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If you’re like most entrepreneurs, there’s a burning desire in your soul to stake your claim in the online marketplace. You’re a virtual homesteader! Whether it’s a product with a new twist, a how-to webinar or you already have a brick and mortar store but want to capture the imagination of the online shopper, smart marketing is key.

For some of you, knowing how to launch is crippling and all too soon you pick up stakes to move back to the comfort of what is instead of pushing through the fear and doubts to conquer the new territory.

I don’t want you to be like so many startups who flare up and fizzle out before their potential customers even get a chance to hear what they have to offer. So, what do you need to start? Here is a list of MUST HAVES.

1. A FAST, MOBILE AND RESPONSIVE WEBSITE

The very first thing a business needs is a website…but no ordinary, stand-alone site will do. Google has spoken and as of April 2015, ALL sites that want to compete in the online marketplace need to be fast, mobile and responsive. What does that mean for you exactly?

First, pages that load too slowly will get kicked down in Google’s search rankings, which means that the pages in your site need to be optimized to load as quickly as possible. A solid framework like Genesis is a good place to start. Also, things like cacheing systems and image/video optimization are key.

Second, but just as important; if your website is not formatted to fit the screen and be easily maneuvered on any size smart phone or tablet, Google will again penalize your search rankings. That means you won’t show up on the first page of a Google search even if you’ve spent a fortune on SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

If you’re wondering what website platform is the best? Well, the sky’s the limit on opinions there. But if you’re asking me, I’d suggest a WordPress site with a designated WordPress hosting package. Key here is the WordPress hosting because your site will automatically back up and update without you even lifting a finger.

Already have a website and want to know if Google thinks its mobile-friendly? Enter your URL here to find out.

2. BLOGGING

The easiest way to boost your brand is to start writing. Creating a blog around your product, service, motto or mission is crucial for a number of reasons, but here are two very big ones!

Your passion for your dream business will be exciting to your target market and writing consistently will give your business a voice. People like to do business with people. We like to have conversations and we like to hear stories. What better way to engage people who like what you like or need what you offer than to have conversations with them? The more familiar your potential customers are with your voice, the more likely they are to do business with you.

One key to getting your message out is to listen. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but the best way to be heard is to first hear what your potential customers are wrestling with or problems they are trying to solve. When you write your blog about how to overcome the very issue, using the words and phrases you heard, you are the resident expert in their eyes. Speak to the problem and gain a following. Plus, consistent articles with keywords and search phrases plugged into the title and throughout the piece will boost your SEO ranking and get you noticed faster.

3. BE SOCIAL

Let’s just be honest, social media is where people hang out…including us! Your business needs to be there too. Building relationships is key to building business because people want to do business with people they know. While your potential customers are on social media you can be ready to meet the needs of all those who are looking for what you have to offer even if they don’t know it yet! Build your social media platforms, be creative, provide content that inspires and invite people to see that you can help.

4. CONSISTENT AND CONSTANT

Be consistent. Yes, I am talking about setting up a schedule and sticking to it. Blog posts, social media posts, Facebook ads, Tweets, Pins…they all can be set up to go out regularly, consistently even when you are not available. But THE most important element of all is to be CONSTANT with your brand. (I’ll write an entire blog post about this because it IS so important.) But in the meantime, here is a list of things that need to look and sound exactly┬áthe same. It doesn’t mean you can’t ever change a picture or re-invent your brand, it means when you do, change them all so your customers who want to buy from you know its you!

  • website: image, logo, bio
  • social media: cover and profile images, mission, bio
  • printed material: brochure, newsletter, magazine, business card
  • digital pieces: downloads, press releases, videos, webinars

What part of the branding process is keeping you from taking your place in the marketplace? If you’re stuck, we can help!

Image by Nicolai Berntsen