Coffee shops. Dentists. Plumbers. Caterers. Restaurants. Pet sitters. Golf courses. Auto repair shops. Dry cleaners. Beauty salons. Bars. Wedding planners. Electricians.
What do businesses like these all have in common in a bad way? Well, surprisingly few of these types of business take full advantage of what the web can do for growing their business. And I don’t mean just having some bare bones website which are more often that not just glorified online brochures for these kind of businesses.
So in order to help out the many hundreds of thousands of businesses who are still failing to take full advantage of what the internet can do to help their business grow and make more money, i’ve put together 10 ways to help turn offline businesses into thriving online businesses - lets get started.
1: Start your own website or improve your current one – believe or not there are still many regular businesses that don’t even have a website yet, or only have their menu or contact details on it. For example, write some original content, post latest news about your business, write bios of employees, etc.
2: Create an online community – there are two main reasons why its important to do this – firstly, its a great way for you connect with your business fans and users, and secondly its a great way for them to connect with each other and meet like minded people. Its fairly easy to setup an online community using free tools like Ning.com or KickApps.com.
3: Create a themed blog – a blog is another great way to connect with your visitors. You can post latest news about your business, new special offers, interviews with your regular customers, etc. Its pretty easy to set up a blog for free at WordPress.com or Blogger.com. Also, you should entice your regular customers to go online and use the blog and comment on it – this will make it seem more popular with first time visitors. Also, if you want to get really advanced, you can integrate your blog into your community by using RSS feeds.
4: Get some free targeted traffic – do some basic search engine optimization (SEO) tricks to your website pages – think of the keywords that someone might use to search for a business like yours (like pet sitting services), then add those keywords to your title tags, meta tags and throughout your website text. This will help increase the chances of your website being found in the search engines, thus getting you some great free targeted traffic. And if you want some paid SEO help, you can use the great services like SEOmoz.org or eVisibility.com offer.
5: Offer ‘online only’ coupons so you can track website ROI – a great way to tell just how effective your website has become is to offer coupons that can only be found online at your website. This way, if a user comes in with that coupon, you know they have been to your website, and that your website doing a great job of driving sales! Good options here are buy one get one free, 10% off your next purchase in store, or you can even offer free samples coupons.
6: Get an official business listing on Yelp.com. If you haven’t already heard of Yelp.com, and you own a business, then you simply HAVE to get an official business listing on Yelp.com – its increasingly becoming the most common way of people finding local businesses. And remember to listen to your reviews and act on their feedback – both positive and negative! If you only do one thing of out these ten, I would do this, and right now…
7: Start doing paid search on Google, Yahoo and MSN – once your site has been up and running, start experimenting with paid search marketing – depending on what your business is, its fairly cheap to send targeted search traffic to your website (between 10-50 cents per click for search keywords is about normal, but some are very expensive, like for law firms).
8: Get a Facebook profile, get many friends on it, and advertise on it – unless you have been living in a cave, you should be well aware of how important Facebook.com has become, even to businesses. There are now over 200 million users on Facebook.com – many of which could be potential customers of yours – so go ahead and set up a profile and begin networking and spreading the word of your business in the local community – and remember to try their new advertising service too – its been getting good results.
9: Sell branded goods with your logo or business name – to help make your business some extra money, and to increase the branding of your business, you can use sites like CafePress.com to easily and quickly create t-shirts, mugs, caps, stickers, and more, all personalized with your company name and logo. Very cool, right? It’s a good feeling to have people wearing things with pride that have your company name on it.
10: Promote your website at your place of business – its important to remember that you need to get your regular offline visitors to go online to your website – try using stickers, banners, business cards, bar mats – try and get creative. It’s important to let your regular customers know that you have an online business – and the reasons why they should check it out.
These tips will of course vary slightly depending on your business model, and on the nature of your customers, and how likely they are to be loyal, but these should provide business owners with a good online kick start.
And if anyone would like some more personalized ideas to help your very own business just shoot me an email and I will try and help you.