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The Secrets to Attracting Business Online

Smart strategies for online marketing

This article is the first in a two-part series, and is based upon renowned small business expert Guy Kawasaki’s tips for small business owner Ronald Banks.Guy found that Ronald, like many small business owners, could be marketing his business more effectively online.

In years past, marketing your small business might have meant paying for radio or newspaper ads or taking a slot in the Yellow Pages.These days, small-business owners have even more options for getting the word out thanks to the explosion of online social networking.The best part is, it doesn’t take a big budget to successfully attract business.

But where do you start? Business marketing expert Guy Kawasaki offers a few tips to make the most of your online opportunities.

Manage your online profile. Whether you own a landscaping business or a law practice, prospective customers are most likely to find you online. Your job is to make sure they like what they see when they locate your web presence. Follow these steps to create an effective online profile:

  • Build a website. A website ensures that your business appears at or near the top of Google searches, especially if you chose a domain name that’s the same as your business’ name. A company website also lets you establish an email address at the new domain. To establish credibility, make sure you use that address for business email rather than a generic address from a Web-based email service.
  • Monitor your search results. Type your name and your business’ name into Google and other search engines.  The first few entries on the list will form the first impression for potential customers. Make sure it’s what you want it to be. (More on this below.)

Get smart with social media. In just a few short years, social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter have rocketed in popularity. Here are some strategies for making the most of social media to market your business.

  • Choose carefully. The social media sites you should utilize depend in large part on your business. Kawasaki notes that Facebook is more appropriate for businesses where pull marketing is effective. For example, a retailer running a promotion on a certain product can use Facebook to distribute a coupon and pull customers to their business.

LinkedIn and Twitter can be more effective for pushing information out to your network of contacts such as examples of work you’ve done or an article you recently published in an industry journal. Such information can help you to build your brand and build your credibility with certain contacts.

  • Be thorough. Social networking sites such as LinkedIn can do wonders for your online profile. Reason: The more information you have in your profile, the more likely you are to show up in Web searches. So make sure to fill your profile with detail. List every job you’ve held, every article or book you’ve written, and any community organizations in which you participate. Embed PowerPoint presentations and videos of speeches you’ve given. You’re not supposed to be modest on LinkedIn, says Kawasaki.

Position yourself as a subject-matter expert. Establishing yourself as an expert in your industry is an excellent way to drive new clients and new business to your company. Here’s how to do it.

  • Highlight your expertise. Answer questions, post links to your work and start your own discussion group on a given topic. The content doesn’t always need to be original. Find and share useful information or articles written by others (with permission where appropriate). Any information that assists others in your market can help you become the go-to person in your field.
  • Start blogging. You don’t have to write a new post every day; once or twice a week is sufficient. The key is to write about issues that are important and useful to customers and business partners.
  • Start speaking. A growing online reputation can lead to other marketing opportunities. For example, as an expert in your field you may be invited to speak at a conference, enabling you to deliver your expertise to a whole new audience.

In many cases, the marketing tools available online are easy to use and highly effective. But you need the right approach to make sure they’re being used correctly. Following these simple — and inexpensive — steps can help you take advantage of these tools to reach new customers and keep your business growing.

By Jeff Beckham and Scott Wieder

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