How to Successfully Take your Business Online

Your business needs to have an online presence. With almost 90% of Americans online, the vast majority of shoppers have become used to finding businesses via mobile devices and personal computers.

You don’t need to sell online to see the benefits, either. An increasing number of shoppers use devices to look up locations and contact information and do research before ever setting foot in a real-world shop.

Make it easy for customers to find you when they go looking, and reach an entirely new pool of potential clients with the right online presence for your business. Here are five steps to make it happen:

Map your location

If you have a real-world storefront or office space, stop what you’re doing and make a profile for your business on Google Maps. It’s free, easy, and gives you control over how your business is represented. You’ll get an administrator’s account to update your profile with relevant details like contact information, hours of operations, and exterior, interior, or product photos.

Local search is increasingly important in search results. If you claim your business location (and link your website when you get one), you’re more likely to turn up in search results by locals and thereby increase traffic to your store.

Consider your strategy

Being online will help you, but the choices you make might vary depending on the type of business you run. Do you sell goods or services that would benefit from an online store? Do you need a way to reach new clients all the time? A real estate professional might focus on content marketing and social media for ongoing lead generation, while a local retailer might want to boost sales via an online shop – or double down on local and focus efforts on spreading the word online and directing people to a physical storefront instead.

It’s important to think about your goals as a business and how an online marketing strategy will support them. All of the following steps can help all types of businesses, but the way you engage with them, how much you invest in each, and what they look like will vary based on your needs.

Launch a website

Businesses need a website, and you should invest in a custom domain name and some good quality design at a bare minimum. Start with a description of services and contact information. If you sell services, you might want to detail your offerings, give prices (or a statement about how you come up with estimates), offer a portfolio of past work, and write informative material related to your industry. If you sell products, you might want to look at e-commerce solutions, or at a minimum give details of the types of products you sell and a gallery of examples to entice shoppers into your store.

Don’t forget to make it visually appealing and consistent with your brand. Current trends are toward rich content including large, crisp images, short video, and ample white space. If you don’t have a custom photographer or graphic designer on staff, you can visit a site that supplies excellent stock photos for a reasonable price.

Connect on social

You may or may not already use social media in your personal life. Social media marketing is a whole topic in itself, but to summarize: it’s an excellent way to find people (read: customers) online. You can put up a website, but that’s like setting up a storefront on a back alley instead of Main Street if you don’t pair it with a lead generation strategy. People have to go exploring and stumble across your site.

Social media is like taking your goods and services to a community main square or park or setting up shop on the main drag. There are people already hanging out there, and if you look like you have something interesting going on, they’ll pop in and take a look. Make the most of your efforts by picking the one or two platforms that your customers like to hang out on and set up a profile there. You’ll need to interact to see any benefit (otherwise it’s like buying a storefront and never unlocking the front door). The next step can help you do that well.

Market your content

You need to be doing something to attract attention online. Think of it as opening the doors and flipping the sign to “open” or putting a gregarious clerk in your booth at the park. You attract people’s attention by sharing content that’s entertaining, informative, or emotionally moving. And don’t forget to use photos or short video to catch the eye – again, stock content sites are your friend.

Content marketing bridges your website and social media, catching attention in the public arena of social media and directing it at your brand, your site, and/or your street location. Be cautious about overdoing it on social; engage with others and boost their signal more than promoting yourself for best results.

Your business can thrive with a stronger online presence. Use local search to help customers find your real-world locations. Consider which strategy is best for your business, get a website, select a manageable amount of social media, and come up with attractive, engaging content to draw customers to you.