Helping Your Customers Find You

by Brent Leary

Business owners have a hunter's mentality. They need it to pursue and capture enough new business to successfully compete in this challenging environment. They spend thousands (dollars and hours) attending trade shows, conferences, seminars, and networking events with the primary goal of cultivating new business relationships. They make sales calls, send post cards, and blast e-mail messages, all in pursuit of their most desired prey: new customers. These time-tested tools have served the business hunter well. But times, they are a-changing. Now, when people are ready to buy, they morph into hunters, with their tool of choice being Google's search engine. So it's vital for businesses to understand the importance of making it easy for prospects to hunt them down in their pursuit of the products and services they desire. Here are a few easy ways to raise your GQ (Google Quotient) and pass "The Google Test" given by prospective buyers on the prowl.

Commenting online drives traffic

One quick way to boost your GQ is to leave well-written comments on popular industry blogs. You'd be surprised at the contacts you can make by writing thoughtful, concise responses to interesting blog posts. Also think about leaving book reviews and creating book lists for popular industry books on Amazon.com. When people read a good review they tend to check out your Amazon.com profile, so include your website address and other information that could drive them to you. You may also want to find a wiki that is related to your industry and begin participating in it. This is a also great way to build credibility online, network with others in your industry, and bring new opportunities to yourself and your business.

Blogging

Don't stop at just commenting on other people's blogs: create your own. According to Technorati's latest "State of the Blogoshpere" report, 120K new blogs come online every day, meaning roughly 1.4 blogs get created every second. Each day, 1.5 million posts are written, equating to more than 61K posts every hour. And, because it takes next to nothing to get started, blogs continue to be a great way to gain exposure. Many people and business owners are making use of low- or no-cost blogging services to do so.

Participate in a few online networks

Speaking of profiles, creating a profile on business networking sites like LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), FastPitch! Networking (www.fastpitchnetworking.com), and JumpUp (www.jumpup.com) can help expand your reach and raise your GQ. For example, FastPitch! is an online business community that is a great compliment to the more established LinkedIn.com. What makes FastPitch! so compelling is the ability to include links in your user profile to your blogs, press releases, podcasts, and other content you create. You can even include links to your training and demonstration videos. As you create blog posts in tools like TypePad or Blogger, FastPitch! uses RSS to automatically incorporate them into your profile. Press releases you create using FastPitch! are syndicated to the search engines and begin showing up in results lists. And the best part is, when people view your FastPitch! profile, they can see every press release, blog entry, and other content you've created, all in one location.

Share your slides with the web

Slideshare.net can be viewed as the YouTube for PowerPoint presentations. Just about every business person has created a slide deck at some point. Why not use this content to drive traffic. If you've put together an interesting presentation, you can upload it to Slideshare.net and have people view and comment on it, and even mark it as their favorite. Once uploaded, Slideshare generates code that can easily be cut and pasted into a page on your site. Slideshare.net even makes it easy for those people who like your presentation to incorporate it into their blog or website. And each time someone views your presentation, SlideShare.net keeps track of it. If it's really popular, your presentation can show up on the Slideshare.net homepage, bringing your site a whole bunch of traffic and potential customers. SlideShare also helps you pass the Google Test as your uploaded presentations can show up in search results.

YouTube, iPods, and your business

I already know what you're thinking. YouTube is for teenagers and people who have plenty of time to watch exploding Coke bottles. But you can no longer dismiss social networking sites like these and others as being strictly for fun and games. Businesses of all sizes are starting to utilize these tools to help them find new customers. YouTube serves up over 100 million film clips a day…and is growing rapidly. The most popular videos are definitely on the entertainment side, but there are a growing number of businesses using YouTube to build awareness for their companies. You can find out how to change a spark plug, configure a Cisco router, or create a Web page using Adobe Photoshop. And each video invites the viewer to learn more by stopping by the clip creator's website.

Like YouTube, the fun side of the iPod is easy to see, but there is an increasingly important business side to consider. More and more professional/business content is being created for the professional on-the-go, and the iPod is leading the charge. Podcasting may have started with individuals sharing their private thoughts, but now companies of all sizes are using iPods to communicate with customers and prospects.

These are a few inexpensive, easy ways to raise your GQ and begin building a good rep on the Web. With the cost and complexity of creating and distributing content coming way down, it's time to figure out what makes sense for you and your business. After all, when it comes to the Web, it's not just who you know, but who knows you AND what they know about you, that makes the difference.

About the Author:

Brent Leary is Co-founder and Partner of CRM Essentials, a consulting/advisory firm focused on helping small businesses leverage Web 2.0 technologies to find, catch, and keep good customers. He's the host of "Technology...for Business Sake," a weekly radio program on www.businesstechnologyradio.com. Leary received CRM Magazine's Most Influential Leader Award. His popular blog can be found at http://crm2.typepad.com/.