It has never been easier for a small business to take on rivals and much larger competitors operating in the same sector. Clever use of online resources means that even the most minor enterprise can connect directly with a target demographic and utilize marketing methodologies and analytical tools that would previously have been out of reach, both in terms of cost and application.
Making your business shine brightly online is key to overall success – and the great thing is that it needn’t be expensive or difficult to set up and maintain. As with most other aspects of running a business to maximum potential, all you need to make your business stand out online is some planning and to ensure you use the right tools.
When you start a business, you set yourself many different targets. These can include financial objectives, selecting a particular demographic as your customer base, planning ways for the expansion, and much more.
The same type of target-based preparation needs to be done before you begin to market your business online. By making clear cut decisions about who you want to connect with and what outcomes you want to achieve, you will then be able to work out which methods are best suited to ensuring you realize your goals.
Branding covers everything from the typeface you use in your logo to the colors that might become synonymous with your online presence. These are the very first and necessary steps you need to take to make sure there is a high level of consistency in the way that you present your business online.
As there are now so many different channels available to be used, your pages and profiles all must look like they are originating from the same source. Although significant corporations spend vast amounts of money on specialist designers, there are many free tools and software suites available that can come up with perfectly suitable materials. As Alex Friedman has shown by example, what you need is a clear vision of how you want to present yourself and your business. All it then takes is a willingness to take a little time to create your own graphics and images.
Tone of voice
Another element of brand consistency that is highly valued in online marketing is known as ‘tone of voice’ (TOV). This essentially covers how you explain your offerings, services, and products, and how you communicate with the outside world in general.
For instance, if you are operating in a highly professional B2B environment, you might choose to use language that includes jargon or technical terms. If your business is aimed at a wide selection of the general public, you could use a chatty, friendly tone. It is important to remember that your online ‘voice’ should closely match that which customers will experience when they meet you or speak to you on the phone. Using very formal language online and then a more casual approach in person will only lead to confusion. Whichever your TOV might turn out to be, the important thing is to stick to it and make it consistent across all of your online channels.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and emerging platforms are continually changing the way that people interact with each other and with providers of goods and services. The speed of interaction and ‘always on’ connectivity that social media offers have meant that businesses have had to adapt to new ways of doing things in a short space of time.
Although it might seem like using social media to document everything you do would be too time-consuming, careful, and intelligent management of profiles can mean that a few posts, reposts, or other interactions a day is enough. Finding the right level of engagement can be a process of trial and error. However, the simple fact is that ‘social’ is now such a big part of everyone’s online activities that it can’t be ignored.
Platforms such as Hootsuite, Later, and Hubspot can make life easier for you by letting you schedule posts in advance. Used by Fortune 1000 businesses, they also offer free packages that make their services accessible to everyone. By analyzing your audience data and your interaction history, they can predict the best times of the day for you to post your content, ensuring that you reach the widest possible audience at all times. Above all else, remember that the clue is in the title – social media should be just that, social.
Clear lines of communication with customers, clients, and other businesses have always been important to success. Making sure you understand both the basics and the complexities is vital to making an SME stand out.
Being able to offer multiple channels for potential contact need not be expensive. In essence, an email address, a phone number, and one or two well-maintained social media profiles can all be utilized in an extremely cost-effective way. It’s how you respond that counts and, ideally, that needs to be as quickly as possible and always using that all-important TOV that you have chosen.
A straightforward way to think about the different options for making your business stand out from the crowd is to consider your website as being a shop window to the world. You want to present yourself and your wares in the best possible light, and to create an image that sets you apart and reflects your personalized approach.
As well as taking into account your graphics, tone of voice, and the ways that you communicate on your virtual shop windows, bear in mind that your online presence is visible to the whole world 24-hours a day. Making sure that your site is easy to use and has obvious ways of making purchases, placing orders, or putting forward inquiries lies at the heart of ensuring that your business is making the most of all the opportunities the online world offers.