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Break Through

Jun 22, 2016 04:34AM ● Published by Family Features

Consumers today increasingly rely on connected devices to research products and services before making purchases – so it’s no secret that small businesses need to focus more of their marketing resources than ever before on online strategies.

As the journey from consumer query to purchase becomes more complex – incorporating multiple devices, websites, apps and offline activities – so too do the options for tracking consumer behavior and leveraging online media for targeted advertising.

There are companies today specializing in almost every aspect of online marketing, leaving business owners with a dizzying array of options. For many the question is not the value of online marketing, but rather where to start and how much they need to do to accomplish their marketing objectives.

Fortunately, there are some foundational activities that are effective, manageable and comprise an important starting point for leveraging digital media to grow your business.

Here are four basics you can focus on right now to promote your business and grow your customer base online:

Mobile mindset
Mobile is quickly becoming the device of choice for consumers to search the web. According to research by International Data Corporation on behalf of YP, nearly one in three consumers uses two or more devices when looking for information about products and services; and in 2015, Google announced that it receives more searches from smartphones and tablets than from computers. Yet many businesses are slow to adapt.

If your website is difficult to navigate from a mobile device, you can lose business to your competitors – especially since mobile searches are often about more than finding information. Consumers are using their mobile phones to take action after visiting a site, including calling a business, checking store hours and mapping directions. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly and easy to use from a variety of devices so you don’t miss out on potential customers.

Simple search
Search marketing is a powerful tool to drive quality leads. At minimum, you need to optimize your web presence to make sure people who are looking for the types of products and services you sell can find you through the major search engines. After that, you can supplement your organic search engine traffic with paid search ads during peak seasons, special promotions or when you have budget to invest. In any case, the first step is to form a clear vision of your target consumers and the keywords that drive searches in your industry. For additional ideas, consult others, such as customers, relatives, competitor websites and industry news.

The time and money you invest in search marketing can be undermined if you neglect the basics such as making sure your company contact information is accurate, consistent and easy to find on your website, in online directories and anywhere else your business appears on the web. Think about what makes your life easier when you’re searching for a product or service that you need and then strive to provide that same experience on your own website.

Social graces
Social media is a great platform to connect and engage with potential customers. The key to making it work for your business is to listen first. Look for social media groups related to your industry, the services or products you provide, or the interests of your target consumers, and observe conversations to find out what’s important to the people you need to reach. Avoid promoting your business in these settings, but look for opportunities to add value and expertise to the discussion. In time, this will help to build a community of followers.

Keep in mind that each social media channel has its own rules and user base, and not all may be a fit for your business. Find the channel(s) that makes the most sense for you and your business, and be sure to incorporate social links in all of your marketing efforts to further grow your network.

Content and character
In the age of information, every small business needs to be a content publisher. Good content serves many purposes, from attracting higher search engine rankings to helping prospects choose your products or services, and reinforcing your brand. A good start is to look for opportunities to educate and share your expertise. How-to videos, FAQs or links to informative resources about your industry are great ways to add value and encourage people to come back to your website. Other content, such as seasonal greeting videos or stories about work you’re doing in the community, may serve to humanize your brand and build authentic connections with your customers.

Does a local business really need a website?
When your business is primarily focused on local clients and you don’t sell products online, you may wonder whether your business even needs a website. The answer is unequivocally yes.

Websites are how local businesses get found via directories and search engines. It’s the “home base” for pertinent information about your business, including hours, location, products, services and more.

Remember that keeping your website information current and correct is extremely important. Inaccurate information can get picked up by other sites and directories, which, in turn, makes it harder for your potential customers to find and engage with your business.

Summit fuels growth
For business owners looking to grow their businesses, the Local Breakthrough Summit organized by YP may deliver the knowledge and tools they need. The series of nationwide events brings together leaders in digital marketing, including Bing, Google, Verve and Yahoo, while also giving small business owners the opportunity to share best practices and gain insights about their communities.

For more information on YP’s Local Breakthrough Summit, visit adsolutions.yp.com/breakthroughsummit.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

Sponsored by YP

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