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July 9, 2010

The Economy is Improving…Is Your Online Business Ready?

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Amazon Web Services

While the economy is certainly not firing on all cylinders, corporate profits are up,  some signs of hiring are visible in the marketplace, and the flow of money between banks, businesses, and individuals is picking up pace.

The lack of trust in our markets and economy have put a significant strain on growing businesses. Many businesses large and small have decided to put off improvements to their websites over the last couple of years. This is understandable; even more important than keeping up with the competition is keeping the doors open, and in many industries, there just hasn’t been a lot of money to invest. If history is any guide, though, that trend can be expected to reverse itself – competition is going to be back in full swing, and those owners and managers who move rapidly are going to see the biggest gains.

With that in mind, here are five areas  of your company’s website and online marketing plan you might think of upgrading in the coming weeks:

1. Search engine optimization strategies.

As buyers come back out of the woodwork, most of them aren’t going to be turning the yellow pages to find what they need. Because of their instant, specialized nature, sites like Google, Yahoo, and Bing are continuing to gobble up ever-increasing amounts of advertising focus. SEO is the marketing revolution of our time, and you can’t afford to fall behind – much less drop out – of the race for the top positions in your industry or area.

2. Social network marketing.

In its beginnings, Facebook was a place to keep tabs on family and friends that you don’t see as often as you’d like. Now, you can continue to do that while hearing about the latest sales, shopping for what you need, becoming a fan of your favorite team or institution, and sharing your thoughts and opinions with the world at large. When it comes to Facebook and other related platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, there are really only two kinds of companies: those who are taking advantage, and those who are going to wish they had.

3. Open job postings.

Your website can be a great recruiting tool, bringing you qualified candidates from all around the world. All it takes is a brief description and the patience to sift through the resumes that arrive in your inbox. Given the cost and effort involved in bringing on new staff, why not invite people to apply online?

4. A secure customer area.

Generally speaking, it costs you a lot less to have your server on at 3 am than it does a paid employee. And as an added bonus, the server generally won’t leave coffee stains on the desk, so why not automate some of your customer service tasks? Some buyers, by the nature of their job or lifestyle, are going to want service outside of normal business hours. Having account information, order histories, the answers to frequently asked questions, and other details online probably isn’t going to eliminate the need for live staff members, but it can do wonders for their workload and your expenses.

5. A blog or newsletter.

Granted, blogs and online newsletters aren’t exactly cutting-edge, but that doesn’t mean you should stop using them, or put off implementing them if you haven’t already. Finding new customers is expensive; selling to the men and women who already know, love, and buy your products isn’t. Generating a bit of insightful content with tips on using your products, or a fun story about your company, isn’t that hard. Combine it with a soft marketing message and you’ve got a once-a-month opportunity to increase your repeat sales. It’s hard to beat that strategy for a quick, bottom-line improvement.

The last couple of years haven’t been easy, but marketers and business owners who are expecting an improved economy to solve all of their problems overnight are probably going to be disappointed. Tough economic times typically force all of us – buyers and sellers alike – into new routines and habits. As customers and revenue return, it’s going to be those companies who were ready that will reap the lion’s share of the profits. Is your site going to help you find your way to the top?

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Amazon Web Services

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