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Eight Elements of a Successful Online Marketing Plan

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“Once you have identified the top three directories, set up a business profile on each of them,” Tsai instructs. “In addition to your basic information, add photos and a business description that tells a story to potential buyers. You can also comment on or address any existing reviews that need attention. Now, you’re in a great position to monitor and interact with your potential customers as time permits. Remember, the value you’ll get out of these online reputation outlets depends almost entirely on the quality of your engagement with customers.”

Work on your social life. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know how popular social media has become. But did you know that, when used effectively, social media sites can increase your business’s visibility, give you an opportunity to present a more personal side to potential customers, drive awareness through social activity and check-ins, and turn casual buyers into true fans?

“If you have the time-and-energy bandwidth to do so, set up profiles for your business on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram,” Tsai recommends. “A little research will usually show you which sites your target market spends the most time on. And don’t just stick to status updates. Bear in mind that the old saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ is as true online as it is in the ‘real world.’ It’s been shown that a Facebook status update with a photo and caption generates aroundfour times higher engagement than text alone does, as long as the content is appropriate for the channel and your audience.”

Do regular maintenance. It’s a given that over time, your business will evolve. You’ll modify your logo, employees will come and go, information and photos will become outdated, you’ll introduce new products, etc. That’s why it’s important to set up a regular online maintenance schedule—Tsai recommends doing it at least quarterly—to make these necessary updates to your website and various online profiles.

Consider hiring pros to boost your reputation. After you have established a basic online presence, the sky is the limit in terms of how involved, extensive, and creative your interactions with consumers can be. But if you’re like most small business owners, the basics are all you have the time and resources to cover yourself.

“If that’s the case, don’t worry—you’ve done what’s necessary to set up an online storefront in which customers can connect with you,” Tsai says. “But if you still want to up the ante, know that there are paid-for services to help you connect even more quickly and effectively with potential and existing customers. For instance, you can invest in ‘paid search,’ which enables you to purchase the rights for a higher display rate when consumers search for specific terms. You can also advertise with business directories like Google and Yelp and post deals directly on your business profile; for instance, offering a discount to first-time buyers.”

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