By Lauren Topor

Your online presence is everything, especially when it comes to customer conversion. In fact, 91 percent of small business customers cite visiting a brick-and-mortar store because of an online experience, according to a 2017 Small Business Website Survey. A website can not only elevate your brand, but increase your marketing opportunities from a local to global level.

Shockingly, 27 percent of small business owners believe that a website is not relevant to their industry or their specific business, according to 2018 Small Business Website Survey. And 74 percent of small business websites have no e-commerce option, according to SmallBizTrends.

A website is your brand’s jump-off point, but there are a handful of other methods you can apply to increase your online presence, ultimately winning customers and driving sales. Here are five.

1. Branding

Before building a website, you should be thinking about branding. How do you want your brand to look online? Will it reflect your brick-and-mortar store? Your online branding should have character, it should differentiate your brand in the industry and it should resonate with consumers all while promoting your unique small business. It is also important for your online branding to have a cohesive look across all online channels, from your website and social media pages to your blog and email marketing campaign.

2. Website Platforms

After your branding has been defined, it’s time to create your website. Today, building a website is easier than ever before. There are a variety of website building platforms with simple drag-and-drop features that allow you to effortlessly create a functional website. Many of these same platforms offer SEO tools that can be utilized to make your small business discoverable online when customers search for terms relating to your business or industry.

3. Storytelling

In addition to the “FAQ” and “About” pages on your website, online business experts recommend implementing a blog. This could be in the form of videos, how-tos with pictures or text-based posts. Blog posts, in any form, are a great way to humanize your brand and connect with consumers, allowing you the opportunity to share with the world what you are passionate about and what your small business stands for, Forbes says. Take Apple Rubber for example. The o-ring manufacturing company shares industry-specific information via informative blog posts on its site.

4. Social Media

A well-rounded online presence will include social media. Like blogs, social media can be used to humanize your small business, connect with new customers and foster relationships with returning consumers, Duct Tape Marketing says. On social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, you can directly respond to customer queries, discover feedback and learn more about your target audience with various built-in analytics tools, such as Facebook Audience Insights. Most importantly, social media can keep your business relevant, and it can also generate real leads and sales. Tie your online presence together by linking to your website and incorporating teases to your blog in your social media strategies.

5. E-mail Marketing

Staying connected to your best customers is easy with an email marketing plan. A report from UK-based DMA found that 26 percent of small businesses use email marketing for sales, yet only 7 percent of these same small business owners use email as a tool to build their brand. While email marketing makes for a stellar sales tool, customers who make purchases via email spend 138 percent more than consumers who don’t receive emails, according to data from Hatchbuck. Using email as tool to boost your brand should not be ignored.

Your online presence is everything in today’s modern, digitally driven business climate. From your small business website and social pages to your email marketing efforts, these five steps can help you create your own unique online presence.

Lauren Topor full-time freelance writer and alumna of Arizona State University. Her professional work has appeared in a variety of publications from lifestyle mags to business websites.