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Monday, 02 June 2014 17:00

How to take your business online: 5 must-have digital tools.

Intro

It may be very obvious what I’m going to talk about during this post, but you’d be surprised how many people aren’t yet aware of the key digital tools their business needs in order to move towards the online world - and YES, there’s still companies out there that are working the “old school” way (without using email marketing, having a website, using social media, and using today’s abundance of technology) and have no digital strategy whatsoever. Thus, I’ll be talking about the true essential tools a business needs in order to join the digital world and catch up to the rest of the world’s businesses.

 

1. Website

Before social media was around, this was probably (and may still be) the most important digital tool for any business. A business website serves as a digital concierge that’s always there to help current and potential customers 24 hours a day to learn about your company.

A website allows your visitors to learn everything about your business at any moment they want and from the comfort of their home, office, the park or anywhere (using tablets and smartphones). Although many business today - small and large - do have a website, there are still thousands of them still without one. For those who still haven’t taken the step to build a website for your business, here’s 5 reasons why you MUST get one immediately:

Reasons your business must have a website:

  1. Everyone is looking for solutions to their problems online, is your solution there too?
  2. The majority of people research the Internet before they make a purchase.
  3. It’s an opportunity to start building a relationship and trust with your users.
  4. People can learn about your company while your physical store or office is closed.
  5. Your company can be perceived as greater, bigger or more professional (based on your web design, online content, portfolio, testimonials, and much more)

Still not convinced?
Then think about when was the last time you looked at the yellow pages to find a solution to your problem or a service provider?

 

2. Social Media Presence

Every year more and more people are interacting with brands, local shops, companies, celebrities, products and businesses ideas through social media platforms and so far in 2014 this trend will only be increasing.

In fact, creating an account in any of the major social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc) is free, so it’s easy for any company to join and build their presence in this digital space. Once an account is setup, it’s important that you upload your company’s logo and a well-made cover graphic (We can help) to match your branding. The next and most important step is to continuously post something new to to share with your fans and followers, in order to keep them engaged and interested in learning more about your company, products or brand.

In the same way that most big companies are expected to have a website to learn more about their products/services, most people today also expect to be able to interact with companies or brands through social media - a place where they can express their joys, frustrations, comments, opinions or compliments while also being able to hear those of others.

A social media platform allows users not only to communicate with other users - while naturally also creating a digital community in the process, but also and most importantly it gives companies the ability to communicate and respond to individual users directly. For example, companies may interact through responding to a comment on a company's Facebook, or simply by doing research about customers opinions and thoughts by asking people to leave comments, or simply always keeping an eye and reading what people talk about on their page.

Reasons your business must use social media:

  1. It’s the go-to destination for users to learn the latest news about your company
  2. Easiest, quickest way to share with your users and customers what’s going on within your company, industry news, events, new products/services, etc.
  3. A perfect place to build your company’s personality through the content you share
  4. A great way to build trust and a new relationship with potential customers
  5. People love sharing with others their positive (and negative) experiences with others, so having your own social page allows them to do so while giving your company an opportunity to respond to them and show them that you care.

Facts, Statistics & More:

 

3. CRM System (Customer relationship management)

Customer Relationship ManagementMany small businesses probably keep track of their customer through an Excel sheet, or through their accounting software, but few probably own and use a customer relationship management software (CRM) in a daily basis. A CRM is simply an advanced database of your customers, leads, and other people with whom your business interacts with, that allows you to easily search, input, create tasks, and write down notes about.

Keeping track of all conversations
In the distant past, when small businesses were mostly local and the owner used to personally know most of his/her customers, it wasn’t so hard to keep track of what people were up to - because people met face-to-face and had close conversations often. Today, those types of businesses still exist locally, but most people today do business with companies from around the nation or the world (not just next door), and in most of these cases people interact with each other via phone, E-mail, or chat (removing the face-to-face close interaction). Additionally, the amount of customers that a company deals with is much greater than in the past so it’s much harder to keep track of each person’s individual story in our brain’s memory.

For this reason, modern companies rely on the use of a CRM, which functions as the “Local store owner’s brain”, which stores all types of details and information about every new lead or existing customer. In fact, businesses are able to grow when they maintain healthy relationships with their customers, so using a CRM system is a key component to their success.

Cloud-based CRM Systems
Although CRM systems used to be expensive, today’ there’s lots of options to choose from, many of which start at $0/month. One of the most popular systems is Salesforce.com, which is used by thousands of small to large companies worldwide. Although Salesforce.com is great, it’s on the high-end price range, so small businesses may not necessarily be able to afford it. Fortunately, there’s other popular and much more affordable options including Zoho.com (Free version), SugarCRM, HighRise, Insightly and my new personal favorite Solve360. Each of them have their pros and cons, but they all generally serve the same purpose, which is to be able manage all the information of each of your clients in order to serve them better and build a stronger relationship with them.

Reasons your business should use a CRM system:

  1. Your CRM is your centralized database of all your customer’s information
  2. Keep track of every phone conversation, e-mail or chat you had with each of your customers or leads; automatically generating a complete history of all interactions.
  3. Create follow-up tasks for yourself or assign it to others in your organization. Including details, deadlines, notes, and date of completion (or lack of).
  4. Create proposals and easily send them to prospective clients via your CRM.
  5. Many CRM systems easily integrate with other popular and speciality software (usually cloud based know as SaaS - software as a service) such as e-mail marketing, accounting, customer support, chat, project management and much more; all of which in turn increase your CRM’s overall functionality.

Learn More about CRMs:

 

4. E-mail Marketing & Popular Software

E-mail Marketing - Bloominari.comAlmost everyone is inundated by e-mails everyday, which makes it increasingly harder for a single e-mail to be opened and read in its entirety. Yet surprisingly, in 2013 E-mail marketing was still the most popular and effective marketing tool used by small businesses to generate new leads and customers. Why? Because it’s about sending targeted messages directly to the place that people check the most frequently - their E-mail’s inbox.

Now that you understand the importance of E-mail marketing, let me take a step back and explain to you what it really is. Let’ me start by saying that E-mail marketing is not about sending spam, or unsolicited E-mails people didn’t ask to receive. Instead, effective E-mail marketing refers to sending targeted (and often personalized) E-mail messages to a group of individuals with a shared common interest.

Types of E-mail Marketing

These messages can be sent through what’s known as an “E-mail blast”, such as a one-time monthly newsletter that’s sent to everyone on an E-mail list at the same time, or an “E-mail autoresponder”, which is made up of a series of related E-mails messages sent at different time intervals. For example, an auto-responder campaign could include a series of 10 different e-mails with “Tips on shooting product photography professionally”, where each tip is sent a week apart, and the first message is sent based on when the user signed-up to receive the messages (rather than as a one-time blast).

Key factors to a successful E-mail campaign: Providing your e-mail subscribers with content that’s worth reading and spending their time on, anything that gives them real value related to their specific interest. Clearly, that means not sending people your sales pitch, a coupon-only email, or something that only asks them to buy from you. Instead, a company should encourage users to subscribe to an e-mail list or newsletter by offering valuable content that users are interested about in exchange for their e-mail address. This method of growing an e-mail list reduces the chances that your e-mails won’t be open or read, and most importantly that they won’t click the “unsubscribe” link.

Success can only be checked if it can be measured, and luckily e-mail marketing is a science that can be extensively measured and tested. A way to do that may include seeing the percentage of e-mails opened, links clicked, amount spent on a website after a click, conversion rates (that generate a sale or signup), etc. These measurements are dependent on many variables, such as e-mail length, proportion of images to text, e-mail template design, time of day the e-mail is sent, spam factor, subjet used, “From” e-mail address and many others. As you can see, E-mail marketing is not an easy task, for this reason, our team of experts at Bloominari can help you in designing and setting up your E-mail marketing campaigns. Contact Us.

E-mail Marketing Software

Small companies may still choose to send marketing e-mails through their normal E-mail clients (Outlook, Gmail), yet that’s not very effective nor practical. Instead, small businesses in today’s digital age choose to use email marketing software that allows them to manage and create all of their E-mail marketing activities. These systems offer the ability to easily gather new e-mail subscribers, design e-mails online, view e-mail statistics, schedule campaigns, setup auto-responders and much more.

Popular E-mail Marketing Software includes:

 

5. A Blog

Last but definitely not least, a must-have digital tool to take your business online is a blog. The reason that it’s at the last spot on this list is not because it’s the least important, but in fact because it’s may not be the first thing a small business should do unless it’s ready to commit the time needed to properly maintain the blog (which most companies don’t have the time to do, or know how).

What is a blog?
A blog is an online collection of articles about a specific topic or interest, and you can think of it as the “home base” of your company’s activities. It’s the notepad of conversations, thoughts, tips, and news about what’s the latest things that your company is talking about, what it’s doing and what’s happening in your industry.

Picture your staff and employees talking in the lunch room, conference room, or during an internal event discussing new topics, trends and activities happening this week at your business. A blog is about taking those same thoughts, ideas and conversations and putting them publicly (or privately in some cases) online for others to see. A blog provides outsiders with a special “window” through which they can take a peek at what’s happening in your organization, which is usually written using a more relaxed and informal tone of voice. It’s not a place to write about sales pitches, product benefits and features, or “pushy” content. Instead, it’s a place for creating and sharing relevant and valuable information for your potential and existing customers.

Why blog?
A blog take a lot of work, good organization, research and time commitment in order to write articles that people will find valuable (we hope small businesses owners that are reading this article find this article valuable too!). Additionally, it’s something that a company must do constantly in order to keep providing the latest and most fresh content and information to it’s users.

Additionally, blogging isn’t just great to inform your users about your latest new invention, product features, industry event, or thoughts, but it’s also one of the greatest tools for your content marketing strategy. Today, Content Marketing has become a buzzword that mainly refers to developing new content (such as a blog post, white paper, e-book) to help a company’s website search engine optimization (SEO) by producing lots of keyword rich articles related to a company’s industry. By developing lots of new content, a company’s website is more likely to be found online on Google.com when people are searching using those keywords that are likely to be used when writing a blog post.

Want to start a blog?
A popular software for creating a blog is WordPress, which is available free of charge and it’s easy to setup. But if you need help with a strategy on how to develop your blog, develop and write content to engage your users and other ideas on how to get started, get in touch with us, we’d be happy to help.

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Jaime Nacach

Marketing Strategist

I love helping small businesses with their digital marketing and business strategy. I'm a young man with a passion in entrepreneurship and international experience in business development, marketing, sales, and web/graphic design. 

Find me on: Team Page | LinkedIn | Google+Personal Website

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