An online presence is practically a requirement for a small business these days, as at least 81% of consumers research products online before they make a big purchase.
If you haven’t yet created a perfect home for your business online, it’s now easier than ever to create a professional website and start selling online. Website builders are simple online tools that can be used to create an entire e-commerce store online in a matter of hours.
In this article, we outline 10 of the most effective steps to take when taking your business online in order to spend your time, budget, and resources wisely.
1. Develop Your Brand
To stand out against your competitors, you must develop a consistent, memorable, and distinct brand. Your digital branding tells your customers what your customer is all about, your priorities, and what they can gain from doing business with you.
Branding is the distillation of everything your business does into a singular, memorable essence that people will continually associate with your company.
You may want your business to stand out for its value-for-money, quality, or ethical practices, for instance. Decide on your branding by thinking about your company’s values, what makes it different, and who your ideal customer is.
2. Build a Website that Reflects Your Brand
One of the most critical steps in digital brand development is having a website that perfectly reflects your brand, so putting some thought into your branding and brand identity before you go online is crucial.
Your brand identity, as opposed to your brand, is a set of creative elements, like a logo, name, and style, that are synonymous with your company. It also informs the type of language you use and the format of all your marketing efforts. Consulting a graphic designer or other marketing professionals could help you translate abstract concepts such as your brand’s values into easy-to-understand visuals.
A website builder like Wix has nearly 1,000 templates you can use to begin building your unique brand website. You can read our extensive Wix review here. The process of building your website is made simple, as you can choose a theme, drag and drop elements onto each of the pages, and begin selling products by adding them to the online store.
3. Create Valuable Content
Writing useful and relevant content on your website is a surefire way to begin drawing potential customers to your site. It’s inexpensive to make and shows you have knowledge and expertise within your niche.
Good content makes it easier to draw people from social media to your website, as all you need to do is share a link to your interesting, relevant content. It also means you’ll show up in more search engine results. It can be the catalyst for online discussion on your products and demonstrate your value to new customers.
Publishing content on your website is made easy if you choose a website builder with good blogging features. GoDaddy, WordPress, and Squarespace all fit the bill.
4. Optimize Your Website to Convert Leads to Sales
Through the use of analytics tools, you can see the journey visitors take through your website. Do many read an article and bounce away, never to be seen again? These are wasted leads you could be converting into sales.
Examine your site to see if every page has a clear call to action, so visitors know what to do next. These actions should subtly move the customer through the conversion process, perhaps by first gaining their email address, then later pointing them to products and services that can be useful to them.
Many small businesses now include a live chat feature so customers can talk to a representative in real time. Another optimization consideration is making sure your website is mobile friendly, as around 55% of website traffic comes from mobile devices.
5. Build a Social Media Presence
Your website is just the beginning of building a brand online. For SMEs looking to digitalize, 60% aim to introduce online marketing or sales, and a whopping 74% plan to change their use of social media to better connect with customers. So, where to start?
Your company should have an active social media presence on major platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Customers expect to find businesses on these platforms, and it costs very little to appear on these sites and engage with customers.
Engagement is the crucial thing on social media. Respond to customers who reach out to you on social media quickly and make sure everything you post is in line with your brand image.
6. Advertise your Business Online
It takes time for your website to appear high on search engine results or for your social media posts to have an appreciable effect on your bottom line. With pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, you can speed things along and give your business a quick boost.
Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Reddit, Instagram, and Twitter are just some of the places you can pay to have your advertisement posted. With a clever marketing strategy, you will see a return on your PPC advertising that far outstrips what you pay for it.
Another great option is email. Email marketing remains very powerful despite the number of potential marketing channels ballooning. With an estimated return of $36 for every $1 spent, email marketing is one of the most potent forms of advertising available today.
Email marketing can be automated, so customers are sent emails automatically based on the actions they take. A drip-feed email campaign can sell the benefits of your services over the course of weeks or months, and a newsletter can inform existing customers about exciting changes to your products and services.
7. Create Video Content
Videos, both on your website and on YouTube, are a fantastic way to sell your products and services. Small businesses can benefit from putting a human face to the company name, and offering useful information on your niche can cement you in the customer's mind as the friendly, knowledgeable expert to turn to.
Your company can use videos to explain the processes you use, showcase the benefits of your products, or engage in discussion on topics relevant to your business. Clever video advertising can go a long way and doesn’t need to cost much to produce.
8. Think locally
If your business only sells locally, you can use this to your advantage. Your online advertising and marketing can be more focused, reaching only local people who may become customers. This drastically reduces the cost of ads.
When you participate in local events, sponsor a local team, or help in your community, it can all be shown on your website and social media, highlighting that your business is a net positive for the local community.
9. Monitor Your Brand’s Reputation
As your business grows, more and more people will talk about it online. Positive reviews and good word of mouth are fantastic, but it’s the angry or disenchanted customer that you need to watch out for the most. Bad press has a way of getting around, so it pays to find out about any issues as quickly as possible.
You can do this with brand online reputation tools. This type of software keeps an eye on the discussions about your company online and alerts you to trends or potential problems. You can use this information to reach out to dissatisfied customers, for example, or fix product issues before they become a massive thorn in your brand’s side.
10. Track Your Marketing Successes and Failures
With so many options for online marketing, it’s hard to know which to focus on first. To make data-driven decisions, measure the results of each of your marketing efforts so you can see what’s working and what isn’t.
Thankfully, there are many tools for tracking how each of your marketing strategies performs. Google Analytics is one of the most popular tools to show you where your website visitors are coming from, what they do on your website, and whether they ultimately decide to buy from your company.
By monitoring what works and what doesn’t, you can focus your marketing dollars on the initiatives bringing you the most profit. These tools can also show you information on the type of customers you’re receiving and what makes them come to your brand, helping you decide where to take your company in the future for maximum success.
Website builders are great tools for businesses large and small looking to create an online presence. It’s important to choose a tool that’s easy to use and delivers a great customer experience for your visitors, so we’ve put together a list of the best website builders for small businesses based on our testing.
Older SMEs are just as likely to use online promotion tools as new SMEs, so you must consider using every potential tool in online marketing if you’re going to compete with more established brands.
Build a branded website filled with useful content and a clear sales funnel that can turn leads into customers. Market online through social media, email, and video content. Finally, monitor your brand’s reputation online and track what marketing is working and what isn’t so you can refine and perfect your online marketing strategy.