If you’re an entrepreneur or part of a start-up, you probably already recognize how important it is to get active on the web and in online marketing.
Unlike what some may lead you to believe, getting your business online need not take a lot of money, or even too much time.
At Concept 5 we follow the simple steps below to get any new company or brand established online. Once this foundation is in place, we can develop online marketing programs around a business’ goals and priorities.
- Develop your Online Strategy. This is the most important — and most overlooked — requirement to online business success. Don’t invest time and money online just to do it. Instead, think strategically about why you’re doing these things. What do you need to accomplish? Hint: What are the goals of your new business?
- Register domain names – take domains that are similar or could be confused with your company’s name, if available. Don’t spend too much on esoteric domains that registrars try to sell you such as .biz, .us, etc. Unless you’re a non-profit, it’s still the dot-com domains that matter. Select the primary domain, which will be used for website and company email.
- Create a primary Google/Gmail account to be used for all Google products including Analytics, Places, Webmaster, AdWords, YouTube etc. Do not use a personal Google account for this purpose, as you will likely need to share this account with team members, consultants or an agency. Changing these accounts at a later time is difficult, and sometime not possible.
- Develop a company logo and tagline. Put some effort into a logo if you do not have one. Prospects will always recognize a logo that has been done on the cheap, or using a program like Microsoft Word. Rise above!
- Create Phase I print collateral such as business cards, sales brochure, letterhead, etc. Don’t order too much, as you will likely be refining your marketing message over the coming year.
- Register branded social media accounts (using Gmail account above) on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ etc. and secure custom social media URLs if or when available. Some social media channels allow you to claim a customized page address immediately, while for other you must be active for a given time before this is available.
- Set up your initial website on your selected URL. As web designers and developers, we’re not big fans of cut-rate template-driven website designers like Wix, or, even worse, the services provided by domain registrars like GoDaddy or Network Solutions. Many more folks will see your website than will ever meet or speak to you — invest a bit in a professional, one-of-a-kind website that truly reflects your brand and business.
- Set up your company email or email service. We often suggest Google Apps for Business to manage email, although with a per-account monthly fee, this may not be necessary depending on several factors. Sometimes you can use the typically free email that comes with a web hosting account.
- Create a branded, standard company email footer and use on all company email accounts, and implement it in both your webmail and your email applications, such as Outlook or Thunderbird.
- Learn the online landscape – Do Google (and Bing) searches for keywords relevant to your business… examine the websites that show up on the first pages, study them. Visit competitor websites, consider how to position your brand differently online. Don’t just blindly borrow from competitors — this is an express path to failure.
- Create a company LinkedIn Page and start connecting with, and participating in, LinkedIn Groups. Look only for Groups that are active. Position yourself as a thought leader by offering valuable comments – not sales pitches!
- Identify and start building relationships with complementary people, bloggers, services, websites, and brands online who can help you grow awareness quickly. As the experts always say, try to offer them something — do not sell to them.
- Research where potential customers spend time online and start thinking about how you can reach them in those channels. Start thinking about — or create — an online marketing budget.
- Set up a process to collect and respond to online sales leads and referrals. Always use a branded email auto-responder.
- You need to begin to to incorporate online strategy into your everyday conversations and thoughts about your company. Remember, the web is a critical part of your business. Ask questions like: How can we use online to X? How will our website showcase Y?
Of course this isn’t a complete list and priorities and key areas of focus are different for every business. But everyday you wait the online competition is only increasing. Get started online today!