Step into the SME spotlight

Why stepping up your online presence is crucial to stand out in a post-COVID world.

You can’t fit in and stand out all at the same time, especially now. With 93 per cent of businesses being active on Facebook alone, you must increase your online presence. It’s likely your competitors already have, so you must start now. Trying to emulate what the competition is doing isn’t going to work, though, and will only see you blending in. This will waste your time, money and energy which, honestly, no business can afford to waste.

COVID-19 has had a massive impact on businesses. For many it has meant upping their social media game, and for others it’s been the rocket in the backside to create an online presence. According to data released by Statista global, online traffic is up by more than 10 per cent with online transactions increasing by 32.9 per cent. That’s a huge increase that you can leverage. With this increased demand it can make it harder to stand out following a 15–20 per cent increase in posts.

Most industries have seen that it’s getting noisier in their chosen niche. More businesses are shifting online because they are all clamouring and fighting for their piece of the “internet pie”. What this leads to is increased competition for visibility in newsfeeds and more pressure to spend more time online (not to mention money). This can be a huge source of frustration and overwhelm when it comes to trying to work out how to reach your audience.

“How can you leverage the uniqueness that is within your business outside of what you sell?”

Advertising and marketing has always been about meeting people where they are at. Right now, everyone is online, so you need to be, too. There is so much BS in the world of the internet these days, that it can be really hard for your audience to make decisions about who they trust. It’s crucial that you give them as much evidence as possible to show that you are one of the “good guys” and that your business can be trusted with their time and money.

You must grow your online presence, but you need to do it strategically. There isn’t a business out there that wants to look back and wish that they’d done more, sooner. The time is now for your business to step in and own the online spotlight. Follow these five steps and make it happen.

1. Do things differently

You can’t stand out if you look and sound like everyone else in your industry. How can you leverage the uniqueness that is within your business outside of what you sell? For a long time, businesses have had it easy when it comes to marketing. All you needed to do was put some funky “packaging” or imagery around what you were offering and shazam! If it looked and felt good it seemed to work instantly. But these days that is not enough.

Doing things differently these days means finding ways to build relationships with your audience. Building relationships with people means letting people “in”. It means being open to sharing more about who you are and who your team is, and sharing the behind-the-scenes things about how you do what you do. It’s important for your audience to hear why you do what you do as well. Every business is made up of different people. Use this to your advantage.

Standing out requires courage, bravery and tenacity. It’s worth it, though, when you take a look around and you notice that everyone else is doing “the same old thing”. You’ll be the leader of the pack. This is all about sharing the human elements of your business. Not just the product or service

that you’re selling.

2. Be laser focused on your ideal clients

When you talk to any marketer, you will be asked who your niche is. The common response is “anyone who is willing to pay”! While this may be true, if you really want to stand head and shoulders above everyone else in your industry, changing the way you look at this could be the game changer for you.

Be clear on exactly who you would love to have as your customer or client. This helps you to make your marketing and your content creation specific. To cut through the relentless noise online, your content must be relevant and engaging to your audience. It needs to get your audience thinking, “How did they know what was going on in the back of my head?”

First and foremost, you must know who they are and what makes them different. Think about your best clientele: what are they like? What makes them tick? What are their problems, their challenges, their worries and stressors? When you know the answers to these questions, it helps you to then move seamlessly into the next steps.

3. Use authority marketing

Authority marketing is the powerhouse of marketing. This is where you share your knowledge and your expertise in a thought out and structured manner. This style of content provides the solutions to the problems your audience has (see step two!) in a systematic, logical way. Provide them with some steps they can take to solve a problem they have. You’ll also provide them with a case study or some evidence to back it up.

This is commonly known as creating your own intellectual property. When you start sharing this type of structured content, it shows your audience you are an expert in your industry. That you can be their expert. This helps build trust, which is a key in the online world these days.

4. Use content marketing

Content marketing is made up of everything else that you share online. This is the content that helps people to get to know you, like you and trust you. This is how you help your audience to see that you are likeable and relatable without pushing what you’re selling. You’re helping your audience get to know you.

Think about your audience and what motivates and inspires them. You will share content (photos, videos, livestreams and text-only posts) that do this for them. Share hints, tips and general advice to help move them forward.

You will be surprised and delighted at the interaction you get when you start sharing this type of content. People love it, because it doesn’t feel like you’re always trying to get them to buy something.

5. Share it all far and wide

Share your content on all of the platforms your business is present on. Make sure your business has a presence on the platforms that your audience is also present on. Focus primarily on the big four: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. If your audience demographic spends a lot of their time on TikTok or Snapchat, then get over there as well.

Be mindful that the content you’re sharing is also appropriate for the platforms you’re sharing on. Authority marketing is best suited to Facebook and LinkedIn. Content marketing is suitable for most platforms.

Nicola Moras, online visibility expert and author of “Into The Spotlight”

This story first appeared in issue 30 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine

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