There's a lot to say for practice, but at some point we have to jump out of the plane or into the deep end. We cling to the safety blanket of what it is, instead of doing the things that would get us to the place we envision in our minds. This applies to all areas of life: saying no, learning martial arts, taking downtime, working on our own content, taking a leap from our day job, jumping on the speaking bandwagon, or writing a book. There is one major goal that applies to small businesses marketing online: make more delighted customers. Reputation and word of mouth are kings.
If you're a business owner, you probably have a website and/or are involved in social networking. There are many great ways to learn more about how to improve your efforts and meet your goals. Often time is spent doing research, attending genius webinars, reading brilliant blogs, watching videos, listening to podcasts, and downloading ebooks. Of course you want to learn from others who have done a remarkable job.
But now it's time to get to work with the knowledge that you've accumulated.
Here are 6 things you can do right now to make a difference in your marketing efforts online:
1. Tell your story. Why are you so different from every Tom, Dick and Jane, Inc.? Customers want to know what makes you different, what makes you tick. If you don't know the story, how can you market it? Freshbooks does a brilliant job with sharing their story and they stand out from other invoicing companies as a result.
2. Test. Test everything. Click on things. I promise that button won't make things explode. Maybe. Test links, test to see how the website looks in different browsers, test the forms, and when you get everything right, dig into A/B testing to see what makes visitors happier.
(Editor disclaimer: if you click the button that does make something explode, I'm in no way responsible for your failure to read.)
3. Make it easy. Every business has a call to action. You want to sell something, raise money, raise awareness, or share information. Help me find it when I land on your page. Help your visitors find it. Easily. Big, red (not literally) and loud works. A site can be pretty and loud at the same time.
4. Think locally. Online marketing is a fabulous thing, but local groups, meetups, networking and other events can help you get to know people around town and boost your business. Target the local market with Google Places, find a way to share special deals with people in your neighborhood. Even if your business is virtual, you can still find local customers.
5. Work on your inbound links. The first step in this is creating valuable content that others will want to share with their network. This again goes back to sharing knowledge, but make sure you're doing it in keyword rich phrases. Think of it as online word of mouth marketing.
6. Be extraordinary. As Chris Brogan says, if you can't be extraordinary, be helpful. Do the unexpected. Send a customer flowers when their date cancels. Monitor social channels and reach out if you have knowledge that will help. Offer them a reward just for being your customer. When you're extraordinary, it makes you sticky. Sticky in a world full of businesses in your niches is good, yes?
It's now time to stop thinking and start doing. Stalling runs the risk of the knowledge becoming stale before you have a chance to implement. Learn more and expand your understanding of how to build a better business through online marketing. Then share it with the rest of us.
What other advice would you give small businesses?