To Do More Business Online, Be a Little Less ‘Businesslike’

It’s nearly 2014, and you know your business has to be on the internet.

But once you’re online, just how businesslike do you need to be?

Obviously, your company’s online presence has to meet some basic standards of professionalism — make sure all the text on your website has been spell-checked and, if you use social media, avoid embarrassing meltdowns, for starters.

But succeeding on the web requires a business to discard some traditional practices and attitudes from the offline world. Here are a few ways you should alter your approach online to connect more easily with potential clients and customers:

Don’t overdo formal language.

You need a consistent voice for your web presence, determined in large part by the market you serve. But even if you are shooting for a relatively high-end market, don’t be afraid to loosen up occasionally online — especially when using social media.

With apologies to Spinal Tap, it’s sort of like a volume knob. If your overall goal is an “8” in serious, it’s okay to dial down to 6 or 7 at times. Users implicitly understand that the web is a little less formal, and using a contraction or addressing users more directly won’t turn them off.

Don’t be a broadcaster.

Old media was a one-way transaction — businesses used media to send a message to people. The people had no effective way to talk back.

The internet has made just about every new form of communication two-way. Now, with features such as social media, comment threads on articles and live video chats, the web has made it easy for any two parties to have a conversation.

Customers know and expect this. Businesses ignore it at their own peril. It may feel more “businesslike” to send out your message and wait for the customers to start rolling in, but that’s not how things work online. You need to post your content, see how people respond, and respond to their responses.

Be transparent.

Many businesses are afraid to post their prices online — “It might scare customers away,” they say.

Business blogging expert Marcus Sheridan refutes that line of thinking with five convincing points. Perhaps the most persuasive is this: You shouldn’t waste time trying to sell a product to
someone who can’t even afford to buy the product.

Talking about price isn’t the only way transparency can help a business online. If you use your website to tell customers a little more about how your business works, what the people who work there are like, and even what you think of the state of your industry, they will identify with you and even trust you a little more. And that should lead to good results.

Be human.

In a way, this sums up all of the points made above. Technology often seems to be anything but personal. But with the widespread adoption of the internet, technology has had an opposite effect on business. It’s much more personal.

Understanding and adapting to that fact is just good business.

Jon DeNunzio runs Squarely Digital, a digital consulting firm that aims to make the internet a little bit easier and a lot more profitable for your company. Contact him at [email protected].

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Effective Business Writing: The Seven Keys for Small Business Owners

The Seven Keys to Effective Business Writing from Ray Sidney-Smith on Vimeo.

Eliza Dolin, of Ivy Quill Communications, presents a summary of her recent workshop at Alexandria Small Business Development Center on “The Seven Keys to Effective Business Writing.”

EVENT: Every Word Matters in Business (Tues, 2/7/12)

Ever stare at a blank screen and not be able to write about your business? Do you struggle when you are under a deadline to write that business report or marketing piece? You are not alone! Many business owners know what they want to write, but they just can’t get it right!

Eliza Dolin - Ivy Quill Communications
February's Brown Bag Workshop Speaker, Eliza Dolin - Ivy Quill Communications

Come to our February Brown-Bag Lunch event and hear an upbeat, educational presentation about why good writing matters to all businesses – particularly small ones! These days, clear communication — whether in website copy, emails, memos, or newsletters — is more important than ever in achieving your business success.  Communications consultant Eliza Dolin of Ivy Quill Communications, LLC, will explain the reasons why, identify the causes of and cures for ineffective business writing, and offer tips that will help your business thrive.

Register today!

Join other small businesses at the monthly Brown-Bag lunch series of START, MANAGE, GROW your business sponsored by the Alexandria Small Business Development Center and the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership who are committed to helping small business thrive in Alexandria.

Free of charge, and held monthly in our boardroom located at 625 N. Washington Street, Suite 400 from noon until 1PM, business owners are invited to bring their lunch, network and learn nuggets of knowledge from experts.  A Q & A session will follow each presentation and we’ll get you back to your business promptly @ 1PM!