Digital DialtoneI was speaking with a small business owner recently and shared with her Bizyhood’s vision – for small business owners, Bizyhood will make the Web as easy to use as the telephone. Of course I say this with a bit of hyperbole, but the fundamental truth is the Web has become as essential to small business owners as the telephone has been for the past 50 years. She asked me what I thought made up a “Digital Dialtone.” I love that phrase and decided to use it! Here are the things we discussed as being part of her digital dialtone:

  1. Websites – Clearly, everybody should have a website. Most small business owners still have an “informational” website which is essentially an online brochure. This is very 1995. There are many things a business owner can do to keep their website up-to-date and relevant. A common suggestion these days is to blog – this helps build your “brand” and helps with Search Engine Optimization (one of the other 5 items, see below).
  2. Email Marketing – It’s important to keep in touch with your existing customers. There are so many things pulling for their attention that you can easily be forgotten if you don’t provide your customers “reminders” and helpful tips that keep them loyal and coming back.
  3. Social Media Sites – We’re all familiar with Facebook, but the challenge is there are so many social media properties these days – which ones to focus on? Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and that’s just the start! Each one has their strengths and focus areas, the key is to understand what they are and how to automate this effort.
  4. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Much of what you’re doing in the three items above can assist you with SEO, but generally that’s not enough. This is another complicated area but there is a relatively simple way to get started. Create (or have others create) regular content online about topics that you are an expert in. This one thing (more than anything else) will help you rank higher in Organic (i.e. NOT paid) search.
  5. Review Sites – There are so many review sites out there, how do you know which ones to focus on? The most important thing you can do with these sites is make sure your NAP (Name/Address/Phone) are correct. Amazingly, this is one of the biggest issues that does not get addressed by small business owners. Obviously, responding to reviews is important, although some sites don’t give you much control or ability to make sure your voice is heard. Proactively support sites that give you an equal voice in the conversation.
  6. Advertising – This is certainly an important and proven model for gaining awareness, and in particular, new customers. The key is understanding how to effectively advertise and realize that you are renting attention for as long as you pay for the advertising. Once you stop advertising, new customer leads stop too. Measurement is critical here, if you want to understand the return on your investment.
  7. Loyalty and Referral Programs – Create a way to allow your existing customers to enhance and grow your brand. Many small business owners do this offline already. There are now ways to automate and do this online as well.
  8. Extend Word-of-Mouth Online – Similar to Loyalty program, this has traditionally been an offline activity that can be extended online. This consists of a lot of the items above, including Social Media and Reviews. An important attribute of this is the local community. Most tools don’t focus on this but it’s critical to incorporate.

We will break out each of these topics individually in more detail in the upcoming months and look forward to your questions and comments on these areas. Similar to a telephone, these eight items require your attention every month.

Do you think anything else goes into your “Digital Dialtone?” Let us know!