You’ve got your website, and with it an online presence that potentially reaches around the world. But that’s just the beginning. Recent research by Ofcom found that UK adults now spend an average 22 hours a week online. That’s more than three hours every single day. The fact is, your customers are spending more time online and that presents a great opportunity for any small business with a digital presence. Take a look at these five tips to help you grow your small business online.
1. Know your audience
It’s an old saw that you need to know who your audience is. Fortunately, nowadays it’s easier to get to know your audience than ever. Free tools like Google Analytics can help you to understand where your customers are coming from and how they behave on your website. You can tell which pages they’re spending time on (and which they’ve jumped straight off) and change accordingly.
You can also get to know more about your customers through social media. Social media management tools like Hootsuite and Buffer can help you organise your social media posts and track who’s responding to you.
2. Create good content – and keep it coming
Blog posts. Tweets. Online updates. It’s important to keep fresh on the internet and use content to help you grow brand awareness. Nobody respects a cobweb site – one that looks like it hasn’t been tended to recently. Your online credibility is essential so you need to be prepared to engage with your audience and keep them updated with your latest news and changes. You’re an expert in your field, aren’t you? So let people know. Regular posts of relevant, interesting content will help to grow your reputation, especially if it’s good enough for others to share and spread the word further.
Make sure your content follows guidelines for SEO (search engine optimisation). This will help it to be found by search engines and enable more people to see it, while ranking your website higher in search results. You can pay an expert to review your content for SEO to help you rank higher on search engine lists, but you should at least begin by following basic SEO guidelines.
3. Facilitate e-commerce with online payments
Whether you’re offering goods or services, sometimes having an easy way to order or book and pay online is what customers expect. This doesn’t have to be complicated, as there are plenty of ecommerce solutions and online payment systems to choose from. GoDaddy offers an Online Store option with an integrated shopping cart, facilitating online payments for you, or if you decide to go it alone PayPal is probably the best-known. There are no set-up charges, monthly fees or penalties for cancellation – you just add a PayPal button to your site and pay a small percentage of each transaction.
While PayPal may be the best known, it’s certainly not the only online payment service. Others, like Stripe, can accept payments from major international debit and credit cards and offer different charging systems. Shop around for the one that suits you best and begin to watch your small business grow.
4. Go mobile
It’s been coming for a while, but internet access over mobile and tablet overtook desktops and laptops towards the end of last year and shows no sign of slowing down. It’s just how we live nowadays. Today’s smartphones have become big enough and powerful enough for there to be little difference between what you can do with a computer and with a phone.
Trouble is, many websites still aren’t optimised for mobile. That means they’re designed to look good and provide easy navigation on the smaller screen. If customers have to magnify pages and zoom in on details while waiting ages for pages to load, they’ll soon get bored and look elsewhere for your services.
You don’t have to get a special mobile site built, you just need to make sure that your site is ‘responsive’. So it can detect whichever type of device someone is trying to view it on, and change shape and size accordingly. If you are building your website yourself, make sure you choose a mobile-first option such as GoDaddy’s Webite Builder, or if you’re outsourcing the design make sure your web developer is factoring this in to the design process.
5. Reach out
Social media is an increasingly important way to reach potential customers. Whether they’re on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any number of social apps, the social space is where people are spending more and more of their time online. It’s where they go for new ideas and reassurance, to discuss good services – and complain about bad ones. Keeping your presence up is a great way to grow your online profile. Post regularly and as often as you can – it’s more effective to do a small amount each day than to do loads one day and nothing for weeks.
And don’t forget the humble newsletter. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, email is up to 40% more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined in generating responses and click-throughs. Furthermore, a survey of internet marketers by MailMunch found that 60% thought email outperforms social media. Interestingly, while the other 40% didn’t say the opposite, they just thought email and social media were different, with different goals – email for driving traffic and conversions, social for brand awareness and engaging with your audience.
The trick, of course, is to build up a strong email list and tend it regularly. Remember that you’ll need to offer recipients a chance to opt out or you could leave yourself open to spamming legislation.