Does your business rely mostly on relationship selling and word of mouth for its operation? If so, you are not alone as many do.

As a Vancouver-based marketer catering to small and medium sized companies across Canada, I often hear that digital communication doesn’t make much of a difference in the survival and growth of their businesses, because most of their revenue comes from direct relationship sales and word of mouth.

It is a reality that many businesses of this size count on their business and personal networks for a steady stream of work and referrals, myself included. We are living in different times than we were even 5 years ago, where we can no longer ignore the fact that 75% of business buyers (consumers are at 85%) look to a company’s website, check out their social media channels and read reviews in order to make a buying decision. The same is true for HR managers seeking to take on a new hire where an individual’s personal brand online in social channels has a huge impact on the outcome.

This change and evolution in the way people consume information and make decisions is about to increase the stakes significantly for many small to medium sized businesses who are not digitally savvy, and can’t quite wrap their minds around the need. Even if they do searches and read reviews themselves before making a buying decision!

There is another big reason for the resistance to marketing their companies in a digital environment. Many business owners today are Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who were not born with a smartphone in their hand, unlike the Millennials. It’s a second language to most people between the ages of 35 to 65, and, as we are all already so busy selling and operating a business, squeezing in family, exercise and a wee bit of fun, who has the time to learn a new “language”, or the money to hire a marketing specialist?

Although if your target audience does happen to be in your age bracket, consider this: Baby boomers (born 1946–1964) spend more time consuming online content (20+ hours per week) than the other two generations. Surprisingly, more Gen Xers (born 1965–1976) and Millennials (born 1977–1995) spend closer to 5-10 hours of their weeks checking out digital content. (Source: contently.com)

As true as it is that time seems to get sucked up faster than ever and budgets are tight, many entrepreneurs are leaving potential sales and opportunity on the table, loosing out to competitors who are reaching customers where they are searching for answers to their problems, and sharing information online.

Small business that do have a website (built 5 or more years ago) may think that they have a digital footprint because they have a presence, and their company name is searchable. However, their website is using old tech, isn’t mobile friendly (Yikes, Google no likey) and whatever shows up in a search result may not be giving a prospective customer the best impression of their business.

It is not OK to just “get by” anymore in our new world of search, social conversations, multi-media and various digital platforms such as smartphones, tablets and desktops; companies of all sizes must be proactive in adapting or risk becoming extinct.

A recently published digital media forecast by Forbes discussed the overwhelming dominance of mobile use over desktop, and the rising popularity of video marketing which is growing at an alarming rate.

If you happen to have a company website, fantastic! But, if it’s not immediately engaging in a human-to-human (#H2H) way, mobile friendly and easy to navigate, people will bounce off your site so fast and BOOM, lost potential sale.

The Solution

I understand your workload is already heavy and adding another activity like marketing on top of it all is difficult. That said, if you don’t make this aspect of your business a priority, you may be missing out on attracting customers and keeping the sale funnel full.
Here are 3 tips to building a positive digital footprint:

1. Create objectives, do your research and develop an integrated marketing plan

In order to be successful at anything that we want in life, we must know where we are heading and have objectives to work towards, along with a plan for the best approach to reach them. A marketing plan must include defining your customer persona, where they are spending their time (reading, watching, listening, surfing, networking, etc.), what their customer journey is and the experience that they are looking for, and the type of content that they consume.

2. Get a professional, mobile enabled website created

This is truly a critical piece of your business as without an attractive, modern-built website that immediately speaks to your audience, your business will suffer.

Surprisingly, 54% of small businesses in Canada don’t have a website because they think they can get by without one, or that they are too expensive. There are so many options available today such as template websites which are inexpensive to build, so if you don’t have one yet, it’s time!

85% of business owners with websites say it gives them a significant advantage as they are more easily found online and their target customer has the chance to learn about them, speeding up the sales cycle.

3. Launch your social channels for prospects and customers to use and find you, give them helpful and relevant information, and talk to them.

Is your target audience on LinkedIn or Twitter, for example? (They most likely are.)  If yes, ensure you have a fantastic, company page with your audience of followers seeing relevant, insightful, informative and human-oriented content. Post informative blog articles, how-to videos, pictures of your team in action, your CEO speaking (or singing?) at a charity event, industry infographics, podcasts, webinars, case studies on customers you helped, etc. A small business without large resources can still have a great public presence in social channels, see Marketplace Home Mortgage on LinkedIn as an example.

Companies without insightful content are seen as if they can’t be bothered, or that they don’t have the resources to serve their audience, which will hurt their brand and ultimately, sales prospects.

Reach out to others in your company’s network commenting on their posts. Social media is meant to be a 2-way conversation, rather than simply pushing out self-serving, promotional content. Make your posts interesting, knowledgeable, conversational, thought-provoking, inspirational and fun for people to follow your channels and learn about you, to gain trust and a desire to do business with you.

Take these basic steps and you will be on your way to building a successful online presence attracting like-minded people who could become repeat customers and brand advocates.

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If you would like to speak about how we can help with your digital communication, call us at 604-687-2004 or email info@activ8inc.com and we’d be happy to have a conversation with you.