Photo: Copa NYC via Flickr
Historians speculate that Benjamin Franklin was behind the famous quote, “There’s only two things that are guaranteed in life: death and taxes,” a wonderfully crafted observation that everyone can relate to.I’m quite convinced that at this point, I can safely add a third guarantee that, again, everyone can relate to: a small businesses need to launch and maintain a strong web presence.
In the 70′s and 80′s, people laughed at Bill Gates when he asserted that a personal computer belongs in every home in America, but by the early 2000′s, he had already accomplished that. However, I’ll make the next wild, Gates-ian observation that the early 2000′s was simply the beginning.
While the dawn of a new generational thought and practice of how small business conducts itself has passed, it’s still early in the morning. If your small business has created or bought a website, you’ve taken only the first step in a steep, and seemingly never-ending set of proverbial stairs that will lead to complete web dominance for your company.
The laundry lists of challenges that will be plaguing your web presence is daunting, but absolutely conquerable with the right tools, a skilled partner, a consultant who doesn’t charge in the $1,000′s, and a clear plan for achieving your small businesses goals.
Competition — It’s a classic conundrum that will forever shape any small business with a strategic operation that is focused on success: the competitive edge. It seems as soon as you secure some advantage over other businesses you compete with, those same businesses beat you to something new. I can’t help you stay competitive with your product offerings, innovations, or operations. However, I can keep you competitive online with your highly-developed web presence.
Here’s how: videos, engaging blogs, and the interactivity between your new social networks and your marketing plans. Integrating simple Search Engine Optimization tools and principles will tie it all together in one easy, simple-to-use and simple-to-find branded web presence for your small business.
I’m talking here about taking whatever marketing systems and principles you’ve used outside the web, and bringing them online into a powerful and dominant existence that your customers will appreciate and your competitors will envy and make noble attempts to imitate.
One-upping your direct competitors online with developed web assets and systems won’t be easy or quick, but make no mistake – if you’re not leveraging web 2.0, they are.
Get closer to your customers. The Internet has brought about a revolution in they way we access, collect, and retain information and an evolution in the way small business interacts with their customers. Because they are more knowledgeable and insightful about the ways they want to spend their money, customers demand a newfound, almost arrogant, respect from you and your products or services. And you should give it to them.
Using a powerful and well constructed web presence to reach and connect with your customers should be approached with some reserve and forethought, and here’s why: customer’s are holding the cards. Everyone, especially customers, have a voice online and if your small business isn’t delivering the products and services expected of you, they will raise that voice, especially when they have no direct or transparent access to resolve their issues with your company online.
This raises another important reason you need to respect your customers and respect the power of an effective online web presence: nearly everyone who has access to the Internet goes to the Internet first for information on your small business, products, services, complaints against your company, research on your market, industry, and just about any other reason someone is interested in what it is you do.
To give the customer what they are increasingly demanding is to provide unparalleled and unadulterated access to the information, resources, products, and services your small business puts online. Be the online leader, the authority, and the voice of your industry to attract the trust of your customers, vendors, and partners.
Preparing for the future: Have you ever thought of what the future holds for small businesses who interact online? Have you ever thought of where the Internet is going in the next 10, 15, or 25 years? What are the next great innovations that will again alter and influence the way your small business operates, whether on the web or off?
I’m a forward thinker. Right now, over 60% of North American small businesses leverage some social media marketing presence, whether if be Facebook, Twitter, or another site to control access to their customers, offer promotions and information on the business or industry, and connect with their online environment. When will you get on board with your small business? When that figure is 70%, 85%, or 100%? Can you afford to ignore this trend?
Everything we do as small business owners and consumers is moving to a digital platform. Small handheld computers that function as phones further consolidate the inter connectivity of life, and that trend isn’t reversing. The way money moves in our economy is increasing becoming digital and wired, and that trend isn’t reversing. The way customers access the products and services they want to buy is moving more and more online, and that trend absolutely isn’t reversing.
Isn’t it time you move your small business online and start outperforming your competitors, build deeper connections to your customers, and launch a strategic plan to leverage all online media and web presence has to offer to begin preparing yourself and your small business for Web 3.0?
Tom Copeland is a financial journalist and founder of Bullworthy.com.
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