There's no time like the present
Here at the LinkNow blog, we write a lot about how small businesses can make the most of their online and social media marketing efforts. However, recently we’ve been receiving a lot of questions from people who don’t even know where to start.
The experts make it seem like online marketing is too complicated to wrap your head around, but that’s not true at all. The key to online marketing all starts with a website. Read on and you'll be an online marketing wiz (or at least know enough to get started) in no time.
Why do I need a website for my small business?
In the age of social media, some business owners have begun to claim that they don’t need a website if they have Facebook and Twitter accounts. After all, they argue, all of our customers are on Facebook and Twitter and those websites are the best way to communicate with them. Why waste time and money on an expensive website?
Don’t get me wrong – social media is important. But if you think you can get everything out of social media that you would get out of a website, you’re fooling yourself.
A website is the lynchpin of any online marketing effort. Everything else relies on it. Your website is where you have complete control over the message you want to send to customers. It’s like a combined storefront, business card, and advertisement for your services. It puts all your contact information in one place, including your phone number, social media profiles, and address. And it’s the easiest thing for people looking for your business to find.
But even more importantly, it’s the single easiest way for you to connect with people who don’t know about your business but who are looking for what you’re selling. If you don’t have a website, you are just giving up all that potential business to your competitors.
Okay, so I need a website. How do I get one?
For many small businesses, the price of a custom website is the stumbling block. Major brands and large companies spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on their websites, and even a simple, high quality custom website will cost at least a few thousand dollars.
Fortunately, those aren’t the only options small business owners have. Even if you don’t have the money to hire a web designer, or you don’t have the time or energy to learn how to create websites yourself, there are alternatives.
Build it yourself
If cost is your primary concern, but you have time to spare and an aptitude for design, there are companies like Squarespace. For a monthly fee, Squarespace gives you the option to piece together a website from existing templates they’ve built. You can add your own content and photos to make something that’s yours. A lot of Squarespace sites look great, but you really do need some design or tech skills, or you’ll end up with a mess.
Work with a small business website specialist
Another option for small business owners without the time to invest in building their own site is to work with a web design company that specializes in small businesses. (Full disclosure: LinkNow Media offers a small business website package, which you can learn more about here.)
Companies like ours specialize in producing low cost websites that have been designed specifically for small businesses who want an attractive and professional website but don’t have the budget to pay for a custom site. For a fraction of the price of a custom website, you can get a professional web designer to create a site that you’ll be proud of. And another advantage of working with a web design company is that they have other resources and services that you can use if you ever want to expand your marketing efforts.
Okay, I have my website. What’s next?
There’s a lot of work involved in effectively marketing a business online, but once you have your website, you’re well on your way. If you’re really serious about taking your online marketing effort to the next level, check out these posts for some tips:
- How to Get Serious With Online Marketing in 2016
- How to Use AdWords – A Simple Guide for Small Business Owners
But generally, there are three things you want to focus on.
Once you have your website, content is the key to all your online marketing going forward. Most small business owners focus on blogging, but you could also make videos, do a podcast, or anything else that might attract an audience.
The idea is simply to create things that would be of value to your potential customers. If you’re a plumber, you might crate how-to articles or videos. If you own a bakery or restaurant, you might post a favorite recipe every week. The goal is to create content that is relevant to your business and that people might potentially share with their social networks.
Blog posts serve two purposes. First, if people find your posts helpful, they may share them with their friends and bring more traffic to your site. Secondly, they are extremely helpful for your SEO (search engine optimization) and make it more likely people will find your website while using search engines like Google.
Having trouble coming up with things to write about? Check out this link about 5 great types of posts that will bring traffic to your blog.
Social media is one of the most versatile marketing tools available for any small business. Your goal with your social media accounts should be to interact with potential customers and promote the content on your website. Read more about how to get ahead with social media here.
Reviews are critical for any small business. After your website, online review sites like Yelp are probably going to be some of the top results when potential customers search for your business name. Since they have such a high potential to affect your business’s reputation, you want to do everything you can to make sure that you are earning favorable reviews.
Of course, that starts with offering great service to your customers, but you can also take a more active role in asking your customers to review you. Your website and your social media accounts are great places to link to your business’s profiles on review sites.
You’re on your way
It all sounds like a lot of work, but once you have your website up and running, you can pick away at the other aspects when you have a few free minutes. Alternatively, you can pay someone to handle those other aspects of your marketing for you. But either way, the hardest part is behind you.
What was your biggest challenge when you decided to start marketing your business online? Did you build your own website or did you purchase one from a web design company? Have you had success with your online marketing? Let us know in the comments, or join the conversation with us on Twitter.