Monday, April 7, 2008

Easy, free ways to attract customers online

Photobucket By Lorin Hancock, assistant editor

The Internet is the place to be to attract new customers. But for the small retail glass shop that doesn’t have a Web site, creating a Web presence can be a daunting task. Here are a few easy and free ways to get your company’s name out there.

MySpace & Facebook: These aren’t just for kids anymore. Reputable businesses on the cutting edge are setting up profiles that explain what their business is and how it can help serve customers’ needs. Make your profile public and it will be indexed by major search engines. It only takes about an hour to create a decent company profile on each of these sites, but they can be as customized and detailed as you want to make them. Think about it as free advertising, and remember to update it often. These sites display the date of your last login; if people see you haven’t checked it in months, they won’t take you seriously.

Blogs: They can be a great tool for any business. There are many blogging sites out there to choose from, and the majority of them are free. The easiest and most widely used tool is blogger, the site you are on now. Go to the top, right-hand corner of your screen and you see the words, “create blog.” Click on that link and it will walk you through all the necessary steps. All simple, all free.
Once you create a blog, the most important thing is to update it as regularly as you can. Once a week is good, once a day is better. However much time you decide to devote to blogging, be sure to set up a regular schedule so that users know when to visit your site for new content.
As far as what you can write on the blog, that’s up to you. If you want to take a more personal, diary-like approach about the goings-on in your company, it can help customers feel like they know you better, trust you, and give you their business. You could also use it to talk about products and services you offer, or examples of installations you may have performed. Another winning idea would be tips to consumers on what different types of glass there are and what kind should be used for which project. Even if you can take five minutes once a day to post a sentence or two, it will be helpful.
Link from your blog to your Facebook and Myspace pages, and search for similar or loosely related blogs out there (you’d be surprised by how many there are), and request that they include a link to your blog on theirs. Add comments and include the URL of your blog. This will all help make your blog and profiles more visible to search engines.
This may not be all you need to connect with customers on the Internet, but it’s a great way to start if you aren’t ready to invest too much time and money.

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