Toying around with ideas about branding and first impressions got me thinking about digital assets. Whatever your business may be, if you don’t have any digital assets, you’re likely not positioning your brand and your company properly.
I’m always amazed when I search for a business and I find them reviewed on Yelp or Trip Advisor but there’s no link over to their website (or worse, they don’t have a website). This is marketing 101, and neglecting to do this is a huge marketing fail.
Are they legit? Are they still in business? What’s the story? It doesn’t leave a good first impression, does it?
It’s common knowledge these days that potential customers are searching for products and services online, and your company should be positioned to show up in those searches. Be findable. Be the answer they are looking for and look professional.
Paying attention to these digital assets can mean the difference between success and being forced to shut the doors due to poor sales.
Local destination sites
If you’re a local business, you need to pay attention to sites that offer info to potential customers searching for businesses within your category. Whether tourists or local folks, don’t miss out on this business.
Check your presence on sites like FourSquare. More than 50 million people actively use this App to find places to go. Those users share news about their favorite places. A lot of storefronts are already listed. If you’re a brick-and-mortar and you aren’t on Foursquare, you should certainly consider it.
You need to claim this virtual real estate and plant your flag. Add company and contact info, and describe your business in ways that might entice locals to stop and make a purchase.
Take control of all listings about your business – Yelp, TripAdvisor, FourSquare, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, Bing, Yellow Pages – all have business reviews and recommendations. Stake your claim and set up your profile, so those searches can find you.
Making the space yours
Make sure that you claim your spot and make it your own. Upload a GREAT photo of your business. Don’t rely on a Google Streetview photo. Make sure that the images of your business shown online represent the brand you want them to by uploading a high quality shot of your storefront.
Update the hours, share any pertinent information, make sure all the information is accurate…and most importantly, link over to your own website!
Using the features
You can use FourSquare swarms to make offers to locals. Check out their website for testimonials from other businesses using FourSquare as an online method to increase local traffic.
Find out where you are…and aren’t
Did you know that you can go to Moz.com and use their free checker to see if and how your business appears on different directories? They even have a paid service through which you can manage all the directories and all your listings from one dashboard.
Now that you understand the need to pay attention to directories, make sure you don’t set it and forget it. Nurture those local destination listings. Ask your happy customers to leave positive reviews. Monitor those reviews and respond if the site allows you to.
Keep in mind that you can’t please everyone. There are bound to be some whiners and complainers who will turn up on review sites and leave negative reviews. Address them kindly. Never argue. Offer to make good somehow. They might feel better just being heard and acknowledged. A positive response to a negative review can have a lot of power in the eyes of potential customers.
My theory about complainers goes like this: Very few people will take the time to actually sit down and write a letter or a review. But whatever you see there, you can safely multiply by 20 because there are another 20 people out there complaining loudly for all who will listen.
Take complaints seriously
Word of mouth advertising is very powerful, especially when it’s negative. So always take complaints seriously and see what you can do to correct the problem.
Do you check reviews before you try out a new business, service or restaurant? I do.
When I see negative reviews, I don’t let it sway my decision, but I do tend to dig deeper to see what others are saying.
I still give places that have received bad reviews a chance if I find that other commenters offer enough positive input, but I never give places a chance if I see that the owner has responded negatively to a negative review. Reviews do influence buyers, so make yours count.
One prominent review site, TripAdvisor, is especially effective for reviews when it comes to tourism. Travelers (and locals, too) rely on this site for advice on where to go for a bite to eat or find whatever else they’re after. So when someone leaves your establishment, ask them to “trip you!” Request their feedback on TripAdvisor. Let them know that it means a lot to you and your business.
How much does it mean? Consider this.
I’m not a full-time reviewer. I don’t have a lot of pull when it comes to swaying folks’ opinions, or at least I thought that was the case. Then TripAdvisor came along.
After a recent trip, I decided to write a few reviews about places we’d stopped. I created only about 15 reviews on TripAdvisor. As of yesterday, my reviews had 10,000 readers. Holy crow, right? That’s just me. And most are for local businesses.
Word travels fast so make sure that you develop this little piece of real estate for your business! It’s free. It just takes a little bit of your time.
Nurture social media
We’ve been talking about ideas on how to connect with your niche audience locally through the online points of contact like review sites, but it doesn’t end there.
Another critical point of contact is social media. It’s important as part of your branding to a have presence on social media and to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and other channels, based on where your target market is active, fluently.
Your messages should be congruent with the site on which you are posting: 140 characters on Twitter, longer posts on Facebook, professional posts on LinkedIn, etc. Posts should work with the style of the site you have chosen, and you should only be using social media channels that your audience is using, otherwise you’re wasting your time.
Make sure that every post, everywhere aligns with your brand (who you are and what you represent). Social media can be a significant amplifier of your message, so make sure your channels represent you well.
Social media can be fickle
You may have an account on a particular social media channel, but you don’t own it. The powers that be can change their rules drastically before you wake up tomorrow morning. Changes to Facebook’s algorithm forced businesses to focus more on paid media, rendering Facebook less effective for those with limited budgets.
Subsequently it’s almost impossible to have a homegrown organic audience anymore. People who had thousands of views every day suddenly had thirty. Businesses that relied on Facebook for traffic found themselves with a tiny percent of the traffic they had just the day before. It hurt a lot of people.
The service that you relied on could go from free to pay-to-play over night. The rules and the algorithms could change quickly. What do you do then?
That’s not going to happen with your own website.
Nurture Your Website
All the other things I’ve discussed so far as really important, but none (arguably) are more important that your website. Your website is still your most important digital asset when it comes to online marketing. In fact, it is the center of your entire online marketing endeavor!
It should be the center of the universe (well at least your universe and your customers’ purchasing universe).
Sending people to your website should be one of your key objectives with both on and offline marketing material.
That means that when people are in your brick-and-mortar store, you want to direct them to your website. Catch their attention. Get them on your email list so that you can remind them of your great products and services later. Your website will continue to grow your customer relationship when they are not in your store.
But the main reason your website is so important? You own it.
No substitute for a website
Don’t make the mistake of having a Facebook page instead of a website. Have a Facebook page IN ADDITION to your website. It’s important to use social media accounts but it’s best to have your main focus be on your website. Social media should be an amplifier, not the end-all-be-all. If all your social media accounts were shut down tomorrow, what would you do without a website?
Substituting social media for a website can give customers the impression that you’re not a quality business or you just don’t care. Either way, that’s bad new for you.
And don’t forget to make sure your website is responsive and will work on different devices and especially phones. Something like seventy of searches are conducted via mobile devices. Be sure that your site, which represents your business, works well and gives a good first impression of you no matter what device someone uses to find you.
Another plus for your website is that it’s about your business and only your business, without distraction. No ads for your competitors clogging up the side of the page or worse, right in the middle of the page (Don’t you just love when Facebook does that to you?)
The point is, you control your website. You can update it, change it, move it and do whatever you want with it. You don’t have to worry about interference from someone else telling you what to do.
It’s your brand
Everything you put out there (on the web, on social media, in brochures, on your business card, books, games, apps, guest blog posts, bookmarks and other marketing collateral) all should lead right back to your website because that will never change.
Review sites, local destination sites, social media sites and other online directories are very valuable pieces of online real estate as well. Make sure to nurture them all and keep your reputation online flawless.
When your website works together with these other pieces of digital real estate, you position your brand to be much more successful. It’s YOUR brand, so take charge of it and secure your digital real estate.
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