Introduction

We get it, you can’t be everywhere at once. If you were born with six arms you still may not get everything done in the course of your workday, and let’s be honest that workday sometimes never ends. You’re up until all hours of the night foregoing sleep, meals and free time sacrificed, all in the name of growing your small business. Yet even with burning the candle at both ends and devoting 25 hours a day to make sure you’ve addressed every necessity and ensured not one detail has been overlooked, there are still some opportunities that you may very well be missing to help improve the success of your enterprise. Unfortunately, despite all of your best efforts, you might still be making a few crucial mistakes that are hindering your progress…and the worst part is that you probably don’t even know it.

Some of these opportunities are likely staring you right in the face, others are hidden deep under all of those other high priority matters on your agenda. The worst thing you can possibly do as a small business owner is take on every role in the company all by yourself. But the reality is, that’s exactly what most of us do. In the beginning you’re one person with a big dream and all you have to depend on is yourself, so you’re handling all of the major tasks like production, marketing, transportation and shipping if the product calls for it. You name it, you’re the head of that department. That’s fine when you’re just starting out, but if you intend to grow, the one person standing in your way of progress will end up being YOU.

Competition in the marketplace is tougher than ever these days, if you have a new and unique idea then it’s going to be even harder for you to get your product or service out there because, let’s face it, people are afraid of new things. You have to make them understand why new is better, why new isn’t as scary as they think and, above all, you have to convince them why new is worth their hard-earned money. So how do you compete in a crowded marketplace, show the world why your product is the best thing they’ve ever seen, and do it without bankrupting your business by hiring personnel that you’re not equipped to take on just yet?

The answer is the Internet.

Your personal assistant, marketing team, and brand strategist all rolled into one, the Internet and much of the technology through which we access it are probably nothing new to someone of your experience. Right now you’re thinking to yourself, “This is hardly news, we each log on to the Internet every day, and we all have smartphones, tablets, and laptops that give us access to it.” EXACTLY. The news here is that you could be using the Internet as an essential tool to help your business grow in ways that you may not have thought of, or perhaps rejected with the notion that they weren’t right for you at the time.

Well guess what, that time is now.

If you’re a business owner currently juggling and struggling with growth, then read on. We’ve identified ten missed opportunities that most people such as yourself have yet to realize, and asking yourself one (or more) of these questions could be the answer to improving your business.

#1: Is your website built on an open source system?

Websites have become the new storefronts in today’s online marketplace, so it’s crucial to make sure that yours is eye-catching, engaging, helpful, and user friendly. But whether you’re the one building the site or you’ve hired someone to do it, the one thing you could be doing to save money and still end up with a terrific online presence is by using open source software. In case you’re unaware of what that means, open source basically means “free”. There are no user licenses to pay for and you can download the software without fear of theft or piracy. You also get a bunch of advantages to using open source web-based software, none of which is as useful as the full customization options it provides. Tweak the site as many as times as you want in any way you prefer, there’s really no limit to what you can do. Open source software often has an entire team of IT professionals maintaining, troubleshooting, and updating the system, so you need not worry about security or development flaws which can lead to your website going offline. With a closed development model you’re basically at the mercy of the company you’ve hired to create that software and that could get costly, not to mention frustrating.

#2: Is your website built to be fully responsive?

Responsive? Sure, your website is responsive right? You type in the URL and click and boom it pops up on the computer screen! It responded! Unfortunately that’s not what we mean by “responsive”. In this case, responsive refers to mobility. The desktop is becoming obsolete, nowadays online interaction is done through mobile devices — our smartphones, laptops,

tablets, the Apple Watch, they’re all becoming more popular now and your website needs to adapt. We’re all doing more on our devices, from shopping to accessing content to listening to music and watching videos, these are the ways through which we surf the Web now and integrating your online presence to meet the standards and expectations of your customers in the current digital landscape. Performing even a basic update to your website will draw more customers to your product or service because they can access it easier. This is an important component to gaining a critical advantage in today’s online-based marketplace.

#3: Do you have a virtual assistant to manage all basic tasks?

You can’t afford to take on any employees right now, it’s just too cost prohibitive to have someone on the payroll. But you sure could use that extra set of hands to help you with the day to day stuff. Good news, there’s hope. Hiring a virtual assistant can help get those basic tasks off your business to-do list. We’re not talking about some type of artificial intelligence or robot here, this is a real-live, flesh and blood human working remotely from their home or office, so you don’t even have to furnish them with an office or office equipment. You communicate with him or her via email, phone, Skype, however you prefer. Have them do your secretarial work, scheduling, book-keeping, they can even update your social media, run your website, pretty much anything that needs doing that you can’t or shouldn’t have to focus on. Best part is you only pay them what they charge as a fee, no need to take on any employee-related costs for taxes or health benefits.

#4: Are you sending your clients a card or a gift on their birthdays?

I’m guessing this may have never crossed your mind but it’s a great way to stay in touch with clients and tell them you appreciate their business. Keeping you and your company on their minds during their big special day will go a long way to having them remember you when it comes time for them to purchase the goods or services that you offer. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive (in fact, it really shouldn’t be), but we all like receiving good tidings on our birthdays and sending along a nice card or gift makes your clients feel valued and they’ll be more likely to give you repeat business or even refer you to other prospective buyers.

#5: Do you have a blog on your website?

A blog is a very smart way to interact with your customers. Creating updated content not only keeps your website fresh, it’s an effective way to gain high result percentages on the pages of major search engines. That means your website gets better visibility on sites like Google and Bing when customers are searching for your business or a product like the one you offer. Blogs are also a great way to give your customers a clear and concise description of who you are and what you’re about, with the hopes of making a stronger, deeper connection to your client base. Blogs sometimes allow for customers to offer feedback to what you are offering both on the blog and on the website as a purchasing destination. This is a perfect example of “inbound marketing” which has become the new way of doing business. Letting your customers have a voice is proving to make a difference with small businesses in particular. The days of billboards and television ads being the most impactful method of reaching an audiences are waning, these outdated “outbound” methods of marketing only talk at the customer. Today they wanted to be talked with, they want to be part of the discussion in greater measure, and utilizing a blog on your website is a terrific way to get that conversation started.

6: Do you know what the top 10 keywords are in your industry?

As you may have gathered by now, Google can be one of the biggest and most resourceful allies of small business. The site can help your website be located and accessed through their search engine and keywords can help position your website for greater access and visibility. But that’s just one part of the equation, Google’s My Business feature now offers to place the physical location of your business on Google Maps, so customers can not only find your website with a few clicks, Google can lead them directly to the address of your store as well. This is obviously a bigger deal for those businesses that keep traditional storefronts for customers to enter and shop at their leisure, it’s less helpful for those companies that only provide their goods and services online through either their own direct website or a larger site such as Amazon or eBay. But if you have a brick and mortar shop, then signing up for My Business is an absolute necessity. Google allows customers to search what they’re looking for online, results come up, and those businesses who are signed up with My Business will automatically show up on Google Maps, so consumers can go directly to the store to buy that item they searched for online. This is free advertising as signing up for My Business will cost you nothing. Signing up is easy, you’ll fill out all of the pertinent information about your business and, this is important, Google will ask you for keywords to add to your product description and company profile. See, I told you those would come in handy some day.

#7: Have you setup your free business listing on Google My Business?

As you may have gathered by now, Google can be one of the biggest and most resourceful allies of small business. The site can help your website be located and accessed through their search engine and keywords can help position your website for greater access and visibility. But that’s just one part of the equation, Google’s My Business feature now offers to place the physical location of your business on Google Maps, so customers can not only find your website with a few clicks, Google can lead them directly to the address of your store as well. This is obviously a bigger deal for those businesses that keep traditional storefronts for customers to enter and shop at their leisure, it’s less helpful for those companies that only provide their goods and services online through either their own direct website or a larger site such as Amazon or eBay. But if you have a brick and mortar shop, then signing up for My Business is an absolute necessity. Google allows customers to search what they’re looking for online, results come up, and those businesses who are signed up with My Business will automatically show up on Google Maps, so consumers can go directly to the store to buy that item they searched for online. This is free advertising as signing up for My Business will cost you nothing. Signing up is easy, you’ll fill out all of the pertinent information about your business and, this is important, Google will ask you for keywords to add to your product description and company profile. See, I told you those would come in handy some day.

#8: Do you have a Facebook page for your business?

We talked earlier about inbound vs outbound marketing and how today’s customers want to be more interactive with businesses instead of just passively being fed information. Since inbound is “in” now, there is no better online destination to establish a company, a product, a brand with greater visibility and “buzz” than Facebook. We all know Facebook, most of you undoubtedly have personal pages where you interact with friends, acquaintances, and colleagues and “like” the pages of various performers, movies, sports teams, and yes, brands. Creating a Facebook page can open a floodgate of potential clients and customers among the tens of millions of people who are currently on the site each and everyday. In fact, Facebook hit one billion users in a single day in August of 2015 and the site’s database of registered pages has hit over two billion. That represents an inordinate amount of eyeballs that could be viewing your page and learning more about your business and the products and services it offers. Although many users can keep their personal pages private, “fan” pages (as Facebook calls them) are always kept public so anyone can view it. Using Facebook as another contact point online allows people to find your business and check out what it’s all about. If they like what they see, you can set a link to your company’s official website which will send customers directly to it. What makes it so great (besides the potential exposure to billions worldwide) is that Facebook is free to join and set up a page. It allows for effective inbound marketing as fan pages permit customers to post replies telling you and everyone who reads the page what they think about your business. This can backfire if customers are dissatisfied with your goods and services, but if you are providing consistent quality to the marketplace, then the positive feedback will come pouring in. Users can share your content to their page or friends’ pages, which is automatic free advertising that the public is doing for you. This can lead to more business as well as better search engine placement when customers look for you on Google.

#9: Are you running any Facebook ads to reach new customers?

Facebook is great for free advertising among the couple of billion registered users that access the site on a daily basis. But anyone who is a frequent visitor will tell you, Facebook has started to increase the number of advertisements that are posted for users to view. These ads are often located along the right margin of the news feed page and they switch and change with each click, the ads you see are based upon certain internal programming protocols that follow your activity on the site. Carving out a small amount of money from your budget can help increase your presence on Facebook through their advertising placement. You don’t need to spend a lot to get your advertising seen, at least that’s the theory behind the advertising model. There are definite pros and cons to consider when you’re thinking about looking to Facebook for advertising. On the plus side, your ad will only target those users with the most potential for clicking on your link through the company’s in house data on every member. So you can target users who have certain interests, users in specific age groups, and other qualifiers that can help you reach only your target audience instead of just throwing your ad out for all to see. This is not just cost efficient, it also maximizes the impact of your advertising.

#10: Do you have a presence on LinkedIn?

LinkedIn may not be as big as Facebook (but then what is these days?), however it’s still one of the most useful online tools to help business owners spread the word about their company, their product, and the people behind the operation. A LinkedIn company page allows for members of your target demographic to look up the businesses that are the most relevant to their particular interests, and having a presence on the site is another way for more eyeballs to find you. This additional exposure is only good for your company as it can lead to more customers and more referrals. Similar to how Facebook is designed, LinkedIn lets people “follow” a company page on the site, providing for more interaction with a core membership of followers who want to know more about the business and the activities it participates in. This can lead to an increase in the amount of users who buy your products or services and it fosters relationships with fans and followers to inspire them to support the company in any way possible.

Conclusion

There is a lot of information here but it is not intended to be overwhelming, in fact this should all be wildly encouraging to you. Websites are the lifeblood of small business at the moment, the National Small Business Association shows that 82% of business owners rely on a traditional website to help promote themselves online, with an increase in the number of mobile websites at 18%. That’s a lot of content and material on the Internet. You have to make your presence felt, you have to draw customers to your site by differentiating yourself and your business. Things like keywords, blogs, and search engine optimization are the essential tools at your disposal to get people’s attention. Facebook and LinkedIn are also strong allies for getting your business the awareness you are looking for, whether you’re just setting up a fan page or buying ad space to better reach your target audience. Google My Business will not just drive eyeballs to your brand it can also help customers literally drive to your store when they are looking to buy the very product you produce and sell. All of these are great options for expanding your business but don’t forget to drop your clients a little happy birthday wish each year to make them feel special and keep you in their thoughts. Make sure you have your virtual assistant handle that in the morning, he or she can also get you all of the information you need about that open source web-based software that you’ll want to access when you sit down to design the website that is going to bring your company all of the success that it deserves.