It’s 2016. The days of prospective customers sauntering down Main Street or even flipping through the Yellow Pages in hopes of stumbling upon your business are long gone. We live in the Age of Information now, and the Internet is king of the castle. When someone needs a service or product, they go online to find the appropriate business and its contact information. According to Adweek, 81% of consumers conduct research online before making a purchase. You almost certainly already know this and pivoted your business online years ago, but unless you’ve stayed remarkably vigilant of the latest trends, your online presence could probably use a facelift.
As changes continuously sweep across social media, Google, and the content marketing world, your business’ online presence must evolve or you risk receding into obscurity, stagnating with an out-of-touch website or, god forbid, a MySpace page. For the most part, small businesses aren’t maximizing their online presence. Less than half of small businesses advertise online, pay attention to Search Engine Optimization, or have a social media presence, and a quarter of small businesses don’t have a website at all.
For those who wish to gain a competitive advantage, consider this 6-step checklist for revamping your online presence in 2016:
1. Reassess and Segment Your Target Market
Before you jump into any actual changes, it’s important to sit back and reconsider your target market. Get into the psychology of your consumer and begin to identify common characteristics of your target market. Now, segment your market into specific groups of people. It might be tempting to think that you want to sell to everyone under the sun, but without segments to focus your efforts on, you will never have a highly-focused campaign geared towards a specific group and will risk not reaching anyone effectively. Consider an online clothing store. They’ve segmented their market–men’s and women’s–to push customers down the sales funnel toward their desired destination. Customers are looking for something specific from you–they’re not just there to visit–so direct them to that segmented goal.
2. Listen to and Engage with Your Audience
Now that you know who you’re selling to, engage with them and test the waters. Find the best channels through which to interact with your past and potential clientele. Since social media platforms break down along demographic lines, it’s easy to focus your attention on one of your segmented groups at a time. Have a professional, career-oriented customer base? Try LinkedIn. Focused more on female creatives? Try Pinterest. Demographic-specific e-mail lists for newsletters are also effective in focused communication with specific segments. Once you’ve zeroed in, engage with your audience, track their online activity, and see what they are saying about you via Google Alerts to figure out how to best design your online presence to suit your audience’s tendencies.
3. Optimize Your Landing Page for Conversions
The central motivation of revamping your online presence is to maximize conversions, turning a visitor to your website into a customer. Your landing page is the most crucial part of this–most site visitors only spend up to 8 seconds before bailing on your landing page and moving on to your competitor. This means your page must utilize the most effective design tactics possible to keep your visitor’s attention and readily satisfy their needs. Videos can increase conversions by 86% and a clear Call-to-Action button (like, “Buy Now!”) is similarly important, so consider implementing these elements onto your own page.
4. Don’t Forget About Mobile
91% of small business websites aren’t optimized for mobile. This should be a major concern, considering mobile accounts for over half of web searches. Despite the countless how-tos that break down mobile optimization tactics concerning page speed and design, optimizing for mobile is a difficult and technical process that flies right over most heads. To make the most of your efforts on your landing page and mobile, put your DIY instincts on hold and hire a freelancer who works in responsive design, who can create a flexible web page for both desktop and mobile. It may be costly, but keep in mind a responsive redesign can increase conversions by up to 590%.
5. Revitalize Your Social Media Accounts
In order for your social media presence to translate to greater exposure and thus more customers, you must provide consistent, quality content and actively engage with comments. Create a selling strategy–how is your social media use going to get people in the store and ordering your product? With that in mind, be authentic and emphasize engagement, speaking with and caring for your customers, over hard selling. According to Magic Commerce, only 20% of your content should be promotional while the rest should get your audience involved in conversation on topics relevant to your business.
7. Take Advantage of Google
Google knows all, right? Maybe, but your business likely won’t show up on Google Maps unless you’ve claimed your Google My Business. Drop everything you’re doing and fix that right now. Google’s incredible market share of desktop search engines hovers around 90%, meaning that if you’re not maximizing your use of all that Google has to offer, you’re basically invisible to most potential customers. Beyond getting on Maps and My Business, be sure to use Google’s new 360-degree virtual tour, Business View, if you have a physical location. It will feature next to your business details on Google Search and give prospective walk-ins more reason to trust your business.
Whether you’ve run a small business for 10 years or 10 months, these 6 steps can help you embrace a fresh approach to your online presence and maximize your ability to retain and gain customers in this increasingly digital world. Have another piece of advice on getting a business up to snuff online? Share your comments below!
Ellie Martin is Co-founder of Startup Change group. As writer and author, her works have been featured on Yahoo! , Wisebread, AOL, among others. She currently splits her time between her home office in New York and Israel. You may connect with her on Twitter.