“Build it and they will come” – Actually, probably not.

lemonade stand

Build it and they will come??

In the early days of the internet – maybe 10 – 15 years ago the “Build it and they will come” adage might have rung true for a little while but not so anymore. These days you can’t just make a website, sit back and expect your page visits to miraculously multiply and orders to come flooding in. The web isn’t like the high street with a string of shops that people wander past – your website is competing against thousands and thousands (ok millions but I didn’t want to freak you out that much) of other websites. Does this mean you shouldn’t have a website? No – you definitely need a website but you also need a plan.

Let’s talk about Muffins

So let me try an analogy here. Forget the high street and imagine you have an home based enterprise making muffins. Perhaps if you opened the windows and let the delicious smell of freshly baked muffins waft out you might get in one or two of the neighbours and sell them half a dozen each. You might even get a little repeat business but I am thinking that selling 14 muffins a day probably isn’t going to cut it. So how do you tell more people about our muffins, how do you start selling lots of them? Off the top of your head you can probably think of several ways – door knocking on local shops with samples, hiring a little stall in the Saturday market, advertisements in the local paper, flyers with your phone number. After a while news spreads and you start getting in orders from a local cafe, you get a call from someone wondering if you supply gluten free, someone wants 40 for a birthday party, etc.

So just to beat home the point here – Ms. Muffin maker didn’t just start making muffins in her kitchen and then wonder why she didn’t have a line up of eager customers outside her kitchen window in the space of a few days. She put on her boots and got out there and started telling people about her muffins.

Back to the Web

So you’ve built your “muffin” selling website – and you’re wondering why no one is buying your muffins? Well get your boots on!! Start promoting your website. The key here is building “word of mouth” advertising through social media and other networking sites and building incoming links into your website which are essential for search engine optimisation.

Here are some basic tips to get you started that just cost you time (rather than money).

Building “Word of Mouth” Advertising (the best kind!)

1) Social Media

No sighing please!! The point is Social Media is here to stay and it’s a relatively easy, not to mention free way for you to get your business online and talked about. If you’re B2B try LinkedIn. If you’re already on Facebook (and apparently 50% of the Irish are) then just set up a page for your business and invite your friends – it’s a good start. If you definitely hate Facebook give Twitter a go – use Twitter search to see if people are talking about your business or a product you sell – offer some free advice.

For all social media – be yourself, talk like a human, don’t do salesy stuff all the time, post photos, be friendly, be helpful and minimise your social media activity to between 30mins to 1 hour per day (For your own sanity – remember it’s not your business,  it’s just there to promote your business!).

2) Niche Social Sites

Find out where your customers are hanging out online and make sure you have a listing (often free) on these sites. For example if you’re a restaurant or cafe then you should really be on www.menupages.ie, B&Bs and tourism related business should have a listing on Tripadvisor.com (for better or worse!). Google your business name and see what comes up – claim your listing (if it’s for free). Try Googling your business or service and seeing what sites come up – are your competitors on there?

Word to the wise: If you are putting your business out there and people are engaging with you for the love of God – talk back to them! You would always phone someone back if you have a missed call – well always respond to people who make comments or message you through your website or Facebook, Linkedin etc.

Building Incoming links

3) Local Community based websites & listings

If there is a local community website find out how you can get listed, some of them are pretty reasonably priced (sometimes free, usually under €50/year) compared the 100s you pay for a small square in the local newspaper for one week.

4) Write Articles

Are you an expert in your field? YES!!!! You are an expert. If you have a B&B then you are an expert in…. the best Irish Cooked Breakfast and local attractions and history. If you’re a landscaper you’re an expert in… How to get your grass super green. Get the idea? Or perhaps if you can’t write you can take photographs. Or maybe you can compile a list of the best things to do around your area or the top best flowers for your summer garden. All you ask for in return is a link back to your website.

Write articles on your chosen field and link back (subtlety is good here) to your website. A good way of doing the link backs is to include information/bio about the “Author” (you!). Good article websites to start on are http://www.squidoo.com or hubpages.com which allow you to write and publish articles on whatever you want. Take your time, do a good job, think about your keywords and you should get some good incoming links into your website.

5) Community Websites – Guest posts

There are lots of community websites out there that are desperate for content (generating content is time consuming after all). Get in touch and ask them if you can guest post about your area of expertise – see above!

More ways to spread the word…

7) Your Email Signature

So simple and yet so often people don’t have email signatures. Dude!! You are in business – if you send emails to customers then you absolutely should have a proper email signature. No need for one of those huge “disclaimer” signatures – just some basic contact info (including your website address) at the bottom of every single email you send. Find out more about my feelings on email signatures here >

8) Old School

Just because your website is online doesn’t mean all your promotions have to be online – especially if your business is a local one. Just make sure your website address is ALL OVER your flyers, business cards or local  newsletter advertisement. Note: if your business is local then flyers (print them out on your home computer) on noticeboards in the local shops is a brilliant way to spread the word.