Creating a Strong Online Presence for Marketing Success

According to Google, 97% of consumers use the web to search for local businesses – and if the vast majority of your potential customers are online, you should be, too. Having a strong online presence is a crucial component of your marketing strategy, no matter what size your business is or what industry it belongs to.

An online presence is important for outbound marketing because it reinforces your brand and what you offer to your target market. Once you’ve communicated with your audience, you’ll need to have a web presence that helps portray why your product or service is so great – because that’s the next stop for the majority of your potential customers.

It’s also vital for inbound marketing, because quality online content will help attract customers even if they haven’t heard of your brand.

So here are three of the first things you need to look at when building your online marketing efforts.

1. Your website

All businesses, no matter how small, should have a website. It can be extremely basic, but it should contain the fundamental information customers – both existing and potential – need. For example, one frustration I encounter far too often is restaurants that don’t have a website with a current menu, opening hours, location and contact information. I know I’m not alone in that if I can’t find these details, I’m less likely to visit the restaurant – but there’s no reason a business should lose potential customers over something that’s so easy to remedy and costs very little.

A basic website is pretty easy to set up using an application like WordPress. WordPress is a free blogging tool and content management system that gives users the option to pay a little more for the premium version. If it’s relevant to your business, you can even add an online shop – after all, in 2013, 70 percent of consumers preferred to do their retail shopping online.

If you’re not sure where to start, there’s a great guide to WordPress for small businesses on Social Media today. It’s easy to understand and runs through the factors you need to consider and steps you need to take when setting up your small business website.

If you’re starting from scratch and not sure what your website should include, survey your existing customers. Whether you send out an email asking for their input, or mention it casually while making their coffee, it’s the best way to get the insight you need – people love to be involved and share their opinions.

2. Search engine optimization

Once you have a website, it’s vital that it can actually be found by search engines. After all, 89 percent of consumers use search engines to research a product, service or business before making a decision. To take advantage of this, you need to make sure to look at search engine optimization (SEO) for your website.

In case you’re not completely sure what SEO means, how it works, or why it’s important, here’s a quick rundown:

  • What: The purpose of SEO is to make it easy for search engines to find your website and list it in their ‘organic’ (as opposed to ‘paid’) results.
  • Why: People tend to trust search engines, so websites that appear high in results pages are more likely to receive traffic.
  • How: Using search-engine friendly methods to improve your website.
  • Who: Everyone – anyone who has information that people want to find on the internet should be using SEO techniques.
  • When: All the time – SEO is an ongoing process. It’s important to monitor the information on your website and make sure it’s current and correct. Search engines also love new content, which is why starting a blog can do wonders for your SEO.
  • Where: Major search engines include Google, Yahoo and Bing. They connect people all over the world to the content they desire, from products to services to information.

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz and Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guideboth give a fantastic overview of the basics and will help you optimize your website.

3. Social media

Social media is an important part of your online presence that improves your chances of generating additional revenue and building customer loyalty. It allows customers, potential customers and other interested parties to engage easily via a channel that plays an important role in their everyday lives.

Although not every social media channel will be relevant to each business, it’s definitely worth looking into your options. For example, Facebook and Twitter will serve a purpose for almost any business – it’s a great place to post news, tips, photos and videos and ask and answer questions.

In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you might find Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, FourSquare helpful. Make sure to research available channels and find out if they will work for you. Instagram, for example, is a photo-sharing network, so it works wonderfully for businesses selling ‘beautiful’ products such as jewelry, food or housewares. It’s important to consider your target demographic – Instagram has around 130–150 million users, over two-thirds of which are women between the ages of 18 and 35. With Instagram, you’ll also need to keep a smartphone handy to properly access your account and engage with your audience.

Once you’ve decided which social media channels to use, get a clear idea of the kind of content you can share. The more compelling and engaging your material is, the more likely your followers will like, comment and share your posts. Engagement is key to promoting your brand – not only will it make you more appealing to existing customers, the more positive social activity that goes on, the higher the chance is that their friends will be exposed to your brand and intrigued by what you have to offer.

When they do this, they’re engaging with your brand and their networks (friends, family, colleagues) are seeing that engagement and may be prompted to check you out for their own needs.

Ways to Market Your Business Online for Free

1. Create a simple website with a free website builder.

As web designers, we understand the cost factor involved in creating a quality website. We also understand the importance of having a website. Having something is better than nothing, even if it’s free. takes you through an easy-to-use step-by-step process for creating a free, simple website you can use to promote your business and connect with your audience.

2. Submit your website to search engines.

Put simply, if you want your website to be seen online, search engines should know you have one. Take an active approach and submit your website manually to ensure search engines will serve your site in search results when people are looking for your products and services online.

While search engines like Yahoo! and Bing (and Google, too) prefer you directly submit your website through their platform, services like let you submit your URL(s) to all of these and more using one registration.

DISCLAIMER: Doing this has no influence on where you show up on the list of search results. That’s called search engine optimization, and that’s a whole other beast.

3. Make sure you have a Google My Business listing with accurate information.

According to a survey from

  • 71% of customers research and confirm a business’s location before leaving to visit that business for the first time
  • 22% use their smartphone to lookup the location while they’re on the way (tisk tisk)

That’s 93% of customers verifying your location. More importantly, 73% of those customers lose trust in the brand when their online listing shows an inaccurate location.

Given Google pretty much reigns supreme in the search engine world, it’s ideal to head there first to establish your business listing and make sure all other Google listings are consistent and correct.

Google My Business is basically Google’s dashboard for managing your Google properties. Think of it as an interface between you and your local search presence on Google. When managed properly, a well-utilized Google My Business listing allows Google searchers to find you more easily and provides them quick access to information they want. With just a touch of a finger or click of a mouse, they can get to your website, see your hours of operation or contact you directly.

BONUS: If you go the extra mile and upload captivating images and proudly display rave reviews from happy customers on your Google My Business listing you can also show prospects how amazing you are.

4. Register with local online directories.

Submitting your information to online directories dedicated to certain regions or industries is another great way to get in front of as many people as possible. For example, MayeCreate Design is listed as a Service business on the Discover the District website, so when anyone goes looking for service companies in the downtown Columbia, MO area, they’ll see us.

Services like Manta exist specifically for this purpose and proudly states this on their website: “Manta helps millions of small businesses get found by more customers.” HubSpot shares this along with 49 others on their blog, highlighting that submitting only to a few means you’re missing out big time. So basically what we’re saying is go crazy!

5. Submit your listing to all the other search engines out there.

Submitting your listing to platforms like Bing Places puts your name in the running when people go to search for your products and services on that browser. Sure, Google is typically pegged as the omnipotent search engine of the 21st century. But there are still plenty of people out who may prefer one of the others.

6. Create social media accounts for your business.

Creating business accounts on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter is absolutely free. And incorporating the use of social media into your marketing plan has its advantages if your that’s where your target market is. The simple practice of offering engaging content and interacting with your customers and influencers on social media can fuel your branding efforts and put your name in the forefront of your audience’s minds, again, if that’s where your audience lives.

Now, the caveat to that is this: the act of creating the account is free, yes. However, the rewards you could reap from using it directly correlate to the time and energy you put into managing it, so keep that in mind if you pursue this option.

7. Start a blog.

So, get this. Having a featured blog as a key part of your website gives you a 434% better chance of being ranked highly on search engines.

434%!!! Um, WHAT?! I know! That’s insane! I’ll take ya one further: Business to Business marketers using blogs as part of their content marketing mix pull in 67% more leads than B2B marketers that don’t, as cited in this blog-inspiring post from

And when platforms like are offering a free blogging service, why not?? Even Facebook and LinkedIn also have story-promoting features built in, though these are into integrated with your site they won’t impact your search engine ranking the same way.

When used for the purpose of blogging, writing about your business and your industry can be used to grow your business credibility and increase your website traffic exponentially. Your blog articles can offer answers to questions commonly asked in your industry. And when people find quality information they can trust, they’ll remember who gave it to them and start building trust with you as a result.

8. Show off your expertise on other industry blogs.

If starting your own blog sounds overwhelming, you can get your feet wet sharing your industry knowledge online by doing either one of these two things:

  1. Write for other blogs.
  2. Post comments on other blog posts.

This way, you’re influencing readers to trust you by providing valuable information when they need it, and if readers like what you have to say, you’re building credibility in your industry.

9. Take advantage of free email marketing services.

When you sign up for a free email marketing account with MailChimp, you’re allowed up to 12,000 emails per month and 2,000 subscribers. That’s a lot of subscribers and A LOT OF EMAILS at zero out-of-pocket cost.

Not to sound like a broken record, but this activity, like social media and blogging, does take time to set up the account, create your lists, and email content, so keep that in mind when getting started.

10. Post videos to YouTube.

YouTube is still a free online video service (for now at least) and provides incredible opportunity for sharing videos related to your products, services, and/or industry expertise.

Each time you upload a video, you can use your social media accounts and email marketing to alert your followers. You could also throw it up on your website as a Resource or as a blog post and then share on social media. I could go on, but you see my point.

11. Submit your events to online community calendars.

Every little bit helps, right? Think of this suggestion as taking a digital “word of mouth” approach to your online marketing efforts.

If your business hosts, is involved with, or sponsors a lot of events, be sure to submit your event information to as many free online community calendars as possible. This is guaranteed to gain you some attention from folks you may not have had an opportunity to capture in any other way, so why not?

Oh, the places you can go…

These 10 free ways to market your business listed above offer a great starting point without putting a dent in your budget. Because let’s be real: cost aside, marketing your business can be a complex challenge in too many ways to list.

Seems foolish not to take advantage of free online advertising, doesn’t it? If you want to get your pride on, you’ve gotta start somewhere, and starting with these above methods will not only help you market your business for free, it will also gain you experience in the online world and create opportunities for you to expand your marketing efforts in the future.


Boosting Your Revenue with Online Marketing

Do you dream of owning your own hair salon?

In a saturated market, you may be wondering how to stand out from the crowd. Should you use only organic products? Should you focus on edgy haircuts, an unforgettable experience, or something else?

If you already own your own hair salon, you’re wondering how to increase revenue and how to take your business to the next level.

In this article, we’re going to review what’s worked for other businesses, and what the data has to say so that you can take advantage of strategies that you already know will work.

1. Sell Gift Cards or Gift Certificates

When it comes to boosting your hair salon’s revenue, selling gift certificates isn’t just a good idea, it’s a no-brainer.

In the U.S. alone in 2016, gift card sales are expected to hit $140 billion.

By allowing existing customers to purchase gift cards or gift certificates for friends and family, you not only bring in new customers, but you also increase sales and get paid immediately in full, even if that person never takes you up on your offer.

To encourage customers to buy gift cards, make sure they’re aware that you sell them in the first place. Advertise at the counter, in store windows, on your website, and via email. Encourage your stylists and employees to promote them.

And, don’t forget to make it easy for people to purchase them. E-gifting is on the rise too so allowing customers to purchase gift certificates directly from your salon website is another good idea. Make it easy as possible.

You could even offer a discount to those who purchase them—perhaps a $100 gift card for $90?

Don’t forget to harness social media to let people know how they might leverage your gift certificates. Birthday presents, Christmas presents, thank you gifts, graduation gifts, you name it.

2. Create a Referral Program

Referral programs, done right, are win-win opportunities. Your customer refers a friend and both they and the new friend receive a discount—money-off, a free product, a free consultation, or some other service—and you receive a new customer!

This is a good way to get new people in the door, and to simultaneously foster loyalty with existing customers.

In fact, a customer referral program may even be your ticket to transforming your struggling business into a thriving business. According to a study conducted by The Wharton School of Business, a referred customer is 18 percent more likely to stay with the company over time than someone who found you on their own. Sharing a bond—or a common hair salon, in this case—is likely a contributing factor to customer loyalty statistics.

Of course, when it comes to picking the reward given in exchange for the referral, you still have to be strategic. Consider the time it takes for each service and the cost of the products used. Naturally, you don’t want to be gifting a service that’s too time-consuming or expensive. On the other hand, you have to make the reward worth it or the program won’t work. Waiting for a customer to refer 10 people before they receive their reward is probably a program that will never work, whereas asking someone to refer three people in exchange for a free blowout is much more likely to succeed.

3. Implement a “Frequent Flyer” Program

If you think frequent flyer programs are for airlines alone, think again. The hair salon version of this program may be as simple as giving first time or new customers an incentive to return. It’s a great way to keep people coming back for more.

In fact, one hair salon has used this marketing technique to immense success. Davis Hairdressing, a Massachusetts-based hair salon, offers a free visit to clients who prepay for a certain number of visits. For new customers, they offer a 50 percent discount if they come back for a second visit.

Designed to keep customers coming back for more, at its core this tactic is a loyalty program. There are many versions of loyalty programs, so if you don’t like the idea of offering as much as 50 percent off on a return visit, there are dozens of other ideas.

In fact, Davis Hairdressing also has a service they’ve called “The Fling.” When you purchase this service or membership, you pay a one time fee for unlimited blow drys in a month.

To learn more about loyalty programs, read this comprehensive article from the Hubspot blog on using these programs to add value, and then download their free guide on how to use loyalty programs.

10 Smart Ways To Promote The New Products Of Your Online Store

The one challenge that most online stores face, is getting all of their product ranges discovered. While advertisements do the trick for them sometimes, at all other times their visitors leave without checking out what else they have to offer under the same category and the others.

Low discovery rate automatically means lesser value sales. So in this post, we decided to take a look at some ways that can help online store promote their new product ranges effectively.

1. Send out an email to your subscribers

Email marketing has time and again proven to be the most effective channel for eCommerce businesses. That’s exactly why this needs to be the first step you should take! Send out an email to all your subscribers that tells them about this new product range you have launched. Just ensure you’re adding enough media and making it sound exciting enough for them to click through.

2. Push out notifications to your opt-ins

Mobile and web push notifications are another effective channel for eCommerce businesses to interact with their subscribers. Whether you have an app, a progressive web app or a desktop online store, don’t forget to make the most out of push notifications. A quick message about what’s new at your store that leads them straight to it, is a great way to get the products discovered.

3. Retarget them on-site first

Let your visitors explore your online store at their pace without any interruption, but ensure they know of the new range before they leave. Use an on-site re-targeting campaign that gets triggered just when they are about to leave your store using Exit Bee. Let them know of the exciting range that you have just launched and provide them with a button that simply redirects them to that page. Lower bounce rates, more discovery and greater number of sales!

4. Then retarget on social media and other channels

Instead of trying to run a fresh set of advertisements every time, make sure you’re retargeting your store visitors on social media. Since these are people who have already checked out your new product range, they are more responsive to the ads and have a greater chance to click through them to make a purchase. The trick to getting them click through? Create a sense of urgency or exclusivity around these new products.

5. Include them in a shopping guide

Content marketing isn’t just an effective tactic for B2B businesses. eCommerce businesses too can make use of a shopper’s need to consume valuable information. Create shopping guides, gifting ideas and other interesting blogs that include your new product range as well. Make sure it is easy for the reader to click through the blog to explore this range. If possible, try to contribute these shopping guides to popular magazines or websites that your target audience is following.

6. Take help from an influencer

Identify an influencer that is known to influence the purchase decision of your ideal customers. Be it on social media, via videos or blogs, use the channel to promote your new range to their followers in a unique way. After all, even Shane Barker says that influencer marketing needs to be in your marketing strategy this year!

7. Run a contest

Want to introduce a new brand or product to your store visitors and social following? Run an interesting contest where they can either win a discount to the new products or the product itself for completing a desired action. The only thing you need to make sure is that the contest looks interesting enough to your audience and is easy to participate in.

8. Make the most out of Instagram

Online shoppers rely heavily on the product visuals when it comes to making a purchase decision and Instagram, being a visual based social media channel is the best to share these with them. Create a profile that you consistently keep active and promote sneak peeks of your new products that will most definitely make your customers curious to check them out. But remember to add some relevant and popular hashtags to your post if you want it getting discovered by Instagram’s vast user base.

9. Get yourself a few referrals

Word-of-mouth is literally the best type of marketing you can ever have for your store. Send out messages to your existing customers notifying them of the new products you’re launching and how they can get something valuable in return for sharing the range with their friends. Just make sure you are able to offer some value to them and keep the referral marketing campaign as easy to participate in as possible.

10. Cross sell with existing products

Your existing customers and store visitors know the product ranges you have on offer. These are the web pages that are definitely getting more traffic than those of the new launch. So why not run a cross sell campaign – package your new products with some of the old and promote them to the visitors? You won’t just get your new line discovered, but also increase the average order value of the store.