(Image from Flickr)
You can grow the sales of your business if you know how to build your online presence effectively. Unlike bricks-and-mortar locations, it costs nothing (other than time) to add a location in the virtual world.
The easiest way to understand how to build out locations online is to think about how businesses do it offline. To simplify things, we’ll assume you own a growing service business. It works much the same for most businesses.
Let’s start by looking at how you build out your locations in the real world.
Your main office
It begins with a single bricks-and-mortar facility: your main office. Your firm is entirely contained in this office. All of its activities originate from and consummate in this location.
Over time, your business grows. You see opportunities to open satellite branches.
You may choose to do this to:
- gain more exposure for your business
- serve existing customers better by being closer to them
- attract new customers
- serve a high-growth area of your market
Some functions may remain exclusive to your main office. Specialists may reside there and get dispatched out to your satellite branches as needed.
Perhaps some functions aren’t necessary at the satellites at all. For example, assume you own your main office but lease all the branches. In this case, the landlord may manage the facility.
You know that you also need to showcase your business online. Let’s look at how you build that out.
The main office online
Your website is your main office in the virtual world. Just like you start with your main office in the real world, you begin building your online presence with your website.
Your website should be more than a “souped-up” Yellow Pages ad. Sure, you want to showcase your products and services. You want to spell out the benefits you provide customers.
However, you should also consider offering visitors something of value in exchange for their e-mail address. You may have a blog to share valuable information with your customers and get feedback from them.
Every time that you establish a presence in social media, it’s like opening a new satellite branch online. You do it for the same reasons that you would open a satellite branch offline:
- to get more exposure
- to provide better service
- to find more customers
- to capitalize on growth
There are many opportunities to open satellites online. The “landlords” are places like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Foursquare, YouTube, flickr and too many more to mention.
In most cases, they “lease” you space for free!
They build the traffic. They maintain the “facility”.
All you have to do is sign on, build out your space and start engaging with customers and prospects.
The limit of online satellites?
You may object to this analogy. You may assert that your real world satellites are places where you actually conduct business. You won’t do that at most, if not all, of your online satellites.
That is one of the differences between the two. However, think about this:
When you set up a satellite online, it’s a
very short drive to your main office online.
With just one click, your customers and your potential customers can visit your web site. It is the hub for all of your online activity.
So you set up online satellites to drive traffic to your site and, ultimately, your bricks-and-mortar facilities.
Where should you open online satellites?
Once again, let’s turn this back to the real world to see what to do in the virtual one.
To determine whether or not to locate your business in a specific place, you may ask two questions. Given its cost:
- Is there a reasonable level of traffic passing by?
- Are a reasonable portion of these passer-bys your prospects?
The same questions apply to considerations of virtual facilities. However, many social media sites have huge amounts of traffic. So the first question is rarely an issue.
The second question is the driver: Given its cost (usually time), can you reach a reasonable portion of your target demographic?
If the answer is “Yes”, you have identified a suitable location for an online satellite. Before you commit, though, consider these four things:
There are a number of reasons to expand online. What are yours? Define your goals clearly, develop a strategy and build out accordingly.
- Web site
If you are successful at driving people to your site, what will happen? Are you prepared to convert visitors to prospects or customers? If not, this is the place to start.
Would you open a bricks-and-mortar branch and not staff it? Of course you wouldn’t.
Yet that’s exactly what many businesses do with their online satellites. Don’t open a satellite until you have the people in place to oversee it.
Would you simultaneously open two satellites in the real world? Some large companies may do this, but not many.
So why do so many businesses jump in on two or more sites at the same time online? Do one well. Then open another one.
Building online distribution works much like the real world, at a much lower cost. Start with your base and build out from there. If you do it effectively, your business will grow with every new location. It leads to BIGG success!
What suggestions do you have for expanding one’s online presence?