Must-have online tools and strategies for your business
So you've got a website? That's great every business needs one. But are you taking full advantage of all the technology that the internet now offers the everyday business owner?
There are lots of tools out there that can help you get more from your internet presence. And surprisingly, a lot of it's free. Here are the must-haves for 2009:
A functional website
Is your website up-to-date and a true reflection of your business strengths? Do your customers get value from it? Does it actively get results for your business? If not, then you are missing out on the value that many businesses are gaining from the internet. Find a developer that can identify what will work for your business online. They need to supply you with a simple content management system so you can easily update the site yourself, a variety of features like a shopping cart and a photo gallery that can be added to the site at any time and, most importantly, reliable ongoing support.
According to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing has a return on investment of almost $50 for every dollar spent. It is a must-have for anyone that is serious about growing their business, particularly in these quiet times because it is so cost-effective. Newsletters, promotions, event invitations, welcome letters and numerous other strategies work really well with email marketing because it's highly targeted, personalised and easy to measure results. Look for an email marketing system that can integrate with your website and has in-built spam compliance and reporting capabilities.
Ever wondered how many people come to your site and where they come from? Your site should generate basic statistics on its own, but you can find that out a lot more with Google Analytics. To set it up, simply sign up for a free account, put the tracking code on your website and you're good to go. Analytics measures how many visits your site gets, how long users spend there, what pages they look at and much more. You can also also set up 'goals' to find out how many achieve a certain objective on the site, such as buy something or fill out your contact form. Visit www.google.com/analytics for more information.
Facebook was a country, it would have the world's 8th largest population, with more than 150 million members, so it's definitely worth getting your business on it. Set up a profile for your business and use it to communicate with your customers in a creative way promote your products, list your events, upload pictures and create online discussions. There are also paid advertising options on Facebook as well, which can be a very valuable option if your target consumers are social networking users. Being on Facebook will be one of the biggest marketing trends of the year, so jump on board now. Check out www.facebook.com for more information.
One of the best strategies for getting traffic to your website is Google AdWords. When a user searches for a particular term, a small ad for your business with a link to your website appears alongside the free search results. You get great exposure to a targeted audience, but the best thing is that you only pay for the ad when a user actually clicks on it, so it's extremely cost-effective. AdWords is really simple to manage yourself and you can set a budget to control how much you spend. Get more information and sign up to get started at www.adwords.google.com.
Search engine optimisation
This is all about getting your website to appear high in the free search results in search engines like Google and Yahoo. Around 235 million searches are conducted on Google every day (Comscore, 2008) so it's really essential that your business can be found there. To get a high search engine ranking you will need to have lots of quality content on your site, relevant keywords throughout the copy and lots of other websites linking to yours. You can do the basics such as getting your content up to scratch, but optimisation can be complex and competitive, so it's best to get an expert to do it right for you.
An ebook or whitepaper is a book, research paper or report that can be downloaded from the internet in PDF format and they are a great strategy for positioning yourself as an expert, building your database and adding value for existing clients. Use your knowledge of your industry to write an ebook (eg. an accountant could write "Top 8 Tax Time Tips") and make it available on your website as an incentive to capture prospect's details. Include subtle marketing messages throughout the ebook and links to your website to attract new customers.
Big companies are already getting great results from these strategies and smaller businesses can achieve success with them too because they are so simple and cost-effective. It's just a matter of getting out there and having a go the businesses that are doing well in these tough economic times are those that are making their own opportunities rather than just sitting back and waiting for things to change.