Thursday, September 20, 2012

10 Things Small Businesses Can Do to Increase Awareness and Generate Business

There are many hands-on tactics that your company can employ to grow its business. Use them to increase your visibility among target customers, establish credibility and demonstrate leadership as experts in your industry. By consistently and effectively executing the tactics outlined here, you can increase your company’s bottom line for years to come.

1. Create a great website. Simply put, if a company does not have a website, it does not exist. Like bringing your cards to a meeting, a professional website is a business basic. If you don’t have one, get one. 

2. Make sure your website is seen. A website is useless unless people visit it regularly. Your site should be search engine optimized (SEO), so that it receives Web traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” listings on search engines. Your Web designer can build some of this into the site, however, there are a few things you can do on your own. These include posting press releases and blog entries that use searchable terms and link to popular articles to increase your search rankings. 

3. Create an effective blog. Blogs enable you to demonstrate your expertise about a particular business area. You can link your blog to your website or integrate your blog directly into it. Make sure that your visual branding and message is consistent. That way, people will more easily identify it with your company.

4. Have a strong voice on social media. It’s almost impossible to think of a world without social media. Yet, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and a slew of others have only been popular for the last several years. Like blogs, social media enables you to demonstrate your expertise and you can engage with a wide audience. Don’t think you have the time? Make the time. The days of sitting on the sidelines are in the past – be part of the conversation.

5. Engage in public relations. Local newspapers, business journals, industry publications and the ever-expanding world of business bloggers will write about new business wins and mention new hires especially in senior management. They also generate great content for your online posts. Send a press release to the target publication that reaches your ideal audience and focus on something exciting about the person (e.g., awards, accomplishments, civic involvement, etc.). Or, offer your expertise as a quotable source for a reporter so that they will include you in their coverage. Working with the media requires some insight and forethought so you may want to engage a public relations professional if you plan to go this route.

6. Share your articles. So, you got some media coverage in a feature story? Send it to your friends, business referral sources, clients, prospects, partners and employees. You can do this through social media, your blog and website; post a link in your email signature, or create reprints and include them in sales presentations.

7. Have a great voice mail message and email signature. It may sound like a no-brainer, but think about it. Your message is often the first time someone “interacts” with you. Make it friendly, energetic, informative and compelling. Say your company name and what it is you do. The same goes for your email signature. Restate your company mission, add a favorite quote, place links to your social media profiles and news articles about your company or just add your logo. Make sure to include your contact information, but skip the fax, it is obsolete.

8. Sponsor events. No matter your industry or interest, sponsorship opportunities abound. From sporting events to ethnic festivals, sponsorship can get you quality direct exposure with your target audiences. But don’t just sponsor – attend and have a branded presence so that people remember you.

9. Be an active member of industry associations. Professional associations can help you to gain credibility and name recognition. It is important for your peers to identify you as an expert for referrals, so be an active participant, speaker or volunteer. Your association will have resources to promote its members including press releases, member emails, blogs, social media sites and special events. Find out what resources are available to you and use them.

10. Identify business listing opportunities. Update your company’s business listings yearly. Many online listings are free and the more places that your company is listed, the higher your site will rank in search engines and the easier it will be for your audience to find your business.

Bonus Tip: High quality head-shots will help you and your staff to stand out in your social media and public relations activities. Make the investment – it is worth it!

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