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According to research from Verisign, 91 percent of consumers use the internet to look for local goods and services.1 If your local business is not online, you may be missing out on a significant number of potential customers.
Getting online and establishing a presence for your business doesn’t need to take much time or money. Here are three ways to get started today:
Add your business to online directories
If you are still relying on that thick, dusty yellow book to find new customers, you may be missing a lot of opportunities. Today, many consumers turn to online directories first to find information about local businesses, and your business needs to show up in those searches. Here are a few types of directories to consider:
- Search engine directories: List basic information about your business, like phone number, address and business hours, on places like Google My Business and Bing Places for Business.
- Local directories: Claim your business on some of the sites that specialize in listings by city or region, including monitor business directory, yellow.ug, local.com, yp.com etc.
- Review-centric directories: If you rely on customer reviews to drive business, consider sites known for consumer ratings and reviews. Registration is also free at many popular sites like Yelp, Angie’s List and Merchant Circle.
- Industry-specific directories: If your business is in a specialized industry, an easy way to find relevant, high-traffic directories for your area of expertise is to do a quick online search of your profession (e.g., “attorney”) or your profession + “directory” (e.g., “attorney directory”).
The search results should include links to directories that you may want to focus on.With so many directory choices, don’t feel overwhelmed at the possibilities. Just choose one or two that you think your customers use the most. Also, your business may already have a listing on these directories as search engines can
Set up a social media page for your business
Currently, 78 percent of the United States population has a social networking profile,2 so it makes sense to harness the power of social media to help promote your business. But what social media platform is right for you?
Social media channels have unique features and services, so knowing your goals can help you determine which social networking site will help you reach your target customers. Think about where your customers may spend their time online. Don’t assume it’s a popular platform like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter because that could limit your reach. For example, if you sell to consumers, LinkedIn may not be the most appropriate site.
Select one platform to serve as your primary social media presence. This will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed and help you to learn to use the site effectively for your marketing efforts. When you’re ready, consider advertising through social media. You can target your ads to people in a specific region and by demographic.
Start email marketing
Email marketing helps boost customer loyalty with your brand, drive business to on- and offline channels, integrate multiple marketing channels and fuel the growth of social networks. Before you start, think about:
- Your list of subscribers: Do you have a customer list? Make sure everyone on your list has opted-in to receive marketing emails. Also, how will you get new subscribers? Some ideas to consider are collecting email addresses at events and/or in your social media efforts.
- Creating content to send to subscribers: You could promote your products and services, inform customers of special offers or even start a newsletter. Remember to create engaging content that your customers will find valuable and want to read.
- Selecting an email service provider: Consider a solution that will help you grow, is low cost and doesn’t lock you into a lengthy contract. Make sure you have an idea of how many subscribers you have and how often you plan to email them. Most email service providers base their pricing on these factors.
The key to successful email marketing is to test your efforts. Plan to send out a few test emails to get an idea of the types of subject lines and content that your subscribers engage with the most. You may also want to test sending emails on different days and at different times to see if there is an optimal time to send your emails for the highest engagement.