Congratulations! You’ve put together a strong business plan and launched your company. The question to ask yourself now is: How are you portraying your business online?
Whether you’ve got an e-commerce company or a brick-and-mortar venture, brand perception is key. The majority (93 percent) of Canadians research businesses online before making purchases – your online presence is an important way to reach new and existing customers. Here are some mistakes you might not even know you’re making, and some tips on how to correct them.
You ignore social media.
If your business doesn’t have a social media presence, not only are you missing out on a huge (and free) marketing opportunity, but you’re also allowing others to determine how your brand is perceived. Small businesses without a lot of extra bandwidth might want to focus on one or two social media outlets that make the most sense for their customers, such as Facebook and Instagram. Consumers count on social media for updated info about businesses, like holiday hours and special promotions, as well as customer-service interactions. If you’re not updating these sites regularly, customers might see your business as a bit outdated or, worse, oblivious.
When it comes to social review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, it’s important to stay on top of what people are saying about you. If you get a bad review, it’s essential that you respond to it immediately and, if possible, try to make things right with the customer. Even if you can’t resolve things, other potential customers will see that you’re responsive and committed to quality and customer service.
You offer too many discounts.
Customers love a good sale, and it’s an important way to move inventory to make room for a new season’s merchandise. But it’s also possible to overdo it, and that’s when you might run into an image problem. If your items are discounted too often, a customer might not be willing to pay full price based on the assumption that the merchandise will be on sale in a week or two. Even worse, you may be perceived as a less valuable brand. Be judicious about discounts, and when you do have a sale, make it a big event that you publicize via social media and promote through email marketing messages to your customer base.
You only take reservations by phone.
If you operate a salon or spa and the only way clients can schedule or change appointments is by phone, they’re going to get frustrated (fast). Your business hours probably coincide with their work hours, which means they will probably have to sneak in a call at lunch. When they do, they may end up on hold, since that’s when everyone else is calling, too. Instead, invest in an online scheduling program that allows customers to book or reschedule appointments online at any time. Not only will customers appreciate the modern convenience of the system, but you’ll likely get an uptick in appointments.
Your website was designed a decade ago.
If customers look for you online and find a website with a dated appearance or wacky colour scheme, they probably won’t find it charming or retro. Even if you don’t offer e-commerce, it’s still important to have a well-designed website with clear, current information about who you are and where you’re located. If you do offer e-commerce, that should be a seamless process, too. It doesn’t need to have a lot of bells and whistles, just a clean, simple layout and nice photography. Apps such as Weebly sync with Square and make it easy to create websites, while other integrated options such as WooCommerce and Bigcommerce make setting up an online store a snap.