Being an entrepreneur is complex, today more than ever. The market in which we operate is constantly changing.
Every day new competitors, new technologies, new policies, new buying habits, new unpredictable variables are born.
The events that occurred in 2020 were totally unexpected and had serious consequences, especially for those who run a business with a physical location.
However, these events have highlighted what we have been preaching for so many years: being online is essential.
In fact, if until a few months ago there could still be some skeptics, this emergency has undoubtedly highlighted that having a good online positioning is not an option, it is mandatory.
It is no longer a surplus, it is no longer a way of differentiating oneself from competitors. It is now simply necessary.
The digital age
The advent of digital has completely changed the world, not just in the last few months.
While many businesses have not withstood the change and disappeared, on the other hand, new markets have been created.
New business opportunities have arisen that we could not even imagine until a few years ago.
Surviving in this volatile market is only possible with excellent adaptability. A successful entrepreneur knows this well and must always stay up to date to transform possible threats into business opportunities.
Even a physical store is in dire need of curating its online presence.
Here are some simple reasons to bring a physical business online:
- People (your potential customers) spend several hours each day browsing the web or social media. Those who are unable to be found or to intercept their potential customers will lose more and more opportunities;
- Most of the competitors are already reaping the benefits of a good online ranking;
- Customers leave opinions, reviews, photos, comments telling their experiences online.
How customers have changed
Customer behavior is certainly one of the most radical changes in the digital age.
Before there was much less choice and there were few information channels. To get to know a new business, one relied on the recommendations of a friend, or on advertisements in the newspaper.
Customers today are much more aware of what they want.
They have many channels to inform themselves or to discover new activities. These channels are almost always online, demonstrating that even a physical business must take care of its online presence.
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Let’s take a restaurant for example.
Before there wasn’t much choice and the options were very few. Today we find restaurants with cuisines from all over the world, for all budgets, of all types. We can try a different place every day. To find information, we can explore on a blog or social media, look at reviews on Google or TripAdvisor, search for offers on The Fork, etc.
We, therefore, note that the mechanism for attracting the attention of a new customer is much more complex.
At the same time, we have incredible tools at our disposal that you couldn’t even imagine before.
Thanks to these tools, we can make our brand known, attract the attention of new users, convince them to buy, and create a lasting relationship with them.
Your online business in 7 steps
A good online presence is the result of the sum of various actions.
In recent years we have worked with dozens of local businesses and talked to many entrepreneurs.
This helped us to understand what the needs of a small business owner are and what are the best strategies to position their business online and benefit from it in a short time.
We have identified 7 simple but fundamental steps, which we want to share with you.
Here’s the list:
- Having a Web site clear, quick, and responsive to present the activities and to sell online;
- Take advantage of Social Media to spread the brand and build relationships with potential and current customers;
- Create high-quality content (photos, videos, blog articles, etc.) with the aim of enhancing the business and presenting the products/services in the best possible way;
- Create advertisements to spread the brand, intercept new customers and increase sales;
- Have an optimized Google MyBusiness account, useful for positioning yourself in search engines;
- Having a replicable system to acquire new leads continuously;
- Studying a marketing strategy that integrates all the activities seen above and transforms an interested user into a customer.
Let’s now analyze each of the points in detail.
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1. Having a Website
The internet is no longer a novelty and there has been clear evidence for years that, if used well, it can bring excellent results even to a physical business.
If we are to survive this digital wave, the first step in bringing a business online is to have a website.
The site is our showcase, our business card opens 24 hours a day.
Thanks to the website we can present our business to new potential customers, tell the story of the brand, show the strengths of the business and the quality behind our products, convey our values, present our team, sell our services, be found on Google, etc.
Indeed, the Internet has significantly changed the habits of customers, especially in the way they look for products/services to buy.
People spend several hours on the internet every day and research the web before trying a new product/service.
This is also true in the case of a physical store, such as a restaurant, a dealer, a gym, a beauty center, etc.
In fact, through a good communication strategy (which we will see later), it is possible to attract the attention of our online customers, leading them to visit our site and, therefore, get to know our company, make a reservation or request a quote.
A website can also be useful for purchasing products directly online. Let’s think, for example, of a clothing store: that same shirt displayed in your store could also be sold online, right?
Imagine being able to sell your products no longer just to those who physically enter the store during specific business hours, but around the world and around the clock.
Any business can be brought online. And any business must be found online.
Every year we create dozens of websites, with completely original and personalized themes based on the identity and communicative style of the brand.
Each site we create is optimized for smartphone viewing and is designed to attract the user’s attention in a few seconds, leading him to become a customer in the shortest possible time.
2. Curate Social Media
It is absurd to think that social media did not exist until a few years ago. And which until recently were not taken seriously from a business perspective.
Many entrepreneurs thought it was a fad, fun for kids …
Those who saw potential in it immediately acquired a huge competitive advantage, moving forward and differentiating themselves from the competition.
So why are social media essential today?
A good strategy on social networks allows us to:
- Get to know new people
- Create a relationship with existing customers (with the aim of increasing the frequency of purchase )
- Quickly stimulate a word of mouth process
We cannot sell our products or services if no one knows we exist.
We can make the best pizza in town, but we’re not going to sell one if nobody knows. You can be the best dentist or lawyer in your region, but no one will come to you if they don’t know you.
Social media are indeed an excellent tool for intercepting new potential customers, showing our strengths, and telling our values and uniqueness on a daily basis.
At the same time, a good communication strategy is also useful for retaining existing customers, who will see our content more often and, consequently, will continue to remember the positive experience until they want to repeat it.
Another underrated aspect of social media is word of mouth. In fact, word of mouth can happen much more quickly today.
If previously a satisfied customer could only physically tell the experience to a few friends or relatives, today he can put a story on Instagram and reach hundreds of people in a few hours.
There is no other tool that allows this.
Of course, it is our responsibility to encourage the customer to share his good experience with his friends.
While it sounds trivial, it is important to remember that the goal of a social media strategy is not to gain more followers or more likes.
Unfortunately, in recent times, more and more fake professionals are being born who preach themselves as social network experts and base their success on an increase in likes or visibility.
These are precisely called Vanity Metrics. They are very good for the ego, little for the company turnover.
The goal must always be to increase sales and business profit.
Communicating on social media, however, is not at all easy. We must in fact think that people do not enter Instagram or Facebook to buy something but to pass the time or have fun.
Our posts or announcements must always be congruent with the channel in which we are communicating. They need to highlight our strengths without looking like teleshopping.
Communication on social media is often underestimated. The fact that it is easy to post a photo, unfortunately, has made anyone able to feel like an expert.
This is clearly not the case. Often it would be better to abandon them completely rather than post poor quality content.
For all these reasons, it is always advisable to rely on professionals with successful case studies behind them.
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3. Create quality content
Have you ever heard the phrase “Content is the King”? It means that the content dominates, which is the most important thing.
This is true, even if good content without a good strategy for disseminating it risks being a waste of resources.
Today, having high-quality content is essential. Online communication is based on the quality of the contents, which must be pleasant, aesthetically attractive, and have a simple and clear message.
The internet is full of content of all kinds. We are bombarded every day with photos, videos, memes, news, sales announcements, etc.
Emerging in this ocean of contents where everyone has something to communicate is not easy at all.
For this, our content must be flawless.
Our photos must be of the highest quality and must attract the user’s attention. Our videos must communicate a clear message and must be able to arouse strong emotions.
Furthermore, any content must be created with a clear strategy in mind. Nothing must be left to chance and everything must correspond to a specific goal.
First of all, we must in fact be very clear about what we want to communicate (a specific offer, the opening of a new restaurant, the quality of our service, etc.), to whom the message is addressed (who they are, how old they are, what are their interests, what content they like, do they already know our brand or not, etc.) and in which channels it will be distributed (for social networks, for a blog, for a print magazine, etc.).
Once the goal has been defined and the content created, it will be our marketing plan to ensure that this content reaches our target audience in the most suitable and effective way and channel.
Given the importance of content in a marketing strategy, we work with the best professionals for the creation of visual (photos and videos) or written (blog articles, copywriting for social networks or sales pages, etc.) of extreme quality, targeted to the achievement of company objectives.
4. Create advertisements
In this paragraph, we want to focus on those channels that, through paid ads, allow us to reach potential customers.
As you well know, in fact, it is not always enough to publish a new post on Instagram or a new article on the blog.
If we want to reach more target people we have to invest money.
To date, the most effective means of online advertising is definitely Facebook and Google. Their advertising platforms are respectively called Facebook Ads (from which you can also make ads on Instagram) and Google Ads.
There is an essential difference between ads on Google and ads on Facebook / Instagram. The difference lies in the user’s need: we can in fact distinguish between conscious demand and latent demand.
In the first case, the user already knows his need well and is looking for a solution. If he is looking for specific information, in fact, he will most likely carry out a Google search.
The first results that come out will certainly be much more likely to be clicked.
To finish among the first results we can act organically, positioning our site in the first positions (through SEO – Search Engine Optimization – which we will discuss in more detail in another article), or we can invest in Google Ads, so as to appear our ad in the top results for certain keywords.
Facebook Ads, on the other hand, answer the so-called latent question. This is an actual need or interest of the user, but it is not actively trying to solve.
To better understand the difference, let’s take an example. Let’s take a dental clinic.
Let’s say you haven’t been to the dentist for a long time and you haven’t had any particular problems so far.
One day you get a severe toothache and need a check-up. Not having a trusted dentist, go to Google and actively search for a solution to your need.
In this case, let’s talk about a conscious question: you know your problem perfectly and are actively looking for a solution.
The speech is different in the case in which you do not have a toothache or any other type of urgency. Maybe in the evening you go to Instagram to pass the time and, while you are looking at your friends’ photos, an ad from a dentist appears advising you to periodically check-up and that it is better to prevent any problems.
At this point it is likely that intrigued by the announcement, you click on it and end up on the studio’s website by booking a visit. In this case, it is a question of latent demand.
Clearly, in this example, we are trivializing and simplifying the buying process.
This is just an example to understand the difference between Google Ads (which reach users who are aware of what they are looking for) and Facebook Ads (which instead reach users who are potentially interested but are not yet actively moving).
So are Google Ads or Facebook Ads better?
There is no correct answer, it depends.
It depends on your business, the nature of the product, customer awareness, price, previous marketing actions, etc.
In any case, making announcements is very important, even if the business is not online.
This is because it allows us to reach exactly the people we want to reach and who are potentially interested in our product.
If I have a burger restaurant and my audience is mostly young, I can decide to reach an audience of people who live within a 3km radius of the restaurant, who are between 18 and 30 years old.
If I have a luxury restaurant, however, I might decide to show my ads only to people between 30 and 60 who live in wealthy areas of the city and are interested in topics related to good food.
They are just trivial examples, each case must be analyzed and studied carefully.
However, they give an idea of the potential of these tools, which have a lot of data about their users and allow us to show our ads only to people who are potentially interested in what we offer.
However, this subject is very complex. This is why we always suggest that you turn to professionals who know these tools perfectly. This is because you risk wasting a lot of money without getting any results.
5. Have an optimized Google MyBusiness account
Google MyBusiness is an essential tool if you own a local business. It’s totally free and allows you to manage your business’s online presence on Google.
It contains all the necessary information in a small space: address, website, telephone number, photos, reviews of other customers, opening hours, etc.
Having an optimized Google MyBusiness profile is very useful for Google to help us intercept new potential customers.
Do you remember the concept of the conscious question we saw earlier? Let’s see it better by going back to the restaurant example.
If someone already knows the name of your restaurant and wants to see the opening hours, they will search for the name on Google and your listing will automatically appear.
But suppose that the customer does not know your restaurant, but is looking for a pizzeria in the area. If you have done a good job, in fact, Google will automatically suggest your restaurant among the first solutions.
In a few lines, the user will be able to see all the information they need to make the decision: distance, reviews, photos, etc.
Moreover, thanks to this tool, you can have a lot of information about who views your card. For this, I recommend that you always keep an eye on it.
I, therefore, recommend that you make sure that your Google MyBusiness profile is always perfectly up to date. In fact, you absolutely must consider it in your digital strategy and you cannot do without it if you want to improve your online presence.
6. Always acquire new leads
A Lead is a user who has shown interest in one of our products or services.
To show interest, he may have carried out various actions: he made a request for a quote, he left his contact details, he downloaded content from the site, etc.
Any business must have a strategy to acquire new leads on an ongoing basis. A percentage of these leads will convert into customers, allowing the company to earn and grow over time.
It’s simple, isn’t it? In theory yes, in practice a little less.
Most businesses, especially physical ones, don’t have a repeatable and measurable system for attracting leads, they simply wait for customers to arrive at the door.
This is obviously not a good way to do business.
In addition to not getting noticed by new people, in fact, it distances us from those potential customers who are instead attracted first by a competitor who uses these systems.
But how do you attract new leads to get their contact details left? We need to give our users an incentive.
This incentive must be useful, have a high perceived value, and must highlight our strengths and the reasons why the lead should proceed with the purchase.
This incentive is technically called a Lead Magnet and its content depends on the type of product we sell.
For example, if we sell a book we can offer the first chapter for free as a Lead Magnet; if we sell a language course we can offer some free lessons; if we sell jewelry we can offer a discount on the first purchase, etc.
Knowing how to attract new leads, however, isn’t enough to make sure some of them convert into customers.
In fact, once we have the contact details of the potential customer, we must have a strategy to communicate and convince the user that what we offer is the solution to their needs.
Once the contact has been acquired, in fact, we must cultivate the relationship with the user, so as to establish a relationship of trust.
The communications that will follow, in fact, will have to anticipate and respond to possible objections, will have to bring the user closer to our system of beliefs and values, and, finally, will have to convince him to make the purchase.
The best known and most used way to educate your leads is definitely Email Marketing, but there are also other tools that we will see and analyze in other articles.
If you still don’t have a proven, repeatable and measurable system for acquiring new leads, now is the time to start!
The more time passes, the more businesses are finally approaching the online world and exploiting it to grow.
Your competitors are most likely already doing this and benefiting from it to your detriment. If not yet, that’s a great reason to be the first to take the reins of your business and leverage online to continually attract customers.
7. A Marketing Strategy
Ok, you have a new site. How do you generate traffic now?
The photographer passed you the beautiful shots of the last session. How do you show them to your potential customers?
You post every day on social media. How do you turn followers into customers?
You have hundreds of email contacts from your customers. How do you use them to grow your business?
To all these questions and many others, there is only one answer: a marketing strategy.
A good marketing strategy is what connects all the dots seen before and allows you to reach more customers and make your business profitable.
For simplicity, we can define Marketing as that process which, starting from the study of your target, allows you to offer goods or services over time, in the most suitable channel and way, at the most convenient price for both the customer and the company.
We, therefore, need to show our message (who we are and what we sell) to the right people (potential customers) through the right channels and the right methods.
Marketing is often mistakenly confused with advertising. Advertising is only one step in the marketing process.
In fact, marketing follows all the phases of customer acquisition, which we can summarize in 5 points:
- Diffusion. We attract the attention of our potential customers by advertising our products or services;
- Education. We show our qualities, values, and strengths through various communication channels.
- Sale. The lead, convinced in the previous stages, makes the purchase and becomes a customer.
- Loyalty. The customer, satisfied with the experience, makes various purchases and establishes a relationship with the company.
- Referrals. The satisfied customer not only buys but speaks positively about his experience, fueling word of mouth and allowing us to reach new customers for free.
A good online positioning allows us to be present at all stages of the customer’s purchase process.
A marketing strategy, in fact, must not only bring in new customers. It must also increase the value of each individual customer (the so-called CLV – Customer Lifetime Value ).
Do you already have a strategy for attracting new leads? How do you convert leads or followers into customers? Do you know how to make customers come back? How do you go about increasing the average receipt? Are you already communicating the correct message to the right target? Are the channels you use the most effective for your business?
You most likely don’t have an answer to all of these questions. You most likely still don’t have a clear idea why a customer should choose your business and not your competitor.
This shouldn’t scare you, it’s normal. Most entrepreneurs don’t have everything clear.
The fact that it is normal, however, does not mean that it is correct. A successful entrepreneur must have all these points under control and must not rely on chance.
For this, a careful analysis of the current situation is necessary, so as to be able to study a marketing plan aimed at continuous growth over time.
We will study your case carefully and let you know shortly how I can help you achieve your goals.