than a good lookin’ website and brand.
Partner with other small businesses
Working together is a beautiful thing. There are literally hundreds of places online that you can list your business.
  • When you are your brand (coaches, therapists, trainers) find industry related organizations that will let you list your profile with a link to your site. For example: if you are a therapist, get listed on Psychology Today. Personal trainer? Get listed as a certified trainer on the numerous sites out there for each accredited program. 
  • Those of you that sell products – Can you start a shop on Etsy? Or find another retailer that sells complimentary products. 
  • Local businesses (restaurants, boutiques etc) – If your business relies on local traffic, who else can you partner with in your part of town? Are there events that you can sponsor? Get listed in your local business directory. 
Claim your social media pages
I know it’s often overwhelming to know where to start with social media. Take a look at which platforms work best for growing your small business online.
  • Service based businesses - I recommend using LinkedIn as one of the essential platforms, make sure you list your professional resume, qualifications and get endorsements. I also strongly advise you to start a Facebook page to connect with your audience. If you are feeling really ambitious, YouTube and Instagram are the way to go. I’ve seen some of my clients have huge success with video, it helps build trust and people get to know you. 
  • Product based businesses - Get your butt on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook immediately. Product based businesses are perfect for these platforms because its all about the visuals. Take pictures of your process, new products and customers using/wearing your stuff. These social platforms are also great for holding contests and getting people to share your stuff with their networks. 
  • Brick and mortar/ local businesses - Local businesses need to get the word out on Yelp, Facebook, Instagram and possibly Twitter. Make sure people can find you when they google your type of business and the city you live in by getting listed on local resource lists also.Boost your SEO by blogging
Blogging and SEO go together like Batman and Robin. Your SEO (search engine optimization or ranking) depends on the amount of content on your site. Blogging about your industry, products or services is hands down the BEST way to get found online. The more you blog, the higher you’ll rank. The more keywords you insert into your posts, the higher you’ll rank. And so on.

No matter if you decide to do your own SEO or hire a professional to take you to the next level, blogging and SEO best practices should be part of your online strategy. WordPress offers certain benefits that help boost your SEO without a ton of work. For instance, there are certain themes that have SEO features built in and there are plugins you can add to help boost your visibility online.
Keep customers coming back to your site

In addition to all the stuff I listed above, here are a few extras you should consider when growing your business online.
  • Comment on other blogs, or do a guest post – These are great ways to get exposure and get clicks to your site. Don’t underestimate the comment section, write a thoughtful comment and include a link to your site, people WILL find you this way. Another tip is to reach out to targeted blog owners with great traffic and pitch them a post idea. 
  • E newsletter – Hands down the BEST way to build an audience for those interested in your products or services, even better than social media. Give people a reason to sign up for your list (free PDF or ebook) and then get busy creating fun content and helpful tools for your audience. 
  • Branding – This buzz word is all over the interwebs these days. If you really want to stand out in the crowd, find a branding expert to help you craft your logo, web graphics and messaging. 9 times out of 10, your branding is the first impression people will have of you. Make sure its a good one. Get tips on personal branding here. 
Keep visitors on your site – Even though you are tempted to include links to other people’s content, please please don’t do this. You worked hard to get visitors to your site, don’t give them a reason to leave. Some marketing experts I know, are against even listing your social media links on your site because once people click through its unlikely that they’ll return to your site.

If you’re serious about trying to grow your small business online, and I hope you are…what other tips do you have to share? Online business is what I love, if you want more great advice or have questions about getting started, don’t be shy.

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