Technology adoption in society has skyrocketed in the past decade, as Facebook counts over 2 billion users, 96% of Americans own a cellphone, and over 63,000 Google searches are completed per second. Yet small businesses have not embraced the realities of online marketing and the technology that could help them increase productivity and output while cutting costs.
According to the Deloitte report Connecting Small Businesses in the US commissioned by Google in 2018, 80% of small businesses in the US aren’t taking advantage of the modern digital tools that can lead to greater revenues and profits. Embracing technology and online marketing isn’t hard; it is a matter of getting informed and making a decision to try something new.
With this in mind, here are a few basic factors business owners and managers should keep in mind as they evolve their business toward a more efficient future:
An online presence is the customer’s first impression
Businesses must have a polished, professional online presence, including a website and active social media profiles, making their companies visible and reachable by target audiences. In the past, people exchanged business cards; today, they use LinkedIn and text and chat through WhatsApp. Establish brand guidelines to ensure your brand is articulated across your entire web portfolio. Build content around your brand catering to your customer to generate incoming leads.
Make it mobile
People want to book appointments, services and buy items with the click of a button. From medical appointments to legal services, customers want the booking process to be fast and painless. Provide customers with an easy-to-use platform to book services and order goods. Make payment seamless and automated. People are often on their mobile devices buying things and booking services during their downtime—give them every reason to click “buy” during their commute or in a waiting room. Depending on your business, you may want to create a proprietary app or get your goods for sale on an existing app.
Reviews are king
Customers will conduct research before and even during the process of making a purchase, sometimes for months. People today are empowered with an internet that offers reviews sharing details on their experience, cost and quality overall. Yelp built an empire on reviews. How do your offerings hold up in the marketplace? The answer may be painful. Customers are more likely to leave a negative review than a positive one. Address any negative reviews or hire someone to do this on your behalf. Consumers today look at reviews and will make purchase decisions heavily based on them. Make sure comments, good and bad, are replied to in a professional manner, which the consumer will greatly respect.
Understand digital tools
Utilize today’s suite of incredible tools: Facebook, Google and Amazon have some of the most powerful advertising platforms out there and can be customized for any budget. Facebook can help with location targeting; Google Analytics can perform remarketing campaigns. Creative loyalty programs, like Starbucks’ app letting users collect stars toward a future item, have become popular. The gamification of loyalty programs is something we will definitely see more of.
Put the customer first
Some small businesses may truly know their customer, but a surprising majority do not. Others have found they have a different customer than they had ten years ago. Regardless of which category one’s business falls into, it is always a good time to do market research to understand your current customer, their thoughts, preferences, and problems, and the solutions they’re looking for. For example, many customers today place an order with an understanding they will get the goods same-day or next-day—this kind of information can be uncovered through research. Most importantly, talk to your customers and listen carefully to their feedback. A good old-fashioned, offline conversation can be truly enlightening.
Head of Marketing