For many business owners, using technology to promote their business is limited to creating -- and often overinvesting in -- a great-looking website. But digital promotion isn't just about having a website anymore. Equally important today is the use of social media to establish an online presence, search engine optimization to enhance your company's "findability," and website optimization to ensure your website reads and functions well on smart phones and tablets.
The beauty of digital promotion in today's world is how cost-effective promotional campaigns have become, and how imminently trackable the results are. You can quickly and easily test different creative concepts, fine-tune your customer profiles, change campaigns, and modify copy as needed to improve your results. This combination of speed, marketing agility and trackable return on investment (ROI) gives you, as a small business owner, what you want most: control over your destiny.
Are you looking to promote your business? Whether your company is fully established or is in the "start-up" phase, here are six things you can do to improve your business' findability and increase its exposure to potential customers in the interactive space:
1. Create (or update) your LinkedIn profile ASAP. LinkedIn is a relatively quick way to establish your online presence, and for start-ups, it's significantly less of an investment than creating a website. But don't just copy and paste your resume into your profile -- take the time to let your passion for your business shine through. Also, make it a priority to build out your profile completely. Including a photo and having "Recommendations" from other LinkedIn members can help establish transparency, trust, and credibility. People want to see and "know" who they're doing business with.
You can also take advantage of LinkedIn's option to create a page for your business. Having LinkedIn profiles for both you and your company will improve your ranking on Google and the other search engines for both your name and your brand -- even if you don't have a website yet.
2. Capitalize on the power of local online directories to further improve your business' "findability" on the web. Create profiles for your business on a Google Places page, a Yahoo Local listing, and the Bing Business Portal and apply solid Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques for best results. Establishing this presence is an important "to-do" for any business, but it's especially powerful for companies that don't have a website yet, since these listings essentially create mini-websites for your business and help establish your credibility until you can get your website developed.
3. Identify the one social media platform you like the best and use it consistently to promote your business. Although it would be great to keep up a blog, have an e-mail campaign, and also have a presence on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and now Pinterest, most small business owners don't have the time or resources to manage all of that. I've found that each person naturally gravitates to one of these platforms, so play to your strength.
Once you've established your presence on one social media site, you can take it a step further. For most social media sites, you can post to one platform (such as LinkedIn) and have that content link automatically to several other social media sites (such as Facebook or Twitter) so you can easily expand your reach. If you can afford to hire an individual or an agency to manage all this for you, just be sure to choose wisely and don't necessarily base your decision on price. One inappropriate tweet or status update could have wide-reaching repercussions for your business.
4. Use online public relations (PR) to quickly and effectively get the word out about major developments in your business. Share the good news about new products and/or services you're introducing, important changes on your management team, special milestones you've achieved, and substantial new client engagements (with the client's permission, of course). There's a range of services and pricing available to help you reach your target audiences based on your budget, including free services through www.PRLog.org and www.pitchengine.com. Take advantage of the opportunity to upload photos and videos that are relevant to your news. Also, look for local opportunities to feature news about your business in print and online publications like the Chamber of Commerce or local industry newsletters and blogs.
5. Consider pay-per-click (PPC) advertising as a cost-effective way to generate leads for your business. PPC became popular on Google and the other search engines, but now the opportunities to advertise on Facebook and LinkedIn are getting a lot of attention. That's because these sites can place your ad very specifically so it's seen by your potential customers based on your target demographic. For example, if you're trying to reach other business owners and managers, you can tap the very sophisticated LinkedIn database, which allows you to select who will see your ad -- not just by industry and location, but also by age and gender, by company name or size, and even by function or position title. This is another arena where you might prefer to hire a PPC specialist to run and manage your campaigns, but again, choose wisely. Running successful PPC campaigns is as much an art as it is a science.
6. Share your kernels of wisdom without expecting anything in return. Yes, you're in business to make money, but in the digital space it's all about building relationships, sharing first and seeing rewards later. Have something you can give away when people visit your website -- maybe an eBook with your insights and recommendations, but not a product or sales pitch. Focus on becoming a trusted advisor in your space and then people will seek you out to do business.
About Women & Co.:
Women & Co.®, a service of Citibank, is the go-to personal finance source for women. Women & Co. delivers financial content with sharp, insightful commentary and a female point of view. Sign up for free at womenandco.com.