As a new entrepreneur, you may have a fantastic product, but if you don’t have a significant online presence, you’re going to have a difficult time getting the “right attention.” You’re going to have a harder time getting your product or service into the right hands. By the right hands, I’m talking about your customers.
If you’re wondering where your customers are, where they hang out online, this article is meant for you. But, in order to successfully establish your company on the Internet, you must accept the fact that you don’t know what you don’t know, especially if you don’t have a background in marketing.
I’m confident that getting your product or service to the market was a huge deal. It probably took endless hours and a lot of hard work to get where you are today. You deserve a pat on the back for making it this far, that’s for sure.
Aside from having the right business idea, finding the funding was certainly one of your biggest hurdles hands down. Perhaps you bootstrapped your business and put it all of your savings on the line; perhaps you got an SBA loan, and used your house as collateral, or; maybe you won the heart of an investor, and risked your stellar reputation, which must to your dismay, may be hanging by a thread 12 months from now. Regardless of how you funded your business, there’s a lot at stake – that you know for sure.
Now that you’ve successfully launched this great business, do your customers know how to find it? Do they even know that your product or service exists? If you’re a natural at social media and content marketing, then you’re ahead of the game. But, more often than not, a lot of new business owners don’t fully understand the value of a "properly-designed" website and effective social media marketing campaign.
For most business owners, the first thing on their checklist is a website. That's a no-brainer. If you have a new company and you created the best website you can afford – that’s great. But, if you wrote your own content and you aren’t getting much, if any measurable traffic from the company’s site, it probably means you need help from the pros.
As a web content writer and copywriter, I can spot a homemade website in two seconds flat, but I certainly can’t fault new business owners who create their own websites because it’s all they can afford. If you’re “guilty as charged,” just make a mental note right now to hire a professional digital marketing company with an excellent grasp in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to create a professional website as soon as your marketing budget allows.
Bad Content Hurts Your Leads
Unfortunately, I’ve seen new business owners create their own websites and from the look of their content, they don't know how to sell their product. It's like their content is rambling in every which way, and it fails to get the point across. If you don’t know how to market your product, it’s going to affect sales; it’s going to affect your bottom line. That is the cold hard truth.
If you’re thinking, “All I need is a great product and the customers will come,” I hate to break it to you but you’re dead wrong. Aside from developing a great product, you must be able to market it. If money is tight and your business doesn’t require a brick-and-mortar shop, you're likely better off working in your home instead of getting an office space for the first year or two if it enables you to funnel more money into marketing – marketing is that important.
Don’t Underestimate the Value of Social Media
For many new business owners, they took a huge leap of faith to become an entrepreneur. Some of them left their cushy corporate job and risked it all, while others had to beg and borrow from friends and family to launch their dream business – an arduous process that took so long, they thought about quitting hundreds of times. Somehow though, they had the determination and resolve to press forward with their business idea.
As a new business owner, you’ve worked your tail off to launch your business and here you are. You breathe a sigh of relief because you got this far, but now I ask: How good is your company’s social media presence? I’m not talking about your personal Facebook and Instagram accounts, I’m talking about your business’s online presence. Nonexistent? Full of a few political rants? Only have 10 Twitter followers and your last post was six months ago?
New business owners, your company’s online presence is not only necessary, it is vital.You can have the best product in the world, but if you have not established a compelling online presence, you’re effectively limiting your business’s reach; today, people have to be able to find you online, period. This goes beyond a killer website, it includes social media.
Getting Yourself Online & Out of the Dark
Obviously, every business is different and not every social medial platform is for every business. You have to know your audience. Most businesses, however, should set up the following social media accounts and they should be active on them:
- Facebook (most businesses)
- Twitter (most businesses)
- LinkedIn (most businesses)
- Google + (all businesses)
- Instagram (depends on the business)
- Pinterest (depends on the business)
While it’s not on the above list, Yelp deserves special mention here. If you have a bakery, restaurant, bed and breakfast, childcare business, dance school, dog grooming business, or other business that would be on Yelp – you need to be on Yelp!
These days, so many people will not visit a business until they’ve read its Yelp reviews, and this is especially the case for people who are travelling out-of-town, but this applies to locals as well. If you’re not on Yelp, it’ll be at the expense of your business.
Back to social media...you may be thinking, “But, what if I don’t know how to effectively use social media?” It’s okay, you can learn. Some of you will know a lot about social media, while some of you won’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole! Regardless of how you feel about it, social media is a necessary evil for establishing an online presence. In the 21st Century, there is no way around social media, especially if your customers are Millennials.
When people Google your company’s name, they should be able to find it right away. If they can’t, you need to work on building your online presence and the first two ways to do that are to: 1) have a good website, and 2) establish yourself on social media. And I’m not talking about creating an account and sleeping; I’m talking about creating an account and posting and engaging daily – you heard that right – daily.
Once you create your company’s accounts, what do you do next? In order to post daily, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and go for one of these approaches: 1) read books on social media and start applying your awesome skills to your real-life accounts, 2) learn how to do social media by trial and error (that’s how some of the best social media gurus learned), 3) pay one of your employees to do it, or 4) hire a social media professional to do it for you.
Social Media Doesn’t Grow Overnight
Establishing yourself on social media takes time; it doesn’t happen overnight. If you have two to four hours a day to invest in building your online presence, you’ll get far in a year, but most entrepreneurs don’t have that kind of time. If you can dedicate an hour or two daily, or have someone do it for you, you’ll discover that building your online presence is one of the best free marketing tools available.
Once you establish your social media accounts and get into the rhythm, you should invest in promoting certain posts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, particularly blogs that you’ve written for your company. Blogging…is another important (free) marketing tool for small businesses. If you don’t know how to write a blog, check out these blogging tips for small business owners.
As an entrepreneur with a new business, you already know how important it is that your business not only survives, but thrives. One of the fastest, most affordable ways to get your brand known is to build an online presence. The beauty of social media is it evens the playing field; big and small businesses alike can use it as a valuable tool to get their company online, where potential customers will quickly, and easily find them through a simple Google search. Don't be a ghost, establish your social media presence like a boss!
Elainna Ciaramella is an independent journalist, business blogger, and ghostwriter for entrepreneurs and business professionals nationwide. She has written extensively on the topics of business, entrepreneurship, law, and medicine. She is well-versed in search engine optimization, content marketing, and social media. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and Instagram.
Originally published on LinkedIn.