You’ve created a great business. Taken a great idea, refined and polished it. And now your baby is out there for the world to see, shiny website and all.
But all businesses need to grow and scale, making it imperative that they have visibility. Advertising helps, so does a great social media presence.
But in the ever growing noise of web and social content, it seems hard and sometimes downright impossible to make an impact. Leads are dependent on traffic, which in turn is a factor of ranking and visibility. Plus, there is always a lot of technology to navigate through.
So what can you do to boost visibility for your business?
What works often depends on the kind of business one is in and there is no one size fits all. Numerous small business owners and solopreneurs share their expert tips on what works for them and why. Customize the combination for your kind of business and get closer to achieving that elusive visibility.
Think Big, Focus Local
How can you up your local reach? Three simple, but key steps – claim listings, share info, optimize data!
The essential way to build local visibility is listing your business on local search services like Google My Business or Bing Places for Business.They are free, and also a great way to manage your online presence with customers in your area. And even if they are not, local is often the best way to grow initially.
Add to this, when you share & update the relevant info regularly, you are more likely to show up high in searches. So the next time customers in your area are looking for a boutique, a chiropractor or even a catering service, they will find you.
Focus on improving your local visibility helps, suggests Camille le Goff of Mash Media. Plus, encourage customers to leave reviews about your business.
Bret Bonnet of Quality Logo Products says, make sure you claim all of your online profiles from Facebook to the Yellow Pages and your Name, Address and Phone number (called NAP) are consistent on all listings as well. This is important for authority/ranking signal used by many of the business listing aggregator websites (Google Local, Apple Maps, etc.).
Get on a larger directory site but make sure it is a highly rated one.(e.g: Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Linkedin, in addition to Google or Bing etc.) This adds credibility – I found that my name and services quickly indexed in subsequent google searches, says Bruce W. Cameron.
Cody Clifton, Director of Commerce for Wholesale Lanyards recommends using tools like MOZ Local and Yext to save the time and hassle of updating the information manually. The tools do come at a price, he says, but they’re well worth it in the long run. The more complete and accurate your listing is, the higher you show in local searches.
For Google My Business, Clifton also recommends including a description of your business along with interlinking important keywords. Another feature that many people miss out on is the ability to add photos of their business’ exterior, interior, team members, logos, and more.
Morgan Bachemin, Digital Ads Director at Online Optimism warns that often if your local listings page is not kept updated when people are searching for your company specifically, it is discouraging for customers. When a healthcare client who had been limited in treating patients out of a trailer in a remote area for over a year, finally built a full-service agency, the photo for their Google My Business page was still that trailer. It was incredibly confusing and off-putting to potential patients.
SEO – Get Found
In other words, Just. Google. It
For businesses, the main source of traffic and views continues to be organic and through search engines and that’s where your efforts should be directed. Focus at least some of your efforts on SEO, recommends Tim Grinsdale, Director of TOAD® Diaries. It’s often considered too difficult or technical by many young businesses. However, focusing on ‘long-tail’ keywords on your website and social media profiles can generate some easy low-hanging fruit opportunities.
Case in point – you can list ‘cupcakes’ as your main keyword and compete with a lots of others – often bigger sites – who use it. Instead, use a long tail one like ‘gluten free vegan cupcakes’ to up the possibility of your being listed higher on Google searches.
(Detailed tips & hacks on optimizing your SEO coming soon on Maroon Oak).
Stand Out From the Crowd
What differentiates you can drive your success!
You don’t have to be the square in a sea of circles. Even if your product isn’t unique, sharing a meaningful USP (unique selling proposition) can be the a strong differentiator.
Create/ Rehearse a short pitch (verbal and written) that includes what service you provide, what customer you serve, and how you help that customer solve a specific problem. Ask 5 to 10 peers for feedback, then refine your oral pitch. Use a very short version of this pitch for all digital presence, and the longer version for in-person introductions. This works because a concise statement that gives your business context is easy to understand, and people can quickly figure out how you can add value says Margeaux Sullivan, Founder, Quest Complete Consulting
Think of it like a Twitter bio – how best can you share an intro in 140 characters or less?
Lori Cheek of Cheekd has an interesting story to share for an out of the box visibility statement. “At the Dublin Web Summit when over 800 startups were exhibiting (90% of them were men), I decided to stand out by wearing Angel Wings throughout the conference (I have a dating business). When I was checking out of my hotel to head back to NYC, I looked down at Judy Dench on the cover of the Irish Times and there I was right next to her (me on my laptop with my Angel Wings— inside there was another 1/4 page picture mentioning my business).
Influencers Rule! Engage with them!
For a small business owner, it’s never been easier to engage and reach out to micro or mid-tier experts and access their sphere of influence. You can use tools like Social Media to first interact and then connect for a co-branding campaign.
Brandon Chopp, Digital Marketing Strategist, iHeartRaves uses influencer marketing as part of digital marketing strategy for their ecommerce brand. They find popular accounts on Instagram or use a platform called Tomoson, (comes with a free trial) a tool that helps pair influencers with brands. Often times, they send a product to an influencer for free, in exchange for an honest review that is posted to their blog or social media followers. The most important element of an influencer package aside from cultural fit, is the overall reach of their blog or social media accounts. “We measure our return on investment based on the number of impressions we receive, how much referral traffic we get, and of course – how many sales come as a result of the campaign, ” adds Chopp.
Beyond Facebook Pages
Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal recommends active participation in relevant Facebook GROUPS (especially local ones) to gain new customers and boost visibility for your small business.
FB now has a dedicated mobile app to support their groups’ communities so now it’s easier than ever to manage the groups that you participate in, monitor the conversations, and participate while on the go throughout your day, he adds.
Choose a few good groups where you can actively engage and develop relationships. Remember to follow the 80/20 content rule – share advice and resources 80% and pitch only 20%.
Join Maroon Oak’s Career Networking for women FB Group
Pinterest as a traffic driver
Contrary to the general belief of Pinterest being a substitute magazine pinboard, today, it’s a huge and extremely popular search engine. The best part – Pinterest visuals have a longer shelf life than posts on Facebook or Twitter, and there is always the potential of a pin getting back into viral circulation months later.
Pinterest is the best way to gain visibility for a small business for free, suggests Chris Gronkowski, CEO of Ice Shaker and Owner, Everything Decorated. If you have a product or service geared towards female customers, Pinterest is a huge asset. Pinterest doesn’t just drive a lot of traffic to your website, it also brings customers that are ready to purchase. Your images on Pinterest will also rank on Google search very easily, which is an added bonus.
Kristin Marquet, Founder & Creative Director of Creative Development Agency says that she uses Pinterest to build each email list and send subscribers through her sales funnel.
At Maroon Oak, we often create multiple pins for the same blog post. Not only is that a great way to drive more traffic, it also serves as an A/B test to learn what resonates better with our audience.
Engage with Instagram
Instagram is visual, yes, but it’s also an extremely popular social platform and shouldn’t you go where your customers are?
Ksenia Newton, Digital Marketing Manager CrossCap feels that Instagram helps drive ROI. The more different touch points you have with the users, the better chances of converting them into customers. Offer a discount or temporary promotion via Instagram Stories! Or even a campaign a giveaway, a poll or Influencer marketing campaigns with users with a lot of engaged followers and asking them to promote your product or service. For User Generated Content and micro influencer marketing – click around and see if you can find users who have a following of 1000 – 10k followers. Start interacting with them. Perhaps, you’ll be able to send them your product and ask him/her to feature that product on their Instagram page to get a review. Also, you can ask if you can repost something from their wall onto yours.
Hashtags are the most popular search on Instagram. For leveraging Instagram for visibility, it is imperative to not repeatedly use the same hashtags for every picture. At Maroon Oak, we use a few new ones every time to reach a more diverse audience with every post. For every new upload on Instagram, look for related hashtags to your current image theme.
Need some ideas? Here are some great Tips to start on Instagram.
Author Natasha Kvitka has ideas on using customer data – Use your CRM to spot the customers with active social media accounts, and reach out to them on Twitter, Instagram etc after the purchase; thank them for their business, offer additional information on the products,or even invite them to follow the brand on social media. After such interactions, the customer might consider leaving your business a positive feedback, and even their public replies may work as testimonials. Though that does not substitute other ways of online reputation management, still it increases visibility and allows you to reach a wider audience.
Invest in Content for value and visibility
Build a Blog
Kenneth Burke, Marketing Director at Text Request feels that after initially listing your site anywhere (reliable) that you can find, blogging and guest blogging can help you continue building trust, gain visibility and drive growth.
Google’s top two ranking factors (for websites) are links and content, says Casey Tongg, Digital Marketing Strategist at CFR Rinken. If done correctly, having a blog on your website gives you the opportunity for both of these. If you’re able to update your blog frequently and consistently, your site’s visibility improves with Google (and brings repeat visitors to your site). Investing the time and resources to create blog content, even if it’s just a couple articles a month, is extremely beneficial.
Round-ups are a great way to gain visibility while simultaneously contributing to content. The experts who contribute get visibility and they in turn share your blog on their social platforms. A win-win for all.
Read: Tips from 8 professionals on How to Perfect Your Business Pitch
Connect with the Press
Dan Roberge, President of Maintenance Care favors earning high quality links through HARO, (or Help A Reporter Out). Some of the best quality links that can be built with authoritative sites are from reporters and writers asking for information and help. They are often sites with high Domain Authority, which can have a positive impact for your own website’s ranking in the search engines.
PR Web can be used for Press releases to different outlets. It’s not free, but their reach makes it worth considering if you have a big launch or announcement to publicize.
Twitter is a great place to research, follow and connect with journalists in your sphere of influence.
Make it about the Customer
One of Margo Schlossberg clients started a customer profile series called “Spotlight On” for her clients, a high-end menswear store selling both custom and off the rack in a retail space. By getting the clients to talk about their business and posting on LinkedIn, they could get their peers to see and comment on the photo. It was a great way to make customers feel special and included as well as to have content shared and commented on by a similar demographic.
Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO Mavens & Moguls advises going on a Listening Tour! Start listening with no strings attached, you’ll be amazed what you find.
Make a list the movers & shakers, people you admire and prospects, ask a few smart open ended questions then sit back and take notice. They will be more than happy to tell you what is on their mind. It does not cost much – for the price of a few coffees and meals you will get an earful. If you listen to what they share with you there will be plenty of opportunities to help them. It is a great way to connect and a lot of fun too.
Monitor Your Reputation
Customer feedback is the ultimate truth!
As important as testimonials and appreciation are, negative public feedback can damage a business’ reputation significantly. Online and social listening can help you know, respond and sometimes even avert a disaster.
Repwarn is a tool that helps track negative and positive reviews of a business online, and also watches out for competitor keywords, recommends Walt Bayliss of Universal Media Online. Now, it may not be the first-line visibility you’re looking for but it is a tool that does boost visibility because it helps entrepreneurs act on and engage with customers right away through notifications.
Derek Hines’ Company West Coast Self-Storage uses Get Five Stars, an online review site to get customer testimonials and reviews for their locations. “The system emails the customer, asking them how their service was. These reviews then show up on their website because of widget we installed. The best part is that those reviews show up in Google SERPs and in the Knowledge Graph. Since those have been showing up, our click-through rates (CTR) have skyrocketed, he adds, which has led to higher rankings, since Google values CTR.”
Project Authenticity – First & Last
Credibility is when your customers know you care!
Be brave and real with everyone you meet, and meet as many people as possible, suggests Libby Dickerson, Founder of Better Business Designer. You may be surprised when you do this how many people genuinely want to help you. Sometimes in business I think we feel like we have to put up a front and appear like we have it all figured out, so it can be challenging.
It’s important that your small business comes across as a credible resource for anyone researching what you offer. You can provide free, online guides to show customers how to choose exactly what they need, adds Bret Bonnet. You can also make the ordering process as simple as possible. That way, your website stands apart from the rest, whether you’re selling vacuums or providing a dog grooming service!
More than you your product (or service), it’s the way you engage with your audience that keeps them coming back.
Leverage the Power of Reviews & Referrals
You cannot make it alone in the world of online business, or in any other business, says Andrew Spence, the Founder of Jiggle Digital. Referrals from complementary businesses can be a great source of customers who already know what they want and are ready to buy.
If you are in the health and nutrition niche, you could partner up with a business that sells fitness equipment online, to have a ready market through this kind of strategic partnership.
Tiffany Powell of Sapphire Bookkeeping & Accounting also supports online reviews. It really depends on what industry you are in, but we have found that referrals is the best way of advertising for us. We continuously encourage clients to post reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp or anywhere really. A high rating on Yelp really helps on google searches, she adds.
Consider Promotional Products for small business growth
According to ArrtPromotions, 58% of people hang on to their promotional products. Rachel Stephens of TotallyPromotional.com feels that Entrepreneurs looking to grow their small business should not ignore the power of promotional products. Custom-printed pens or can coolers are great giveaways for any business, she says. We also suggest unique items like hand sanitizer or tote bags if they suit a business.
If investing in a lot of promotional products is not yet in your budget, why not start with something small. Or maybe one with a cool or witty message!
When choosing promotional products, check out this blog on some great facts on Promotional products.
There is no one formula for visibility – it often takes a combination of strategy and smart tactics to break away from the noise. Sometimes, one key step will do it, but it mostly takes small but sustained steps to gain traction and stay visible.
In the final analysis, a good business creates products, services and brands. A great one also creates customers, advocates and champions!
Disclaimer: The views in this article are from the author and the contributors. Maroon Oak (company) takes no responsibility for any of the recommendations posted here. Nor has the author or the company been compensated in any way for sharing the links or mentions.
Pooja Krishna is an Entrepreneur, Consultant and Mom. She has worked both in large corporates and managed startups over the last 20+ years. A co-founder of Maroon Oak, she’s also founded Win Thinks, a small business consulting company, and Trading Paces, which educates amateur and pro stock traders. She blogs and teaches workshops about Brand Strategy, Social Media & Future ready Career Solutions. She loves being a Classroom Mentor and teaching students across the U.S. about Job Skills and Entrepreneurship.
A trivia buff and yoga & hula hoop enthusiast, Pooja loves spending time with her family playing board games and watching documentaries.
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