My now eight-year-old business began with a simple phone call from a friend. He had a small company of his own, and he was struggling to find office space that would suit his needs. He called me because I had previously worked in commercial real estate, and he hoped that I’d know of a company that catered to companies of his size. I racked my brain and couldn’t come up with anyone. It was then we both agreed that there was a gap in the market to help businesses at this stage in this way.
That’s the impetus for why I founded SquareFoot. But the idea could only take me so far. I had to figure out, quickly, how to get in front of the right clients and assist with their office space needs.
It might sound outrageous by today’s standards, but back in 2011, no one was thinking about digital marketing as a means to draw in potential clients (at least those of us in the commercial real estate industry). For the most part, the industry has long relied on word-of-mouth marketing and outbound sales calls to uncover potential customers who are beginning their office searches.
But I nursed a theory: what if these people searching online for all of the answers to their personal and professional questions could find a brokerage service, too, via Google that would meet them where they are?
And that’s how I began to lean on digital marketing as a viable and valuable approach to build up a company’s clientele and reputation. It was practical and forward-thinking to bring a traditional industry into modern times. Because my background was largely in real estate, I didn’t know much about digital marketing at the time. Still, I figured out plenty along the way.
Here are three tips for those who are facing a similar predicament as they build their businesses, no matter the industry, recognizing that e-commerce is their path toward a bright future:
Build it right
When you are first building your website, you’re likely to feel a bit overwhelmed.
However, you need to have a digital presence of some sort, to give potential customers a destination to find you. But the quotes you’ll get from various designers will range in price and scope. If someone comes in at lower than typical rate, it’s possibly a red flag that you won’t be getting the same quality you should expect. At the same time, going with the most expensive one doesn’t necessarily translate into a seamless experience either.
What you should be looking for is the designer who is most in line with common SEO (Search Engine Optimization) standards and practices. If e-commerce is critical to turning your business idea into reality, the top mandate is to make the website as discoverable as possible within search engines.
We know a lot about what the search algorithms are looking for from your website and your company, and it’s smartest to follow their lead as you envision and build out your online presence.
Professional designers are well-versed in these ideas and areas, and it would be wise to find someone who will ship you off with the calmest waters.
Technical SEO optimization will also impact and be impacted by the coding language you choose, so hire engineers to work on your project who are in line with this same way of thinking.
Your website doesn’t need to be the most dynamic and beautiful, especially at first, but it should be created deliberately and strategically.
Optimize for search
Even if you follow best practices when constructing your site, that doesn’t necessarily mean that people will naturally gravitate to it. This is a challenging prospect, to get people (especially the right people) to come check out your site, join your mailing list, and possibly even purchase something.
How can you get onto their radar?
Get comfortable with Google Analytics and similar tools, like Google Adwords, for the keywords that are popular in your category for web searchers that you could possibly built up clout on over time to emerge as the leading expert within your industry.
Your blog, in that way, becomes a key marketing tool and tactic to recruit potential customers. That’s how you can best get users from a search engine box to your website. But also consider the step that you want someone to take next, once they’ve landed on your website.
Make sure that at the close of your articles there’s a clear call to action for how people can reach out to you to learn more about your product or service. This should include an investment in publishing evergreen content that customers can explore to become further familiar with your subject matter knowledge. This builds up credibility in the eyes of the reader, and the hope is that someone who is satisfied with what they’ve read and learned will also want to hear more about what else you can do for them.
It’s not a matter of getting in front of millions of people and “going viral.” Rather, you want to think about the smaller group of people whom you’d deem high-intent leads, seeking the very product or service that you have to offer.
Invest a little
Set aside a small budget for advertising on Facebook, LinkedIn or other relevant social media platforms. This is money that, even if it doesn’t pan out right away in new users for you, you’ll learn a ton about strategy and what works and what doesn’t work for you.
Odds are, well before you make your first hire, you will have to grow comfortable with managing this marketing spend and monitoring results.
It’s important to be data-driven in how you think about the investments you make when it comes to driving sales to your new e-commerce business. Sometimes your theories will play out as expected, and more often than not you’ll learn, for better or for worse, what actually works for you.