Take the time to get online!
The possibilities of getting your business on the web are endless these days. Having an online portfolio or website will increase your visibility tenfold. Even if you know nothing about web design, there are dozens of simple portfolio and website templates available that you can easily customize with your information and – of course – stunning photographs!
The Internet might be endless, but search engines have been vastly optimized to provide localized information. Make sure your business information shows up in Google or other search engine results for local businesses. Last year, 46% of people looking at local search results ended up visiting the place of business, and 38% called the telephone number listed for information. Over the next year or two, these numbers will only skyrocket more as Internet users turn to search engines instead of yellow pages. What could be better than someone asking “what are local interior design or custom window treatment businesses?” and having your company’s information be the (local!) answer?
Remember to always keep sensitive personal information protected safely on the Internet, and separate business from personal online.
Leverage your online presence with social networking.
You’ve heard the buzz. Social networking isn’t just for 16-year-olds anymore! Chances are, you’re already Twittering or Facebooking your way to success. Just as clients are searching for businesses on search engines, they’re connecting with them through social networks.
Create a Facebook fan page.
The best part about these pages is that they are viewable even to non-Facebook users, and can include as much multimedia content as you wish. You can post photos and videos of your work, connect with customers, and start conversations with them in the context of your business. This is great if you don’t have another portfolio or website available online! Check out the DreamDraper Fan Page for some inspiration.
Create a LinkedIn company page.
Create both a personal profile and company profile on LinkedIn to maximize the great benefits of this social network. LinkedIn is specifically for professional use, so you can be sure that every contact made on the site will advance your career in some way – whether for acquiring new clients, keeping touch with past clients and other professionals in the business, or just mentoring with others in the industry.
In addition to more general information on your company profile, clients and other professionals in the industry can “recommend” your work, and their statement about how great your work is will appear right on the profile. Your LinkedIn profile may even appear in search engine results, increasing the exposure of your business. Optimize the LinkedIn company and personal profiles with keywords related to your industry, specialties and local area. Start and manage a group to keep in closer touch with your network of other designers or workroom professionals.
“Google” your company and see what people are saying.
If you’ve done a particularly great job (or had an unfortunate experience), a client might have already written about it online. If it’s a local review site with commentary, respond to these reviews and show these dedicated clients that you appreciate their good word – or try to resurrect a negative situation (reply with a future discount or consultation!). To that same effort, if you have a website, set up some sort of forum for customers to provide feedback (and praise your work!). People will appreciate that you listen to their feedback and care about their opinions.
Find Local Business Directories – many offer free listings.
Yahoo! Local is a major provider of free basic business listings. Your local area or region might even have its own directory of businesses. Craig’s List is burgeoning in popularity for local classifieds; find your city or region and put together a post describing your services for hire. Angie’s List is useful, too, for maintaining an online image for your company; however, because this site is based on consumer reviews, you should carefully monitor what your clients are saying and respond appropriately.
Make clients and business contacts aware of your online presence.
Absolutely refer everyone to the address of your website or online portfolio. Playfully ask clients to become fans on Facebook, or to follow you on Twitter. Get LinkedIn with business contacts and clients. Handing out business cards, brochures and other print materials? Make sure your email address, website and presence on any social networks is included so they can easily access your company information online.
The # 1 tip?
Be confident, be creative and make it a goal improve your marketing this year!
Good luck in 2010!
Best of luck,
Carolyn Meitzner, Marketing & Communications
Ann Johnson, Author & xChange Forum Moderator