These days, most of your potential customers will whip out their smartphones and suss out your business before walking through the front door and spending their dollars. But what happens if they can’t find anything about you online?
They might give you a miss or, worse still, take their business to your competitor.
Yet, as recently as 2016, almost one in two Kiwi businesses had no online presence.
“Nowadays, every single one of your customers is online. So if you’re still not online, you’re missing out on new customers. You’re also missing out on a chance to maintain your relationship with current customers,” says Matt McNeil, Managing Director of digital marketing agency The Digital Cafe.
John Kettle, an apartment specialist for Tommy’s Real Estate in Wellington, agrees, saying increasing his online presence has helped him become the number one apartment agent in Wellington on Google (try googling: ‘apartment specialist Wellington’).
“In my market, visibility is really important. As real estate agents, we’ve got to be seen,” Kettle says.
“It’s all about getting my name out there to raise awareness in my core market.”
The basics of creating an online presence
At a minimum, McNeil says your business should have a Google My Business listing, a basic website and a Facebook and/or Instagram page.
“You don’t need to have a bespoke, super-snazzy website developed. There are a lot of very cost-effective options such as Squarespace or Shopify, which can provide a slick-looking site at a minimal cost,” he says.
“Think about where your customers go, and then make sure you have a digital presence at every potential customer touchpoint,” Kettle says.
Online strategy dos and don’ts
Your next step is to work out what you’re trying to achieve so that you can set up focused marketing strategies, McNeil advises.
“If your end goal is selling online you might want to put out content that’s engaging and brings your audience to your website. Then you can retarget them with remarketing ad strategies or email campaigns,” he says.
Whatever marketing strategy you choose, McNeil says, you need to make sure you’re consistent and disciplined.
“There’s nothing worse than a business that says, ‘Look at our monthly blog’. And then there’s nothing since July 2016. The customer starts to think, ‘Hang on, what’s going on here? Are these guys still in business?’” he says.
Yet it’s equally important not to spread yourself too thin. For example, you don’t necessarily need to be on Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn.
“You don’t need to be everywhere. You’re better off going to where your audience is and doing it well,” says McNeil.
And while it’s easy to post the same content across all channels, that doesn’t mean you should.
“One big mistake businesses make is not thinking about context. Don’t just splash everything across every social media channel,” says McNeil.
“If you’re a real estate agent, you might publish a market analysis on LinkedIn, but your Instagram post might instead be a lifestyle picture of yourself with a comment about how you’re absolutely loving living in the suburb of Parnell.”
Boost your content
It may be free to post on social media but don’t expect a free run. Organic reach (i.e. having your post seen by your followers without paying for your post to be amplified) is effectively over for small businesses looking to leverage social media channels, says McNeil.
“You have to put dollars into it. Even if you only put in $10 a week, you’ll still reach a couple of thousand people. But if you don’t put any money into them, nobody will see your posts,” he warns.
Use the data
The other key advantage of this brave new digital world is that you can analyse the effectiveness of campaigns in real-time, McNeil says.
“Data is one of the most useful things your business can now harness. For example, with newspaper ads back in the day it was hard to tell if they were effective or not,” he says.
“Now, you can see that an ad reached 2000 people, and they clicked on that ad far more than the previous one. So, if you ignore the data, you’re missing half the point of going digital.”
Don’t be intimidated by online marketing
Finally, adds McNeil, don’t be daunted. If you run a small business you’ve most likely got the skills, initiative and resilience required to research and implement an effective online strategy.
That said, you don’t have to go it alone, Kettle says.
“If you get a specialist in, that can free you up to continue to focus on what you do best, which for me is getting out there, getting listings, meeting clients and selling real estate,” he says.
Thinking of investing in your online presence in 2020? Talk to a Prospa business lending specialist about how a small business loan could help you reach more potential customers than ever before.
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