So you’ve done it. You finally pulled the trigger and decided to turn in your time card and become your own boss, exhilarating feeling, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, if you don’t have a plan, that exhilaration can turn into anxiety, fear, and ultimately failure. Today, we are going to outline a few steps you should be taking to make sure your online presence is an asset, not a liability for your business. Let’s jump in!
It All Starts with Reviews
The first thing many of you may have thought is “my business is from word-of-mouth, why would I need a good online presence?” Great question, the reason you need one is because even if someone recommends you by name, there is a good likelihood that they won’t have all of your contact information handy. This means the person on the other end of a referral is likely to search for your business by name. What they see when they do could all but close the sale or end it before it gets started. Thankfully, collecting reviews online is pretty simple.
If you are a local business, one of the first things you should do is setup your GMB listing. This will allow you to display your services, hours of operation, contact information, and collect reviews. Google loves Google, so when someone searches for your business by name, your business will appear in the knowledge panel on the right-hand side, prominently displaying your reviews.
In order to collect reviews, all you have to do is email past customers a link and ask them to leave one. So long as they have an email associated with a Google service, it will take them just a few minutes. Even a few good reviews can be enough to get that referral to follow through and contact your business.
Setup a Website That Looks Professional
Websites are all but mandatory if you want to build a thriving business in 2017. While there are some exceptions, the majority of you reading this need to establish a website. Even if you don’t have a large budget, you can still have a website that looks professional while answering common customer questions. Here are a few good options.
This platform is meant to be user friendly even if you have no prior experience with websites. In addition to ease of use, they offer a free option, great for cash strapped startups. If you already own a domain name that you want to use for your website, you would need to upgrade to a paid plan to use it on Wix. If you are looking to build a simple, informational site, Wix is certainly worth checking out.
While there are some ecommerce integrations for this site, it is best used for a standard service or informational site. Ecommerce store owners would be better off using a dedicated ecommerce platform.
This platform is built for online stores. Whether you have 10 or 10,000 products, you can use Shopify to list and sell them. While they do not offer a free plan, you can sign up for the “basic” plan for $29 per month. If you don’t have a custom domain name picked out just yet, they have a domain name suggestion tool that will show you available options using your brand name or the terms you search.
This platform is free to download and use but you will need to purchase hosting for your website. You can get hosting for as little as a couple dollars per month, so it is not a huge expense.
WordPress was started as a blogging platform but it has proven to be a versatile platform, making it good for service business sites and online stores when paired with WooCommerce. The downside of WordPress is that it is less user-friendly than the aforementioned platforms. While you can fully customize the appearance and functionality of a site, it does require some advanced knowledge of CSS and PHP.
If you require a custom site on WordPress, you may need to hire a developer to help you make the changes. This can get expensive, so be mindful of that when choosing a platform.
Claim Your Social Profiles to Establish Your Brand’s Online Reputation
Social media marketing can be a great way to build brand awareness and drive customers to your business. You are not to that step just yet but, you should take time to claim your profile on the major sites. Here are the ones you should start with.
Now, even though you may not plan to be active on all of these platforms, securing them will allow you to further control your new businesses online appearance. Remember, even referrals may do a search for your online.
If your business has a completed profile on the sites above, there is a good likelihood that they will show up when someone searches. As you get your feet wet, you can start collecting reviews on Facebook, recommendations on LinkedIn, and building a presence on the other sites. These signals, sometimes subconsciously, will help the potential customer validate that you are a legitimate and trustworthy business.
While the three steps outlined above are fairly simple, completing them in the first 60 days of starting your new business will help you establish a solid foundation for future online marketing initiatives that your company may have planned.