How To Maintain A Professional Business Image Online

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By: Victoria Williams, Head: Marketing Strategy, Riversands Incubation Hub

Digital technology will continue to drive how we interact, work and make buying decisions. This means that entrepreneurs – whether they sell to individuals or businesses – need to adapt how they do business [online and offline] to stay relevant.

While pure e-commerce transactions remain a small but growing trend, customers increasingly look for products and services online. If you cannot be found, you won’t be called. Your potential corporate clients will also check out your website and LinkedIn profile before they accept a meeting with you.

Here is a list of things you should consider when it comes to doing business online or offline:

1. Get a professional business email

So we all know some entrepreneurs are doing just fine with a Gmail address. But when dealing with a corporate client, there is nothing more effective at crushing your credibility than an email address like lucyscatering@gmail.com. The first question that pops into my mind is ‘wow they can’t even afford the monthly cost of a business email? Can I really trust them with my business?’

Entrepreneurs, it is really time to ditch the Gmail or Yahoo address.

2. Tackle your LinkedIn profile

Make sure that your LinkedIn profile leaves a professional impression and showcases your abilities.

– Do you have a professional profile picture or does it look like a selfie?

– Is your information up to date and accurate?

– Have you checked for spelling and grammar mistakes?

– Do you have a customised LinkedIn URL? Learn how to set one up here.

– Who can you ask to write a positive recommendation of you? It could be a client or a former colleague from your corporate days.

sell Victoria Williams

Victoria Williams, Head: Marketing Strategy of Riversands Incubation Hub. (Image supplied)

3. Set up a website

Many entrepreneurs stumble at this point. But, it is better to get into the game than to remain on the side-lines.

A website is not an once-off marketing expense – it is a tool to be maintained but also changed completely every few years.

There are thousands of web templates out there. Using a website template or theme is the simplest and most economical way of having a website designed. Have a look through WordPress website templates. You may even find a template that is made specifically for the product or service you offer.

4. Create an effective customer journey map through your website

A good website should be more than just “pretty”. Potential customers should understand what you do, what problems you solve, and how they can benefit from your services or product. Don’t leave it up to your visitors to guess what to do next on your website!

You need a clear call-to-action on your home page that directs your visitors to take the next step – receive more information, sign-up to receive your newsletter, download some information or contact you.

I highly recommend Donald Miller’s Five Minute Marketing Makeover for getting your messaging right and how to set a website that actually works as a sales tool.

5. Make sure customers can find you online

Having a website is simply not enough – customers also need to find you in order to buy from you. This means that you also need to have a strategy for driving traffic to your website.

There are many ways to do this, including Google AdWords, social media advertising and search engine optimisation (SEO). Also, don’t forget to set up a Google My Business Review – it’s free and pretty easy to do.

ALSO READ: Do You Have a Google My Business Page? You Could Be Missing Out

6. Get an off the shelf solution for e-commerce

There are of course wonderful exceptions, like Netflorist and Yuppiechef that started off small and grew to be online giants. At Riversands Incubation Hub, we see entrepreneurs like Vuyi Zondi, the founder of Corium Skincare, who has built her distribution online. But relying on pure e-commerce to drive your sales may not be realistic.

If you’re testing out the e-commerce space then consider an off the shelf solution like Shopify. This removes all the hassle of selecting a web designer and the platform provides loads of tutorials and access to a call centre. It was built for e-commerce, which means that there is less to figure out. Shopify starts from $29 per month.

7. Embrace the learning

Google AdWords, SEO, social media advertising … These may all seem rather overwhelming. Yes, it is a steep learning curve and I recommend that you tackle one topic at a time. There are agencies that can assist you with many of these tasks. But how do you know if they are any good?

As an entrepreneur, outsourcing all your sales and marketing is like outsourcing breathing. It may seem like less effort, but it doesn’t work! Here are a few pointers:

– Dotcom Secrets – by Russell Brunson (available from Takealot.com) is simply amazing for anyone looking to grow a business online.

– Seth Godin is a marketing guru and his blog is one of the most well-read blogs in the world. Simple, short articles that give new perspectives on marketing. Here’s the blog.

– If reading is not your thing, then audiobooks, YouTube or podcasts might be. Whatever it takes, put yourself on the journey to become a competent online marketer. As an entrepreneur, this is no longer a nice to have, but an absolute necessity.

About the author: Victoria Williams has more than 15 year’s marketing B2B communications experience. As Head of Marketing at Riversands Incubation Hub she is involved with building the organisation’s brand and working closely with small business owners on their marketing strategies. Much of this work involves content development and communications strategy – for an online world. She holds a BA in Media & Communications and postgraduate diplomas in copywriting and marketing from the AAA School of Advertising. She is the author of Advertise the Right Way, a how-to-guide for small business owners.

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