Does my small business need an online presence?

A man asked me this while I was waiting at the auto body shop. He spoke spoke about opening his own business and wanted to know if he needed online promotion. I explained that I studied marketing and advertising and that I thought it would be a great part of driving business.

However, there are a few considerations I should have mentioned:

  • Not all businesses must have an online presence, but it can help with people trying to reach out to you. Some businesses are completely grown by word of mouth and not all successful businesses have an online presence.
  • If you offer a localized product or service, maybe there are other methods that could serve you better like these.
  • An online presence only benefits a business if it is maintained, accurate, and provides value. Simply having a website or social media page will not necessarily bring in value to the business.

However, if you are willing to get engaged with online there are a lot of free options to get your name out there.

  1. Google offers free business pages - This can include your site, hours of operation, contact information and location. All ways for a customer to find and patronize your business. The Yellow Pages online offers free listings as well.
  2. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter - These are the largest social media platforms, followed by several others like Instagram, Youtube and Google+. Using these channels is free for businesses and can help drive people to your location with more information about your offering. It can also keep people engaged with your service and returning.
  3. Some websites are free- Wix.com offers free sites that are customizable. For ecommerce businesses or businesses looking to generate more web traffic, it may be worth it to buy your own domain, customize a site, and have a company email. Squarespace, Wordpress and Wix offer these options. There are plenty of site out there to help build a professional web page.
  4. Paid online and social advertising - A small budget can have a big effect. Just like with social media and building a site, choose what places to advertise carefully. Calculate your ROI before spending.

Of course, make sure your online presence makes sense. You don't need to use every channel to offer a valuable way for customers to engage. Do what is best for your business and do what you can maintain.

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