5 Steps To Get Your Local Business Online

A web presence is a major part of the marketing mix for most large companies these days. However I find many small businesses have still not taken the plunge.

With the rapid growth of local search and a tendency to research everything online a website is a must for smaller businesses in today’s competitive market. In fact research firm BIA/Kelsey notes that the website now serves as the core of local business marketing linking to all other forms of advertising including print, the Yellow Pages, mobile, SEO/SEM, social media and e-mail/direct mail.

Here are 5 steps to get your local business online.

1. Create a Website

There is no excuse for not having a website. The last thing you want is for a potential customer to type your name into Google or another search engine and not find you. Instant failure.

Your website should also serve as the hub to other parts of your marketing mix including direct mail, social media sites, print ads, review websites and the Yellow Pages. It’s where you can provide additional information on your products and services, provide customer support and news.

2. Provide Up to Date Information

Once you have your website make sure that it’s kept up to date. There’s nothing worse than a website with outdated information. There are a wide variety of CMS’s (Content Management Systems) out there that allow you to update your content rather than go back to your web designer for each little change.

3. Include Contact Details

Contact information, including your address and telephone number, is vital to ensure search engines and local sites pick up you website. They also clearly tell prospects where to find you and how to get in touch. Ensure they are prominently displayed on every page of your website.

4. Launch a Blog

I love blogs. I really love them. They are a fabulous way to keep in touch with your prospects and customers and the search engines just love them.

They are a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your field and to give prospects a glimpse of who you are. My Essential Guide to Business Blogging is a must read if you’re branching out into the blogosphere.

5. Get Social

I’m sure you’ve heard of Facebook and Twitter by now. These, and other social media sites, are the next big thing. People are talking about you and you can ether join in the conversation or close up shop. Join the large social networking sites and any others relevant to your industry and start talking.

With more and more people using the internet to find products and services can you afford not to have an online presence?

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Trusting Your Instincts

I’ve written a lot about how important it is for businesses to choose the right web designer for their online project. Not just the cheapest but the one they feel will best help them realise their goals.

On the flip side it’s just as important for web designers to vet their prospective clients too. A business relationship needs to be mutually beneficial and if your instincts are telling you you’re not sure about a project or client listen to them. I know that can be hard when you have bills piling up, or want the latest iMac, but believe me these are the projects that usually go pear shaped.

The irony is, for me at least, every time I have listened to my instincts and not done a project, another better one comes along. As they say when one door closes another opens.

It may take a while to listen to and trust your instincts but believe me it’s probably one of the best pieces of business advice I can give you.

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FreelanceSwitch’s 12 Breeds of Client and How to Work with Them

I’ve just discovered FreelanceSwitch and boy am I glad I did.

Their post: 12 Breeds of Client and How to Work with Them provides great insight. Rather than just bagging out clients they describe 12 common types of client and give advice on how to work with them. Types include:

  • The Low-Tech Client
  • The Hands-On Client
  • The Appreciative Client
  • The I-Know-It -When-I-See-It Client
  • The Always-Urgent Client
  • The Budget Client

I’ve worked with a lot of clients in my time and can tell you the list is pretty spot on. For some rare insight into client types and how to make sure you work well with them the post is a must read.

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Pretending To Be What You Aren’t

I’ve been in business for a while now and one of the things that frustrates me the most is companies businesses trying to pretend they’re bigger than they really are. I’m sure you know the ones – a one person operation with a “Head Office” and “CEO”. Now I’m all for professionalism, and creating a good impression, but in my experience businesses that pretend to be larger than they are often come across as contradictory, if not fake. “Hmm, you have a head office, CEO and CTO but the same person seems to do all your communication. Weird…. Think I’ll move on.”

Back in the nineties (ooh I love that) people didn’t seem so tolerant of small businesses and particularly businesses that were run out of a home. I know I lost some work back then just from being perceived as too small, or god forbid a “home business”. Not that I minded, if someone made a judgment based purely on where I worked we probably wouldn’t have been a good fit anyway.

These days I don’t see a business’s size or where you work being such a problem. In fact in many situations being small can be an advantage. The client gets personalised service from a company that can think quickly on it’s feet.

This brings me back to my point – stop trying to be something you aren’t and embrace what you are. The more authentic you are the more appealing you’ll be.

Besides, didn’t you know, Small is the new Big. ;)

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