If you are a small business owner, you might be wondering how important having a strong digital presence really is. After all, you have a loyal customer base, a unique product or service, and a local reputation. Why bother with the hassle of creating and maintaining a website, social media accounts, or other online platforms?
The answer is simple: because your customers are online.
They are not just browsing or shopping; they are also researching, comparing, reviewing, and recommending products and services. According to the Salesforce State of the Connected Customer report, 53% of customers prefer to purchase online versus in-store and 61% of customers who shop via social media are projected to do it more in three years.
This means that if you don’t have a strong digital presence, you are missing out on a huge opportunity to reach and engage with potential and existing customers, build trust and credibility, and grow you business.
What is Digital Presence?
Digital presence is the sum of all the touch points that a customer may have with your brand online. It includes:
- Your website: This is your online storefront, where you showcase your products or services, tell your story, and provide information and value to your visitors.
- Your social media accounts: These are your online communities where you interact with your followers, share content, establish yourself as a leader in your industry and build relationships.
- Your online reviews: These are your online testimonials where you receive feedback from your customers, respond to their queries and complaints, and improve your reputation.
- Your email marketing: This is your online newsletter where you communicate with your subscribers, offer promotions and discounts, and drive traffic to your website.
- Your online advertising: This is your online billboard where you reach new audiences, generate leads, and increase conversions.
All of these elements work together to create a consistent and compelling image of your brand in the minds of your customers. A strong digital presence can help you achieve goals such as:
- Increase brand awareness and visibility
- Build trust and credibility
- Generate more leads and sales
- Improve customer satisfaction and loyalty
- Gain competitive advantage
Why is Digital Presence Important for Small Businesses?
You might think that digital presence is only relevant for large corporations or eCommerce businesses. But the truth is that every business, no matter how big or small, can benefit from having a strong digital presence. Here are some of the reasons why it is important:
Customers Expect It
Today’s customers are tech-savvy and well-informed. They expect to find information about any business they are interested in online. They want to see what you offer, how much you charge, where you are located, what others think of you, and how you can help them solve their problems or fulfill their needs.
If they can’t find you online or if your online presence is weak or outdated, they might lose interest or trust in your brand. They might also choose your competitors who have a better online presence.
According to this study by BrightLocal, 87% of consumers use Google to evaluate local businesses in 2022. And according to some Hubspot statistics, 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information.
The bottom line is that having a strong digital footprint can help you attract more local customers who are looking for businesses just like yours.
It Helps You Stand Out
As a small business, you might face a lot of competition in your niche or industry. How can you differentiate yourself from the crowd and convince customers to choose you over others?
One way is to have a robust online identity that showcases your brand and your unique value proposition. You can use your website and social media accounts to highlight what makes you different from others. For example:
- Your story: Share how you started your business, what inspired you, what challenges you faced, and what values you uphold. This helps your customers connect on an emotional level with your brand.
- Your products or services: Showcase the features and benefits of your products or services, how they solve customer’s problems or fulfill their needs, and what makes them superior to others.
- Your testimonials: Display positive feedback from your satisfied customers who have used your products or services and experienced the results.
- Your awards and/or certifications: Display any recognition or accreditation that you have received from reputable organizations or authorities in your field.
By creating a memorable and impactful first impression on your potential customers, it will be easier to persuade them to take action.
It Enables Direct Marketing
One of the advantages of having good digital visibility is that you can use it to market your business directly to your target audience. You can use various online channels to reach and communicate with your customers, such as:
- Email Marketing – to send personalized and relevant messages to your subscribers, like welcome emails, newsletters, product updates, promotions etc.
- Social Media Marketing – to share engaging and valuable content with your followers, like blog posts, videos, product information etc.
- Content Marketing – to create and distribute informative and useful content that can educate, entertain, or inspire your audience, like e-books, white pages, case studies etc.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – to optimize your website and content for relevant keywords that your customers are searching for online. This can help you improve your ranking on search engines, increase your visibility, and drive organic traffic to your site.
By using direct marketing strategies, you can reach your customers at the right time, with the right message, and with the right offer.
It Improves Customer Service
Another benefit of having a strong digital presence is that you can use it to improve your customer service. According to the same SalesForce survey referred to earlier, the way that customers are reaching out to businesses is changing. Online customers service chats are up to 42% from 38% in 2020, while traditional email has gone down to 57% from 65%. Engagement with your customers is an omni-channel endeavour, with customers turning to an average of nine different channels to communicate with the companies they shop with.
In a fast-paced world where consumers are used to instant gratification, they are expecting fast and convenient service. A good customer service experience can turn a one-time buyer into a loyal customer, and customers are more likely to switch to a competitor if they have a service-related issue that isn’t resolved in a satisfying manner.
How to Create and Improve Your Digital Presence
Now that you understand what a digital presence is and why it is important for small businesses, you might be wondering how to create or improve yours. Rome was not built in a day, and so it will take some time for you to establish your identity in the virtual realm. Make sure that you resist the temptation of taking short cuts (like buying social media followers) or imitating your competitors. You want your brand to be consistent, authentic, and original in order to resonate with your audience. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Choose a domain name for your website and email that reflects your brand identity
Your domain name is the first thing that people see when they visit your website or send you an email. It is also the foundation of your online identity and credibility. Therefore, you want to choose a domain name that is:
- Relevant: It should relate to your business name, industry, or niche.
- Memorable: It should be easy to remember, spell and pronounce.
- Unique: It should stand out from your competitors and avoid confusion or infringement.
- Canadian: If you are targeting the Canadian market, you should consider registering a .CA domain name, which shows that you are proud to be a Canadian business and helps you rank higher on local search engines.
Webnames.ca offers a wide range of domain extensions to suit your needs and preferences. You can search for available domain names using our domain name search tool and add a professional email address that matches your domain to increase brand credibility from the get-go.
[If you need some more help deciding on a domain name for your business or brand, take a look at our blog How to Choose the Right Domain Name for a Startup or Business.]
2. Build a website that showcases your products or services.
Once you have registered your domain name, the next step is to create a website that showcases your products and/or services. A website is your online storefront, where you can display your offerings, share your story, and persuade your visitors to take action.
But building a website can be daunting, especially if you don’t have the skill or the tools to do it yourself. That’s why Webnames.ca offers Wix, the ultimate platform to create, manage and grow a business presence online. With four different plans to choose from, there’s a solution for every budget and need. Whether you want to create a dynamic website from scratch, use one of their over 900 professionally designed templates, or recreate your existing site with Wix, you can do it with ease and confidence. Plus, when you choose Webnames for your domain, email hosting, SSL, DNS, or one of our other security services. With Wix + Webnames, you have everything your online business needs under one roof.
[Find out more on why Wix + Webnames is the best choice for eCommerce in Canada.]
3. Generate high-quality and relevant content.
Content is the key to attracting, educating, and persuading the audience. Content can include blog posts, videos, podcasts, ebooks, infographics, webinars, case studies, testimonials, and more. Your content should showcase your brand’s personality, expertise, solutions to problems your customers have, and provide value to the audience. It should also be original, consistent, and optimized for keywords and social sharing.
To create effective content, you need to have a clear understanding of your target audience, their needs, preferences, and pain points. You also need to have a content strategy that defines your goals, topics, formats, channels, and metrics. Another component to generating high-quality content is using tools and techniques to research keywords, analyze competitors, create headlines, edit and proofread your content, and measure its performance. Content creation is not a one-time activity, but a continuous process that requires creativity, research, and optimization. By creating high-quality content that resonates with your audience, you can build trust, authority, and loyalty for your brand.
4. Choose the right networks.
Depending on the target audience and the goals of your business, different social media platforms can offer different benefits. For example, Facebook can help you generate leads and build relationships, LinkedIn can help establish authority and trust, and Instagram can help you showcase visual appeal and personality. However, each platform also has its own challenges and best practices that you need to be aware of. For instance, Facebook has a high level of competition and requires frequent posting and engagement, LinkedIn has a more professional tone and requires relevant and valuable content, and Instagram has a high demand for quality images and videos for reach and engagement. Therefore, you need to choose the right platforms for your business based on your objectives, audience, content, and resources. You also need to create a social media strategy that defines your goals, target audience, content plan, posing schedule, and metrics. Social media marketing is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but a customized and dynamic one that requires research, creativity, and adaptation.
Social media is not just a broadcasting tool, but a conversational one. A small business should use social media to build relationships, generate conversations, answer questions, solicit feedback, provide support, and encourage engagement. Social media can also help drive traffic to your website, increase brand awareness, and build loyalty.
5. Encourage customer feedback, reviews, and referrals.
One of the most powerful ways to improve your digital presence is to leverage the voices of your customers. They can provide feedback, reviews, and referrals that can increase trust and credibility for your business. You should encourage your customers to leave reviews on platforms like Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, or Trustpilot. You should also respond to reviews promptly and professionally. Additionally, you can create a referral program that rewards your customers for bringing in new customers.
Your Small Business’ Path to Success
A strong digital presence isn’t just about keeping up with the times – it’s about future-proofing your business. In a world where over 82% of Canadian customers prefer online purchases and 94% of small businesses in Canada use social media for marketing at least once a month and 52% do so daily, a digital presence isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.
Small business owners need to embrace their digital presence with open arms. Build your online storefront, nurture your online communities, curate your online testimonials, engage through email marketing, and amplify your message with online advertising. Your customers are waiting, and the future of your business is online. By doing so, you’ll not only meet expectations, but exceed them, stand out in a crowd, and secure a place in the minds of your customers.