Not so long ago at the end of the day and on my way home from work, my sweet wife called me and asked that I pick up some dinner from a new little Chinese place our friends had raved about. So, I pulled over and Googled the name of the place, figuring I would find their site and menu, give them a call, and pick up some takeout. But it didn’t work out that way.
The place didn’t have a website.
I was fairly flabbergasted but then again, not really, because I know that sad stats: Recent surveys show that – even now – just about half of all small businesses still do not have a website. Some say that is foolhardy, others explain it away, but I call it small business malpractice.
Given that we are living in an uber-competitive digital world, the fact is that if you want to survive (let alone thrive), you simply must help customers find you online. How do you do that? Here are the 5 key steps:
Create a memorable brand: What is a brand? Essentially it is your business reputation, personality, and promise all rolled into one. Take Starbucks for example. If any business has a specific, memorable brand, it is Starbucks. So, what does Starbucks’ CEO, Howard Shultz have to say about branding?
“Customers must know that you stand for something.”
Look, there are 30 million businesses in the U.S., and 99% of those are small businesses. That is a lot of competition, especially today with everyone’s limited attention span. Your job then if you are going to get noticed, is to give people a reason to notice you. You do that by having a specific brand that is attractive to the consumer. You could be, for instance
The organic grocery store, or
The sedation dentist, or
The friendly lawyer
Whatever the case, a great brand is one that offers people a specific, desirable benefit. Once you know and have that, then step two is to
Create tools that reinforce that brand: As we all well know, small businesses have limits with regard to marketing, both in terms of budget as well as time and expertise. What works then when looking to have people find and choose you is to reinforce that brand in all you do. You need to
Have a website that, not just explains who you are and what you sell, but emphasizes your desired brand
Create social media handles, pages, and posts that highlight that brand as well
Have signs and signage that does the same
Have a team that understand what your business is about and what it is you are seeking to accomplish with this branding effort
The point of all of this is to begin to create a specific idea of who your business is in the public consciousness. You need to give people a hook to remember you, and your brand is that hook.
Organically market your business and brand: The great news about marketing today is that it can be so affordable. Back in the day, marketing was very expensive, but these days, between websites, social media, e-newsletters, SEO and the like, marketing can be very inexpensive, even free, while also being quite effective.
Of particular importance are SEO and social. Search engine optimization is vital because search is still how a lot of folks find new businesses. The same is true for social. While a deep dive into SEO and social media marketing mastery are beyond the scope of a blog like this, suffice it to say that it would behoove you to learn these tricks and techniques. It is actually not all that hard and can reap great rewards.
Advertise: We all know that Page 1 of Google is the brass ring of marketing. It can happen, and indeed does every day, but it typically takes time. The good news is that you can still get there by using pay-per-click ads. Similarly, Facebook ads have been proven to be very effective for reaching a specific audience. Offline advertising that reinforces your online efforts can be very valuable too.
Remember the rule: Finally, remember that when it comes to marketing and sales, there is one Golden Rule:
Repetition is the key, repetition is the key, repetition is the key.
What is the key? See? It requires repeated reinforcement to be remembered and chosen; to be heard above the din. The good news is that if you do it right, they will remember and find you, and even stop by for your world-famous Kung Pao Chicken.
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