The U.S. Small Business Administration suggests investing 7% to 8% of your gross revenue on marketing. Many businesses do not reach this suggested percentage, or even come close, but we all know we have to invest to grow our business. 

Before you commit any money, or any more money, to promoting your business, you must first do these two things:

1)  Have a professional, well-designed website. This is the engine that drives business and helps create a positive online reputation.  If your website does not exude professionalism, credibility and great quality, potential customers may look to your competition.   

2)  Make sure you have a good handle on your online reputation.  A great online reputation is one of the most powerful marketing assets a business has.

94% of the website user’s first impressions are design-related.  Respondents said the design was a major factor in their mistrust or outright rejection of a website. 75% of users reported that they judged a company’s credibility based on the website design.  In addition to an attractive design, your website should have an SSL certificate (making it secure) and create a good user experience by delivering pages that load quickly and are optimized for any device (desktop, tablet or phone).   

Online review management is also critical to the success of your business.  Review management not only protects and strengthens the reputation of your business, but it also ensures that the money you are investing in promoting your business has the ability to be as effective as possible.  After a potential customer has found your business online, 70% will make a decision about what to do next based on online reviews.   The social proof provided by reviews and star ratings helps consumers shortcut their research and make decisions faster and with greater confidence.  Reviews can also help you rank higher on search engines.  Of course, great reviews create trust.  But negative reviews that are dealt with quickly and effectively can also create trust – especially when balanced by a healthy number of positive and current reviews.  

So, while deciding how to spend your marketing dollars, make sure your budget allows for a well-designed, secure website and a reputation management strategy that amplifies the positive and mitigates the negative.  If these two “must-have” marketing elements are executed well, all your other marketing expenditures will have a better chance to influence your potential customers.  When their interest is peaked, they will do a bit of quick research, see your reviews and visit your website. Make sure you’re in a position to deliver a great first impression!