I get asked one question in nearly every meeting, or interaction with people in business, “How can I be successful online?” My answer has always, and will always be the same. Before I give you that answer, I’m going to tell you why I believe in this simple principal.
1. Good Offering
What are you offering the world? Is it valuable? Does it work as it should? Is it useful? Can it make an everyday task easier? Your first step to success online is to offer the world a product or service that matters, and functions without much issue. If you offer something to people that truly helps them in some way, you have accomplished the first step of success.
2. Show Off!
Have you ever seen online marketing campaigns for a product or service, but then when you get to their place on the web, you find nothing but indirect memes, and viral videos? I’m going to save you some time. Aside from very rare cases, you are wasting your time and your potential customer’s time trying to garner fans of your page’s content, instead of fans of your offering. You need to show off what you do, what you are, and what you produce! There are 1,000,000+ ways to do this, and you need to focus on those. If you own a restaurant, show off food, drink, and ambience. If you own a car dealership, show off your inventory and service record. If you own an electronics store, make people fall in love with your stock. That’s why people online are seeking you out.
3. Take Time to Craft Your Online Relationships
So, you have a slick site, you’re on social media, and you’re ready to show off your amazing product or service; that’s fantastic! But then you get busy. Accounting needs to be taken care of, staff need direction, hiring and firing, inventory needs to be ordered, customers need your attention … the list is long of daily duties that take priority over marketing. You just don’t have time to deal with notifications, messages, and growing your network. So, your online marketing sits in moth balls, only getting occasional attention. At this point you might as well not have bothered being online at all (as if that’s even an option).
You need to nurture your online marketing. After all, people are looking to you for your expertise. Would you leave someone waiting at your counter for an answer longer than you should? Of course not.
Accept this simple fact: Online marketing is a full time job. Get realistic about what you have to do. Each and every business NEEDS someone paying attention and continually crafting your online presence. Of course, I would prefer it be my digital advertising agency, Sync, but, no matter what get someone dedicated to this job. It’s the ONLY WAY you’ll see ROI.
Whether you employ someone or you work with an agency, if you have a business, you need someone in this role.
4. Don’t Get Hung Up on the Wrong Details
Just like in the real world of marketing, we can get hung up on the shiny things in life. What’s more critical to your success? Having the best offerings available for customers, or making sure the display has lights, nobs, and blows minds? In the beginning, it’s all about the product or service. Later, when you grow, maybe then you can worry about the flash, but for now, put your product first and be ready to answer questions.
My peers will kill me for saying this, but don’t go get a fancy, custom website. Don’t go out and pay thousands for graphics. Don’t sign up for every app that can “do something better FOR you”. It’s not worth it in the first few years. Until you don’t have to think about the marketing dollars you’re spending, don’t spend more. Whatever you dedicate to spend in month one is what you should be comfortable spending for the next few years (or until you grow quite a bit).
Many feel branding is just a gimmick. They’re wrong. How do I know? We’ve worked with hundreds of companies, and the ones that are successful online care about their branding.
I’m shocked by the number of business owners I meet with that don’t have a logo for their company. Colours matter, fonts matter, making sure your advertising across the board is unified matters. Now, we’re not a branding company, so we can’t help a lot here (just the basics) but it is fundamental to your success.
6. Pair With Your Niche
Do you go to trade shows? Would you like to? Are you a part of network meetings? Do you know your competition? Have you ever read a trade mag? The principal of knowing your industry and who functions within it is just as important online. Take to the forums, and interact with stories that matter. Your customers are paying attention to this information.
A great example is a restaurant we were working with. When evaluating their online presence we came across a post on a popular industry site. There was but a lone picture of a dish, beautifully prepared, and everyone wanted to know where they could get it. 83 commenters, and no one knew because after all, it was just a random picture on some Winnipeg forum. 83 comments = 83 potential customers. Talk about your wasted opportunities. The post was made in 2013, and it was now 2015. By the time we took over the account and posted on the forum there were only a few members still active. 83 potential customers not nurtured = 4 potential customers.
7. Make it Easy to Buy
It’s very clear to me that many business owners are still fighting the digital revolution. Yes, this blog is being written in 2016, and still so many business owners are fighting the future. If that’s you, please stop. It’s time to get on board because it’s happening with or without you.
Whatever you sell in your store, you need to sell online too. In business you need to remove barriers for customers, and not having your products online is a barrier. Why don’t you like money?
8. There’s No Timeline
The second most common question I get is, “When can I expect to see some results?” This may sound like marketing jargon, but I actually don’t know. Of course, I can make an educated guess, but a guess is exactly what it is. There are far too many variables. How active are your competition? How old is your industry’s digital foot print? How much have you done so far? What kind of traffic does you industry get? The list is long. What any digital marketing professional can promise is that you’ll see ROI in ways traditional marketing can’t duplicate. For more on digital ROI visit this article.
Earlier I said that I’d give you my one line answer whenever I’m asked what makes for a successful business online. Here it is: “You’ll only be successful online if you apply the same principals that made you successful in the first place.”
Nurture your online business, and treat it, not as an extension of your brand, but rather as you would treat the rest of your business. I know that can be a hard pill to swallow. However, what we’re talking about is your livelihood here.
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Written by: Jay Hall - Chief Strategist