If you are promoting your business with an AOL email address or apologizing for not having your website completed, here is some tough love: most people who are serious about their businesses will not take you seriously. Not having those basic business tools screams "amateur"!
Need more incentive? Many people go online first when searching for a product or service. Guess who they are finding. Your competitors. Your business is losing clients -- and money -- by not having an online presence.
Here's the good news. It takes so little effort to create an online presence, you can be up and running with a very modest investment of time and money.
Stuff you need to do
Get a custom URL - For best results, pick your business name or a phrase that describes your services or benefit. Try to keep it fairly short -- less than 12 characters. You will need the space if and when you start marketing online.
Get a web/blog platform - Establishing a website used to cost thousands of dollars, but website creation and blogging platforms can help you get started for anywhere from free to a small monthly subscription. Here are a few that I have tried:
Dee added: "I use SiteWelder. They are great. Easy, intuitive, and many options; easy to update and make changes. AND you get your own tech. SiteWelder is for photographers as well. They have great templates and they're adding new options often."
Neal said: "Zenfolio is fantastic, easy for my clients to use. Best I've used. I won't use wordpress anymore, it is very easy to steal photos on a wordpress theame. They are very unsecure.
Go Daddy is difficult if you are want to use a wordpress theme. Name Cheap is awesome!"
Get a site to sell and deliver your work - These sites are great for fulfillment. Your clients can view their proofs, order prints, and have them delivered. Zenfolio, SmugMugPro, and PhotoShelter can serve as your full site. ShootProof and PixieSet are better for just sharing your galleries with clients.
Get an email marketing service - This will allow you to collect information from people who want to subscribe to your updates. I've found email marketing to be one of the more effective tools for the investment.
You want to be able to initiate conversation, nurture the relationship, and alert customers to new promotions. Most businesses collect information with the "ethical bribe" -- providing an offer in exchange for their information.
Popular options are:
Stuff you oughta do
Get an online forms service - It's incredibly easy to create a form and embed it on your site. You can create simple forms that just collect info or even payments. I use it for my "How did we do" surveys. You can get a free account that will give you up to three forms -- two more than you need, for now.
Google Services - Google provides a number of services that are extremely helpful for business owners.
- Alerts - Automate important searches and have the results delivered to your inbox. Great for market research or just keeping up with the competition.
- Analytics - You can get all kinds of intelligence on who is coming to your site. This will help you update your platforms more strategically.
- Business apps - Email from your own domain name using a familiar gmail environment.
- Blogger - Google's free blogging service. Great to get started, but not very deep on features.
- YouTube channel - The most popular search platform. If you want your videos to get found, you need a YouTube channel.
- Vimeo.com - I use Vimeo to share videos like this recording. I think the presentation is much cleaner and flexible than YouTube.
- Google +