Four Tips To Bring Your Small Business Online
By Max Yarchevsky
The question “Do I really need to go online?” can make many entrepreneurs lose their appetite and even sleep. Urged by the media and competitors, some businesses simply can’t say definitively yes to the idea, nor can they drop it entirely. For them, going online is an extremely hard and time-consuming venture with no clear benefits in the foreseeable future. So, it seems easier to drift toward more urgent and familiar things that they know how to approach right now.
Yet, going online is a must for entrepreneurs wanting to grow their businesses. As much as 59% of the global population are active internet users and this number is growing. The U.S. has witnessed 10 years of e-commerce growth in less than three months in 2020. As many as 17.2 million Britons — out of 66.65 million — are planning to permanently change the way they shop based on perceived risks of contracting Covid-19 in stores. The list can go on and it shows that having no online residence for your business can impact its future.
Luckily, many innovation-minded entrepreneurs share this belief. But going online can be overwhelming for first-timers. That’s why I’d like to walk you through the must-haves of digitizing your business.
Four Tips For Small Businesses Going Online
The internet has hundreds if not thousands of guides to get your business online. From my experience building websites, these tried and tested principles work best.
- Use all of these time-tested tools: Facebook, Instagram, Google Maps and a website. Ignoring one of these instruments eats into the efficiency of your online promotion efforts. It’s particularly painful for small businesses that depend on every client and can’t boast a huge turnover.
- Encourage customers to give you feedback. Some companies strip their clients of any opportunity to review their product or service. But you can’t control everything. Sooner or later, your company will get reviewed, so you better make sure that your customers can do it easily. Besides, reviews are a valuable asset to every business, be it a barbershop or a farm. Showing reviews on an item can boost conversions on that product up by 270%. But be aware that many customers may not trust positive reviews if they don’t see negative ones.
- Be active and consistent across all online channels. Keep your corporate information consistent wherever your business is present. Satisfy your customers’ requests quickly regardless of the digital channel they use to access your services. Remember that consistency and customer-centricity are key elements of running a successful online business.
- Hire a professional. If you are an amateur at search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing (SMM) and pay-per-click advertising (PPC), but you are willing to grow online, you should consider hiring a freelancer or a web studio. It’s often cheaper than you probably think to find someone to fit your needs. It will definitely cost less than the time you will spend mastering these things yourself. One field where you can do without professional help is website building.
Creating A Website On Your Own
Before we dive into the how, let’s focus on the why. Why do you need a website at all when you have Facebook and Instagram? Some companies choose to do without it and get deprived of a website’s key benefits:
- A mission control center of your multi-stage online conquest. Without a website, your current and potential customers lose a universal source of comprehensive information about your company. Besides, you miss out on the chance to collect and analyze customer data to offer better, more personalized services and products in the future. A website acts as a platform for you to roll out in-house loyalty programs and use a customer relationship management system.
- A full-fledged online promotion campaign. Promoting companies on Facebook and Instagram is effective. But when will your Facebook page attract organic traffic? The answer is likely when pigs begin to fly. So, why miss out on such an important traffic source?
- Access to monetization tools. As your company grows, having a website will give you access to a much wider selection of tools. You’ll be able to monetize your business by incorporating e-commerce features, offering virtual products and certificates, and more.
- A cornerstone of your authority. From my experience, customers are more likely to trust businesses that have a website.
How do you create a website? For years, entrepreneurs have been paying professional web developers and designers to do this job. It’s still a great option if you have a budget to allocate. If you don’t, you can opt for free or affordable website builders instead. It’s a wise choice for people with no coding and design skills willing to craft a professionally designed and SEO-friendly website, with no middleman, much cheaper and in a matter of hours, not weeks. The roughly 285 million website builder users prove that it can work.
Here are some parameters you should consider when choosing a website builder. Anyone should be able to use it easily. It has to offer a CRM, analytics tools, a service-level agreement (SLA), an opportunity to create a custom domain name and clean code — which is extremely important for SEO. With its help, you should be able to build mobile-friendly websites. All of its tools should be adaptable to your current and future needs. The customer support team should be quick and responsive. It’s also a good sign if the website builder company allows you to hire its in-house or affiliate developers.
If the builder fails to meet these requirements, you’ll need to redesign your website or even move it to another platform — website builder — sooner or later. Switching platforms can negatively impact your Google ranking and, by extension, website traffic and revenue. The switch, and any redesign as a result, may cost you significantly. So, choose wisely.
To wrap up, you can’t sit this one out. Regardless of your niche, you do need to go online to survive. The good news is that you have all the tools you need — from social media platforms to cutting-edge website builders. Your job is to use them properly. To your success!