DIGITAL FIRST STEPS FOR A SMALL BUSINESS
So you’ve got your business and are looking to create its digital presence and start acquiring more customers online. But where to start? Should I have a website? How about Social media? Should I invest in paid digital advertising? Below is my opinion on the key first steps all businesses should focus on before investing hard-earned budgets, I also hope to answer some of the more popular questions I'm usually asked.
Before you even start with digital, make sure you have clear in your mind the following things.
What do I do?
What is my benefit to my customer?
Why am I different from the competition?
What do I want to achieve online?
Most of these questions are not even digital specific but it's critical you are 100% clear on the answers. Research your competitors and look for gaps in their offering. Remember keep things focused and simple, it's better to be a master of one trade than an amateur of many and simplicity makes it easier to communicate what you do to potential customers. The answers to these questions will ultimately define the channels you use online, the messaging you give and the look and feel of your online presence and messaging.
DO I NEED A WEBSITE?
The quick answer is NO, not immediately. A website is your digital shop window and it's the look and feel will shape your potential customer's first impression of your business. If you're going to build a site, only do it when you're clear on why it's needed (sell online, generate leads etc) and you have the time or budget to build good quality, mobile-friendly sites that best represents your business, help you achieve your goals and is visible in the search results, otherwise, you're wasting your time and money. Luckily Google is increasingly providing more rich and detailed information in the search results, meaning that for many searches, audiences don't need to click to the website to find what you need.
A bad site does no one any favours
SO WHAT SHOULD BE MY FIRST DIGITAL STEP?
Without a doubt, your priority should be completing your Google My Business listing. Google My Business provides companies with free visibility to people looking for local businesses/services in the Google search results and Google maps. It's free to set up and allow you to advertise your promotions and products, communicate to potential customers and highlight your location or service areas. Now, Google will only list three businesses in the search results, so you need to make sure your Business listing is as comprehensive as possible.
Google My Business, the essential first step
SO WHAT ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media can be important, it can reach most of your potential customers, its paid advertising has many targeting options and with the new Facebook Store up and running, businesses have the ability to sell products through their Facebook page. However, there are some important things to know before you open your business social page.
Follows and Likes have almost no value to you. As a business, you will always have to pay to get your message in front of the majority of your fans and target audience.
Google and Facebook don’t get on. Your business social channel will not be hugely visible for people searching on Google.
Each channel is popular with different demographics and different content. For example, Instagram is more for short/hero image and video content, YouTube is a champion for longer video content. When selecting your channel, ensure you pick the one that best fits your business objective, the content you will be sharing and the audience you want to reach. Here is a great link to research social media channel demographics.
Social media is a long term game, make sure you have a content plan in place so you know what you will be posting every week for at least a month in advance (a mix of product and service updates, general information, something entertaining?)
Finally learn how to engage with audiences online, be careful to not get too defensive or argumentative in discussions on your page, it will only reflect badly on you no matter how harsh you believe the comments to be.
SO I'VE DONE ALL OF THIS...WHATS NEXT?
Congratulations, with you Google My Business listing live and social media channels in place, you have a strong digital base in place without breaking the bank. So whats next? Well first make sure they're being maintained. Are you responding to questions and leads? Are you updating promotions and regularly posting content? If yes, now we can look at the next step, creating a well-designed website, your online storefront, setting up tracking and measurement to determine Return On Investment and supporting it with paid digital advertising.