Business development 5 August 2015

Making a great first impression: Establishing and building an online presence

Social media,
Social media, good website design and consistently good content should see your presence develop quickly

In the world of business, making a good first impression is key. From the minute you begin engaging with potential customers and the industry it operates in, a reputation begins to develop. This reputation can grow far quicker in the digital age.

And it’s not just about speed. In pre-internet times, micro businesses could never appear as slick and polished as their major competitors. A small budget often meant cutting corners in design and messaging. But thanks to the wide range of resources now available, those on a shoestring can start building a strong online presence and making the most of that first impression to turn web visitors into buyers.

Step one in creating a good initial impression is to design an engaging website. There are a number of affordable tools available to micro businesses wanting to develop their own web presence – creating a layout and design that immediately sets the right tone for a company. Whilst building a website, it’s also important to choose the right domain name.

Geographic domain names are becoming more popular, with the likes of dot London, dot Scot and dot Wales all being launched in recent months. Using a domain like this clearly shows that an early-stage firm is part of the local community, and can appeal to regional target audiences more effectively.

Social media can also be used as a key part of online strategy. For consistency, it’s best to set up profiles at the same time as a website launch, and ensure that all outlets are kept up to date with the latest news and stories from the business and the market. This establishes a trustworthy point of contact between a firm and its customers, demonstrating that a company is up to date with industry trends.

Social media can also be an effective way of managing any potential crises in the early stages. If it’s possible to settle a disgruntled customer complaint with some considered and careful interactions on Facebook or Twitter, a business will prove that it listens to customers and sets out to do the right thing by them.

However, having a beautiful website and an effective social media accounts mean nothing if a company can’t populate it with interesting and engaging content from day one, no matter how small the company is. To make that great first impression online, a micro business needs to provide content that provokes questions, interest and debate. A blog is a great way to self-publish and self-promote a business and its expertise, establishing that first impression with both customers and key influencers. Posting industry news, informative how-to guides and featuring customer testimonials are all ways to develop fresh content from the get-go.

Twitter and linkedin

Optimising an online presence can help attract new customers to a micro business. With nearly 70 per cent of users accessing the internet via mobile devices in 2014, it’s important that you appeal to this particular segment of their audience.

In fact, Google now rewards websites that are ready for mobile users by ranking them higher in their search results. To make the most of the opportunity, it’s vital for small firms to ensure their websites are mobile-friendly and easy to navigate. In addition, using search engine optimisation (SEO) best practice can help Google understand content easily – this in turn can help keep it high on the search results, and ensure maximum visibility.

Tying together these ideas into a coherent business plan will enable you to create an online identity that’s memorable in the marketplace. Creating an engaging website design and deploying a relevant domain name mean that customers can find the right business for their needs and become engaged with the company within moments of reaching their page.

But the most important factor of all is remembering to keep content fresh and up to date. Whatever is seen as current and on-trend today can become obsolete the very next day, and micro businesses need to remain on top of what’s happening in the marketplace.

By taking the right steps in the early days, you can build a strong foundation, appeal to customers from the first impression and grow sustainably.

Image: Shutterstock

Nick Leech is the digital director of 123-reg.co.uk.

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