SCORE

It isn’t enough to simply establish an online presence. You have to maximize your contacts by ensuring you catch the attention of prospective customers. We’ve compiled a list of ideas that can help you. Start with the ones that you can implement most easily. Add others as you have the time. Don’t try to do everything at once. The results will please you.

Get More Positive Reviews for Your Business

Online reviews can impact how people view your business. People are more likely to invest in products or services if they know that other people have been satisfied with them. How do you get positive reviews? First, find out which sites review businesses like yours. Focus on a handful of regular customers (who would not keep returning if they were dissatisfied) and ask them to review you on those sites. Google yourself, find reviews that are already out there and create a link on your site to the most favorable ones. Most importantly, fix any faults that are noted in the reviews you find.

Reward Business Referrals

Referrals from your customers can really help your business. You can benefit strongly by providing incentives for your existing customers to refer others to your business. Keep in mind, that you need to be able to identify new customers as new. This will work better for service companies who work directly with customers than for businesses like bakeries and florists who have high transient trade. To encourage referrals, design an attractive card that has your business address, location, and online address. Have a space for “I was recommended to you by________.” You can also accommodate direct on-line referrals by including a block on your new customer registration form for them to enter the referrer’s name. Make sure that the incentive is worth having, but inexpensive enough that the new business will allow you to recapture the cost.

Set an Online Marketing Budget That Drives Business Growth

Any online marketing plan needs a budget. If you can create a budget that will actually drive business growth, your spending will be more productive. This is an area where you might want advice from your SCORE mentor. Consider what online tools will drive growth. Blogs, Face Book and tweets will keep you visible to potential customers. Keep everything dynamic. Focus on what is useful to those customers. For example, rather than touting your product, discuss what it can do for them. A good budget item might be an occasional contest for the best application for a product whose sales you’d like to boost. If you are computer or graphics challenged, budget for outside help (but research costs to ensure you budget correctly). Perhaps you will want to put together a list of what you can and cannot do yourself. And remember: You should budget both time and money.

Get Your Brand Listed on Top Lists

Customers who browse online for products or services may access lists that include businesses in your particular industry or category. If you are able to get your business well placed on those lists, you better your chances of getting found. Look at those who are listed. If you can figure out what they have in common, you will have some ideas on how to change your site. Research your industry on several search engines to see where your business appears.

Pay Close Attention to Your Landing Page

Your landing page provides a first impression of your business to customers. It’s important to create a good one. Ensure that a landing page is not a stopping page; make navigation through your web pages clear and simple. Make the content attractive and relevant. Don’t include flashy gimmicks that don’t really contribute to your business. Be sure to include easily spotted links for newsletter sign-ups, sales alerts, and other items critical to bringing customers back. Have a comment block on the landing page to encourage customer feedback. Avoid clutter. Your product pages may have to be cluttered, but your landing page should remain unburdened and attractive.

Always Emphasize Value

Your customers want value. If they are convinced you to offer more value than your competitors, they will return to you again and again. Focus less on your products and more on their applications. Emphasize useful features that others lack. You might sponsor application contests, and reward customer ideas with gift certificates. Post letters from customers on your website. Start a blog that emphasizes features, applications, and benefits. Encourage customers to contribute.

Try to Understand Information Technology

If you want to make the best possible business decisions in the IT area, you need to understand at least the basic elements. You don’t have to learn to write code, but a weekend spent with a “For Dummies” book on the internet will allow you to deal with the people who will write the code for you. The IT professionals you utilize should be able to explain in clear terms those items that seem to baffle you. If not, ask your 8-year-old granddaughter.

Use Automated and Outsourced Internet Marketing Tools

Marketing your business to online customers can be a time consuming process. But it doesn’t have to be. There are many available tools that could help you minimize the time you personally spend updating your web pages. Do some research on which will best meet your needs, and work closely with your IT expert (who probably understands your needs better than you do).