Companies that conduct the majority of their business on the internet are always fighting an uphill battle to gain loyal fans and regular website visitors. With many industries experiencing an overcrowded marketplace and unprecedented levels of brand saturation, small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners are trying to gain that most desired of customer values: trust. Aside from the strength of their online presence, many large corporations have an easier time attracting internet shoppers due to simple brand recognition which lends itself to trustworthiness. When faced with an unknown mom-and-pop retailer and a company that has twenty years of advertising power behind it, there’s no doubt that the average person will choose to conduct business with the more well-known store.

So then, how does a SMB owner manage to gain the trust and patronage of online customers? Well, as many SEO and social media companies tell their clients, the first step towards gaining a strong online customer base is to work towards building up one’s brand. Simply put, the more well-recognized business will always have a considerable edge over those companies that hold far less clout. In order to create a business that people will flock to, SMB owners need to make their company name not only trusted, but also a prevalent entity on the World Wide Web.

Become a Certified Online Business
One mistake that many start-up businesses make when getting started is forgoing extensive certification. Although it’s a sad truth of the digital world, there are countless spammers and fraudulent companies around today that masquerade as legitimate businesses. Fortunately, online shoppers have become significantly more savvy and careful regarding their online habits. Every potential customer a SMB will see will undoubtedly be looking for signs that a website can be trusted before committing to a purchase. If an online business lacks a certain amount of certification, then wary shoppers will go elsewhere.

Aside from the requisite official channels for certification, small business owners will want to become as thoroughly guaranteed to be ethical and legit for site visitors. One excellent avenue for certification is through the Google Trusted Stores program. By submitting one’s company through this Google program, the business will receive a report card that will help ease shoppers’ minds and gain their trust. As an added bonus, Google is gradually implementing Trusted Store badges onto its AdWords results. This means that your company’s future PPC campaigns will appear on Google’s SERPs with a stamp of approval for everyone to see.

Popularity is a Sign of Trust
When someone who is unfamiliar with a business recognizes that company as a dominant force in social media, it speaks highly of their online presence. While earning a follower base numbering in the thousands can be a true challenge to any SMB owner, getting to that level of exposure can be made much easier through the right social media behaviors. Those companies looking to expand their social network influence should look into the following techniques:

  • Work together with other established businesses to get a leg-up. If a company is just getting started on Facebook or Google+, it should be turning to preexisting follower bases for potential “likes” or subscriptions. Company owners should never hesitate to seek out partnerships or mutual deals with other companies on social media sites. This will grow a following much faster than otherwise.
  • Once it’s begun to garner a respectably-sized follower base, a company should always be engaging users on a regular basis. By posting interesting or timely content, any business can keep its followers paying attention to its feed. An important note: posters should remember to pace themselves. Diluting a user’s stream with never-ending updates is a surefire way to lose their following.
  • Always remain active in your social network proliferation. As any social media company will tell you, ignoring other networks in favor of big names such as Facebook leads to stagnation. Should follower growth begin to decline, consider switching some of your focus elsewhere. Twitter in particular is an excellent place to accrue new loyal customers.

As a business’ online following grows, so too will the ease of which users come to trust that company and recognize it as a respectable place to shop. With trust comes frequent and loyal customers, and it’s those people that will lead to consistent and steady sales. Should any SMB owner have any further questions about how to improve their brand recognition and trustworthiness, feel free to contact me at jwersits@webimax.com.

 

What are you doing reading this on a Saturday?  Isn’t it the weekend?  Shouldn’t you better balance your working life?  Haven’t you read blog posts and books, which champion the condensed work week and not working harder but smarter?

I read a great post earlier today on entrepreneur walls and breakthroughs.   It’s very personable and insightful; I suggest entrepreneurs give it a read.  One of the barriers the author is aware of is budgeting time.  Whether they decide to be transparent about their own barriers or not, I believe many business owners have similar issues.

How do you better budget time?  I’m no business-owner whisperer; but, I am a people person, have studied psychology, and take interest in achieving ‘balance.’  I can’t guarantee the following ideas will help; but, I definitely think it could inspire some positive thoughts and behaviors.

Just Eat It
This is something I need to stay aware about; I can easily guzzle down pots of coffee, neglecting solid, healthy foods in the process.  Your brain NEEDS food.  It’s like fuel for your car.  Would you drive to work with no gas?  No, you’d be cruising toward a careless process.  Why would you go to work without fueling your brain?  You need it; and, your company needs it healthy and strong.  Do yourself a favor, even if it means packing food in your Star Wars lunchbox.

Check out this PDF on eating healthy in the morning.

Sign of the Times
Who invented the 9 to 5?  Who invented the 40-hour workweek?  Was it someone who knew what was best for us all?  It’s not likely.  As an owner, you have a bit of room to modify your hours.  Personally, I do my best thinking in the early morning and later in the evening.  Why?  I’m not really sure; it’s an Anthony thing.  I try to wake early, get to work, and then resume more work at the tail end of the day, when I get my good thoughts back.  If you’re like me, you may do your best work during hours outside of the 9-5 ‘norm.’

Read this article on how ‘interruptions’ can boost creativity.

More Work is NOT Bad
Do you love what you do?  I do; therefore, I engage in it more often than others.  Some may see that as a mistake.  (“You’ll shoot your mind’s eye out, kid!”)  I appreciate their concern; but, I know myself.  I’ve reserved a lot of time for ‘play’ in my younger years.  Presently, I’m single and interested in my career.  Are you in a similar position?  Are you hungry?  Don’t let anyone satiate you with their recommendations.  If you’re enjoying your work, keep going, keep gaining traction.  Some, urging you to slow down, may be the same parties who don’t want you to get too far ahead of the pack.  Feel like running, and in a very Forest-Gump-like fashion, don’t feel like stopping?  Do your thing.

This is a dated, six-part series on self discipline.  Maybe you’ll read a few insights, maybe you’ll read all six passages.

Family Balance
I recently had the benefit of spending time with a good friend’s family this past week.  My friend’s brother-in-law is highly successful and works hard.  However, he makes time for his family.  This is not an observation; this is a result of my observation and discussion with him on the topic.  Work is a passion of his; but, it starkly pales in comparison to how he feels about his family and personal life.  I respect that though I can’t directly relate at this point in my life.  His family is his source of inspiration for his work’s passion; so, naturally he understands he must recognize the dynamic and ensure there’s enough family time in his life; otherwise, it influences his work.

Read an academic study done on work/family balance.

Be You
Being you as a kid was easy.  There wasn’t much obligation and temptation to be something other than you.  Remember being in high school, wanting to feel accepted, wanting to feel like you fit in?  Sometimes I did things that didn’t reflect who I was just to fit in.  It was a mark of immaturity; however, social spheres in adult life warrant feelings of acceptance too.  It’s human to want to be liked and recognized; but, ensure you’re being the desired you.  Your company doesn’t have to engage in online marketing like others.  Your company doesn’t have to be recognized like the other companies.  You don’t have to be like other owners.  Don’t compare yourself to anyone except the person you want to be.

This is an awesome site, featuring a nine-year-old entrepreneur.  The dude’s having a lot of fun ‘doing his thing.’  Are you?  You’re an adult now; but, you never have to lose your sense of childhood wonder…ever.

Remember Bo Jackson?  I sure do; I ripped through his Bo Knows biography with the fervor of a twelve-year-old kid, mesmerized by a titan of a multi-dimensional athlete.  Along with popular trends of the day, such as French-rolled jeans and Umbro shorts, I was into the ‘Bo knows’ commercials and campaign. 

It was creative and Bo Jackson was the prime candidate to serve as face-man for the marketing sentiment.  Today, most online marketing professionals have to emulate the jack-of-all-trades sentiment of the ‘Bo knows’ campaign.  It’s of paramount importance, integral to success that an SEO knows a variety of things.

Naturally, to become a multi-dimensional all star like Bo, SEOs need to put in the training.  Great clients and savvy businesspeople don’t place the entire online marketing campaign in the hands of providers; they also put in the time to understand trends and best practices.  SMB owners interested in search engine optimization and online success, should be asking, “What would Bo know?”

Bo knows SEs

Bo would know about the major search engines and how consumers are engaging each.  In deciding upon successful SE strategies, it’s important to understand each has its own set of “rules” or guidelines.  If you adhere to the suggestions, your site(s) will slowly but surely secure more authority and SERP exposure related to respective products and services.  But don’ spend too much energy here; there’s more to “know.” Plus, a lot of respected sources agree that a brand needs to spend less time worrying about SEs and more time on addressing customers.

Bo knows social

In the early nineties, you gave out buddy bands to show your allegiance toward friends and others; today, you “like,” “follow,” and “one up” them by engaging social media sites.  Facebook and Twitter have quickly become bastions of real-time information and platforms for cyber, ‘word-of-mouse’ marketing; and, oh yeah, you probably want to give Google+ some love too.  Just remember social media sites are to be used in a social fashion.  Don’t neglect your customers; be sociable with them.

Bo knows copywriting

With a plethora of ‘content’ options (videos, infographs, podcasts, and more) I should really tweak ‘copywriting’ to ‘content implementation.’  Online content is how your brand relays information to interested consumers.  I suggest using a number of implementations to engage your crowd, much like a teacher would engage a classroom.  Be careful with stale, ad-dense, low-converting copy; don’t assume throwing keyword-drenched pages on your sites is a way to attract engines and eventually consumers.  Neither enjoys bad content; the latter won’t be interested in your brand and is likely to bounce off your pages, but the former will get animalistic on you.

Bo knows branding

I personally take an intense interest in branding and reputation management.  They’re both very important, because as suggested above, a successful brand is going to attend to customers foremost when it comes to online marketing; SEs are a means to the brand-to-customer-engagement end.  Brand management involves creating associations for the general public and envelopes products, services, logos, mission statements, CEOs, employees, and more (anything connected to your brand).  The Web is a rich source of information; consider any consumer can get their virtual hands on information in real time and you got yourself an unwavering necessity to pay close attention to how your brand is exuding sentiments and how those are received by consumers.

Conclusion

The Web doesn’t sleep.  Online professionals take a break,  even all stars need rest, but make sure you’re continuously training and attending to the ‘knows’ of SEO and online marketing.

Kenneth C. Wisnefski, Entrepreneur and founder / CEO of WebiMax, the leader in search engine optimization, announced “2012 can be a rebound year for SMBs if business owners commit to innovating and focusing on client-retention.”  Wisnefski furthers “most business owners are reluctant to move forward due to pressing economic concerns including the financial markets, credit ratings and unemployment; however it’s the lack of focus on key internal areas that are keeping them in a hover pattern.”

While the Small Business Confidence Index rose slightly in October (90.2, from 88.9 in September) in large part due to sales growth less negative, there have been positive signs in recent weeks.  Leading up to Thanksgiving weekend, retailers and online merchants spent an average of 31 percent more on paid search advertising which translated to a record 16.4 percent uptick in Thanksgiving weekend purchasing by the consumer.  This suggests both retailers and consumers have a lot of cash sitting on the sidelines.

“This is where innovation comes in to play.  Those merchants and retailers who chose innovative and lesser-expensive advertising channels including social media and paid search were rewarded well during the Thanksgiving weekend”, states Wisnefski.  “Ecommerce is surging and SMBs that want to generate new sales growth and improve client retention need to pay close attention to the momentum that is building.”

While only 62 percent of retailers committed to investing more in ecommerce in 2011 (statistics gathered from Forrester’s Research), Wisnefski states the remaining percentage is missing out on huge growth opportunities.

“We have seen significant results from merchants that have increased their ecommerce initiatives this year.  At WebiMax, our ecommerce division has increased revenue 10-fold in 2011 as more retailers want to have their store-front open 24/7/365”, states Wisnefski.  “This reinvestment also enhances client-retention because the present-day consumer is looking for an online store where they can buy their products to alleviate leaving their homes.  The consumer is always looking for value, whether it is free shipping, or shopping in comfort from their home, to creating an online account that makes purchases more convenient and faster”, concludes Wisnefski.

SMBs have a lot of cash sitting on the sidelines as evidenced by the uptick in holiday advertising.  Innovation and client retention rates are two important factors that business owners need to pay close attention to in order to stay competitive in a global market.