As an attendee of many conferences and networking events, I have found that a business card is regarded with pride as a first impression willingly given to anyone who will receive it. Whether it is a quick introduction or a prolonged conversation, it often ends or begins with, “Do you have a card?” or “Take my card.” I have even seen some pretty incredible artwork and logo designs and innovative paper, which make those business cards memorable. Plus, most business cards I receive feature certifications, taglines and relevant contact information, including office phone number, cell phone number, email address, website address and social media handles.
The next step is to venture to those websites, online reviews and social media sites to find out more information about the person who handed me this memorable business card. Unfortunately, many times I find partial descriptions, old posts, websites not developed for today’s mobile world, difficult navigation and broken links. When confronted with the question, “When was the last time you updated your website or social media profile?” I often hear the same justifications: “We just need a presence and a phone number online,” or, “I don’t have time to keep up with my website or social media profile.”
A Mobile Society
According to Adweek magazine, 81% of shoppers conduct online research before buying. Of that 81%, mobile usage accounts for 51% of Internet users. That means that by not maintaining a relevant online presence, 81% of your potential audience is unable to find reviews, clear information, ratings and contact information about your company and/or services. Still think you just need a presence?
Your online presence is your business card today. Make it as creative, memorable and relevant as the 3.5-by-2-in. piece of paper you willingly give away in hopes of business or referrals. If your website, social media profiles or reviews are flat, nonexistent or difficult to find, your clientele will move on, most likely to a competitor. Do not try to be everything to everybody—just as you should be selective about to whom you give your business card, you should speak directly to your target audience about the value it will receive with your product or service.
“Hold on,” you say. “A business card is much less expensive than a website and less time consuming than keeping up with social media.” You are correct; if you are inviting a prospective customer to consider your company’s product or service, however, be aware that today’s consumers do their homework before choosing to invest their money and time in something new. Follow in the footsteps of your prospective customers and make sure your online presence is consistent with that business card, representing the brand you want them to perceive.
The Changing Mobile Landscape
The online world is ever changing. You may have noticed certain trends, including hashtags, apps and responsive Web design. Are you noticing longer homepages on websites? These are a reflection of the mobile influence on consumers, created to accommodate updated platforms and browsers. There are more mobile users now than desktop users, so websites must be designed to respond to their environments. Instead of creating various types of mobile sites to be viewed on each type of mobile device (phone versus tablet, Apple versus Android), programmers have moved toward responsive, or adaptive, Web design that allows a website to be viewed clearly on any type of device. What may seem long on your desktop or laptop is just right on a mobile device, because it is created to stack so that it can be viewed properly.
With this in mind, consider investing in a relevant, mobile-friendly, online presence. Whether that means updating an old website, hiring a social media specialist or subscribing to an online marketing program, you will notice the return on investment over time. Just as you hire specialized technicians, take annual certification classes and read industry journals, Web designers, programmers and social media experts keep up with online trends daily for a living. Because of the complexity of the ever-changing online world, do not try to cut corners or manage this on your own while running the rest of your business—you are too busy. But if you like being involved in the marketing side of your company or you have someone in your office that is good at the “online stuff,” the good news is that most websites are not programmed only in code anymore, but developed to be easily maintained by you or a staff member.
Consistency and relevancy are vital, however, so you need someone dedicated to managing updates regularly. This can be costly, but it is no different from investing in a new product or service that your target audience is requesting or your competitors are carrying. Remember, most shoppers are doing their homework online before buying, and about half are doing it on their mobile devices. I look forward to seeing you online.