Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) around the world have responded to surveys reporting the biggest challenges they are trying to overcome, with 66% stating that finding new customers remains their top concern.
Yet, despite 70-80% of people researching a small business online before visiting their store, GoDaddy Inc. reported last year that as many as 60% of small businesses may not have a website, with owners reasoning the cost was not justified for their small operations.
In response, Sage South Africa have published tips to help owners understand how they can promote their business online through use of free and cheap tools and methods to help customers find them more easily.
Be consistent and use directories
Despite so many SMEs not having their own website, 96% still use social media marketing to promote their business. Once a company creates a free business page on a social media site, customers can search for it via search engines.
The more social media accounts a business uses, the more likely information won’t be updated on one of them over time. Using the same URLs, logos and contact details give a sense of consistency and, thus, a sense of professionalism and reliability.
Business directories are the online equivalent of the phone book and most are free to register with, enabling customers to see a business’ location, contact details and description straight from the search page.
Only 5% of small business owners prioritise search engine results because most believe it is too complicated.
Fortunately, website builders, like WordPress, enable non-technical developers to easily build smart, mobile-ready websites. Plugins, like Yoast SEO, scan the site and offer tips for how to boost the search engine score.
Using key words throughout the site, alternative descriptions in images and writing meta descriptions can all be done easily, quickly and for free, and all contribute towards helping customers finding the business using a search engine.
Promote through other websites
SMEs can boost publicity and links to their website by finding blogs, forums and online magazines which focus on the same industry or pursuit. Writing guest articles which link back to the business’ website or offering interviews will raise awareness of the business, boosting customer potential.
Alternatively, businesses can create their own online communities by publishing a blog. Blog posts establish a business as an industry expert, which, in turn, generates trust with its readers, meaning they will be more likely to make purchases or recommend the business.
Engage with customers
Customers value engagement, as evidenced by the forecast that customer-relationship management (CRM) is on track to become a $40 billion industry in 2018. Using social media is not only a free way to connect with customers, but will boost a business’ reputation if done correctly.
Providing customers with a timely and polite responses will keep customers happy and loyal. While loyal customers are more likely to make purchases, they are also more likely to leave positive ratings and reviews on a business’ social media page and promote its marketing by sharing it within their communities.