Today’s small businesses are living in an attention economy.

They not only have to deliver better offerings than their competitors, but also captivate and connect with target consumers in a world where every website and media platform is competing for the same set of dwindling attention spans.

As a small business operating online, you’re not only up against your competitors. You’re facing off against all the estimated 1.8 billion sites on the Web, all YouTube’s 5 billion videos per day, every TV channel and streaming service, and all the world’s legacy media.

That’s a tall order.

Rather than succumbing to despair or concluding that the online world is a losing battleground for small businesses, focusing on top priorities is the name of the game.

But what work really matters – and what doesn’t – in the ever-changing online world?

Let’s look at six things small businesses MUST do online:

You Must Create Content

Content is the key to online success, but what is content exactly? It is the helpful, useful, and informative materials you publish online to attract potential customers and build relationships. All businesses – including smaller ones – must take on this publisher role.

In a world of virtually unlimited options for addressing all business and consumer problems, content serves as the preview of what your brand has to offer and what level of service customers can expect should they choose you over your competitors.

The demand for content means all businesses need a website – no exceptions.

You Must Own Your Brand

Your brand is what others perceive about it, no matter what your vision for it might be. If your prospects are finding negative feedback about you on social media or aggregators like Yelp, then that’s your brand as far as they know – and it’s often their first impression, too.

To counteract this, an enterprise needs to be actively engaged in finding and responding to any negative or mixed feedback. When you address complaints and concerns in a measured, reasonable way, you demonstrate a commitment to customer care others will notice.

You Must Become Discoverable

Discoverability is the ability of people to find you at the moment they need you. No other tool in the history of business has contributed more to discoverability than the Internet. Content aids enormously in discoverability, but it is only the beginning.

Sites like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo automatically generate a profile of your business based on its location and what data they can “scrape up.” One step to discoverability many small firms overlook is taking control of those listings and ensuring they are always accurate and up-to-date.

You Must Build Bridges

Discoverability is vital, but it’s only the start. It’s like ensuring that there’s an airstrip and a visitor center on a remote island destination. To give people the motivation to go there – to seek you out online – they need to begin hearing about you from sources they already trust.

Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn give you unprecedented opportunities to make this happen. All you need to do is seek out those who speak to the same audience your enterprise serves. These social influencers can drive qualified traffic your way.

They will often do it simply because they want to share your high-quality content.

You Must Stay in Touch

When customers are not interacting with your offerings or brands, where do they go?

In many cases, prospective and established customers simply disappear. Business leaders today cannot assume that they’ll be back – or that former customers will even think about your brand again without prompting. There is simply too much noise and too many distractions.

That’s why all businesses, especially smaller ones, benefit from an email subscriber list where they can share content and offers targeted to customers’ individual needs. Each email is a new opportunity to re-engage customers until the relationship is truly established.

You Must Improve Constantly

Once you start developing a company’s online presence, there is truly no end to it.

That might sound burdensome at first, but it’s an unmatched opportunity.

Many small businesses first start to focus on digital marketing when leaders realize their website just isn’t producing any business value. A website that does not attract visitors and influence those visitors to move through the buyer journey is pure overhead.

However, there’s no upward limit to how many qualified leads – and, ultimately, satisfied customers – your online presence can help you serve. Your website, social media channels, and more will provide you with endless chances to refine your approach and do better.

Plus, many of the lessons you learn over time can be implemented and make a difference immediately.

There is a geometric effect to accepting and embracing the marathon of digital marketing. The sooner you begin to make it a priority, the sooner you’ll accumulate competitive advantages.

With that in mind, there’s no time like the present to get started.

Author Bio: Rob Steffens is the Marketing Manager of Bluleadz, a team of innovators that have a passion for Inbound Marketing. Bluleadz marketers push the envelope with innovative strategies, making them industry pioneers who, driven by creativity and their clients’ success.

Posted by Outside Contributor

From time to time, we are glad to feature outside authors who contribute to BizzMarkBlog with their insights and experience. This is one of those features.