This article has been contributed by Chatwalee Pingkasan.
With more than half of the global population connected to the internet, having an online presence is no longer an option for brands. The latest report from WeAreSocial estimates that around 4.5 billion people currently use the internet, which is a penetration rate of 60%. In the US alone, 87% of the general population is online.
So, it’s not surprising that having an online presence is one of the best ways to connect with your customers – if you can stand out successfully. In our current world, starting a business is much easier than it used to be, which makes the landscape very crowded.
There are many options for listing your business online, with some being less complicated and expensive than others. For example, it’s cheaper and easier to launch a social media account for your business than it is to design a full-blown app or website.
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of online marketing, lets us first break down what makes a brand. The simplest definition of a brand is what your company is known for. What are your values and customer promise? Forbes defines a brand as the reputation of a company, including the name and how people perceive its products and services. When people think about your brand, what is the first thing that comes to their mind? Is your tagline memorable? Does your product solve their pain points? Is it affordable?
As a business owner, you will need to think about all these things to ensure that you are getting a return on investment from your online assets. Online assets are things you own, like websites, apps, and social media platforms that you use to communicate with your customers.
Why Does Your Business Need to Be Online?
Having an online presence allows you to maximize your business’ reach, and thus to attract as many customers as possible – with the right marketing strategy. Being online will not only help improve your brand reputation, but it will also grow your sales.
For example, Amazon continuously generates sales because of the trust people have in the brand. When shopping, you can view product descriptions and also read reviews from other customers. Amazon makes sure that its customers have a seamless shopping experience by giving them many choices, affordable products, and stellar after-sales service. This is the model you need to emulate when running your own business.
How to Build Your Online Presence
1. Develop Your Brand Identity
Brand identity design is one of the most crucial steps in online marketing. Your identity is the visual and sensory elements that are used to identify your brand.
A successful brand identity will use visual – and sometimes tactile, audio and aroma – elements to tell your brand’s story and engage people about who you are in a meaningful way. Brand identity elements include color, logo, typographic treatments, graphic elements and image style.
When it comes to color, you need to identify which ones best represent your brand. Understanding the psychology of color is particularly important because different colors are responsible for evoking certain emotions in your customers.
For example, yellow evokes happiness and is the first color the eye sees. You will find that most fast-food restaurants chose to have red as part of their color scheme because red easily attracts attention and also stimulates hunger. A fast-food chain like McDonald’s uses red and yellow to set an inviting ambiance to their customers while at the same time promising timely delivery of orders. Green, on the other hand, is peaceful and offers a nature-like environment. Try thinking about how peaceful it is to work from Starbucks while enjoying a hot cup of coffee.
Having a creative logo is also part of your visual marketing efforts. A great logo will grab the attention of your customer and make a lasting impression. Logos that successfully convey a message are some of the most effective. Considering hiring a brand designer and strategist to design a creative logo for your business is a good option. Alternatively, there are hundreds of online logo resources that you can use to design a logo that presents your company in the right light.
2. Create a Website
With the right tactics, you can easily build a strong and authentic online presence that will eventually lead to a growth in sales and revenue. However, you need to gain your customers’ trust. One of the best ways of doing this is by building a website. People are more likely to buy from you when you have a website because this is where they go to learn more about your company, products, and services.
You can design a website from scratch using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Wix or Webflow. You will need to buy a domain name, and once done, design your website using the many themes that they have. Website builders have many beautiful free themes that are easy to customize. If you have a budget, you can also opt for premium themes, which often come at an affordable cost.
3. Use Attractive Visuals
Your business is probably going to have better engagement when you use visuals as part of your content. Visuals are more likely to pass your message to your customers because 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual.
You can win at visual marketing by using a few effective tactics. If you have a blog, always aim to incorporate a featured image at the beginning of your blog post. Remember to use an image that is relevant to the content it is placed next to. You can shoot your images or look for free ones online. You need to ensure that you have permission to use online photos to avoid copyright issues.
Quality imagery is essential for most social media platforms, particularly Instagram, YouTube and TikTok. Always be sure to choose imagery that accurately refelcts your brand. Black and white images convey classic timelessness, whilst witty GIFs reflect a modern, humorous brand. Whatever images you choose, be consistent within and across platforms – including your socials, website and any print collateral you may produce.
4. Customize Your Social Media Accounts
Social media marketing is one of the most effective methods of promoting your products or services. According to the latest research, people roughly spend around 2 hours a day on social media platforms.
The use of digital marketing channels like social media is a great way of standing out online. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have made brands more relatable when creating marketing campaigns.
Brands are now more accessible to their customers as they can easily interact with them on their social media platforms. To get the most out of your platforms, you need to update your pages regularly with memorable content. You also need to respond to all customer queries within a stipulated time, usually 24 hours. You can also incorporate giveaways and competitions to create buzz and drive engagement.
5. Create Meaningful Content
In the online marketing world, content is king. Creating memorable content will ensure your brand remains top of mind and lead to a 20-fold increase in the value of your business. In this context, content means any picture, image, video, article, music, or podcast you upload to your website or social media channels.
To build your online reputation, you need to create authentic content that people can easily identify with. In content marketing, you need to create a rapport with your followers in the first five seconds. Remember, people do not have time to listen to sales pitches, but they have the time to listen to a story. Having a brand story is a great way of selling your product without trying too hard.
Coming up with a great brand story is all about telling your brand’s truth. Instead of telling your customers to buy a particular product from your store, tell them a creative story of how it came to be. Your brand story should incorporate how it serves the pain points of your customer.
Adidas created a touching Break Free campaign that encourages people to never give up on their dreams. In the short video, a man is seen reminiscing about his younger athletic days and decides to start running again. The campaign elicits feelings of nostalgia and encourages people to keep pushing until they achieve their dreams.
You can improve the chances of having a successful storytelling campaign by using a creative hashtag.
6. Optimize Your Website
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your visibility on search engines such as Google. SEO is a great way of standing out online, especially when you make it to the first page of the search engine results.
SEO is a long-term digital marketing strategy that requires patience and consistency unless you are willing to pay for ad space on these search engines. Before you choose specific keywords, you need to do keyword research so that you can select the right ones. You can do this by using a tool such as Google Keyword Planner, which shows you which keywords are most used in searches and the competition to rank for them.
Your focus keywords will guide you when you are creating your content and ensure you are on the right track. Be careful not to use keywords too many times – known as keyword stuffing – as Google won’t reward your content for it as much as if you simply provide interesting, useful content on your website.
Regularly updating your website is also a great way of optimizing it. There is nothing as annoying as clicking on a search result and ending up on a website that was last updated five years ago. When you update your website, you build your brand reputation on search engines and are more likely to appear in the top results.
You can keep your website updated by writing a weekly blog or uploading new product photos and releases. To properly optimize your website, you can use an in-house team or outsource to a company that provides SEO services.
7. Create a Seamless User Experience for Your Customers
Ensuring your website is optimized to run on different screens like mobiles, tablets, and desktops is a sure way to win at online marketing. Google is starting to push out slower websites, so yours must load in the shortest time possible.
You can track your website loading speed by using Google Speed insights, which tells you how long your site takes to load and a few tips on how to improve.
Keeping content such as pictures and videos as light as possible, or properly optimizing them, will also ensure that your pages load very fast. You can also delete under-performing landing pages to reduce your loading time.
Creating a great user experience for your customers will not only generate sales leads, but it will also keep your customers coming back for more. If getting more people to sign up for your newsletter is one of your goals, you need to make sure that people enjoy being on your website. If they love their experience, they are more likely to give you a shout out and share on their social media handles.
Getting your business online is one of the best things you can ever do for yourself. Running a business, especially now during a pandemic, offers its own sets of challenges. Embracing the various digital marketing techniques outlined above will not only help you thrive but also open up new avenues for growing your sales. Giving your small business an online presence will ensure that people can easily find you and may even save you advertising costs in the long run.
About the Author: Chatwalee Pingkasan is a full-time SEO specialist at Noria Digital. Digital marketing, lifestyle travel writing, and the practice of self-care are currently her main interests.