This is the first of a five-part series.
Today, we’re seeing more locally-based businesses rely on the global online marketplace for long-term sustainability and growth. According to a study conducted by Interactive Media in Retail Group, global ecommerce is expected to grow to $1.25 trillion by 2013. Now more than ever, it’s important for small businesses to globally optimize their website to resonate with international audiences everywhere.
Below are 2 of 10 tips for small business owners to effectively “globalize” their website:
1.) Start with your .Biz Domain
A recognized and trusted name around the globe, .Biz is a great place to start internationalizing your business. When choosing your .Biz domain name, make sure to choose a name that represents your global brand. Take some time to research names across the worldwide web to ensure that your name is not easily confused with a competitor. You may even want to test the name among some of your international target audiences to ensure that it has the same meaning across cultures.
Regardless of the name you choose, make sure to keep it short and easy to remember for your customers and prospects.
2.) Visual appearance:
As more and more web users around the world are accessing the internet through thousands of different mobile devices, all websites should now be built with “responsive design” (a design that optimizes design of websites for each mobile device). With responsive design, small businesses can ensure easy readability and a consistent look across all devices and platforms, no matter the size or quality of screen.
Stay tuned for our next four posts in this series – covering additional tips and tools to internationalize your website, including IP targeting, “glocal” SEO, language translation, security and more.
Local marketing is crucial for small businesses, as smaller companies typically provide products and services within a limited area. One of the first things you do during the formative stages of your business plan is conceive of and implement a local marketing strategy. Your plan should include both traditional and Internet-specific strategies.
The Basics of Local Marketing
Start by identifying your target market and figuring out, from a demographic standpoint, where they are and how to reach them. Then, break that market down into sub-categories and tweak your strategy to ensure you appeal to each of them directly. Be sure to collect feedback in the early stages of your strategy and adjust it going forward as needed.
Then, use these tried-and-true tips to expand your visibility in the offline world:
- Attend community events and distribute promotional material to community groups that match your target demographic(s).
- Submit a press release to your local newspaper(s) when you plan to participate in a community fundraiser, charity event or awareness campaign.
- Advertise grand opening promotions and giveaways on local radio, TV and newspapers.
Harness the Power of the Internet
The beauty of the Internet is its equal reach both globally and locally. Here are some of the ways in which you can put the Web to work for your locally oriented small business:
- Register your small business and create a listing with all the major search engines — sites like GetListed.org will be a great help, and giants like Yahoo! and Google offer locally oriented sub-categories.
- Be sure to register with any local search engines which service your community and the surrounding area
- Use geo-targeted keywords in your website content, tags and meta descriptions to attract local customers
- Build a blog and start back-linking campaigns with other local businesses to improve search engine rankings and synergize your local marketing efforts.
- Use social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to support your marketing strategies.
These tips will help you and your business reap the rewards of local reach and connect with a wide base of potential customers. And finally, remember that no strategy is “set in stone”, you will want to adjust your marketing efforts based on what resources work best for your business.
I was visiting with my sister a few weeks ago. She was taking me through all the new and exciting things happening with her business, and introducing me to new partners and friends.
We talked a lot about her operations and marketing, and how I could help her with different projects. While we were chatting, I asked how she did a few things:
- Accept payments (at the Tasting Room and at events)
- Record visitors (at the Tasting Room and at events)
She was doing both the old-fashioned way: credit cards, pen and paper. So we got to talking about how much time / money / resources these were consuming for each transaction. Turns out, it’s a lot. We talked about some solutions and I offered two: Square (for anywhere payments) and Google Docs (for form submissions). I’m sure there are others but these were two I thought she could get up and running quickly.
What I soon realized is that as a small business owner, it’s tough to stay on top of the latest technology trends that will likely have an impact on your business / industry. Since you are wearing more than one hat, the days are filled with activities that don’t allow you to focus on keeping up with the latest news.
When your business isn’t focused on technology, it’s even more of a challenge.
The great thing about being a small business is it’s easy to make change. While you might not have the same resources as the bigger players, there are tools available that can help you keep pace with them. And since you are wearing many hats, it will be easier to implement a new solution (ie, no need to go through IT, Marketing, Sales, Web, etc.).
Here are 3 (free!) tools you can use to help stay on top of today’s trends in your industry.
Twitter goes far beyond learning what everyone is having for lunch. Once you set up an account, simply head over to the search feature and start poking around. If you are a local business, you can narrow your search include all results located in a specific zip code or city.
So, if I’m in the winery business in San Diego, I might add that criteria into my search. Of course, I can add a handful of other searches related to wine – upcoming events, specific users / competitors / partners, etc.
Once you’ve found a handful of search criteria, save them. That way, you can quickly reference / review them as needed.
And just because your news feed / Twitter stream is coming in at a blistering pace doesn’t mean you have to keep up – just check in on it once a day until you get familiar with the setup. If you spend 30 minutes a day, you’ll be a pro after a week.
Easily my favorite reading site. Coupled with Spool (below), it becomes a powerful research tool. Google Reader takes news ‘feeds’ from sites you choose and combines them into a format that allows you to read them quickly.
As an example, I follow soccer. Instead of visiting a handful of sites everyday, I subscribe to their feeds. Once these sites are updated (normally via blog posts), they are updated in my Google Reader. This makes it super easy to quickly review al the latest news. Naturally, the more sites you follow, the more time you’ll spend reviewing these feeds.
Let’s go back to the winery in San Diego. I have a number of wineries that I like to visit regularly. If they post news regularly, it might be a good idea to subscribe to their news feed. Then, before I head out to see them, I can review their news. When I meet up with them, I’m all caught up on what they’ve been up to.
(You can also do this with Twitter, assuming they have a Twitter account.)
It doesn’t have to be isolated to the winery industry. If you find something on Twitter, you can find a related website and follow their news through Google Reader.
I have about 100 feeds I actively follow, focused on everything I’m interested in, from soccer to marketing to gargoyles in New York.
Ok, so we have two great ways of finding and reading news related to our industry. Terrific. What happens if we don’t have enough time to read / watch / listen to them right now? That’s where Spool comes in. Spool allows you to save an article for later, with the added benefit of allowing you to review the saved article offline.
I use this service a lot. Let’s say I’m heading downtown on the subway – I’ll load up Spool on my phone and read those articles I saved, even when I don’t have an internet connection.
While there isn’t a direct integration with Twitter and Spool, it’s easy to copy the link into Spool and it saves it for later. Google Reader allows you to Spool articles directly from it’s service with a single click.
The great thing about each of these tools is they can be used on your computer and on your mobile device. It’s likely you don’t have much downtime but when you do, check in on the latest technology trends and see how they might help your small business.