A Torian Group Solution
Executive summary: Your business brand should be consistent. It should clearly associate with your unique selling proposition, and immediately bring to mind why people would do business with you. To extend your brand on to the Internet, use a business domain name, and matching email address. Have a website using the same domain. Keep a consistent look: use the same logo, colors, and domain name across all printed and internet marketing material. Register additional domain names as needed to protect your brand and chosen domain name. Claim your business in local search, and get set up on social media.
Your “brand” is what people think when the think about your business. You start to build a brand by clearly identifying your “unique selling proposition” – why someone would choose to do business with you rather than your competitors. This is your niche market – where you are the best. Branding clearly communicates your unique selling proposition. Consistency in associating your message with your logo, business name, and domain name creates a mental association of “who you are”. Start by defining the benefits of your service or product in a few sentences. Develop a phrase which conveys your identity in a few words. Have a logo which will reinforce your brand. Register a domain which goes with your brand.
An integrated brand identity, including an internet domain name, is a key to marketing success. If you are still using email @aol.com or @sbcglobal.com, it is time to get your own internet domain. Make sure your identity on the web is aligned with your other advertising efforts. Part of your brand is your internet domain. Your email and web address should be on your business card and other marketing materials, along with your phone number. It will cost you about $15/ Month to have your own website and email @yourdomain.com and is well worth it. Even in the central valley customers expect you to be reachable on the internet, and will judge your credibility by your email domain name.
Have a web site, even if it only displays your logo, address and phone number. This makes it possible to find you on the web. There are many ways to set up a simple free or low cost web site. Most internet providers who offer email also offer basic web hosting along with it. Make sure your web site domain matches your email and ties to your business name and branding. You want your web site to be www.mybusinessname.com, not a link on some other domain name such as www.mywebhostcompany.com/someobscurelink, or mycompany.blogspot.com. Your own domain indicates you are serious about doing business, and conveys credibility.
Register one primary domain name which will represent your brand. Avoid abbreviations, and keep it simple to remember. Shorter is better, but not at the expense of clarity. If you are starting a company, you may want to select an available domain before settling on a company name. It’s that important.
Then register related domains to protect the internet “real estate” around your brand. To fully protect your brand, register all the domain names someone might use when trying to find you. Also consider registering domains which your competition or detractors might use to defame you or redirect people to them instead of you. For example: if your company is Widgets Inc, you might want to register widgets.com; widgets.net; widgets.org. You may want to go further and register widgets.co; widgets.tv; widget.com; widgetsinc.com; widg.et; visaliawidgets.com – you get the idea. Also think about how people might find you when searching. If your widgets are helpful to people who wash windows, consider domain names like windowwidgets.com. The more visible your business is, the more important it is to protect your brand by registering all related domains.
All these domain names can be redirected (pointed to) to your primary domain name, which is the one you use in your branding, including website and email. Domain registration costs about $10 per year per domain, a good value compared to other types of advertising.
Domain names are unique. To keep them that way, you have to register a domain name with a “Domain Name Registrar”. Domain names come with different extensions, which are intended to indicate the type of domain: .com for business, .edu for education, etc.
When you register a domain, you do it through the Domain registrar’s web site. You generally provide a credit card, email address, billing and technical contact information, and at least 2 DNS server addresses. (more on DNS servers below). They will often try to get you to sign up for additional services, such as web hosting and email. All domain registrars provide the same service- the only difference is the price and ease of signing up. www.godaddy.com is very popular because it is inexpensive. www.bustaname.com will provide you with a list of registrars to choose from, and their prices.
Stay away from network solutions. Their advertising is sometimes deceptive, and they cost more than most. Some Domain registrar companies will lock every domain you search for using their site, forcing you to buy it from them. If you are just getting started with the internet, you may need to create a free email address with Gmail or yahoo so you have a way to register your domain.
Email is a key element in your communications. Use consistent naming for all your email addresses – either firstname.lastname@example.org or first.last@. This makes it easy for someone to contact a person at your company when they know the name, but not the email address.
Create a virtual business card (VCard) and attach it to your emails. This allows the recipient to easily and accurately add you to their contacts. Create an attractive signature with your logo, a tag line, and a link to your newsletter signup. Make sure everyone in the company uses the same format. Here’s an example:
Consider creating a separate role based email addresses (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org) for your business marketing if you don’t have one already. This will allow you to redirect incoming emails to a separate email account or folder easily. It also makes it easier to have different employees manage the role of handling incoming mail without having to change multiple websites when someone leaves or gets hired.
Keep your personal email separate from your public marketing email to avoid spam.
You can automatically email people with a predefined set of emails on a schedule- sometimes called drip marketing. Use this with caution – be sure the messages are desired -so they aren’t permanently redirected to the client’s spam filter. It can be a good tool for onboarding clients, or following up a meeting. Many mailing list managers such as constantcontact.com and mailchimp.com include this feature.
Once you have a domain registered, you need to select a vendor to host your DNS, your email, and if appropriate, your website. These are often bundled with domain registration, but don’t have to be. Torian Group offers DNS, email and web hosting at competitive prices, and is a good choice if you are already working with us as a client, because it is easy for us to work on your behalf.
Some vendors, such as Google Apps: http://www.google.com/apps and Office 365 http://products.office.com bundle in domain registration, DNS, email, and web hosting as part of the service. It is simple, inexpensive, and comes with extras.
We recommend www.squarespace.com or www.wordpress.com for a basic low cost website if you want to design your own website. Both allow you to customize the look and layout without having to know HTML or web design. None provide email.
Website, Keywords and “SEO”
Your website is the core of your internet marketing. Start by identifying your goals – be clear about why you have a website. What do you want visitors to do? Identify the potential audiences, and what they will be looking for. Create imaginary profiles of the visitor(s) to help you see their point of view. Design the site to make it easy for them to get what they came for. Then test – try it out on clients, relatives and friends. Focus on clarity and ease of use.
Attracting the right people and giving them a positive experience is often more important than traffic volume. In the central valley, a lot of business happens by referral. People will come to your website to check you out before contacting you. Make it easy for them to take the next step.
Develop your website around your brand. Use consistent colors. Clearly convey your unique selling proposition on the home page using images and text that can be absorbed in a few seconds.
Identify key search terms which would be used by people seeking your services. Use these to help create the content for “landing pages” on your website which highlight the answers for those searching. Build content around these pages that will help attract visitors – add value to the visitor’s experience.
Keywords are what people type into search engines such as Google or Bing to find things. You want to use the words that your potential customers use when they search for your product or service when determining what to put into your website, local search description, and social media. You can determine what people are searching for in your area by using the Google Keyword tool, at https://adwords.google.com . Sometimes people may searching for you in unexpected ways – find out using the keyword tool. You will want to create a (free) Google account to get the most out Google Adwords.
Keyword search is part of the bigger topic of “SEO” – search engine optimization. This is the process of designing your online message so you are found by the people seeking your services. There is a lot of hype around this topic. If you have a clear message – well written and easy to navigate – it will do more for you than tricky web SEO. Consider optimizing your site only after you have the basics of good content and layout in place.
Web design is important and complex – get professional help and follow their advice. Ask for our article on building your website and selecting a web designer.
More people have smart phones than have computers. When your prospective customers want to find something, they Google it. You want to be found in local searches. Create a Google account, and search Google maps for your business. Go to more information, and find the link to “claim this business”. You will have to confirm that you are the owner, and then you add details about your business, including photos, and even video.
Similarly, claim your location in the other local search engines. If you don’t claim your location, there is some risk that your competition will. Use a consistent name and address, so all your sites reinforce your local search listings through “Citations” – a fancy word for the number of directories you show up in.
We have an entire article on getting set up in local search – just ask.
Be sure you at least claim your business and personal names on social media. Again, if you don’t, someone else may. Get a personal Facebook account, and then create a business Facebook page. Get signed up with LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, and Twitter (as a start). Even if you don’t plan to use them, you can simply point people to your website. Social media is becoming a primary avenue of referral and recommendation – be sure you are easy to find and recommend.
If you are inclined, get involved – start by visiting the websites and learning, and then plan your strategy – be sure you understand your business goals and schedule your time accordingly. See our articles on social media for more information.
Consider setting up a business blog. We recommend www.tumblr.com or www.wordpress.com as a blogging platform. You can use your domain name, and the basic version is free. Set up a blog.yourdomainname.com site, and post regularly. You can reuse content – it is not as much work as you might think. Use tidbits from industry news you already get, and rephrase it. Re-use emails you create to answer questions from clients or customers. Leverage the content by posting (appropriately) on multiple sites, and link to it from social media. Re-use articles in your printed newsletter. Build your reputation as a leader in your field. Build a community around your brand and unique service or product. Even if no one reads your blog, it is indexed in search engines, and enhances your visibility on the web. Many visitors will check your blog to get a quick understanding of your approach to business. Give them something to check.
If you don’t already have an email newsletter, start one. Start small and simple, even once every 6 months. This is one of the most powerful tools you can use to reinforce your brand, and stay visible to your prospects. Build your mailing list by selling the value of the newsletter one person at a time – It has no use if the recipient doesn’t want it and never reads it. Never send unsolicited email – it will damage your reputation, and your potential customers will flag your email as spam. Plan on building your mailing list over time. Use a mailing list manager such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact. Create a good looking template that matches your website’s look, and includes your logo. Link it to an email sign up form on your website and Social Media pages, with an opt-in email confirmation process. Integrate getting people signed up for your newsletter into your sales process. Mention your newsletter to anyone who might be interested – vendors and partners as well as clients.
The biggest barrier for most people is coming up with good content. Re-use material from your blog, emails explaining what you do or answering questions, and online content. Get testimonials or short stories from your happy clients. Reuse industry news. Start small, and keep it simple but consistent.
Putting it all together
Once you have everything registered, it’s time to put yourself out there – make sure your domain name and email are on all of your marketing materials, along with your phone number and address.
Once you have established your presence, set business goals for your Internet marketing, integrated with your overall marketing plan. Determine how you will measure results.
Refine your strategy: Use online tracking tools such as Google Analytics and Facebook Insights to get feedback and improve your online presence. Identify what key words and phrases are actually being used to find you. Determine what people do once they find you – is your strategy working? Be sure to ask everyone how they found you, and keep track.
Automate the process: Use Hootsuite to manage your social media posts. Use Blogging software -Blogger, Windows Live Writer, MarsEdit for Mac’s – to post and schedule your blog content. Use an email management service for scheduling and sending your newsletter. Be cautious about outsourcing social media and blog content – the authentic personal element is what makes it work.
Stay safe: Set up an account at www.lastpass.com to manage your login accounts to all the websites you interact with. This automates the task of logging in to websites by remembering your login name and password. It makes it practical to keep separate complex passwords for every website you use. Where possible, separate the email used for password recovery on websites from your regular email. Ask us for the article on how and why to do this.
If all this sounds overwhelming, or you just don’t have time, we can get you set up and started within a few hours. The whole process of selecting and registering a domain and getting set up for email and web hosting can be done for about $2-300 plus any domain registration and hosting costs. Give us a call. We can help with Web design and SEO, local search, custom graphics for Facebook, newsletter template design and setup, and planning your Internet marketing campaign.