by Grace Barone
If you're a local business, you might feel that your standing in the community and local marketing strategies are enough. While that might be true, if you ever want to grow and protect yourself against the threat of larger competitors, you need an online presence. An effective online presence will open the door to new markets and connect you with customers you may have never expected to be interested in.
Most people are online now, and they expect the businesses they support to be online too. Going against the trends and ignoring online business is not the strategy to take. You don't have to sacrifice your brand identity to get the benefits of connecting with more customers online either. Even if you're going for an old-school image for your company, the customizability of websites and social media pages can help you craft a brand image that reflects your desires.
The Importance of a Local Business Having an Online Presence
A business's online presence is crucial to attracting new people to your company and getting old customers to return. Below are some of the best reasons you should create an online presence for your business:
People have come to expect that most companies will have a portion of their products or services available online. While your store's physical presence is still important, you now need to be at least as equally focused on creating an online presence that customers can quickly access from anywhere.
Your business most likely isn't open 24 hours a day, yet people may want a product of yours at any time. An online store will give customers the option of buying a product as soon as they become interested. If you make them wait until your doors open, they may talk themselves out of the purchase, not have the time during the day to get it, or simply forget about it.
Along with selling products, a website can make it easy for clients to sign up for appointments or pay for services that your company offers. This kind of accessibility encourages customer interaction with the business.
Reach a Larger Audience
Even if your business is located in a small town where everyone knows who you are, you can use a website to expand into a broader market. If you sell products, it's likely that other people around the country, or even the world, could benefit from them. An effective website lets anyone access your products and purchase them, leading to a wider audience and increased revenue.
Every business wants to gain customers' trust. Excellent service and high-quality products are some of the ways to go about building trust, but for new customers who are thinking about using your company, your website will need a sleek design to gain their trust. A poorly designed website will send a negative message about your professionalism and ability.
A website will allow consumers to decide if you're the kind of company that meets their needs and aligns with their values. Essentially, a website is an excellent branding opportunity that makes it that much easier to reach your ideal customer base, who will appreciate what your company has to offer.
With the internet providing customers the ability to review your company at will, your company will need to be able to respond to them. Show your appreciation by thanking customers who leave positive reviews and respond respectfully to negative reviews to show that you care.
For example, if a customer leaves a negative review about your business online and you don't have a web presence, the review will sit there, with many potential customers regarding it as fact. Even if you know that the complaint isn't valid, having someone respond to it and offer an apology will leave a positive impression on those who view the negative review, and possibly, the reviewer as well. This approach will make future sales and positive interactions with customers more likely.
An Affordable Marketing Solution
After you're finished setting up your website's social media platforms, you'll have a cost-effective way to reach customers. A user's quick Google search about businesses in the area that meet their needs might turn up a link to your website. If they follow the link, they will be able to see all of the products and services you offer. You don't necessarily need to spend any money on advertising for a customer to find your website online and possibly make a purchase.
Determine What Type of Website Your Business Needs
One of the first steps to taking your local business online is determining what kind of website your company needs. To get a sense of what you might need, consider some of the main types of websites you'll see online.
This kind of website is perfect for a company that is all about conversions. This website will aim to turn visitors into clients. A service website will be hyper-focused as every part of the site will direct customers to a service offered.
A call to action (CTA) should be a constant on your pages, whether overt or subtle. These CTAs should be packaged in links and buttons that customers can click on to immediately sign up for services. You'll need to strike a balance by giving them a reason to sign up for your service without looking too pushy. As long as you can make sure the CTA is showcasing its value to customers, you should feel confident that your CTA will be received well.
Like a service website, an e-commerce website is about converting visitors into customers. Instead of selling a service, this kind of site is focused on the products that a company can offer visitors.
Unlike a service website, where you might only be selling one or two services, an e-commerce site might have hundreds or thousands of products available. Rather than directing customers to one particular CTA, you'll want to make your website as easy to use and attractive as possible to help customers find the product that's the perfect fit for them.
Unlike the other websites, this kind is not trying to sell a customer on a particular product or service. Instead, it's about promoting your business as a whole.
A brochure website informs potential customers about what you do and lets them know that they can trust you. If a customer doesn't see evidence that you have evolved with the times, they will likely move on to another company that they perceive has taken steps to improve.
A support website is less about making sales and more about keeping your current set of customers happy. If you're a company in the tech world, especially, this kind of website can be helpful for both you and your customers. When people have issues with their device or program, they will have a place they can immediately go to solve their problem. This website will save your company time as you will have a centralized location to answer customer concerns rather than trying to answer them all individually.
A support website will usually have information about the newest patches to your software or drivers, information about how to contact the support department, community forums, and a list of frequently asked questions with answers to those questions provided. If you expect users to run into problems or be confused, a support website can mitigate issues users may have. While this type of website can stand alone, it pairs well with other types of sites, as it's dedicated to problem-solving rather than selling anything.
6 Tips for Setting Up an Effective Online Strategy for Your Website and Social Media
Whatever type of website you choose to use, there are several practices you can utilize to generate positive outcomes. When you're looking at how to migrate a brick-and-mortar business online, you'll need to keep these tips in mind for online success.
Your company can invest tons of money into making your website as well-designed and functional as possible, but if people can't find you, it won't matter much.
One of the best ways to get noticed is through search engine optimization. An SEO strategy will make your website more visible when users search online, as it aims to bump your website to the top of the search results page. A proper SEO strategy will bring more traffic to your business. You can either pay companies to optimize your content or learn how to do it yourself. Things like consistently posting content. Learning about keyword research and having a specific goal will help your visibility online.
Turn Traffic Into Leads
With an SEO strategy in place, along with other traffic strategies, you'll also want to have the infrastructure to transform your traffic into leads. Many of your pages can use a function that allows for lead capturing. In practice, this kind of feature will offer something of value in exchange for a piece of the user's information like their name, email address, and other relevant contact information.
Gaining this information will help to develop a relationship with the users. This relationship will keep them coming back to your site and make them more likely to become a client or customer.
Develop an Email and Text Messaging Marketing Strategy
To follow up with potential customers, you can use email and text messages to market directly to them. These messages can contain promotions and other kinds of materials that incentivize customers to purchase from you again or for the first time. For either method of contacting consumers, you'll need to ensure that you're providing value to them so that they don't see the messages as spam.
Make Online Connections and Utilize Them
You should be using your online presence to interact with other successful online businesses. You'll want to reach out and see if they have any tips for building your website. Additionally, you can study successful websites from your competitors to get ideas for features you can add to your site.
If you find businesses online that complement your services or products, you can create mutually beneficial partnerships. For example, say you sell cleaning supplies for cars while another company sells car parts. As these two businesses are somewhat related, you can link to each other's websites to drive traffic to one another.
Make a Customer Portal
People increasingly expect to be able to handle all of their bills online. A customer portal will store customers' information, making for a faster checkout process for returning customers. Additionally, if you offer a service with a subscription or other sort of billing cycle, a customer portal will make those payments convenient for customers. Your users will appreciate this convenience, making them more likely to keep coming back.
Build a Social Media Presence
A social media presence is a must if your target audience tends to use it. Your social media presence can incorporate humor, but it can also be straightforward and professional. Many companies use it to address customer service complaints and make customers feel like their input is being heard. At its core, social media is a relationship builder that connects customers with your business, generating loyalty along the way.
How VMS can help
At Velocity Merchant Services (VMS), we have the tools needed to bring your business online successfully.
1. Building a Website for Your Business
Are you unsure about making a website and properly implementing it but see the value in having one? VMS can provide you with the resources to create your own website that meets your needs. We understand that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for businesses when it comes to websites. As such, you'll need to partner with a company that can customize your site to fit your unique needs.
With VMS and a small business expert in your corner, growing your customer base will be easier than ever before. On top of helping you build your website, VMS will utilize SEO and connect your social media channels.
On top of optimizing your website for the needs of today, the website will be mobile-ready, giving customers the same quality experience, no matter where they access your site. The site will adjust to any screen, ensuring a consistent viewing experience for all.
2. Card Processing
Along with building a website, you'll need to have a secure payment system that processes online payments quickly and safely. Having an online payment processing system is about more than just giving your customers the option to pay online. It's also about giving them a reason to trust your company's ability to keep their data secure. VMS can install cloud-based terminals and online gateways that protect data and give you the ability to make money online.
Take Your Business Online
Creating a cohesive online presence can help you find new customers, engage with your current customers, and build your brand. If you're ready to start bringing your business online, reach out to one of our small business specialists.