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Marketing your business online

Successful marketing is one of the cornerstones to a successful business, but according to 2020 Products approximately one third of clients consider leaving their accountant every year due to a lack of communication. The internet is one of the most powerful resources available to any business, yet the CPA Practice Benchmarking Survey 2011 showed that only 60pc of CPA firms are using it in their marketing strategies. A recent study by the DG Group found that 66pc of SMEs want to implement digital marketing campaigns but are frustrated by a lack of knowledge or time, with a large number continuing to use outdated methods of marketing, such as emails, phone calls or even faxes.

With Ireland now known as the ‘internet capital of Europe’ and home to internet heavyweights, such as Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, it is almost unacceptable that some Irish businesses are still not utilising the full potential of the online world.

CPA Ireland has produced a series of articles, dedicated to helping our members improve their business’ digital marketing strategies and public relations. Here is the first in our articles, aimed at getting your business online.

Websites

The internet has become the main source of information for a whole new generation and internet use is continuing to grow among the older population as well. The internet is your access to the entire world from your office and is a cheaper alternative to traditional forms of promotion or advertising. A large proportion of people do their research online which is why it is so important to have a website where they can find out everything they need to know about your business. After all, people don’t consult their Golden Pages anymore; they ‘Google it’ instead.

Getting Irish Business Online is an initiative by Google, Blacknight, An Post and the National Network of County and City Enterprise Boards to help Irish businesses set up a website and domain (.ie, .com or .eu) free of charge for one year, as well as a €100 free advertising trial with Google Adwords. The offer also provides ongoing tips and education to customers so they learn how to get the best out of the internet and their website.

Social Media

Social Media is an internet phenomenon and one that continues to grow, with little sign of slowing down. A survey by the DG Group showed that 40pc of SMEs never used Facebook, while 48pc never used Twitter and 46pc never used LinkedIn.

At the end of 2011, there were over 3 million internet users in Ireland, 2 million of which were Facebook users who account for 47pc of the population. Half of Facebook users say that they use their account every day. Doing the maths, your business has the potential to reach 25pc of the Irish population on a daily basis with a Facebook page. Just 11pc are on Twitter, however this figure is rising every year, while LinkedIn accounts for 8pc of the population, with Ireland having the second highest amount of LinkedIn users in the world.

Facebook is one of the best mediums for businesses to interact with their customers and keep them up to date with their latest offers, services and news. With the recent introduction of the Facebook Timeline, businesses can redesign their page so it appears much more visual, allowing them to mark milestones in their business and communicate with the public. Business pages also come with ‘Insights’ which allow you to see how successful the page is and which posts work better with the audience than others.

Facebook pages provide businesses with the opportunity to directly engage with the public and keep them up to date with their latest offers, news and services, through interactive media, from posts and photos to videos and links.

Twitter is the other main social network that is becoming increasingly popular, especially among celebrities, public figures and news agencies. The concept of Twitter is to post statuses, or ‘tweets’ as they are known, to ‘followers’ using a maximum of 140 characters, so all of your messages must be short and to the point.

Users can tweet links to their blogs, retweet posts by other users that may be of interest to them, or simply use it to advertise offers, advice and services they provide. You can read this blog by Sage to find out more about accountants’ experiences with Twitter and their advice on how to utilise its full potential for your business.

LinkedIn is not so much a social networking site, but a professional networking site. Businesses and professionals can use this to build their contacts and stay in touch with people they have done business with and people in their industry. LinkedIn is a facility for business networking and is used by entrepreneurs, employers, professionals and job seekers, with Ireland having one of the highest numbers of LinkedIn users in the world. This means you could have a vast circle of business contacts online that you have not connected with yet. Follow these tips for building your LinkedIn page and boosting your profile.

Blogging

The phrase ‘blogging’ has gained such significance in recent years it has even made it in to the Oxford Dictionary. Starting a blog is very easy and more importantly, it is completely free of charge. Websites like Blogger (www.blogger.com) or WordPress (www.wordpress.com) allow you to start and design your own blog for free and provide a simple guide on how to use them, making the process any easy one for beginners.

Consider your business and industry and make a list of topics that stem from it. Articles with your advice on subjects like cutting costs, tax issues or any recent news that may affect your clients can all make for great material for your website. If English is not your strong point, do not worry; all you need is Spell-check and the ability to explain your topic in plain speaking terms, the simpler the better. You can then link any blog posts to your business’ Facebook site, encouraging traffic between the two.

Search Engine Optimisation

Search engines have changed the way people find their information, with sites like Google, Yahoo and Bing steadily replacing the need for phonebooks in most homes. When they search for a business or service, most internet users do not look beyond the second or third page of search results. To be in those first few pages, businesses must practice effective search engine optimisation.

Search engines do not read web pages, they filter them, which is why keywords and tags on your website and blog are crucial to improving your ranking in the search results. To decide on what keywords would benefit your business results, consider what your prospective clients are looking for and ensure you have these key terms on your page. To find out more about search engine optimisation, click here.

Founded in 1943, the Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Ireland (CPA) is one of the main Irish accountancy bodies, with in excess of 5,000 members and students. The CPA designation is the most commonly used designation worldwide for professional accountants and the Institute’s qualification enjoys wide international recognition. Its membership operates in public practice, industry, financial services and the public sector and CPAs work in 40 countries around the world.  For further information visit www.cpaireland.ie

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One Response to Marketing your business online

  1. Gavin Mills August 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    This is so true. But are you feeling overwhelmed about how to implement all of this without pulling your hairs out? I’m assuming you still have hair! It can be daunting, right? What if you could have a sure fire and simplified way to not only learn about how to market online, but actually do it? Check out my site and let me know what you think.
    Gavin Mills – PowerfulOnlineResults.com

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