Starting a new business of any type is bound to come with a wide variety of challenges for the uninitiated owner and operator. But if you were motivated enough to create a business plan, gain funding, and launch your enterprise, there’s no reason you can’t jump through the hoops required to navigate the online arena. And when it comes to formulating strategies designed to help you acquire the loyal clientele needed to make your business venture a success, there are a few guidelines you may want to follow.
- Build a solid foundation. The place to start when you take your business to the online arena is with a website that embodies the message and branding of your real-world operation. In truth, this is even more important if you’ve decided to eschew the brick-and-mortar route and exist entirely in cyberspace. Your website will not only represent your company online, but it will also act at the first point of contact for many consumers, a point of sale for online shoppers, and the hub for all of your efforts in the virtual arena. So it’s important that you put a lot of thought into planning, building, and maintaining your business website.
- Institute SEO practices. Search engine optimization, in and of itself, will not increase your clientele. What it will do is increase your web presence and your ability to attract a targeted influx of traffic. If you consider that ten targeted visitors could deliver the same purchasing potential as a hundred or even a thousand accidental tourists that aren’t actually seeking your products or services, you’ll understand the reason why SEO is so important to the process of client acquisition online. Your customers have a lot of choices in the online arena, and getting found before the competition is your best bet for spreading your brand, increasing your online presence, attracting consumers, and ultimately, staying in business.
- Cross promote. When you’re first starting a business, you will probably find yourself facing two major problems associated with client acquisition online. First, you probably have limited resources, which is to say, money. And second, you may not have any notion of how to promote your brand or reach consumers, much less secure ongoing patronage. For these reasons you might want to consider the prospect of cross promotion. By teaming up with a compatible (but not competitive) business interest you can split the cost of promotion and benefit from the greater experience of your partner, maximizing your gains in the process.
- Control your online reputation. You can’t necessarily stop people from lambasting you online. With virtual anonymity to hide behind, anyone (including competitors, ex-employees, and unsatisfied customers) can use public forums to paint an unfair (and untrue) portrait of your company. You can combat this to some extent by flooding your online outlets with newer content to bury the bad stuff. But you might also consider hiring an online reputation management firm to do some of the heavy liftings for you.
- Don’t discount the basics. In your mad rush to create profiles on every social media platform that happens to be trending this month, you may have overlooked a few methods of promoting your business that could prove effective at connecting you to potential clients. So don’t forget to list with brilliant directories for your field, butter up industry bloggers, and join forums in order to insert yourself into the online community that you plan to be part of. These tactics may not be as sexy as tweeting and engaging in SEO, but they’re an easy way to expand your online presence and the payoff could far exceed the expense in time and money.