The Internet can be an intimidating place for small businesses. Most small business owners recognize that the Internet does/will play a crucial role in the success or failure of their business, but many don’t really understand how or why. Not to fear! These 5 tools and trends will help you conqueror your market online.
1. Website Content Management Systems (CMS)
A Content Management System (CMS) is an interface or “dashboard” where you can make changes to the content on your website without knowing any computer code. Content management systems make it quick and easy to keep your website up to date with current products information, news, and events about your business – without involving a web developer, saving you time and money.
WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal are the top three web content management systems with WordPress leading the way with 20.8% of all websites on the Internet being built on the WordPress CMS platform according to a recent report by wctechs.com. (Checkout the original report here.) With consumers spending more time and doing more business online, providing fresh content is crucial for capturing the online market. Additionally, new, original content is an important factor for your site’s Google SEO ranking. Content Management Systems make it easy to post new content, no computer science degree required.
2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Web Tools
In the digital world, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a process that utilizes software to manage and optimize future, current and returning customer relationships. They are systems that track, organize, and even partially automate customer relationships. CRM web tools include SalesForces, Zoho, and Hubspot, among others, and they are accessed through an interface or “dashboard” just like CMS’s. In fact, they can even be integrated into your website’s CMS, providing a single point of access for website content management and customer relationship management.
3. Content Marketing
So now you know what tools to use to manage your website, new visitors and customers, but how do you actually attract those new visitors and convert them into customers? Enter Content Marketing. Content marketing is relatively new idea in Internet marketing that is based on two basic principles: 1) Provide valuable information to your target audience and 2) showcase your work. By doing these two things, you attract your target audience to your business and earn their trust in the process.
Content marketing is exactly what it sounds like: marketing by creating content about your business and then sharing it with your audience online through social media, your website, blog, or other avenues of outreach. “Content” can be anything created to tell the story of your business, including info-graphics, blog posts, promotional videos, ebooks, project images, white papers, or just about anything else that gets the word out about your business in some way. Content marketing works because it grabs attention, tells your story, and helps your audience better understand your business, product, and/or industry.
The strategy behind content marketing is not to sell to your audience but to establish trust and loyalty though consistently communicating valuable information to them.
4. Internet Video
While it’s an example of content marketing, Internet video deserves its own place on our list. Why? Because it’s the single highest-converting Internet marketing trend that we are aware of. Not only is it an extremely rich and engaging medium in and of itself – holding visitors’ attention far longer than text copy and images – but Google’s search algorithm also privileges sites with video by ranking them way higher than those without. So the advantages of including video on your website are both increased visibility/traffic to your website through improved Google SEO rankings and better visitor retention and lower bounce rates once visitors are there. It’s a tremendous value-add for your website, but like all marketing efforts, the quality of your video must be high to convert and be effective. So we recommend taking the time and energy to do it right or hiring a professional video production firm.
Check out this “sales video” we created for mobile websites:
5. The New Web Development Climate – Alternatives to (Expensive) Custom Development
We find that many of the small business clients we work with don’t have a good understanding of the web development process – what it involves, how long it should take, or how much it should cost. While every project is different, one thing small businesses should understand is that your website doesn’t need to be designed and coded from scratch anymore, which means it doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg either. Rather, developers can implement design themes and pre-developed tools for far less than it would require to develop and test them from scratch. So a professional website that might have taken over 100 development hours and cost $10,000 ten years ago can now be delivered in half the time and at half the price, or even less. The point is, if you’re in the market for a new website or a redesign, and you think the estimate you got is high, ask the firm how they plan to develop the site. For some companies, a fully-custom-designed-and-coded website is the right solution, but for many businesses, adapting an existing design theme and integrating pre-developed tools – instead of recreating the design and functionality from scratch – will meet all your business goals and save you lots of time and money.
Every business is different. Different products and services. Different business models and markets. Different cultures and goals. For that reason, their websites and online strategies will differ too, and there are countless tools and trends out there to take advantage of. We think these 5 tools and trends are important for every small business, but regardless of whether it’s these 5 or 5 completely different strategies, we encourage the small businesses out there to get going and try something! Get your business online and start seeking out and engaging your audience. You know it’s important; now it’s time to be BOLD.