Do your customers use technology to help make buying decisions and share their experience about your company? Many small business owners don’t think so and, as a result, don’t maintain a healthy online presence. That’s a big mistake.
“Online consumers are not always who you think they are,” says Annie Tsai, author of The Small Business Online Marketing Handbook. “In fact, a little over half of Americans over age 65 use the Internet and email, and 70% of those use the Internet on a daily basis.”
Just having a basic informational website doesn’t cut it anymore. No matter your industry or company size, it’s crucial to make it as easy as possible for connected consumers to interact with you.
“What’s happening online should be an accurate reflection of what’s happening offline, and vice versa,” explains Tsai. “Businesses tend to manage their online and offline presences separately, or consider their online efforts to be an afterthought—which keeps them out of sync.”
Here are Tsai’s six tips to connect your online presence with your offline business:
1. Synchronize your efforts. “Ready, fire, aim” is an especially ineffective strategy online. Pre-plan your promotional efforts in all marketing channels—specifically website, social media, business directories, in-store, offline and email.
“All of these channels should complement each other by supporting the same goal or goals,” Tsai explains. “Synchronizing your efforts will ensure that your message has the maximum exposure to consumers and will save you time and money because you won’t have to do the same work twice on different occasions.”
2. Stay consistent. Too often, small businesses hastily throw together an online presence merely for the sake of having one. This does more harm than good, because it can be a big turnoff to curious connected consumers.
“Invest time and resources in creating a well-designed website, carefully curated social media presences, and thoughtful emails that mirror your offline branding,” says Tsai.
3. Don’t be too generous with online offers. “Don’t go overboard with offering online discounts and deals,” Tsai warns. “You don’t want to condition new customers to constantly hold out for better deals. Beyond that, you don’t want to disillusion loyal customers by making them think that you offer incentives only to new buyers.”
4. Prepare your team. Happy customers start with happy employees.
“It’s a shame when well-crafted marketing efforts are rendered moot by disengaged employees,” Tsai comments. “Build a set ofinto your marketing plan—with specific guidelines on communication, positioning, experience delivery, and product or service upselling.”
5. Pick employees’ brains. Two (or more) heads are better than one. Bring your employees into the fold of designing and executing great marketing plans for your business whenever possible.
“The more you encourage your employees to share their ideas, the more involved they’ll become—and the more successful your promotion will be,” says Tsai.
6. Define your social voice. Your social style should reflect your offline experience, and vice versa. Some businesses prefer to maintain a more professional tone through their social channels. Others prefer to lighten their tone through social channels and add some spice.
“Because it’s likely that social posting will be a shared responsibility at the business, carefully communicate the tone you want employees to use on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social profiles you’ve chosen to establish,” Tsai says.
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