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Launching your business & getting smart about your digital real estate
Starting a business on your own has its challenges – purchasing the business licence and registration, choices on sole proprietorship vs incorporation, setting up the accounting, drafting business contracts for clients, meeting with banks – you have much to navigate and need to wear many hats. And that’s just to get it off the ground.
But what about marketing?
As a small business owner, the web is about to become your new favourite play space. It offers you a bounty of opportunities to reach deep into communities and influence people who may want or need your products or services. If you’re unfamiliar with digital marketing, prepare yourself for a fast-paced learning curve that involves domains, hosting, platforms, Search Engine Optimization and social media.
Creating your brand’s digital assets
Stepping online with your business requires some digital property – your web site name and url. Unique to your brand, yet catchy and memorable, this becomes your chance to claim a piece of the world wide web.
Tips on purchasing your brand’s assets online:
- Brainstorm domain names – For your web address/url, you need a domain name relevant to your business that resonates with you and is easy to remember. Have a look at our travel website for women – www.gogirlfriend.com .
- Brainstorm old school – Use a pen and paper and don’t search Google. Prioritize 5-10 brand names you like. There are people who scan searches and buy up domain names and then resell them at exorbitant prices. Stay off the web until you’re ready to buy.
- Domain registration – Go to any major domain registrar to buy your brand name (GoDaddy, Hostpapa, Justhost, Fatcow). I recommend setting up an account before searching your brand name so there’s no snags when you’re ready to buy. Then begin your “search for a new domain” based on your prioritized list. Start with your favourite and work your way through the list until you find one that’s available. The buy it immediately or you may miss your opportunity.
- Buy the suite – We recommend you buy the suite (.com, .ca, .org, .biz, .net), so your competitors (or spammers) don’t try to capitalize on your business success with the other versions. For www.socialnorth.com , the .com, .ca, .biz, .org and .net domain names cost less than $30 for the year.
- Buy your own name as owner – I recommend you buy the suite of your own name as well, even if you just buy and hold the digital real estate. Try googling “Julia Rosien”. As owner of SocialNorth and GoGirlfriend.com, how many pages of hits did you get?
Building your digital empire
Now that you’ve stuck your flag on your digital real estate, what are you going to do with it? Your initial site can be a simple one-page splash page or your marketing needs may require a highly complex design. Depending on your knowledge of websites, platforms and designs, here’s where you may need outside assistance.
Tips on launching your initial web site design:
- Launch your web property – To begin, you’ll require a host server, platform and a design. Almost always, your domain registrar can also fulfill your hosting needs. For $5-8 per month, you can purchase shared hosting that will fulfill all of your small to medium needs for the first few years.
- Website platforms – To add content and design to your web site, you’ll require a platform or content management system (generally free with hosting). WordPress is the most popular, easy to use and very versatile, but you can also choose Drupal, Joomla and add shopping carts (for selling online) as your business needs evolve.
- WordPress themes – As WordPress is the most popular, you can pick from thousands of free themes (and thousands more custom themes (approx $50+) from developers) to bring your sites look and feel alive with colours, images and content.
- Content – Whether you want a simple site (like our favorite pizza place www.gourmetpizzawaterloo.ca/ with only 2 tabs) or a more complex version like our own www.socialnorth.com with multi-tabs and sliders, the content and layout comes from your inspiration.
- Guy next door or agency – Everybody has a “guy” who can design his site, and for simple sites that’ll work perfectly fine (generally). Make sure they have some street cred and site samples of their work you can preview. For more complex sites, involve a small agency (like www.madhattertech.ca ) where they have trained, knowledgeable developers on site.
Marketing in the digital space
Your web presence is a necessity in today’s business landscape. It’s your virtual business card for the business world and without it, you’re dead before you even begin. Marketing in this space is where the fun begins …
Tips on marketing your digital brand:
- Repurpose everything – As you design paper flyers for your business, think about how you can use them on your site. Do they need tweaking for digital display and where on your site will they live?
- Create content – Content marketing with a blog allows you to add rich, relevant content relating to your business (like boutique agency SocialNorth’s social media strategy for your business).
- Use SEO – Make learning about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) a priority. How Google serves up results when someone searches for your product locally (custom business signs in Kitchener ~ www.sign-depot.com) can help new customers find you – rather than your competition.
- Explore LinkedIn – Create a page to professionally network with your clients and connections digitally as a brand and as a business owner (link with me LinkedIn for Stacy Rosien).
- Jump into social media – Reserve your brand’s property on the major social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, etc.) and those influential to your industry – even if you need to learn more before using it. You don’t want your competitors scooping up your name.
Launching your business into the digital world is as necessary as ordering business cards and flyers. While there’s a lot to learn, creating a successful digital marketing strategy is not as expensive as you think.
Curious what advice other bloggers have to offer about launching your business?
- Laura Berg ~ 10 tips for starting your own business
This post content is sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada, however the views and opinions expressed herein represent my own and not those of Royal Bank of Canada or any other party and do not constitute financial, legal or other advice.