Imagine how cool it would be to be invisible…You could sneak into the cinema and watch films for free (providing no-one sits on you) while pinching popcorn from the person next to you, think of all the major events you could get up close to, the conversations you could listen in to…you would be able to observe life from a totally different perspective.
But what about the downside? How lonely would it be if you couldn’t interact with people? After all, who would be able to listen to a bodiless voice without thinking they are going mad? You would get injured by people walking into you. How would you get a salesperson or waitress to sell you clothes or food?
After the novelty had worn off, the negative effect of being invisible would start to outweigh the initial fun. So when would it definitely NOT be a bonus to be invisible? If you were a TV actor, perhaps? Or a safety steward? In these situations, it is impossible to be successful unless you can be seen.
Why Being Invisible Online Is Fatal For Your Business
Now let’s think about a business. Many businesses would love to be invisible for taxes, but joking apart, what about the impact it would have on your customers? There are absolutely no advantages to being invisible to your customers, and yet still today, that is exactly how some businesses appear (or rather don’t appear) to their customers. How could this happen to you?
When it comes to making an informed purchase decision, customers are much more savvy today. They won’t just take your word for how good your product or service is. They will research companies and products online, looking for the best solution for themselves. You may have the best product in the world which will match their demands 100% better than any other company but if they can’t see your business quickly you won’t even enter the running for their business.
If you have a suspicion your business may be invisible to a lot of your customers at the moment, there is no need to panic. Unlike the original Invisible man, your visibility can be restored with a little work. Here is some great advice on how to restore your company profile to the attention of your customers.
Is Your Business In Plain Sight?
For any local business, customers who live within 5 – 10 miles are their lifeblood. While some businesses may have a local customer base slightly further afield, local customers will be your most important consumer. This is especially true if your business provides services they can’t get remotely. For example, who gets their teeth fixed by email?
As we mentioned earlier, customers want to make a much more informed buying decision. They want to research what products or services are available, which local businesses can supply them, what price they are and which company offers the best value and service. What’s more, they want to be able to look online whenever and wherever they may be – at work, out having a coffee or just generally on the go. Smartphones and tablets have made the internet portable so your business needs to be able to go where the people are.
But having a website isn’t the end of it. It doesn’t automatically follow that the website you see on your desktop computer will display correctly and be user-friendly when a person looks at it on their smartphone. Don’t assume it is, checks! By looking at your site on a smartphone and trying to navigate around it, you can make sure visitors to your site get the experience and information you want them to see quickly and easily. If your site isn’t optimised for mobile devices, it may be slow to load or clumsy to navigate. Smartphone users have notoriously short patience levels. If a site takes longer than 5 seconds to load they will simply go off to look at the next site.
Search engines are constantly being refined and people choose to use their mobile devices rather than a physical directory like Yellow pages. Today, the results from search queries are being delivered to people based on the location they are searching from, so local businesses near to the position of the searcher are shown first. That is only a plus for your business if the search engines can find you in the first place. So when was the last time you checked how visible you are in search results?
First, try a general search. Type in your business name. Can you see your business website listed? You should also be able to see other accounts like your Twitter, Facebook and Google+ Local pages, as well as reviews and articles that mention your business.
Next, try a more specific local search on Google maps. Go to http://maps.google.com. In the search box type in your city and the type of business you run. What the results bring up is a local area map with 4 – 10 little red balloon-shaped markers that have a letter on. Down the left-hand side of the screen, you will see the letter key for the markers, giving the business name and web address of each of the markers.
Here, you will see all the competition in your area marked out. As you hover over each marker, information about that business is shown. This page is great for making your business stand out from the competition especially in a highly competitive market. Can you see your business here?
One final check to do – try typing just your business telephone number into the search box. Ideally, you should see your website, all your Google entries and any other online directory you have added your company details in. But what do you see in the results? Are your details there or can you only see sites offering to reverse trace the number?
Do these checks give you confidence about the visibility of your business on the internet or are they confirming your worst fears…that no one out in cyberspace can find you?
You needn’t worry. Nothing is irreversible. With a little work on your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), you can turn it around. Is it all that vital? Yes, it really is. If you have a local business that relies on customers coming through your door – say a dentist or restaurant – if your customer can’t find your business first on their mobile device while they are out and about, they will find a competitor instead.
Now you have determined how visible your business is to your potential customers online, it’s time to start raising the size of the audience that can notice it through sound marketing strategies.
Market Your Business
Here are some really helpful marketing tips and advice on ways you can increase the visibility of your business to as many potential customers as you can.
The iPhone. Blu Tack. Velcro. Why were all these products such incredible successes? They all offered a solution to a problem that was unique, special and that wasn’t available anywhere else. You need to take that principle and apply it to the information available on your site. What could set you up as an authority more than being able to supply answers to the issues and problems of your potential customers?
If visitors know they can come to your site, ask a question and then get a useful solution, you are putting a value on your business in the minds of both the people who ask the questions and in the minds of the many more people who read your answers. These people will come back to you time and again. Once you have established your credibility, you will create loyal customers who buy from you time and again.
Create A Resource
How many times have you had a question and typed it into a search engine to find the answer? It is the most common way to find an answer quickly to any place and at any time. Now imagine someone searching for a solution to a problem and your site comes up in the search results. There on the page is the solution they have been looking for, not only to that question but to other problems they have been having. How happy do you think that person would be?
This is something you can easily put into place by adding a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page to your site. It will act as an information resource for people searching for answers. It is easily set up with possible issues your business can give solutions to, and very easy to keep updated with queries as they come up. If visitors can see you are giving great customer service by helping them make an informed choice, it won’t be long before they go from potential to actual customers.
How many pages does your site have? 10? 2? 1? What does the size of your site tell visitors? If it is only 1 page long with your business hours and telephone number on, it won’t encourage much confidence in your attitude toward your customers. It tells them you can’t be bothered with, or have much interest in, your customer.
People can’t know who you are, what you do or what you can offer unless you tell them. So tell them! Don’t be shy in showing exactly what you have to offer after all this website is your shop window. How many shops block up their bricks and mortar business windows to stop people looking in? The role of your site is to show people all the many ways your business can help make their life better. So fill it full of really useful information, but not just about your products and services.
When people are looking for a solution, they will go to whichever site has the answer, not which site has the prettiest header. If there is no information there, they will move on and are much less likely to revisit your site the next time they have a question. By offering visitors a range of useful, accurate and informative advice, not only do you raise the profile of your site but you are encouraging and building their confidence in you as an expert. This will lead to a greater confidence in your business and on to them buying from you.
Chose Your Words Wisely
We don’t read the same way we talk, so we need to keep in mind there is no intonation or emphasis when words are written down on a page or screen. Because of that, a sentence that sounds mischievous and funny when we say it turns into a rude or offensive comment.
So make your words count. Don’t put irrelevant information on your site just for the sake of filling up space. That only results in making your visitor have to work to pick out the information they need from the rest and can have the effect of putting them off ever coming back. Everything on your site needs to relate to your business and have some value to your visitors, whether it is information about products or services or solutions to problems.
And less is more. When someone makes a search they are often pressed for time. People like to be able to quickly get the pertinent points out of what they are reading and be able to act or move on. So don’t put in useless information or keep repeating product information in different ways just for something to look at. It is counterproductive – it puts people off.
Why do supermarkets keep changing the position of groceries on their shelves? It is because the appearance gets stale and old if you get used to the way something looks, and you cease to notice things. The same principle applies to your website.
Once someone has been on your website, when they come back they will expect things to look differently, otherwise, they will pass over things and not see any relevant information, even though it may be exactly what they are looking for.
Just as big global brands refresh and shake up the way they look to become more visible again to their customers, local businesses should be using the same principle and regularly update both the look and content of their site. That way, customers will always have something new and interesting to come back to.
If you don’t feel confident about changing the main site information, adding a blog is a really easy but fun way to add new information regularly. Blogs are much less formal than other information contained on your site. Being more conversational in tone makes them quick and easy to add to. You can easily add a blog entry in 10 minutes and it puts a more human side on your business being able to read the conversation of a real person.
Fresh content is absolutely crucial to raising the visibility of your site to the search engines. This monitor how regularly sites are updated with content, as well as the amount of traffic going to your site. The more of each you can accomplish, the easier it will be for your potential customers to find you.
Lost For Words? Show them!
Sometimes words aren’t enough to describe how something works or will benefit a customer. Sometimes, words won’t show you how reliable the product, service, advice or information is. Sometimes you just have to see it for yourself to make up your own mind. The great thing about the internet is you can do just that!
People love to see things in action to see how they work. Websites are great billboards for videos, pictures, even audio media. How much better it is to be able to SHOW people cast-iron proof that YOUR solutions WORK? How much more confidence will a visitor have in what you are telling them if you can then show them the results? It’s an acknowledged fact that being able to see something in action will sell more product.
Be More Human
The internet has been good and bad for both businesses and customers alike. Gone are the days when a customer’s only choice was to visit a brick and mortar business or not, where they could uncomfortably browse under the hard beady stare of the sales assistant. Now, shopping is a much more long-distance affair. Customers can browse in the comfort of their own home and order remotely without ever having to speak to a real person.
But this kind of shopping doesn’t generate the kind of brand loyalty someone has to personal service or good customer relations. Social media provides a perfect outlet for your business to start re-humanising itself again in the minds of customers. Strategic targeting marketing through social media is having great results for businesses of all sizes.
Use Other Media To Get Yourself Heard
Businesses can be a little shy in telling the world about themselves, not wanting to be seen as blowing their own trumpets. So if may be that you are sitting back waiting for someone to come to you and ask if they can write a piece about you. Unless you are a global success story, that isn’t likely.
Learn to bang your own drum! There is nothing wrong in sending regular press releases into newspapers and local TV media, especially if you have a new solution to a problem, or have been involved in a community event or celebration. Local media is always looking for filler stories about local events, so don’t be afraid to try. If you don’t think you could write the release yourself, there are many affordable sites to send information to which will produce a professional review or press release for you.
Use What You’ve Got
How many customers have purchased a product or service from you in the past? How many of them gave you their contact details for an invoice or delivery? How many of these customers do you keep in contact with?
These customers should be treated with respect and nurtured, not thrown away like they have no further use. It costs a business ten times more to find a new customer than to keep a current one. These customers are already aware of who you are and what you do. You’ve done the hard part by getting them to be a customer. Don’t let yourself become part of the background to them. You already have information on what they are likely to be interested in so by sending regular targeted updates of products they might be interested in and reminding them of the benefits of using your business, you can keep these contacts fresh and keep your business in the front of their minds.
Get Out and Get Advertising
Even with all the different options, you have to raise your visibility online, you should also consider paid targeted internet marketing opportunities like Ad Words and Pay-Per-Click ads. These have a proven track record in directing more traffic relevant to your business through to your website and in increasing sales profits.
These marketing campaigns are very adaptable to changes. You can quickly alter the focus and direction of these campaigns to increase the impact they are having. So if you find that you are targeting the wrong audience, it is much quicker and cheaper to alter your keywording for instant results.
The more you understand how and why your business is not visible to others, the more you can make changes to be able to be found online easily and quickly by a greater number of people.