Using the Internet Effectively for Your Business

hands holding phones At the beginning of the 21st century, business leaders knew without a doubt that the internet was rapidly changing the way Americans conducted business; yet, hardly anyone predicted that the internet would be in the pocket of the majority of Americans within only a few years. As of June 2013, 91 percent of Americans own some kind of cell phone, with 61 percent of Americans owning a smart phone.[1] Mass ownership of internet-connected devices has changed the way Americans view websites. Recent research from Monetate in a study of Ecommerce Retailers reveals that Americans visited surveyed retailer websites on tablets or smart phones twice as much in the first quarter of 2013 as they did in the first quarter of 2012.[2] At this rate, we can expect the traffic to mobile sites to double each year in years to come. This means that businesses need to be ready with a strategic digital marketing plan in order to remain competitive. PADGETT BUSINESS SERVICES®, your proven small business services provider, has created this guide to creating digital marketing plans.

One of the first steps of taking your brand online is email capture. Many businesses already have a system in place for obtaining customer email addresses, but few have implemented email advertising as effectively as possible. Customers do not want an email every other day reminding them that you are in business. While it is important to remind your customers that your business is there, it is equally important to respect boundaries. A customer who sees an email from your company more than once a week is likely to delete the message as spam without ever reading it, an action that forces all subsequent emails from your company to go directly to the spam box. Clearly, this is not effective marketing. Instead of constantly sending emails to your customers, limit yourself to one email a week maximum. Use these emails to bring in your customer by offering a digital coupon that your customers can redeem directly from their smart phones, so that they do not have to print out the coupon.

A more advanced digital marketing tactic involves creating a smart phone application for your business. Not only does an application provide easy information about your company, but you can also utilize GPS technology to geo-target your customers. Whenever a mobile device that has your application is within five miles of your business, the application can push a coupon to the device as a notification. This can be risky as some people may see the notification as a nuisance, so be sure to have a simple way for your clients to disable this feature without uninstalling your business application.

One tried and true method of delivering information is text message delivery. If, for example, your business is a restaurant, you could offer a free appetizer to customers who text a code to a certain phone number. For the cost of one plate, you have effectively captured your customers’ phone number. Be sure to have a clear option to opt out of these text messages if the customer finds them annoying, but by only using text messaging to promote high-value offers, you can more effectively retain these customers.

The next two components of digital marketing are related to presentation of your brand, rather than promoting deals and offers, though presentation certainly does that. First, make sure your website is optimized for mobile viewing. This means that if a person accesses the website on a smart phone or tablet, they see a more streamlined version of the website that is meant for the small screen of a tablet and for touch screen options. The second part of digital presence is social media marketing. It is important to have a Facebook, Twitter and Google+ for your business, so that you can engage with your customers on a personal level. All of these social media sites have different uses and require a different level of content, so it is important to know how to use each one.

Facebook is an effective tool for sharing stories about your business and actually talking with the people who follow your page. You do not want to make every Facebook status update a mini-advertisement for your business or product. When someone looks at your Facebook timeline, they should see posts that engage the viewer; pictures of completed projects, success stories, event updates, etc. should dominate your page. You should also post links from other places online that are relevant to your industry. For example, if your business specializes in auto repair, your timeline should have before and after pictures of vehicles you have repaired, articles about auto maintenance or events in the auto industry. Facebook is great for networking with people in your community and spreading the word about your business to friends of your fans. Many companies post special offers or coupons to their Facebook page so that their fans will visit the business. You can also use Facebook to listen to comments about your company and respond, but be sure to always remain professional and to not bombard your following with promotional messages. To gain an initial following, it may be smart to invest in Facebook advertising to reach more people.

Twitter posts, or “tweets,” are miniature blogs. With a 140 character limit and a global following, the amount of people your brand name can reach is nearly unlimited. Use Twitter to promote your brand through multiple posts per day. This is a great way to alert followers to events happening in your business quickly. For example, a restaurant may invite followers to happy hour starting at 3 pm using Twitter. Twitter also has an advertising service that can make your brand visible to more potential followers.

Google+ is especially important because it shows up near the top of a Google search results page and boosts your page ranking. In addition, it charts your business location on Google maps, making it easier for people to find you. Customers can review your business through Google and it is easy to find a following on Google+. Unlike Twitter, where it is generally seen as a negative thing if your account follows more people than it has followers, Google+ allows you to connect with as many people as you would like. Your posts can be seen by your followers and the people who follow your followers, making it an effective communication tool.

As with in-person marketing, you always want to portray your brand as positively as possible. Having a well-managed social media presence, a concise mobile website and clear boundaries when promoting your brand through email, application or text, is necessary for building a good reputation for retaining current clientele and attracting new customers. PADGETT BUSINESS SERVICES® prides itself on the personal time and attention that we lavish on our small business clients. We offer the financial small business services you need in order to concentrate on growing your business. 

[1] http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media/Files/Reports/2013/PIP_Smartphone_adoption_2013.pdf

[2] http://www.smartinsights.com/social-media-marketing/social-media-analytics/social-media-ecommerce/

Do you have the support you need to manage your small business bookkeeping? Contact us to schedule an appointment to speak with a local small business advisor.