grow your business online

5 essential activities to grow your business online

If you’re in business, then the simple fact is you’d better get your business online or you won’t be in business for long.  Now you might think this is a bit of a bold statement, especially if you sell to other businesses or you feel you get all your business via trusted recommendations or you have a ‘bricks and mortar’ presence and get your customers from passing footfall.  But, the reality is you need to grow your business online as well as offline.  And why? Because quite simply the way customers buy has changed irrevocably.  They now either;

  1. Research before they buy – this is particularly true for higher priced products or services or a new type of purchase for the customer. Basically they will they carry out their research firstly online and then will either buy online (depending on the value and type of product or service) or they will then proceed to buy in store (depending on location).
  2. Engage in ‘showrooming’ – this is a term given to customers who while in a shop viewing a particular product will search online for a similar product to see if they can buy it cheaper elsewhere.

Couple these activities with the undeniable fact that future buying generations are internet natives.  They have grown up with technology and their communication and purchasing habits are firmly rooted in the digital space.

And in case you’re not convinced – this an extract from research carried out by Nielsen (a global research company) which looks at four key products/services and discovers where in the purchasing cycle the consumer engages in online search. I have to say the activity around fresh groceries surprised me as I didn’t expect to find figures so high for this category.

You can download the full report here.

online search behaviour

Source: http://www.nielsen.com/ie/en/insights/reports/2016/global-connected-commerce.html

And so to the bottom line – if you’re starting a new business, trying to grow a business or even want to stay in business – GET ONLINE.  It’s no longer an option.

In this article we are going to briefly cover at a high level the five basic things you need to do to get and grow your business online.   And then each week we will deliver a more in-depth article on each of these five key areas.  So subscribe to our blog now to ensure you don’t miss out.

How to pick a great domain name

1. Get a domain name

This might seem obvious and apologies if you feel I am being a bit condescending here.  But choosing a domain name could be harder than you think.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind when embarking on this exercise.

  • Write your chosen name in one complete string – i.e. no spaces (bigmouthdigital.com) and look for profanities within the name. You’d be amazed at the number of companies that overlook this and have ended up in very embarrassing situations.
  • Check your desired name is available. And one of our modules shows you step by step how to do this and also what to do if your name is not available and is owned by someone else.
  • Decide on what geographic locations you want to trade in and not just for now – think long-term. This might mean you need to purchase a number of domain names for example .com, .ie, .uk, .au etc.  But buy now, don’t put it off because what you don’t want is a scenario where you’ve built your brand and want to expand only to find that your chosen domain name is gone.

2. Get a website

There are often many reasons why business owners avoid setting up a website and they range from lack of knowledge or finance to not having the resources to maintain the website.  Some depend on third parties to act as their online shop but that brings its own difficulties in terms of control and data management/ownership.  Your website is your biggest online asset and it’s the one platform that you have the greatest control of.  Yes, search engines like Google dictate when and where your site is displayed on search results but with the correct knowledge you can influence this.  Whereas other sites such as Etsy or Shopify are outside of your control and as such, changes they make can impact significantly on how you can engage with a customer.

When embarking on either building your website yourself or getting an expert to do it for you, we recommend that you consider some of these issues.  There are many more which you can discover on our module on creating, managing and understanding your website.

  • Choice of Technology

The features and functionality that you want from your site will determine the technology upon which the website will be built.  For example, if you’ve asked the website designer to allow you and your staff to manage changes and additions (e.g. add blogs, change prices, add products etc) to the content in-house, it’s likely they will choose a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla.

These are what we call open source technologies.  You get a basic product out of the box but it often requires considerable customisation to reflect your corporate colours and particular functionality. The basics come free of charge and there is a large community of developers in the market that provide plugins and add-ons to the software on a commercial basis that facilitates customisation.

If the code is proprietary or highly customised, ask yourself the question how the site will be managed if your current website provider or developer is no longer available to work for you?

You also need to agree responsibility for ongoing maintenance and backups of the site.  And the reason why you need to consider this now is because your level of technical knowledge  will impact the platform you use to build your site on and also the level of expertise and input you require from third parties.

  • Aesthetics

Your website is your brand, your shop window as such.  It needs to be attractive to your customers.  This is all about first impressions and we know how important they are.  If someone does not like what they see, they will leave.  All the pages within the site need to reflect the overall look and feel of your brand.  And remember it needs to be easy to read on smaller mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops.

  • Navigation

It has to be easy, clear and obvious to the customer how to get around the site to their desired location without having to go through too many clicks.  Just think how you feel personally when you arrive on the homepage of a site and you can’t figure out where next to go.  What do you do – LEAVE.  Ease of use for the customer is very important.

We’ll go deeper into this topic in the coming blogs.  In the meantime if you want to learn more go to our courses on create, manage and understand your website and simply choose the modules you want to complete.

small business website

Think of your website as your shop – it has to attract customers in, it must be easy to get around and you have to be able to change the produce on display when you want. 

grow your business online

3. Get your website found

So, considering you’ve done all of the above, the next part is getting found.  Ideally we want to do this for free (although this is getting increasingly harder), rather than paying Google Adwords, but SEO can be a minefield for even a very tech-savvy individual.  Chances are you’ll have to hire in an expert to do this for you (and I warn you, getting a good one can be tricky) but you still need to know the basics, if only to make sure that your expert is following best practice and not engaging in any activity that might result in a penalty from Google.  As search engines like Google and Bing change the algorithms behind the search process, keeping your site optimised is not a one-off exercise.    As I have said earlier watch out for a more in-depth article on this coming soon or check out our modules on this very important area.

There is no point in having a beautiful website that no one can find.

grow your business online

4. Get to terms with social media

“94% of online adults now have an account with at least one social media platform, while on a global scale, internet users engage with social for a daily average of over two hours. The influence of social networking is transforming how we communicate, dramatically reshaping the online purchase journey – impacting how consumers research and compare products, and interact with brands.”*

We must all accept that social media is here to stay. And as a business owner it has to play some role in your overall marketing strategy.  But remember social media is a channel to talk and listen to both existing and future customers.  You can use social media very effectively to build awareness and word of mouth of your business and also to drive customers to your website where they can interact directly with you, through contact or purchase.

However, there is a perception out there that you have to be on every possible social media platform.  Honestly, unless you have a hefty sized social media department this is not possible and nor is it necessary.  What is necessary is that you are knowledgeable of who is on the various social media platforms and where exactly your target market is.  For example if you’re in the business to business space then you need a significant presence on LinkedIn whereas if you’re in the photography business (or a business which lends itself to imagery or video, in particular) then Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook would be a good fit.  The BigMouth Digital advice to you is don’t spread yourself too thin trying to be everywhere but be on at least two, possibly three social networks – being on only one would be too risky.  If you are unsure of what channels to choose for your business go to our modules on Understanding Social Media Communications.

The most important factor in deciding on your platforms is know where your customers hang out and be there.

protect my business from ransomware

5. Get active

The online world is no place for a passive, inactive business.  Doing nothing means you are out of sight and being out of sight in the digital space means out of business.  You have to constantly keep your website and your social media channels populated with articles/blogs, videos (vlogs), pictures etc.  On social media people only engage with you when you are doing something more than just selling.  And search engines do not rank dormant websites very highly.

So you have to deliver valuable information to your customers through video, photography and/or writing blogs.   Now you don’t have to become a journalist but you can learn from them.  Pay attention to headlines that you read and what resonates with you (even jot them down).  With a little tweak here and there you’ve suddenly created your own.  Look at the way journalists deliver information – they give you the best information first.  It’s not a novel where you leave the best to the end, it works the other way around.  For interesting photographs, there’s no excuse, most of you will have a smartphone or tablet, when you see something that could work with your business, simply take the picture and either upload it there and then to social media or couple it with an article on your website to share on social media later.

Remember if you want to grow your business online you have to accept that it’s a fast, busy and loud space and what that means for you is that this is no place for the shy – you must Learn to be Loud if you want to be found.

*Source: Global Web Index – The new customer journey: why social media matters.

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