This is a guest post by Christine Whittemore.
There’s an interesting paradox I’ve noticed having to do with an analog vs. a digital existence. You may have the most entrancing physical location imaginable, and yet because you can’t be found online, you can’t connect with customers and thus don’t exist. Have you encountered it?
It has to do with search. Through search businesses have the opportunity to be found and connect with potential customers. We used to have the Yellow Pages. I remember sitting on stacks of them as a kid so I could reach the dinner table. Who uses them anymore? People found businesses this way.
Now, we type search terms into Google, and consider the results. Perhaps your website appears. Maybe not. More often than not, it doesn’t appear. Does it really exist then in the mind of your customer? If your customer is desperately looking to find you in the physical world and you aren’t there in the digital world, then, no, you don’t exist.
So when people try to find your business, entering search terms relevant to you, do you come up first? If you don’t, then don’t be surprised when someone else takes your place not only online, but also in the offline world.
Then there’s the “connect” part. What makes you want to connect with a brand or a store or a business?
Think of the old general store where visitors were greeted by name and the owner immediately mentioned a relevant new arrival. It’s not too dissimilar from how Amazon greets me and recommends products to me. Why would I go elsewhere if the current treatment is so customized, so relevant, so respectful of my time, and deepens with each transaction? I connect when I feel appreciated and respected as an individual, and I’m recognized and listened to.
My point is that you have to take steps to be found and discovered when people search for you online. And then, you have to take steps to cement the connection and establish a relationship that carries seamlessly from your digital presence to your physical presence and back again.
Here then are 10 tips to being found and connecting:
1.Eliminate your online flash applications. Content within a flash application is invisible to search engines. If you can’t, make them as unobtrusive as possible. And absolutely don’t have your content hidden within that flash application.
2.Focus on content, specifically relevant, informative, and unbiased content that has your customers’ benefit at heart.
3.Make sure your relevant keywords (the ones that people would search for) appear consistently in your content.
4. Start a blog and post frequently, consistently and relevantly about your business, your presence in the marketplace, and how you connect with your community. Tell your story and be genuine in sharing valuable information.
5. Make all of your content unique to you. That means don’t copy it from another site; don’t have the same content on your website that another website carries. Make it totally relevant to you and your geographic location. Tell your story.
6. Listen. Listen some more. Listen in your store. Listen to what your frontline employees say about your customers. Listen to what’s happening in your community. Figure out how to be relevant to what you hear. Listen online with freely available tools like Google alerts and Google Analytics. Then address what you hear via your blog and web and in-store via your sales associates and marketing tools.
7. Forget the hard sell. Forget about it within your store; don’t dare do it online. The hard sell prevents you from connecting; it scares customers away and it drives negative word of mouth.
8. Look at your physical retail or office experience. What does it communicate to a first-time visitor? Does it welcome and invite visitors in to browse and discover unexpected ideas? Is it clean and inspiring? Now, look at your website. What does it communicate to a first-time visitor? Is it difficult to navigate? Is it all about you or all about what your visitor might be searching for?
9. Promote your digital presence in your store or office and on brochures, business cards, ads, email signatures, etc. Be sure to promote your physical location, phone number, etc. on your digital site.
10. Invite visitors to both digital and analog locations to opt-in to your regular email newsletter communications. And then deliver an email newsletter that will wow your readers with the valuable information it contains.
What would you add to this list to overcome the analog vs. digital existence paradox? What other tips might you share for being found and connecting?