If there’s one thing no small business owner wants to be without, it’s customers. And if your company is not visible online, then you’re probably losing out on at least some of them. There are many reasons why people would search for a local business online instead of driving down the streets, but the main ones are convenience and speed. Make it easy for people looking in your area to find you, and they’ll choose to do business with you over someone else.
While taking your small business online is beneficial for both current and potential customers, it can be intimidating to take that first step into the world of e-commerce. What should you sell? How will you know about your site? How will customers find you?
- Determine How You’ll Sell
Before you even start thinking about your website, decide how you’re going to sell. Do you have a retail store that sells products? Are you an architect operating locally? Do you want customers visiting the site to be able to make appointments for consultation or request quotes through email? The determining factor can be anything – maybe you already have most of your business online and simply need a way of presenting it in front of current and potential customers, or perhaps it makes sense for your smaller company to take advantage of online sales. Either way, choose what works best for your business model before moving forward.
- Get A Website Designed
This is the most obvious place to start, but it’s also where many people fail. When you take your small business online for the first time, you need a website that will do more than just show off your products. A professional e-commerce site should be easy for potential customers to use and navigate.
When designing websites, one should factor in the user experience and let it influence everything from color choices, general design, copy, and anything else. This applies to your site as well. Make sure too that your site is mobile user-friendly as many of your potential clients may access your site through their smartphones. These customizations will help make sure that your business doesn’t just go online in name, but actually wins big while there!
Once you have a website up and running, your next move should be to set up an e-mail mailing list. This is perhaps one of the most important tools in online marketing, so take this step seriously. Your mailing list can be used for announcements about new products, discounts, promotional events, news, anything you think might be relevant to your customers’ interests.
- Test Your Site
Before you put your site online, make sure it works the way you want it to and test any integrations. For example, does the email marketing platform work without issue? Does your theme allow for all of your pages and products to show up in search engines correctly? Use this time to fix anything that doesn’t work as intended before moving forward – not only will future customers be happier with a smooth experience on your site, but Google won’t penalize you for technical errors once it finds them.
- Post On Social Media Sites
Most social media sites are free and they’re also useful for keeping in touch with both current and potential customers. There are many different social media sites out there, but don’t sign up to all of them at once – limit yourself to around two so you don’t spread yourself too thin.
Aim to master your social media platforms of choice. It might be a bad idea to post the same content on each platform, each has its own audience so customize your content to suit who you’re talking to. The sites you choose should be determined by your target audience, not just because they’re the most popular.
- Promote On Other Sites
While being active on social media is important no matter what, getting your website in front of potential customers isn’t just about posting links on social media. You should aim to place the link to your site wherever appropriate throughout the web. You can go to Q&A sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers, review sites like Yelp and Craig’s List, news websites and forums where appropriate. You can even put links on your business listings on Google Maps. Some of these places don’t allow HTML links so simply post a URL shortener instead. This can make tracking how many people click through from each site a lot easier.
- Update Regularly
While the initial launch is exciting, you should focus on making your website better and better as time goes on instead of saving all of your content for a massive update at once. Add new pages, photos, and products regularly. This can encourage repeat visitors to become paying customers if they see that you’re constantly updating and improving your offerings. This will also benefit your search rankings on Google: it will reward your site for regular updates by bumping it higher in search results page rankings
- Don’t Overwhelm Your Visitors
When designing your website, remember the acronym KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Lay everything out with legibility in mind. If you try too hard, your site would just confuse your visitors, which might make them leave and go to a competitor instead.
- Let People Know When You Change Your Pricing Or Business Model
If there comes a point when you decide that it makes more sense for you to change things like pricing or the way you operate, make sure to post the news on your site. There should also be a way for existing customers to be notified if they sign up to receive updates from you. This will keep them coming back and encourage others to do so, too.
- Use A Platform That Integrates With Your Current Systems
For the longest time, there were only a few choices when it came to building a website and having it run successfully. Now that there are various e-commerce platforms available like Shopify and BigCommerce, customizing your store has never been easier. All of these platforms integrate with the most popular accounting software and inventory management software, making it easier than ever to utilize the full potential of your site.
- Build An App For Your Site (If You Need One)
If you’re selling products online and happen to be selling something that people frequently use on the go – such as tickets for a concert or sporting event – building an app is worth considering as it increases customer engagement and makes them more likely to come back again in the future.
Apps also look more professional and can encourage confidence in visitors. It can also allow customers to engage with your brand no matter where they are.
- Monitor And Improve Your SEO
When operating your business website, make sure that its search engine optimization is constantly monitored, so you know when changes need to be made. Look out for improvements so your site continues to stand out against competitors. This is to make sure you’re doing things right.
- Measure Your Return On Investment (ROI) And Act On It
Sites like Google Analytics can tell you how many visitors end up converting into customers. This allows businesses to see what marketing efforts are producing results and which ones aren’t worth the time or effort. It will give them the information they can use instead of wasting money on campaigns with no ROI. This also helps with determining where potential customers are coming from. Does the majority of the traffic come from social media? A specific website? A campaign? Once this has been determined, it’s much easier to prioritize future marketing efforts.
- Offer Free Shipping Or A Free Trial Period
While many visitors won’t state a preference when it comes to shipping and bargain hunting for cheaper prices, some will appreciate knowing they can get something shipped for free, especially if the product is expensive. Also, most of them won’t want to spend a huge amount of money before completing the transaction. This is also a great opportunity for users to try your product or service and see how it works. This will give them an incentive to use it again in the future if their experience was good enough.
- Be Persistent
Remember, even the biggest companies go through some pretty tough times when they start. So, create a strategy, preferably a five-year plan as you work on scaling your business to a bigger enterprise. You’ll discover, if you haven’t already, that the internet can be your best friend when you’re trying to grow as a business. However, remember that it takes persistence and a good strategy.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to have a functional website and general online presence that provides value for your customers. Just follow these simple steps and you’ll be on the right track to take your small business online!
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Business Development Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the Media and Digital marketing sector, Passionate about innovation and bringing the future into new business solutions.