You’ve decided to take the leap, the daring yet completely sensible move to launch a website for your business. You know that an online presence is vital to the success of your business. After all, in practically all cases, online presences have become the primary method with which potential customers are introduced to businesses. In the last week you’ve even used the Internet to research day cares, televisions and organic food suppliers in the area and made purchases as a result of that research.
You’ve hired the right team and ensured that your online presence is better in every way to that of your competitors, because you cleverly realize how vital it is to stand out. Thinking about how you shop online, you realize each time you perform research, it feels like a speed dating session whereby you, like the majority of others, quickly browse 5-10 websites and within mere minutes have narrowed down your potential supplier to one or two options. A combination of first impressions and your own personal priorities have been the criteria in which you’ve narrowed your choice.
So you’ve got the most visually appealing website that’s the easiest to use in your industry and your products and services are among the highest quality. Your prices are even amongst the lowest… everything is going for you! You’ve even ensured that your website has been optimized for indexing by search engines (if you don’t know what this is, please read this article next: What Most Search Engine Optimization “Experts” Won’t Tell You). But… there are no customers! Why?
This is the single most common challenge that business owners experience when launching their first website. How do you attract potential and existing customers to your website? How do you start gaining traffic so that your website can sell your products and services? What do you do next?
When you build a business with a physical presence, it benefits from tons of traffic from neighboring businesses and residences that are already present. Unfortunately, websites aren’t placed in high-traffic neighborhoods; they simply don’t launch and start generating traffic all on their own. For this reason, it’s imperative that once your website is built you must create awareness and attract potential customers. Simply put, it’s time for marketing and here are the steps that you should take next:
Integrate marketing into conventional materials
One of the most obvious, yet most common oversights in marketing. All of your conventional materials should contain marketing (your website address and tag line). This includes, but is not limited to business cards, brochures, posters, clothing, pens, company cars, displays, boardroom walls, exterior signage, etc. Any potential and existing customers that come into contact with any of your conventional materials will quickly learn and remember your web address.
Search engine marketing
One of the most important methods of gaining targeted traffic is to gain traffic from paid search advertising via Google, Bing, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Facebook and others. If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend starting with Google.
While I cannot explain everything you need to know about search engine marketing, as it’s a topic on its own, I’ll provide you with a couple of the most important points to consider:
- Specific keywords
Make sure that you setup keywords that are specific to your business. If you sell kickboxing gear, do not target “kickboxing”, but instead target “kickboxing shin guards”, “kickboxing headgear”, etc.
If you sell in one geographical area only, restrict your ads to be shown only in those areas (do not waste advertising dollars on displaying your ads to visitors who are not potential customers). If you sell in the Ottawa and surrounding areas, restrict your ads to be displayed in those areas only, you will pay the same (or higher) cost if someone in Las Vegas clicks your ad, however, you have no chance of selling to them.
- Get started today
Too many people procrastinate when they are faced with a challenge. Today you are not going to because you realize that if you do, it’s only going to negatively impact the revenue of your business, a consequence that you are not willing to accept. So, get started today. In order to learn more so that you can get started, visit the online help section of Google Adwords
Consider high-traffic “neighborhoods”
Make sure that your website has been submitted to all major search engines and online directories such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, DMOZ, etc. Set up a plan to approach and contact several potential partners each and every month. Add a calendar item and don’t forget to do this, you should spend 2-3 hours once per month considering who you will approach. If you own a summer camp program for kids, some great websites to consider would be ones that list summer camps, extracurricular activities, etc. If you search the web for “Ottawa summer camp programs”, “Ottawa extracurricular activities”, “Kids activities in Ottawa” you’ll find several listings of sites that you will want to be listed on. Each month consider new keywords, get creative and ensure that you are listed everywhere. In the bricks and mortar world this is referred to as “location… location… location”.
Social media marketing
Set up profiles at popular social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Network with potential and existing customers and get established on these sites with a customized profile. It’s extremely easy to grow your network, people who are interested in your products and services can find you easily. If you can use video marketing to your advantage (for example, martial arts demonstrations), include YouTube in your social media marketing strategies. Please note, it’s vital that you use these social media channels to network, and not to advertise, because if you simply perform outright advertising, you’ll quickly find that your social media presence will resemble a barren desert, as there’ll be nobody reading your posts. If you want to learn more about social media marketing, please read other articles that I’ve written on the topic:
Funnel traffic from other sites
This strategy requires a bit of creative thinking, but you want to consider ways that you can funnel traffic from popular websites such as: Kijiji, Craigslist, eBay, etc. These are very popular and high traffic websites that can be easily targeted if done correctly.
Once you’ve gotten through these steps, there are additional ways that you can market your website. Most experts recommend these items first simply because they are free, because it’s the easiest way to convince you that they’re an expert, hoping that you’ll recommend them to others and say something along these lines “You should call him/her, because they saved me a lot of money”. What most experts leave out of their equation is the fact that time is money and while you’re waiting for these efforts to generate some momentum and sales, your competitors are reaping the rewards by pulling ahead of you. All of these ideas are excellent complimentary marketing efforts that you should consider when the time is right, but, be aware that they require an investment of time, patience and technical challenges to overcome before they begin to gain momentum and generate revenues before they can compete with my previous recommendations outlined above. Furthermore, once you’ve started these methods of marketing, it’s vital that you continue to contribute to them on an ongoing basis; otherwise, your momentum can quickly turn the other way, on a downward slope.
Write articles that are related to your industry, products and services. Include a brief bio and link to your website at the end of each article. Submit each of these articles to article directories and websites that rank well for your keywords. Here’s a few locations to start with: Squidoo, EZineArticles, ArticlesBase, Gather and GoArticles.
Search Google for forums that are related to your products and services. If you are selling kickboxing gear, for example, search +kickboxing +forum. Find the top forums in your niche and join each of them. Do not spam, but do set up a profile (and signature, if allowed) and post an introduction. Get involved in each of these forums by posting at least one thread or response each day. This will help you gain exposure in your target market, and people will naturally be interested in your related website.
Using popular answers websites (e.g. LinkedIn Answers, Yahoo! Answers, etc.), find questions related to your industry, products or services. If you can provide a legitimate answer to their question, you can include your link as the resource or reference. Again, without spamming, if you can contribute to the community you will interest them in your related website.
Write a free article (or report) that will be of great interest to your potential customers, and give it away for free. Post it everywhere that you can: on your website, on your social media presences, add it to collaboration websites (e.g. Digg, Delicious, etc.) and even in your email signature file. Be sure to identify in your article that it’s completely free and encourage readers to share it with their friends and family.
Blogging can be considered another form of Social Networking, and enough so to be considered a stand-alone marketing technique. You want to set up a blog that is directly related to your website’s topic, and post content to it frequently (at least weekly). In order to ensure that you are prepared to maintain a blog, create a list of blog topic ideas and ensure that you keep it populated with 20 potential topics at any time. When you’re ready to write the next blog, you can pick from this list instead of trying to figure out what you’re going to write about next.
You can write and submit a press release free of charge. While some websites charge to publish your press release (and this often is worth the investment!), many also offer a free submission option. You want your press release to be newsworthy, so you choose your angle carefully. Do a search on Google for press release tips and take your time. Rushing through the preparation of a press release can have the opposite effects than desired.
Now that you’ve been given everything you need to start generating the traffic that your website needs, get to work! You won’t procrastinate, you won’t make excuses. You are in complete control of the potential of your business and you realize that in order to reach its potential, it’s going to require action. This is the year that you will take your business to the next level. 2012 will be a year to remember… it’s not just going to be a Happy New Year, it’s going to be an ecstatic one!
CEO, N-VisionIT Interactive