10 online strategies for traditional businesses
Traditional businesses are aware of the need to incorporate the internet into their overall strategy. The desired approach should seek to retain the strengths of the existing core business whilst using the internet to enhance value.
Here are my top 10 tips for gaining better use from the internet
1. Know Your Website Audience.
You know the type of people who will visit your shop or place an enquiry, and you will respond in a way that tunes in with them. Make sure your website also resonates in the same way. Engineers or buyers seeking a quote may prefer functional websites over flashy ones.
2. Free Monitoring & Research
Do all your monitoring & research online for free – no need for a PR firm. Google Alerts allows you to monitor phrases and alert you when they appear on the internet – such as your name or that of your company. Google Analytics is a powerful tool to monitor volumes & keywords, exit and entry pages for your website. RSS Feeds allow you to receive newsfeeds in the form of a personalised magazine.
3. Research using LinkedIn
Word of mouth remains the primary trigger to gain business. However with an increasing number of business people on LinkedIn, many are using this tool to research & double check credentials. Too many people set themselves up on LinkedIn and do nothing more. The ones who have taken it seriously & created a full profile and published recommendations generate a lot more business.
4. Give Before You Get
Visitors arriving at your website do not have the reassurance of knowing whether they can trust you in the way they can when visiting your shop or calling your office. If your business is about giving advice, consider a “freemium” model – giving useful information away for free tempting the reader to contact you. This concept feels alien when traditional business owners first explore the internet, believing they should be charging the customer for everything.
5. Nurture Your Customer Data
Having the email of a customer may appear to be just a point of contact. But if you gather specific data on your customer and you have the opportunity to develop that relationship. For a musical instrument repair business, knowing which customers have a clarinet allows the owner to email a tips sheet for clarinet maintenance just to those who own one.
6. Protect Your Prices
A traditional business prices its products at a level which covers the overheads of a shop or office. Online businesses can sell at a lower price as they have fewer overheads to cover. Using the website to compete on price will ultimately pull down the shop prices to online levels and ruin the business.
7. Retail or Wholesale
When selling furniture, someone experienced in e-commerce has a much greater chance of success in selling furniture online than a person who has had a traditional retail outlet for 20 years. However the e-commerce person has no experience in product sourcing. Perhaps the struggling traditional retailer could switch his focus from direct retailing to selling products on a wholesale basis to the online retailers, thereby capitalising on his strengths.
To get your website found in Google, a very important element is the number of “backlinks” pointing to your website from other websites. These have different values, and a link from a government website is worth a thousand links from start-up sites. So it is important to find complimentary business that you can pass work to and from as well as backlinks. You may also find businesses that pay 5-10% affiliate commission if a clickthrough from your site to theirs results in a sale.
9. Don’t Hide Yourself Away
If you provide a service, one of the first places a visitor goes on your website is “About Us”, followed by “Testimonials”. If you have lots of case studies, testimonials, awards and years of experience to trump the competition, then put it all on the website to give your visitor the confidence to get in contact.
10. Think Keywords
You should have lodged at the front of your mind around half a dozen keywords or keyphrases. They are the words a prospective customer would type into Google to find your website and describe your business. They should also appear in offline marketing literature, your elevator pitch when networking, and press releases. In fact everywhere.
I’d welcome your comments if you think there is an angle I haven’t covered.