The Essential Online Marketing Checklist for Small Businesses

Establishing your own online real estate is not easy as setting up a free Wix page without writing a single line of code. Whether you're a hole-in-the-wall shop owner who wants to go online or a tech savvy entrepreneur who wants to be the next internet millionaire, setting up in the virtual space is a headache-inducing ordeal. There are just too many things to do.

To help you get started or to find out whether you're web-ready, here is an online marketing checklist for small businesses.

Identify a profitable niche.

Focus on a niche because the internet is a highly competitive marketplace. The online market for your line of products is different because the playing field is bigger, as opposed to your physical store which is built for a specific area.

Build an online presence.

All businesses need a website and a social media presence. Even if you're not an online business, people search the web for information and recommendations. It's worth every penny to build a professional website.

Your website is search engine-optimised.

Implement SEO while building your website, not after. Google is still the most widely used search engine, so make sure that your website is optimised and has relevant content. 

Build an online Rolodex.

Get the contact details of every walk-in customer. Create a lead-generating form such as subscription for updates/newsletters or contact page. You can also combine this with your initial offers like a 30-day trial or free demo. This will enable you to build a contact list and create buyer profiles which you can use as a reference for your marketing efforts.

Engage with customers via email.

Email is the least expensive, fastest, and sure-fire way to connect with both new and existing customers. Using your contact list, you can create targeted and personalised email marketing campaigns. Web-based services such as MailChimp can automate this process. Always place an easy opt-out or unsubscribe option.

At the same time, don't take email inquiries for granted. Consumers may have stumbled through your website via Google or a referral from a friend. You can turn them into real-life customers.

Build an online community.

Use your social media network for engagement and support. Social media performs better as part of a marketing strategy rather than a sales substitute. You will gain more trust for treating your consumers as part of your brand rather than just target audience. Making a viral campaign is very tricky and when it goes wrong, it’s disastrous.

Sell online.

At some point, you have to make products in your store available through your website. Yes, there are people who still want their in-store retail therapy fix. But others prefer the convenience of shopping online in the comfort of their home, nestled in their couch and decked in pyjamas with a pizza within reach.

Have a web-savvy assistant.

If you're not web-savvy, hire an assistant to manage the website. You can also hire a general online marketer for starters and add specific roles (e.g. social media manager, content writer, graphic designer) when necessary.

Capitalise on web presence.

Maintain your online presence and capitalise on social media's influence on buyer behaviour. SEO is an ongoing process and the internet and online marketing change constantly. You need to maintain your website and engage with your online community.

There is no one word to describe the internet and sometimes, it can be a strange place to be in. But it's no question that there are a lot of opportunities in it for any clever entrepreneur.

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