We’ve looked at how small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can go from being virtually invisible to very much seen in our last two blog posts. Now let’s zoom in on one key aspect of this strategy for un-invisibility: building a digital presence.
We’re not just talking about having a website and a Facebook page, either. Rather, your digital presence can be best defined by how easy it is for your prospective customers to find your brand or company online. Whether you’re a start-up just dipping your toe in the digital pool, or an established company looking to expand your digital footprint — there are number of compelling reasons to grow your online presence. Starting with these.
1. Save while you sell.
Digital platforms provide a cost-effective way to reach more customers, and ultimately sell more products and/or services. Consider that the internet attracts around 5.18 billion users worldwide — accounting for 64.6% of the global population. People spend around eight hours a day doing digital activities, including researching companies.
In 2022, a whopping 98% of consumers used the internet to find information about local businesses. In other words, your customers are online. If you want to be seen by them — and sell to them — then you better be online too, and easy to find. In fact, your customers’ journey with you will often start in the digital realm.
2. Legitimacy and awareness.
Building your digital presence goes a long way toward building your credibility and brand awareness. After all, would you do business with a company that doesn’t have a website or a social media presence? Most consumers wouldn’t. The more professional, consistent, and reassuring your digital presence, the more credibility you convey and the more consumers will be aware of you.
3. More customer touchpoints.
Conventional marketing wisdom tells us that it takes an average of seven encounters with a lead before they become a customer. The more places you can be found online, the more opportunities your prospects have to encounter your brand and convert to customer.
Avoiding Online Obscurity.
Clearly, your digital presence matters. The challenge comes in measuring that presence, and moving from online obscurity to digital powerhouse. Here are some key questions to ask yourself to assist with this process.
Where Are You Now?
Determine the health of your digital presence as it is today — starting with the state of your website. Is your current site old, sluggish, confusing? Does it work on a mobile phone? Is it cluttered with annoying animations? Your website has a huge impact on how your prospects view your brand, and whether they decide to become customers.
Research shows that 85% of visitors leave a website if it’s slow to load, 73.1% bounce if it’s non-responsive (doesn’t look good on a cell phone or tablet), 61.5% jump ship due to bad navigation, and 38.5% click elsewhere if the design is outdated. So if your site isn’t up to speed or visitor expectations, you probably want to make some improvements.
You can tell whether your site is working for or against you by looking at your site traffic. Google Analytics provides insight into who’s visiting your site, where they’re coming from, what pages they’re visiting most, and how long they’re staying on specific pages — all valuable information as you determine where to invest your enhancements.
Likewise, you’ll want to take a look at any available statistics for your social media pages. Social medial platforms share insights not just about the number of people who like a photo, but how many users saw your posts, as well as how they found them. See which posts are generating the most engagement and impressions (i.e. eyeballs) so you know what’s working — and what isn’t.
While you’re taking digital inventory, be sure to include your email outreach to prospects. Start with your list: is it current? When was the last time you scrubbed it of outdated contacts or recipients who aren’t really part of your target audience? Then look at the stats for the emails you’ve been sending out, specifically the open and unsubscribe rates. If you haven’t been sending email communications in a while (or at all), you’ll want to rectify that ASAP.
Where Do You Want to Be?
What do you want your digital presence to look like? Be specific with your answers to this question. Identify the quantity of monthly visitors you’d like your website to attract, the number followers you want on your social media pages, the amount of connections you want to make on LinkedIn each quarter, the number of new prospects you want to add to your email list by the end of the year, and so on.
Along with specificity, be realistic. Don’t expect to get 1,000 new followers in one month. Instead, try breaking your goals into smaller, more do-able chunks and build from there. Once you’ve set your objectives, you can start strategizing on how to achieve them.
How Do You Get There?
To address this question, let’s take it one digital bucket at a time.
Organic (aka Free) Social Media
Given that 59.9% of the world’s internet users are also on social media, this seems like a great place to direct your digital brand expansion. Having a strong presence on social media is a cost-effective and potent way to build your credibility while extending your reach to more prospective customers.
If you — like most SMBs — have limited resources and time, you’ll probably want to focus your efforts on one or two social media platforms most frequented by your target audience. You’ll also want to make sure your social media pages are professional, well branded, and credible with complete profile information, quality graphics, and relevant content.
One thing to keep in mind when it comes to social media: it’s not all about the follower count. Fewer, more engaged users beat thousands of followers who ignore your posts, any day.
Focus instead on connecting with social media users who have an interest in the types of products and/or services you offer. Find social media communities and forums that overlap with your business and brand, and connect with people there. Build relationships with influencers who can help drive users to your social media pages. Reciprocate and engage on other users’ pages and accounts. Above all, be patient and consistent, allow connections to grow organically, and you will begin to build your presence.
Supplement your organic social media activities with paid digital advertising, as budget allows. You have a lot of options when it comes to paid digital: Google search ads, social media ads, display ads, retargeting, to name a few. So if you’re new to digital advertising, try experimenting with different methods to see which delivers the best results for your money.
Whatever option you go with, make sure you’re being as targeted as possible with the audience who will be seeing your ads, how much you want to spend, as well as your goals. Perhaps you want to drive people to a specific webpage, or promote a particular product. Or maybe you want to get more people to sign up for your e-newsletter. By identifying a specific goal, you’ll be able to determine the best message, audience, and digital platform to use.
Emails can be a powerful tool for driving people to your online presence — namely, your website and social media pages. So building a good list of qualified, high-quality leads should be one of your top priorities.
There are a few ways to go about doing this. If you have information you can share with your prospects that’s of value to them (think white papers, guides, free samples or demos), then consider leveraging that as gated content on your website. Visitors share their contact information with you in exchange for accessing this free, value-added asset.
You can also add simple email contact form fields to your website, encouraging visitors to sign up for the latest news and developments. Invite people to sign up as well on your social media pages.
Once you’ve started building your list, be sure that you’re sending them emails on a consistent basis — without overwhelming them or their inboxes. Provide email content they really want and can use, rather than just self-promotional pitches, and follow best practices to keep out of spam filters and minimize unsubscriptions.
After all, much of your social media, paid digital, and email communications will be driving prospects to your website to learn more, view specific pages, and/or buy what you’re offering. So it’s of vital importance to make sure that your website reflects well on your brand, is fast and easy to navigate, provides the information your visitors seek, and delivers a great user experience.
Much of burden of that experience resides with your site’s content. Yes, content is a central component of SEO (search engine optimization) by allowing more opportunities to leverage key words that may help push your site higher on search engine rankings. But the quality of your site’s content also plays an important role in strengthening your brand, building credibility and awareness, engaging prospects and converting them into customers, and positioning you as a thought leader.
To that end, the content you develop and add to your site should be written for actual humans (ideally, your target audience) rather than for bots. It should inform your visitors, inspire them, excite them, enlighten them, entertain them, help them, make them think. In other words, your content should be of value to them. Offer them this level of content, and you can be they’ll come back for more, seek you out on social media, open and read your emails, and share your information with others.
Think Outside the Internet.
While we’ve focused on the usual digital suspects, we also encourage you to get creative. After all, SMBs are used to being resourceful and inventive when it comes to reaching their prospective customers. Look for opportunities on- as well as offline that will help build your digital presence.
Say yes to a podcast interview. Volunteer to be a guest blog post writer on another site. Offer yourself up as a subject matter expert for print and online publications within your industry. Present at conferences (virtual and in-person), and host your own webinars. The prospects who see you on these venues will also come find you online.
Just Do It.
Building your digital presence require daily vigilance — and activity. The digital world is dynamic, after all, so you must be as well. That means adding new and fresh content to your website on a regular basis, posting on your social media pages and engaging on others daily, scrubbing that list monthly, sending out emails with a sustained cadence, keeping up with your paid digital campaigns — you get the picture. Create a schedule for these activities to keep you accountable and on track. And, in the words of one brand with a mighty digital presence, just do it.
Thus concludes our series on getting seen as a small to medium-sized business. But we’re hoping the conversation is just getting started. Feel free to reach out to discuss in more detail, and let us know your thoughts.