Taking A Business Online

No one today can imagine a life without the Internet. Almost every transaction today can be conducted online. You can buy groceries, pay your bills, stay connected with people across the world, manage your bank accounts, shop for clothes, books, shoes, phones…you name it! Yet many businesses, especially in India, are happy with their brick and mortar model being the only source of revenue. While almost all enterprises today have a corporate website, it's more often built because everyone must have one, and then stop there. In the offline world a business put up in a well-trafficked area will get visitors who will see the building and stop by. On the Internet, businesses need to put significant effort into getting found.

Here are some simple steps that a business can take to leverage its existing website as a tool for business growth. Why? Because today all customers are online, and so is the competition.

Know the Landscape. It's always a good idea to know some of the basics of online marketing, even if the business will outsource online advertising and marketing to another company.

Build a 'Good' Website. It sounds obvious, and simple, but most websites simply push or dump information on the visitor. It's a one-sided dialogue which only blurts out what the seller wants to say and doesn't even consider ease of navigation from the customer perspective. Businesses must not forget the basic brick-and-mortar layout principles when they start selling online.

Getting Some Traffic. So how does a business get 'footfalls' in its online store? Especially when it's competing with plenty of people offering the same service. Unless they figure out a way to get more traffic to the website, they can easily get banished to page 14 on the search engines. Using pay-per-click (PPC) ads is one way to bring quality traffic to your website. While it can be quite expensive, if used wisely and if implemented by an expert, PPC is very useful in attracting online visitors.

Get leads, not just traffic. Once a great website is ready and there is a process in place to drive traffic to it, the next step is to turn that traffic into leads. Ideally most pages of a website should have a lead capture mechanism. A seller can offer something of value to your visitors in exchange for their email address or other contact information. It is extremely important to capture all that traffic coming in, cultivating that information as leads and then using e-marketing (such as e-mail campaigns) to convert these leads into customers.

Text messaging is for Everyone. Many brick-and-mortar businesses are successfully using SMS marketing (text message marketing) to capture leads and follow up. B2C portals can have site visitors opt into text message promotions by texting a keyword to an SMS short code..

QR codes. QR codes are barcodes that can be scanned with a cell phone to send people to a particular website. QR codes on direct mail pieces, on a store window, at the checkout desk and other strategic areas can give businesses an opportunity to move offline traffic online. Since QR codes are used by mobile phone users, the website must also have mobile-friendly pages that are easy to navigate.

Online partners are huge assets. Complementary businesses can set up referral or affiliate programs to drive traffic to each other at appropriate points in the sales cycle. Using partners can jumpstart online business significantly.

Social Media. Social media is a booming arena for online marketing. If used correctly, it can provide a great stream of online traffic, and is a great tool for listening to and engaging customers. It is estimated that more than 700,000 businesses have active pages for their business on Facebook. There are many success stories for businesses that have creatively used even Twitter and LinkedIn. Social networking sites offer businesses the speed and ease to engage customers directly. One of the biggest benefits for social networking your business is the fact that it is mostly free, with some investment required for more targeted campaigns.

Using the Web as a Tool. Search engines love good organic content, and site managers cannot ignore the importance of optimizing their site content for search engines. One of the most effective ways of keeping a site fresh and search engine-friendly is to incorporate a blog into the site. Blogs provide business owners with unprecedented ways of reaching and engaging with large audiences in a way that the traditional one-way information push of a company Web site could never do. Additionally, blogs can help put a human face to the business while showcasing knowledge and thought leadership. Blogs are collaborative and a great way to engage with and solicit feedback from customers!

Most service and business professionals also want to promote and market their services online. But business owners fear the complexity and the power of the Internet, and especially ecommerce. Long gone are the days of the yellow pages, customers will search online to find services local to them. Being online and closely and innovatively using the website as a tool is necessary for getting ahead of competition. For a business in the 21st century you need to get online today.


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