For many small to medium-sized businesses with several years of experience running a bricks-and-mortar shop, it can be difficult making that transition to a stronger online presence. When a business is already performing relatively well in an offline environment, it’s easier to justify the status quo and continue on with current operational models. But this risks missing out on some of the most compelling advantages of building a strong online component to your operations.
Small business owners looking to improve their online performance often assume that doing so is as simple as launching a new website or improving an existing one. But of course, it’s never as simple as that. Instead, there are several online marketing strategies that must be undertaken at the same time.
In this post, we’re going to examine a few of those strategies in greater detail. For illustrative purposes, we’ll relate these strategies to a hypothetical bricks-and-mortar business – a washing machine repair service that already has a mature offline presence. We intend to show you that, by integrating a few online marketing strategies with the existing offline model, you can push the business into new, uncharted territory in terms of performance.
1. Have Your Website Professionally Designed
If your company has never operated its own website, then creating one should be at the top of your priorities. However, it’s important to have your site professionally designed so that it offers a streamlined user experience and maintains your company’s brand image. You may be tempted to try and create the website in-house. Perhaps one of your employees has a background in IT, and they’re fairly confident that they can create a website for your washing machine repair company. However, you are much better off entrusting this task to a qualified digital agency that knows how to create websites that convert traffic into sales and enquiries. Hiring an agency is probably more affordable than you think. If you’re not sure what to expect in this department, this informative article from Forbes will give you an idea of how to price a website.
2. Learn The Basics Of SEO
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process through which we help search engines like Google understand what it is our site is selling. This is accomplished, in part, by publishing content to our website that incorporates keywords and key phrases. To be fair, there are other more technical aspects of SEO that you’ll want to entrust to the professionals. But from a business operator’s perspective, it’s important to learn the fundamentals of on-page SEO. For our hypothetical company, you would need to ensure that phrases like ‘washing machine repair services’ appear in your headers, page title and content. If you are ready to get started with on-page SEO, this tutorial from Search Engine Journal will get you on your way.
3. Take Advantage Of Online Directories
There’s more to boosting online performance than simply launching your own website. You’ll also want to take advantage of other online marketing tools that can amplify your efforts. One handy way to do this is to take advantage of online directories where your target customers are likely to search for service providers like you. Online directories are like the phonebooks of the 21st century. You can list information about your business along with contact details and links to your own website so that potential customers who find your listing can learn more about it or even find their way to your website. If you operate in the UK, one important directory is Thomson Local. Failing to capitalise on this risks losing out on extra business.
4. Solicit & Display Customer Reviews
Credibility is an important issue for online marketing. Your customers have probably come across several websites advertising washing machine repair services. Each site claims that their services are the best, most affordable, most convenient, etc. It can be difficult for consumers to know who to trust. This is where customer reviews come into play. By soliciting, collecting and displaying customer reviews on your website, you’ll be adding a layer of credibility that will instil confidence on behalf of your customers. Suddenly, they don’t have to take your word for it that your washing machine repair services are superior to those of other providers. Instead, they’ll receive this information from others. There are several ways to solicit reviews. One way is by sending out emails to those customers who have recently taken advantage of your repair services. You can even automate this process so that it happens without your team having to take direct action. We should also mention that the aforementioned directories (such as Thomson Local) also allow customers to leave reviews of the businesses that are listed with them.
5. Implement A Content Marketing Plan
Once you have set up a streamlined and effective website, it’s time to start populating it with content. Search engines like Google appreciate fresh, renewable streams of content, so you may want to consider starting a blog through which you can educate your website visitors about issues related to your services. But publishing content on your website isn’t something to do haphazardly. Instead, you’ll want to create a content marketing plan that can guide your efforts over the next few weeks and months. You’ll also want to consider integrating this plan with social media marketing and email marketing campaigns.
Prepare To Meet New Performance Benchmarks
Once you have taken the above steps, it’s safe to say that you’ll begin seeing more business coming your way through online channels. This is an exciting prospect for a business that has – up to this point – operated strictly on an offline basis. You’ll likely find yourself wondering how you ever got by without this additional marketing channel to begin with.