Business Owner’s Intro to Web Marketing

As in traditional marketing, Web Marketing is concerned with managing public perceptions of your business. How do your customers see you, both online and offline?

Online marketing affords new challenges on a precedent-setting scale. More than seven million people now have heard of the Sons of Maxwell and their YouTube phenomenon “United Breaks Guitars”, an example of how one disgruntled customer can publicly humiliate big business:

Millions of Opinions:

This is a classic example of one of the key principles in Web Marketing – sometimes your customers will make your commercials for you whether you like it or not – and there are millions of people online with the ability to make or break your business depending on how you manage their perceptions.

You, as a busness owner, won’t have much (if any) control over what your customers do with your business’ image online. Your best defense is to build good relationships and spread positive perceptions of your business by managing your Points of Customer Contact.

What do Your Offline Points of Contact Say About You?

Ask yourself this simple question: In what ways are your customers (or prospects) receiving impressions of your business? Examples include:

  • through your voicemail system
  • by visiting your storefront
  • your phone directory adverts
  • through your monthly billing mailers
  • by seeing your trucks on the highway
  • any other interaction they may receive no matter how small

Make a list of these points and review how you can improve even your tiny client impressions: something as simple as adding a friendly message to your invoices or paying your delivery drivers to go through the car wash more often might greatly improve your public image.

What do Your Online Points of Contact Say About You?

Online, you have a world of marketing opportunities. Having NO presence in certain online hotspots can make your business seem out-of-date or technology-phobic, but making a simple effort to extend your reach into the online sphere can give your business a real boost.

Online Points of Contact to Neglect at your Peril:

Facebook: sign up and be sociable. Set up a Page for your business but don’t make an effort to sell anything overtly – answer questions, chat with interested fans, and give things away in exchange for participation (a coupon in exchange for answering a quick survey, for example). Facebook is for building brand loyalty by putting a human face on your company.

LinkedIn: think of LinkedIn as Facebook for professionals – create an account, add people to whom you’re connected, and be sociable. This is classical networking taken to a digital level – like a Chamber of Commerce networking event you can attend from your living room at any hour.

Twitter: short bursts of conversational information-sharing can give the impression that your business is cool, approachable, and doesn’t mind spending a little time being sociable with strangers. You’ll accumulate followers, and if you share helpful information about your field or favourite topic you’ll convert some of those strangers into prospects and customers.

YouTube: If the YouTube global audience were a country, it would be the 3rd largest country in the world with over 420 million unique visitors every month. Can you make a quick video to show off your product? As the Sons of Maxwell prove with their offerings, you don’t have to hire a team of videographers and lighting experts and scriptwriters to pull off a YouTube video that’ll attract attention. Be human, have fun, and be willing to share information that will be useful to your viewers. Do you sell sushi making supplies? Film a short demo on making crab rolls and post it – a short burst of inexpensive creative work such as this will stay online indefinitely and pay dividends.

Instagram / Snapchat / Whatever the kids are into: Don’t ignore new, up-and-coming social media platforms, just because you aren’t personally interested!

Wikipedia: Everyone wants to be included in this collaborative online encyclopedia, but you need to tread very carefully to avoid negative backlash. A good rule of thumb is to never edit your own business’ entry, but you can get involved and edit other entries, and if you don’t have an entry at all, enlist the help of someone who can create a “stub” which can be cautiously added to over time. Wikipedia does not take kindly to overt self-promotion, echoing the informal rule that online marketing works best when you put forward an approachable human face amd contribute instead of advertising.