By now, you know that your business needs to be online. The World Wide Web and social media are no flashes in the pan, they’re here to stay, and have been for a while. As a small business owner, you’ve heard the facts and statistics from other small business owners. You’ve heard about their successes, and how they’ve used the Internet to increase their sales and their reach. The words Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are in everyone’s daily vocabulary. And yet, 46% of all small businesses don’t have a dedicated website, and many don’t have Facebook pages or Twitter accounts, or any other lead-generating sales funnels. Why is that?

Partly, this stems from fear. Some small business owners are afraid that if they do expand their reach, they won’t be able to keep up with new orders and don’t have money for a larger inventory. Others feel that the expense involved in setting up a website can be prohibitive. The fact is, that getting a website designed and set up is much more reasonable than you would think, and the cost of not having an online presence can be much higher.

Approximately 55,000 Google searches are conducted every second. This means that more customers than ever are looking for products and services online, even when they’re seeking out local businesses. Mobile searches have officially overtaken laptop and PC use, meaning that consumers are making important shopping choices on the go. How is a customer supposed to find you, if your website doesn’t exist? The difference between you gaining a new customer or your competitor gaining one may be likely to come down to a website. Can your small business really afford to miss out? Furthermore, if you’re selling products and can offer them online, you’re already ahead of the competition.

When you started your small business, you did it with the aim of being successful. You need to have a solid online presence if you expect to be successful in today’s digital age. Ask yourself if new consumers will do business with you if you don’t have a website. Chances are, probably not. However, a good, mobile capable website is just the first step. Social media is the kicker here. Over the last couple of years, social media has influenced over 90% of all buying decisions. 2.3 billion people across the world are active on social media. Think of social media as the great leveler among businesses. It gives even the ‘little guy’ a platform.

Therefore, it’s crucial as a small business to be active on social media, respond to reviews, and interact with customers. Studies have found that 1 in 5 respondents will avoid those small businesses that are unresponsive on social media. Generally speaking, a customer will give a company up to 4 hours on social media to get a response back. Failing which, they will take their questions, and their business, elsewhere. This is not to say that you should send messages on your Facebook page to everyone you’ve ever met about your company and products/services. Social media requires careful tending. It’s a conversation, not a broadcast. Which is where many, many businesses go wrong. They don’t make it personal. A business that is seen as willing to talk to customers directly through their website and on social media is 75% more likely to retain their client base.

The other important piece in this puzzle is content. You may think you have nothing to say, but consider this. How would you sell your product or service to a customer who walked into your office or your store? What benefits would you point out? Why is your product or service superior to others? What is the unique selling point? This is content marketing. When you speak online about your business, make it a conversation with a potential customer. Make them see the value they’re getting, not just from what you’re selling, but also from the business. Anyone can create a giant sales pitch. Today’s customers want value, not merely a list of reasons to buy. Tell them about more than just your business. Give them useful and entertaining information, which will immediately translate as value in their mind.

Here’s the good news for you. The thing that’s so interesting about content marketing, including blogging, is that is costs 3 times less than conventional advertising, and drives customer engagement much more effectively. Also, a website based blog draws more attention from search engines, resulting in approximately 67% higher overall traffic.

So there you have it. Setting up an effective web presence is not an unsurmountable challenge. It will take some time and persistence, and you have to be willing to communicate with your customers and followers and build that relationship. But the payoff will be so worth it. Go ahead, get started. Ramp up your online presence, and before you know it, you’ll be seeing the results.

Read more relevant blog post: Website & Search Optimization