How to make your small business effective online

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.

Kettle adds that if your line of work has a go-to third-party web portal – such as www.realestate.co.nz or www.trademe.co.nz – then you should provide a professional online profile there, too.

“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.

The information on this website is provided for general information only and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from financial, legal and taxation advisors. Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the information, Prospa, its officers, employees and agents disclaim all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded), for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information or any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.

How tourism operators can attract international visitors

It wasn’t all too long ago that a simple one-paragraph mention in the Lonely Planet guidebook could be all it took to attract a healthy stream of international visitors to your tourism business. Now, things are a little more complicated.

These days you need to interact on Facebook, market on Instagram, regularly review your Google listing, upload flashy promos on YouTube, respond on TripAdvisor – oh, and actually run your tourism business.

It’s enough to make you want to take a holiday yourself.

So, how can you connect with would-be international visitors in 2020?

Nail the tourism marketing basics

Letitia Stevenson, Director at Yonder, which manages chatbots for tourism providers, says establishing a strong online presence is essential.

“The best tourism operators that we work with have got an extremely strong digital presence, via their website and social media pages,” she says.

“Make sure you’re on the newzealand.com website, your Regional Tourism Organisation’s website and that your page is search engine optimised.”

Stevenson also stresses the importance of having well-developed Google My Business and TripAdvisor listings.

“Ensure that these are up-to-date and that reviews are responded to,” Stevenson says.

Know your audience

A one-size-fits-all approach to attracting international visitors is probably not going to cut it in today’s highly competitive landscape.

Instead, tailor your marketing messaging to different international audiences and demographics, says Trent Yeo, founder of Ziptrek Ecotours in Queenstown.

For example, a marketing strategy that appeals to a Millennial in Europe may not necessarily appeal to a Boomer in Asia.

Yeo, who won the PATA New Zealand Trust Emerging Tourism Leader Award at the 2019 NZ Tourism Awards, says depending on the audience, their marketing messages sometimes centre on demonstrating Ziptrek’s values and ethos, while at other times they focus more heavily on the product itself, and what visitors can expect.

“Typically, when we’re marketing to Europe it’s more of a deeper eco-tourism story, whereas in the Asian context that’s not so much a decision driver.”

Embrace social media

Knowing your audience is also important when it comes to social media, says Stevenson.

“Some operators with products which have strong appeal to the Chinese market have had great success with WeChat marketing and using influencers,” says Stevenson.

“The use of social influencers to disperse content is starting to take off in NZ but is still very much in its infancy. Operators could take advantage of it a lot more.”

Another social media tip is to use video to show-off New Zealand’s natural beauty, says Yeo.

“Video has always been quite strong [as a tourism marketing channel] and lately we have been trying 360° video content,” he says.

Yeo says marketing in the tourism business is not set and forget – instead, it needs to be regularly tweaked to match the tastes of your target markets.

Build industry relationships – online and off

It may seem counterintuitive to team up with the competition, but building relationships with other tourism operators can be good for your own business, says Stevenson.

“In Taupo, they’ve got combo products where operators bundle and resell each others’ products,” she says.

Online travel agents (OTAs) also present a huge opportunity to attract international visitors.

“Make sure your product is bookable on third-party online travel agents such as Book Me, Get Your Guide and Viator,” Stevenson says.

Yeo adds, “OTAs are taking increasing volumes and having an increasing influence on the way in which tourism is moving forward.”

Need a boost for your next big tourism marketing push? Talk to Prospa about how a small business loan could give you the capital to help reach bigger audiences.

Image credit: Ziptrek Ecotours

The information on this website is provided for general information only and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from financial, legal and taxation advisors. Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the information, Prospa, its officers, employees and agents disclaim all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded), for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information or any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.