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Small Business Online Marketing Mistakes
5 things to avoid when starting your own photography business
'Small business online marketing' is just a phrase that most of us would really rather not come across!
It sounds like lots of dull, unfamiliar, hard work. Yet the big picture - the opportunities for photographers, or any small business, provided by the internet - is incredibly exciting.
This often leads to a badly thought through online business plan: The web is a place where lots of money is made, so if I put myself there I'll make lots of money too! If that is where you leave your online business plan, get ready for disappointment.
Anyone can create a significantly profitable online business. It's been proved thousands and thousands of times all over the world; whether you are building it slowly at the weekends, full time or part time. You just need to be armed with the right tools.
So you definitely can be successful with your online venture, but be careful! These 5 big pitfalls often undermine people's online plans...
How could Site Build It! - the resource I used to build and promote Photography Art Cafe - be your route to online success too?
1. Not creating a budget
This is not a mundane or patronising suggestion. Everyone knows it's essential to have a clear idea of funding before setting up any business.
But one of the incredibly cool things about the web is that it levels the playing field. If you get the hang of the basics of small business online marketing practices you can compete with much bigger players.
Plus, your photography business plan is not likely to include buying any kind of stock. If you are selling fine art prints you can simply meet the demand as orders come in.
All this leads to the impression that there are just about zero outgoings! But I have found that I tend to make lots of little payments. Sometimes it's easy to let these slip under the radar: £10 on a directory submission here - £8 on an email account there and so on.
Make sure you know exactly how much you can afford to invest, and use it wisely. You don't want to find that you've got ahead of yourself without realising and suddenly the business becomes a burden.
2. Treating the internet as a location
I think this is the single most common, and damaging, mistake that people make when setting up a business website.
In the real world of bricks and mortar business, it's 'location, location, location' that matters. Set up shop on a busy highstreet in a thriving city and you're good to go!
So, how many gazillions of people surf the web every day? Surely cyberspace is the ultimate high street! Lay out your stall 'there' and you're made!
Nooo! Never, ever fall into this trap. You should view the busyness of the internet as a challenge. Far from putting yourself in front of the eyes of millions by setting up a website, you are taking your place as an anonymous new member of the most overcrowded country imaginable; even worse than the UK.
The good news? You've got your head screwed on whilst most of your competitors are flailing around without direction or strategy. You understand that your website will not happen to be found, but must be made 'findable'.
Feeling overwhelmed by all the information? Check out my review of Site Build! An online business building resource for the rest of us!
3. Ignoring small business online marketing practices
It's one thing knowing that there are rules to how the internet works. It's another thing taking the time to understand them. But to have success with any online venture, sooner or later you're going to have to.
Fortunately, there's nothing hard to understand about small business online marketing. It really is simple!
Essentially, you just have to realise that to make money you need to build trust - to build trust you need traffic - and to build traffic you need carefully built content and links to your site.
There's a bit more too it of course, and there are loads of things you can do to accelerate this process.
For the best introduction to the whole area of how to increase web traffic and internet marketing for online businesses, I really urge you to read this incredible free guide by Dr. Ken Evoy: "Make Your Site Sell!"
Everyone gets impatient when setting up an online business! Some people react by looking for shortcuts, rushing, spending lots of money on advertising and eventually throwing in the towel. Others just get knuckle down and push on with doing things slowly, well and methodically.
The key to small business online marketing is building 'organic' traffic. That's visitors who reach your site through search engine searches rather than paid advertising.
You basically need to make your site popular with people and with Google, the tool that most people will find it through. A site that Google likes will be liked by visitors and a site that visitors like will be liked by Google! So it's reciprocal, and once you have a popular site the momentum just keeps on building unstoppably.
This superb free e-book is a great guide on how to get this process going: "Make Your Content Presell!"
You cannot cheat Google. Google is clever. They just want to know which the best sites to direct searchers too are. Impatience causes people to do things like cram keywords into every sentence or submit their sites to link farms (places to get large quantities of very low quality links in one go - it's artificial and will damage your site in the long term).
Building the kind of traffic and popularity that will give you a stable, highly profitable, long term business takes time. There's no way around it. Either accept it and crack on with getting to the final destination slowly but steadily, or throw in the towel.
If it is practiced by a man of taste, the photograph will have the appearance of art (but) the photographer must... intervene as little as possible, so as not... to lose the objective charm which it naturally possesses.
5. Style over Substance
The style over substance mistake is another big one. Photographers like visual things, so getting sidetracked by design, colour and appearance is an easy trap to fall into.
How a website looks is actually more important for photographers than most other businesses. Your potential customers will see it, to some extent, as a reflection of your visual taste.
But ultimately, site design is frills. It's the periphery, the optional extras that are fun to play with when starting your own photography business, but shouldn't occupy you for too long.
Sometimes being too interested in style can be more than just a distraction. Slow loading pages with lots of bells and whistles on them have been proved to cause surfers to click away impatiently (your visitors are allowed to be impatient - but not you!).
Flash looks awesome but often prohibits Google from indexing the content of a page and turning it up in search results. Bad news. There is one photography website template builder, though, that uses flash whilst allowing Google to see what else is on the page: Wix websites.
Free downloadable book, Getting Started With Photoshop, for all subscribers.
I hope these small business online marketing tips were useful. I know it can seem really tough when first dipping your toe in the water of e-commerce.
But with the right information and tools anyone can build a successful online business.
I thoroughly recommend that you investigate the leading resource for providing small internet businesses with the tools and knowledge they need to flourish: SBI!
Building a large and stable supply of organic traffic is central to a small business online marketing plan. Here my top tips on how to increase web traffic without spending silly amounts of money!
I love hearing from P-A-C readers with their ideas for small business online marketing strategies. Get in touch here.
Have Your Say and Share Your Photos
What have you learned about small business online marketing. Are you a photographer or artist with a website? Share your stories and experiences with other Photography Art Cafe readers.
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