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Standing Out in the Digital Age

A drive down Main Street, most any Main Street, just isn’t what it used to be. Granted, window dressing and signage might catch an eye or two, but this is now the world of the fast and the furious. A storefront with pop and pizazz isn’t enough to stay competitive in today’s rapid-fire, ever-changing, ever-trending online world. Now, a business must paint a digital picture of itself, and it better be a show stopper, or it, too, risks potential customers scrolling
right past it.

If it all feels a bit intense, that’s because it is.

According to Google, 85 percent of shoppers looking for a product or service immediately go online to search for businesses. That staggering stat raises a few basic but critical questions: Can they find you, and what will they see? Are you there, and how do you appear?

Many small business owners are overwhelmed by the complexity of online marketing options, which seem to be constantly evolving. Though they might be eager to get into the game, fear and confusion become roadblocks, until sitting on the sidelines of online marketing becomes the only option. And the sideline stance can be the death knell of a business.

EMOTIONAL DRIVERS

A Harvard study concluded that 95 percent of people are driven by their emotions when shopping. A business can, and should, describe the services it offers and what sets it apart. But including key emotional drivers, such as trust and likability, is critical. A business whose messaging doesn’t take those drivers into consideration does so at its own risk. So how does a business make that emotional connection while also including the important basics?

Google suggests the best way to make an online impact is to start with a good business profile that shows the quality and values of your business. It must include a business’s basic information, such as phone number, address and website. In addition to a Google profile, most businesses also have a profile with the Better Business Bureau. Your BBB Business Profile is where potential clients can see your BBB letter grade, accreditation status and customer reviews, so this would be another place where you want to ensure potential customers can get the feeling of trust from your business.

Along with a solid profile, there are some important things every business should include. First, photos. The online attention span for most people is fewer than nine seconds, or less than that of a goldfish. As a result, images are more important than ever, especially on social media. These images can also create the emotional connection a business needs with its customers, along with showing them what the business offers.

Another way to share more of a business’s story is by creating and actively managing a blog. Blog posts can create trust and credibility. According to Forbes Magazine, a carefully crafted website can’t hold a candle to a blog post when it comes to showing the personal side of your business. Blogging gives your business a way to touch on issues and concerns of interest to your prospects, while also sharing what you and your employees are passionate about. Your blog posts give you a unique opportunity to share your voice and personality, building up trust and increasing your brand’s likeability quotient. Blog posts posted correctly can also help your SEO.

CUSTOMER REVIEWS

Another huge influence on the emotional connection consumers feel with your business is online reviews. This creates stress for many business owners because they find managing online reviews a headache. But according to studies done by the Better Business Bureau, 88 percent of consumers claim customer reviews have an impact on their choice in the marketplace.

The key is managing reviews properly. It is crucial to a company’s success and to the emotional impact on potential or current customers. Handling reviews in a timely manner should be a top priority. One way to make this task easier is setting up an alert every time a new review comes in or consumers talk about your product or services.

While negative reviews are cringe-worthy, consumers like to see both sides. Typically, consumers are less concerned that a company got a negative review if the business has responded in an appropriate and helpful way. Each review, good and bad, deserves a response because they are equally helpful to a business. Respond appropriately, and with a first-person perspective. If it is a good review, a simple “thank you” is fine. If it is a bad review, make an honest effort to resolve the issue. Do not engage in an online dialogue. Instead, try to take it “offline” and respond more personally via phone or email.

CONTROL YOUR DESTINY

Don’t hesitate to take control and engage with your customers; if you gave them a wonderful experience, ask them to share it and tell them where to share it. If you don’t ask, your chances are slim to none of getting a positive customer review. If a customer has a bad experience, they will set out to write a bad review. A customer with a good experience may simply let you know in person, over the phone or in email within a conversation.

Creating a strong online presence for a business and keeping it current may seem daunting. It does take work, but it is crucial to success. Just remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint. Establishing an online presence doesn’t happen overnight. It requires time and patience. You must be willing to commit to growing in this aspect, just as you would in scaling your business. While you may want to step away, know that with due diligence and patience, results will come.

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Written by Jeremy Johnson

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