Everyday, there are 2.5 billion people logging onto the Internet. If you’re looking to build your business, or expand an offline business, the Internet offers you an unlimited customer base. The opportunity to start from scratch, and reach an engaged audience is exciting.
Time Magazine has an interesting calculator. The calculator estimates American consumers are spending $550,000 every minute online. Some of that business can be yours if you can stand out and show customers why they should do business with you.
Some Internet marketers have hurt the reputation of online entrepreneurs with hype and empty promises. They have given a bad rap to good business owners. Here are five ways you can differentiate yourself and build your business online.
1. Don’t exaggerate what you’ve accomplished.
When you’re building your business, and aren’t well known, the temptation to exaggerate what you’ve accomplished can be strong. The truth always has a funny way of revealing itself. The worst thing you can do for your business is tarnish your reputation.
If you don’t have credentials, focus on building some. All you need is that first person to do business with you. Do good work for them and that will lead to a second. Create and sell products and services that deliver results. Stay away from the hype and you will build all the credentials you need to land new business. Don’t let the numbers blind you from what’s important.
2. Keep it simple and build your email list.
Your website is your home base. It’s the place you send leads, customers and potential partners to learn about your business. When it’s too confusing, or not clear what you want people to do, you’ve lost income.
You’ve got 30 seconds to convince a new visitor to stay. Keep it simple and clean. Don’t try to wow leads with too many widgets and plug-ins. Let your content hook them. Websites like Zen Habits prove that leads are looking for content.
Make the sign up for your email list prominent. Offer a free digital download to entice and inform leads. The organic reach of social media is low and decreasing. Email is still the best way to convert leads into customers. Build a list of people who love what you offer. They will be your evangelists.
3. Spend more time on content.
Content is still King online. Despite the impressiveness of today’s modern websites and features, the content is what makes an impact and creates a buying decision. You should never “phone it in.” Your content needs to "wow" your audience and address their biggest problems.
Your content must be fresh, actionable and created for your target audience. Use strategies to build your audience, such as guest posting, interviews and webinars. The goal is to get leads back to your website to absorb your content.
4. Making connections versus being the expert.
Everywhere you turn, some “guru” tells you to build your brand by being the expert. The problem is that people are tired of “experts.” A buying decision is made when someone knows, likes and trusts you. That will never happen when you try to keep people at arms length because you want to be an expert.
True experts don’t have to give themselves a title. People know who they are by the action they take and the results they get their customers. The reason successful entrepreneurs rise to the top is they don’t step on anyone on their way up. Pat Flynn is just one example of someone who builds trust without calling himself an expert.
5. Never get complacent with your strategies.
If we’ve learned anything from the history of the SEO industry, and now social media, it’s that you can’t depend on any one strategy. Things change fast online. What worked yesterday can be ineffective tomorrow.
To build your business, you have to keep learning and testing. If you learn a new strategy, test it on your business. Too many online entrepreneurs get their strategies by copying those at the top of their industry. Copying will can get you only so far but can never make you stand out.
Growing a business online isn’t easy. There is a lot of competition. There is, however, a lot of opportunity and it will only increase. To convert, you have to stand out and deliver. When you’re the carbon copy of someone else, your potential customers will do business with that person. Embrace what makes you and your business different.