There's a lot of talk about taking your business online this year, and it can easily be overwhelming, with all the processes and steps involved.
If you're a small or local business looking to share your services and products with a larger crowd by going online, then it is truly the right time to get started. The pandemic brought significant changes to the economy, but it also created big opportunities for online businesses, including the ability to connect with customers across the globe. Here are a few tips to give you a head start with taking your business online:
1. Choose goals and start with a plan
Setting your goals for creating an online store should be your first step. Goals outline what you want to accomplish, and choosing clearly-defined goals is crucial at the initial stages of starting a business. Once you choose a goal, you can analyze if that goal is achievable and avoid setting vague expectations. As important as long term goals are to make a business grow, it's also important to set short term goals that can lead to those longer-term goals.
For example, setting short term goals like selecting a brand name, finding a business advisor, obtaining a business permit, and so on, leads to the formation of the business. Make sure to research and gather information on what's needed before you set specific targets.
2. Be found online
Taking your business online means your customers can find you with a click of their mouse. And when those customers can more easily find you, they can more easily assess whether you have the products/services they need, and more easily become a customer.
For instance, Ben, a local business owner with a music gear rental business, can build a website. He can create one page to showcase his rental options, another page to show previous customer reviews, and a contact page, with a rental form on the homepage. That makes it possible for anyone to book with him right away and can increase his potential customer base. While you're creating your online presence, keep these tips in mind:
Create content that's aimed at answering the questions your leads and customers will have and satisfying their needs.
Learn about SEO and incorporate keywords into your site to help you rank better.
Create social media accounts to update customers and leads with the latest information about your products and services, sales, promotional offers, etc.
3. Develop a strong brand identity
A brand is what defines you, distinguishing you from the rest of the competitors in the market. Building a strong and successful brand from the ground isn't be an easy task. Answering questions like "What are my standout features and benefits?", "What do I want my branding to look like?", and "How should it make customers feel?", helps you figure out what your branding should look like and who your target audience is. Your unique value proposition should also be a part of your brand messaging
However, it doesn't stop there. Your visual branding (logo, tagline, fonts, colors, etc.) needs to be consistent, whenever and wherever customers interact with you. As you extend your brand to every part of your business, from your website to customer service emails, the look and feel must be consistent.
For example, if you're using online forms to collect orders or newsletter sign ups, you'll want to customize it to match your branding. Check out more on form themes here.
4. Ensure easy shopping experience
You've created your website, with stunning branding, and customers are visiting. What's next?
Customer service is the heart of any business, and providing high-quality service helps you turn visitors into returning customers. It's important to stand out, as customers have plenty of places they can make purchases, and you want them to choose you. In addition to providing high-quality service, you should create an ecommerce store to sell your products and services. Setting this up will let you accept orders and payments, and using a comprehensive ecommerce solution can create a smooth shopping experience. Check out our latest blog post on how to prepare your retail business and provide a great shopping experience here.
5. Engage and build connections online
Networking is crucial, especially when you're new to online business and looking to promote your brand. By thoughtfully engaging online with customers and other connections, you can open up a sea of opportunities. You can promote your offerings when it's appropriate, but more importantly, you have the opportunity to learn about customer expectations and needs by interacting with them. While using social media as a tool to expand connections with business contacts, clients, and potential partners, make sure to post engaging content—not just content that's focused on your business and your needs.
Be strategic about who you're networking and connecting with. One great thing about engaging online is that you can track the engagement with metrics and analytics, letting you get feedback for improvement.
As you start your business, make sure to brainstorm ideas, validate them, and look for inspiration. As you start venturing into online selling, look for different ways to promote and sell. Cheers to new beginnings!