Your online Christmas wish list

Consider your poor old business during Christmas time.

While the rest of us are (hopefully) relaxing and receiving gifts from our loved ones, our businesses are left lonely and desolate without as much as a Christmas carol to break the silence of its corridors.

So to brighten up what can be a desolate time for many businesses, I’ve made a wish list of online goodies that will not only make the holidays a little more cheerful, but will have it pulling in valuable sales during the New Year.

In no particular order then, here’s some handy online gift ideas for your business.

A ‘sales closing’ website

Many businesses (though not nearly enough) have a passable website. It attracts search engines, provides some information on your business and allows prospects to ‘kick your tyres’ before picking up the phone or sending an email. If you’re lucky!

Most websites of smaller businesses instead have the opposite effect. They are so poorly presented, written, constructed and otherwise conceived that in most cases they give your prospects more reasons not to work with you.

An effective website will take your prospect as far down the purchase process as possible – for some a sale, for some actual delivery of the product (such as a concert or travel ticket), while for others, an enquiry is the best you can achieve out of the technology. Whatever it is, ensure that you use the technology and procedures to take prospects as far as you possibly can. Otherwise your competitors will do it for them.

A content management system

Few smaller organisations can afford to pay a web professional every time they want to alter their website. Nor do they need to.

A good Content Management System (CMS) allows you to add and edit content whenever you need to, meaning you get your messages to your markets more quickly and easily and most importantly, affordably.

Once you have a CMS you are more likely to add fresh content to your website and this in turn provides more keyword hooks for search engines to find and recognise.

An email marketing system

Are you still sending promotional emails the ‘old’ way. Are you sending them at all? If not you’re missing out on one of the most affordable and effective promotional capabilities in marketing history that is email marketing.

Therefore a good email marketing system should be high on your wish list.
A schedule of deals and specials

You don’t need to rely on the increasing array of deal ‘engines’ to get your deal and promotion out there. Come up with your own and release them regularly via your email list and social networks. While you’re at it make sure you provide the hooks to get readers to subscribe to your list(s).

A stream of relevant information

As we pointed out here a few weeks back, the key to mastering social networks and web marketing in general, is to release a stream of regular, relevant and rewarding ‘snippets’ of information that you can release on your website, in your emails and on social networks.

Not only will this approach attract eyeballs and in turn sales, but the robots and spiders of search engines who devour fresh and relevant keyword laden content.

Email address capturing tools and procedures

Email lists have been the holy grail of business promotion for some time now. Because it now costs so little to communicate directly with your market, your list is more valuable than ever.

To take advantage of this high ROI tactic, make sure you are capturing email addresses at every (legal) opportunity – at events, from your website, in your personal life and so on.

Because that one email address may be the ticket to your biggest sale, or account.

An understanding of social networking

Try as you might, unless you truly understand how social networking works, you don’t have a hope in Hades of using it to benefit your business. So if you get time during your break, try exploring social networking for yourself and try some new tricks like starting a group, posting a video and so on. Soon enough you will start coming up with ideas that you can use to promote your business.

An Adwords account

Despite what you may hear, sometimes it is just not possible to achieve a prominent position in the search results of Google et al. But all is not lost. Google’s ‘pay per click’ advertising service Adwords and its equivalents can be an effective way to promote your business on a budget.

And don’t be put off if the keywords you are after are too expensive. Consider brand names, product specialities and locations as ways of narrowing down into more affordable keywords and phrases.

Like most wish lists, you won’t receive everything you’d like this time around. But if you can at least acquire a few of these online presents you’ll go a long way towards increasing your web-led enquiries and sales.

Finally, thank you to everyone who has commented and provided feedback on this blog during the year. I hope it continues to help you grow your business online and also that you, your team and your families have an enjoyable break.

See you in 2011!

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.

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