Friday, February 13, 2015

Strategies for a small business online presence,

How many times have you searched for a small business or organization and found that they do not have a website? Or if they do have an online presence, it exists in very limited form, with little information about them or what they provide. Finding simple information such as hours of operation for a brick-and-mortar shop, location information, or even a phone number can be like pulling teeth. But, it doesn't have to be that way, right?

Small businesses arrive in as many shapes, sizes, flavors, and purposes as their title, and while their main objective is to provide a product or service, their approaches to an online presence are probably as varied as their business names and individual objectives. So how does one develop a strategy for an online presence for new and existing small businesses?

A one-size-fits-all approach is not likely to succeed; there will always be a certain strategy that works well for some but not for others. Strategies can be tailored to fit a business to business (B2B) approach, a single or small restaurant chain, or a mom-and-pop retail store. Other differentiators will be founded on legal status, company size, location, and whether the business exists as a physical storefront or only online.

This two part piece will distill several strategies that might be considered for these three types of small businesses:

•Local restaurant
•Small retailer

Each type can have overlapping strategies, and some will include specific strategies suited to their type of business. The second part wraps up with a list of resources for further study on the subjects of small business online strategies.

Business To Business (B2B)

One of the hurdles of establishing a B2B business model is gaining the trust of other businesses to work with you, especially since much of the commerce is conducted by interstate and foreign transactions; therefore, it's hard to authenticate the validity of an organization without some form of online presence.

At a bare minimum, you would want to include your physical office location, including directions along major routes and local landmarks to let your visitors know where you are on the map. Then you need to have some contact information such as your main business phone number and fax number(s), and email addresses for the main points of communication into your company.

Next, you would want to include intermediate content that helps to describe your business. A separate web page document, tab, or section should offer more details about the services and products you offer. Another section could contain a history and background of your company and list any awards or major projects that you want to highlight. Also, provide links to mentions in the press, customer testimonials, or other information that helps to promote the business.

Local restaurant

It still amazes me how many local restaurants do not have an online presence, not even a simple Facebook page, and perchance only a listing in the online yellow pages or local Yelp, or Urbanspoon. While limiting your online presence to these listings and reviews that others post about your restaurant might be all you need to keep your business running, it helps if you have control over your own online presence too.

For the absolute basics, you will want to include the same content set as the B2B business, including the restaurant location, directions, main phone number, fax number, and email contact. In addition, you will want to include your hours of operation for each meal time, including separate dining and lounge service periods if applicable.

Your next step would be to include an online version of your complete menu including food and beverages and any special menus such as brunch, buffets, or holiday and event menus.

Small retailer

Most retailers exist as brick and mortar locations, and some exist as virtual only ventures, and being able to compete against them can be a huge battle for the traditional retailer business model especially if there is no online presence. The physical mall is being eroded more as virtual online establishments continue to add eCommerce to their portfolio of tools that attract more customers away from shopping centers and strip malls.

At a bare minimum you need to have all the similar strategies as the other business models described here, a store location with directions, hours of operation, phone and fax numbers, and a contact email address.

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