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The internet has opened up a wealth of opportunities for businesses – not least enhanced advertising, wider customer interaction and the ability to create a brand and control its promotion. For those small businesses looking to create a digital presence for their firm on a budget or with few online skills, breathe a sigh of relief at these cost-effective tools.
A website should be your first port of call. You can create one free using tools such as WordPress, or pay an online agency to create a tailor-made one for you. It should include what you do, your location, a bit about your staff, and links to where customers can buy your products. You’ll also need to buy a domain name from somewhere such as GoDaddy. Remember a domain name is an important part of your marketing and it should be reflective of your product or service. Finally, you’ll need to organise a website hosting provider which can cost as little as £2.99 a month from firms such as TSO Hosting and GoDaddy.
“Did you know that 50% of organisations have no website whatsoever? That’s millions of people who are not benefitting from being online,” says Adam Ball, manager of start-up recruitment business Talent Cupboard, which is also launching a new service to help get businesses get online.
Experts recommend having a blog on your website to generate traffic on the subject of your business and to tell your brand story, as search engines such as Google ranks fresh content higher.
Another great free way to increase your online presence is through Google Local (formally Google Places). Simply put, it’s an online directory, hosted by the world’s largest search engine.
It allows you to register your contact details, opening times, photos and location, and a link to your website. The information goes to Google Maps so customers can find your firm via the phone app or an internet browser. This works well with service businesses such as accountants or gyms, so that people can search for businesses in their local area.
Being verified by Google symbolises trust, which means your presence will be higher in search results, gaining confidence among your customers.
Pay-per-click advertising allows you to place an advert on another website which redirects back to yours. You can directly target customers by interest or location. You can also pay to have your company come up first in search results, but this can be pricey depending on the search terms you bid on. You should also register with Google AdWords to get your website to appear in more online searches, for example when someone searches ‘coffee shop in Bournemouth.’ Google will often offer up to £75 in advertising credit when you first sign up, plus you only pay when someone gets to your website – and you can start with any budget you’ve got available.
Another option is to advertise on Facebook or Twitter, which is tailored to the reader’s social media activity, although you should test which platform and approach works best for you and delivers the highest value traffic to your website.
There are also alternative methods. Online spice and cookery seller Spice Kitchen does its advertising by featuring their products on a number of online shops such as Ebay and Not on the High Street. “We sell on a number of channels to as wide a portfolio of customers as possible,” say owners Sanjay and Shashi Aggarwal.
“For SMEs in particular, search engine optimisation (SEO) is crucial,” says digital marketing consultant Jeremy Walters.
This is the science of ranking your website on internet search engines based on what keywords, design, texts and tags you enter, and the links and navigations included. The better your SEO, the higher up on Google or Bing your website will appear, meaning you’ll potentially drive more traffic to your website generating sales.
“The trick is to ensure all your communications such as your website and social media are joined up as a whole from an SEO standpoint, so you will reach customers more directly,” he says.
This means using keywords that people will likely search for when considering your product or service and providing useful content. For more tips for beginners, check out this free PDF guide from Moz SEO.
Businesses that don’t know how to properly use social media can be stumbling through a minefield. But those who are familiar with its potential usually find it’s a great way to get noticed and promote your firm. Get yourself and your colleagues online to spread your brand on social media.
“Highlight your recent testimonials or upload galleries of your work to spread the word about what you do,” recommends CEO of MediaVision digital marketing specialists. “Ask your client to share it on their social media to help increase coverage.”
Be sure to have a strategy in place and train your staff to know what you want out of social media. Why do you want to use Facebook, Twitter and Google+? For customer service, audience interaction, or promotions and advertising? Plan extensively, execute cautiously.
"Very easy. Bea Luseni very efficient & knowledgeable."This review was posted by Alan Duffy on the 31st of March 2017
Super helpful and easy to work with
"Recommend this company in a heartbeat - Nicole Borneuf was super easy to talk to, was not pushy in the slightest, very helpful and replied with all my questions very professionally and did all she could to help. I had to deal with a few companies to sort my business energy out, all but Nicole were too pushy for my liking and I refused to follow through with them. Thank Nicole - you are a credit to your company, thank you for making the stressful energy change so easy."This review was posted by Mia Drew on the 29th of March 2017
An Extremely Competent Company
"Switch my business has not only helped my SME secure a good energy deal for the second year running but Jessica swiftly found a alternative supplier for me when I was let down on the day of switching by the new contractual provider I had chosen some 4 months previously. Being suddenly out of contract and without provider is everyone's energy nightmare. Greatest thanks."This review was posted by S McMillan on the 29th of March 2017
Helpful, friendly and we saved lots of money!
"Jessica Purnell was helpful and friendly, she made the whole process easy and simple AND we saved lots of money thanks Jess"This review was posted by Melanie Baker on the 23rd of March 2017
Quick & Easy
"Kabibi was very helpful and the whole process was very efficient. The one small reservation I had was that I was phoned up by Kabibi almost immediately having received my online quote - which wasn't enough time for me to finish reading the quotes! Fortunately she was able to assist me in a greater savings on both Gas & Electricity, and so as long as the switchover is seamless I will remain very happy with the service."This review was posted by Amanda Brown on the 21st of March 2017