By Rhonda Campbell
It’s not surprising that social media outlets (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) are top of mind when business owners and marketing managers think about steps that they will take to introduce their products or services to new customers. Even during the recession, online retail saw a sales increase of 11%, according to Buzzle.
Tap into growing online business sales
Future expectations for online businesses are good. Consider this. Online sales in the United States alone were at $225.5 billion in 2012. By 2017, those sales numbers are expected to increase to $434.2 billion.
Technologically savvy Millennials, ease-of-use, improved online customer service systems and shipping discounts are factors that are attracting more shoppers to virtual storefronts. Yet, not all businesses are online. Depending on how you look at it, that could be welcomed news.
However, if less than 10% of all United States based businesses are online, you’d still have to find a way to set your organization apart from over three million other firms (Manta reports that there are 34,725,120 companies in the United States across a broad range of industries).
How do you set your business apart in this crowded field, in perspective customers’ minds (not just in your mind as the business owner)? Fortunately, there are several options open to you, many which we will cover in this article.
Get more for your business online
To start, if you haven’t done so already, build an online storefront or company presence. Simply put, if over 2.8 billion people are online globally, having an online business is an early key step that gives you the chance to connect and communicate with those prospects. More ways to get exposure for your business online are:
• Build a customized Facebook page (tie the design in with your company’s branding elements, including colors, themes and imagery).
• Mirror your Facebook top of page design on your Twitter pages (stay consistently active on social media accounts).
• Post pictures of company events (i.e. speaking engagements conferences) at Pinterest.
• Send one to two press releases per month. Even if the press releases aren’t picked up by major media outlets, press releases can pull up in search engines when prospects search for products or services that your business produces. Be sure to include one to two links to your company website in the press releases.
• Set up a customized company page on LinkedIn and post job openings, news about upcoming company events, business blog posts, etc.
• Build a company blog. Link to at least one other article at your company website in several blog posts each week. Promote blog posts internally and externally (For example, you could send an email to employees inviting them to “Like” blog posts and post links to your blog posts at their social media accounts.)
• Produce professional videos. Make sure that the videos are informative and entertaining. Publish links to the videos at your company website.
• Create a YouTube channel for your company and post weekly videos at your company YouTube channel.
• Create online tip sheets and white papers that are specifically related to your business field. Offer these informative documents to prospects for free, only requiring prospects to provide you their name, email address, business name (if applicable) and regional or city and state location.
• Develop weekly podcasts (make sure that you list your podcast at iTunes and other podcast directories).
• Design a weekly or monthly digital newsletter (spice your company newsletter up with coupons, feature interviews, contests, holiday greetings, relevant statistics, etc.).
• Conduct feature interviews with local, regional and/or national media outlets that post the interviews online (even better if the media outlets also give the feature interviews print exposure).
• Post pictures of attractions that you visit in between business trips on Instagram
Each of the above steps could positively influence your Alexa ranking. The higher your Alexa ranking, the better.
Easy ways to get more offline business customers
To get more exposure for your business offline, consider incorporating one or more of the following steps into your daily marketing and advertising initiatives:
• Design postcards that have loads of personality and send to targeted prospects
• Direct mail catalogs (again to targeted prospects and to current customers
• Offer customer rewards to customers who refer two or more new customers to your business
• Write and publish a training manual (include your business contact information, about us information and website URL at the front and back of the manual)
• Sponsor and attend community events
• Build a company foundation and get media exposure for large donations that your company makes to charitable and community organizations
• Use customized folders, letterhead, presentation templates, carry out bags, etc. that complement your company brand and logo
• Offer giveaways and freebies (always include your company branding and website URL in giveaways). Ask people who take the giveaways to tell their friends about your business and to “Like” your social media pages
As you can see, there’s a bounty of action steps that you could take to get more exposure for your business, online and offline. A key is to be consistent. Measure and monitor the results of your efforts. Some steps may produce stronger results for you than others.