3 things brick & mortar businesses can do right now to get online
From Google My Business and local search, through to social media and website build…
It’s hard to know where to start as a physical business getting online, making digital and brick and mortar work together seamlessly.
You may have been content to plod along with your physical shopfront until this year. I don’t blame you; if you get regular business and you’re happy, then you don’t really need to think about change. But coronavirus has taught many, many businesses this year that you have to plan to get ahead of the curve – even when you’re currently comfortable.
So now it’s time for change.
The most beneficial change is to get your business and products online – where people can still shop for what you’re selling – but how do you do this?
If you’re intimidated by going online, don’t be.
It’s not only surprisingly easy these days, but it’s the step towards a future that means you’re not tied to selling only to your local population. It gives you the ability to branch your business out without having to heavily invest in more physical locations and staff costs.
So here are three things you can do super quickly to get your business online.
Google My Business For Shops & Service Providers
Google My Business is a platform that slots seamlessly into Google’s searches. It’s like your online shopfront in the sense that you’re able to update and display your opening hours, reviews, images, and links to your website. When people search for things like “Italian Restaurant in [Location]”, Google will list the most relevant results.
If you’ve set up your Google My Business correctly and you have some solid reviews, that’ll be your business at the top. It’ll also display where you are on the map so that people can find you, as well as any business contact details so that people can get in touch.
It’s also suitable for service-based businesses. If you’re a tradesperson who goes out to people’s houses, or a lawyer who doesn’t need to hold meetings at an office, then you can still list yourself on Google My Business but tick the “I deliver goods and services to my customers”. This means that if you’re working from home you don’t get people turning up all the time.
The next thing to be aware of with Google My Business is that you have to list your business as a category that already exists. This isn’t usually a problem for retail businesses as they tend to fit into neat categories (Shoe Shop, Tech Shop, Grocery Shop, etc.), but for complex services, such as multi-skilled tradespeople, it might be a bit more difficult.
A good thing to do here is to see what most closely matches your offering, then search each of those categories on Google to see what your competition might be. Certain categories may have a lot of competition compared to others in your area.
For example, you could list yourself as “Carpenter”. But if there are lots of other carpenters in your area and you actually focus on restoration woodworking, listing yourself as “Antique Furniture Restoration Service” is likely going to get you more of the clients you’re after.
Make sure your business address matches everywhere!
Your online business address is what’s used to match reviews to your business. If it’s listed as variations of your address then there’s a good chance that your reviews will get diluted or that Google will downgrade your business’ rank because of conflicting information.
So if you use abbreviations of street, road, boulevard, etc., then make sure it’s listed in exactly the same way on each online listing for your business.
Once this basic information is set, you need to include as many photos as possible.
If you’re a restaurant, here’s your chance to show people how delicious your food is. Don’t skimp here. Hire a good photographer and make sure the photos of your food are amazing – it’ll be the first thing people see and it’ll often be a deal-breaker.
The same goes for any other products, show your physical shop, let people know what they can expect when they come in, what kind of products they can expect to find, etc.
If you’re a services provider such as a carpenter, include pictures of jobs you’ve done. Again, make sure they’re good pictures and they show off your skill. This is the easiest way to get work by “word of mouth” because now everyone can immediately see the quality of your work without having to rely on friends of friends.
Get a website built
If your Google My Business is your online shopfront, your website is your online shop. It’s where people can find out everything about you, your business, and your products or services.
If your business requires people to come into a physical space, then here’s your chance to convince people why they should come in.
Make sure your website is fast, mobile-friendly, looks great, and is easy to use.
You want to make it as easy as possible for people to understand what you’re about and get in touch with you.
If you sell products, then a website is the perfect place to host an online shop.
Using a service such as Shopify or WooCommerce does add a little money to your overheads but it also means that your business can be ‘open’ to customers 24/7. It also removes all the stress and expense of having to manage the code and security for an online store on your site. You can either implement an e-store section to your website, or link to a separate e-store.
Either way, make sure you have great pictures of your goods and make sure you get a great copywriter to write your product listings. Very few products sell themselves in person, let alone online with one photo and “This is a rubber chicken” as the description.
Make sure you’re active on social media
The third most effective way to get your business online is to make a profile for the large social media platforms. Depending on the nature of your business, you may want to focus your efforts on only one or two of them.
You need to have a Facebook page because this platform is the most-often used for finding information about businesses (other than Google My Business or your website). It’ll let you set up a dedicated page for your business that people can follow and interact with you.
It’ll also let you get more information about who’s interacting with you. This is all anonymised, but if you have thousands of interactions then it’s helpful to know things like the general areas they’re from, the education level, and so on.
But before you get to all the techy marketing things, make sure you follow the rule for all online listings when setting up your Facebook page:
- Make sure your address is the same as your Google My Business address
- Make sure your business page looks great
- Make sure it’s easy to find the information that you want people to find
If you have a very visual business – like, say, being a cakemaker – then also having an Instagram account for your business is a great way to show off how beautiful your cakes are. It’s a primarily visual platform so great photos of beautiful cakes are likely to do well.
Twitter is the last of the big three. It’s great for keeping up to date with what’s happening because the main point of Twitter is to post and share how you’re feeling and what’s on your mind. This might be flipping burgers, it might be a currently-contentious political issue.
Twitter is primarily a platform for conversations, so if this suits your business then consider focusing your efforts on Twitter.
Go forth and prosper
Everything about your online listings doesn’t have to be perfect. So don’t spend years trying to make every possible pixel fit. What’s important is that you have a presence. You can always fiddle with a website once it’s live, but fiddling with your website before it’s live means people can’t get in touch with you at all.
If you’re tired of fiddling and need some advice, get in touch. We’re always on hand to help.
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