The bottom line is, you want to maximise your profits. The more money your business makes, the healthier it will be and the more successful you will find yourself. Building an online presence, whether you are a novice or an expert, is utterly essential in achieving this.
The internet is the most important marketing avenue you can pursue, and one which can reap huge financial rewards, but of course it can be a little bit confusing, especially if you don’t have any experience of online marketing.
In this article, we’re going to discuss exactly why your business should be online and what you’re missing out on if it’s not, discussed in an easy to understand and accessible way.
What Does “Being Online” Mean For Your Business?
All too often, articles assume that you as the owner of your business are already completely aware of what it means to market your products or services online; that you know the lingo, know the benefits, and know exactly how to go about it.
Well, I think that’s a pretty big assumption, so before we proceed, let’s take a look at four important aspects of online business promotion that you’ll need to know before continuing:
1. Your Website
Starting a website is the first and most important step you can take to putting your business online. It acts as a showcase for everything that you offer. Your website does not need to be flashy, it doesn’t need to be the most advanced website in the world, what it does need to do is show your visitors, and hopefully potential customers, what you’re business offers in a way which will entice them to purchase your services or products.
If the customer likes your products, then they may share the address to your website with other people they know, increasing the visibility of your brand. Word-of-mouth is king.
This stands for Search Engine Optimisation. If, for example, you’re a plumber and you want people to know about your plumbing business, then you would setup a website displaying information about the area that you serve in, and your prices.
That website would then be listed on a search engine such as Google. If that website was Search Engine Optimised, then when people would enter keywords looking for a plumber in that specific area, your website would appear either first or very near the top of the resulting list.
SEO makes your website and therefore business more visible. The best way to do this is to hire someone who is an SEO expert, and who will make sure that your website appears as high up in search rankings as possible.
3. Social Media
You’ll hear people talking about social media all of the time. It basically refers to the websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. These services allow you to have a page specifically for your business, and interact directly with your customers in a more personal way.
If you’re unfamiliar with these websites and how to use them then, again, you could hire someone to take care of that for you and who would promote your business each week through your own social media pages, which they would set up for you. Often an SEO will be able to do this for you as well, saving you money.
4. Mailing Lists
Lastly, a mailing list is simply when someone gives you their email address and you send them emails designed to showcase your latest offers and products. A successful email marketing campaign, also known as a mailing list, can significantly increase your sales.
There are a number of great automated mailing list sites out there, such as Aweber, but as with the above, you could always hire someone for a small fee to set it up for you and run a successful email marketing campaign.
The Opportunity Cost Of Inaction
Before we list the benefits that you will experience, let’s take a moment to talk about just what your business with be missing out on if you don’t establish an online presence.
1. The Competition
Regardless of your industry, whatever product or service you’re providing, you will be left behind by your competitors if your business does not take advantage of being online.
Almost every single successful business from food wholesalers to beauticians has at least a website, and probably a social media platform, which they use. If you do not have the same, that means that your competitors have access to a much larger number of people through which to establish their brand, making their business more popular.
You may be thinking to yourself “let them be popular”, but this is counter-productive because the more your competitor becomes popular the more they drain customers away from you.
Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away, and the more time you spend without promoting your business online, the more likely it is that your competitors will eclipse you.
2. Staying Relevant
Customers can be fickle. Even if you deal with retro style products, your service could seem really antiquated and out of date if you don’t have a website or Internet presence.
Of course, you won’t lose all of your customers because of this, but you could lose enough to severely impact your business. There are a lot of people out there who could be put off from a product or service just because it seems out of date.
With just a little bit of time and a minimum of effort, you can keep your business relevant in the eyes of your customers. Furthermore, customers and potential business partners will question the professional standing of your company if it does not have a website, something which could severely stifle your revenue streams.
3. Burning Money
That’s right, if none of the above persuade you then perhaps the fact you are burning through unnecessary amounts of cash hopefully will. Having an online presence can save your business a lot of money.
For example, traditional advertising revenue such as radio television, and even a leaflet campaign, can cost substantially more than marketing your business online.
Also, with regards to delivery, customer service, and sales, you may be able to reduce these costs as well through automation such as taking orders online, which can severely reduce the time and resources employed through conventional means.
What Else Will My Business Get Out of It?
I think we’ve established pretty clearly that avoiding putting your business online, whether it’s because you are unsure how to do it or you think that you don’t need to in the first place, can really set your business back.
Let’s now be positive and look at all of the great benefits your business will have by being online: Remember we are not saying that you should abandon your off-line pursuits or other marketing strategies, what we’re saying is that putting your business online is an essential part of any successful modern venture and one which you should not ignore.
The benefits of doing this include:
1. Low Costs
Whether your business is starting out online or you are simply adding an online dimension to an already existing company, the costs of doing so can be minimal.
If you take a little time you could learn to do a lot of the stuff yourself, saving you almost any cost with the exception of perhaps a web host for your website. You’re not taking on the extra cost of a new premises in taking or the supplementary cost of new staff, that is with one caveat: If you don’t want to do it on your own, then you will have to hire someone to help you.
If you’re just starting out then you needn’t pay the high rates for an SEO expert, on websites like odesk.com and peopleperhour.com you’ll find talented individuals to create your online empire for you at an affordable price.
2. Global Market
With a small local company your reach may be limited. The fantastic thing about internet marketing is that your audience is potentially the world! You have the ability to showcase your products and services to millions of potential customers in any territory. With little effort, you could have thousands of people visiting your website every day.
Now, this is perfect obviously for someone who is selling a product of some description, as they will be able to ship their goods worldwide. If, however, your business by its very nature needs to be regional, then you are still able to reach far more people within that specific region than you would otherwise.
3. Customer Care
Everyone appreciates good customer care. If a customer has to contact your company, they will appreciate it if their query is answered quickly and politely, especially if it involves a problem or difficulty with a product or service that you have provided.
What is fantastic about having an online infrastructure is that it is an easy way for customers to contact you through your website or through your social media sites directly, so that you can meet the needs of your customers quickly, supplying them with the support that they really deserve.
This only goes to increase the positive impact that your company will have, encouraging customers to recommend your business to others, creating new customers and repeat business. Furthermore, as your website will be running 24/7, unlike normal working hours, your customers will be able to ask questions at any time, which your customer care service will answer as soon as they can.
You will also be able to cut down the number of queries you are sent via FAQ – an online information sheet which answers the most frequently asked questions.
4. Go Anywhere
You longer need to be tied to your desk to run your business affairs. Through mobile technology you can always be in touch with your business via your smart phone or tablet. This means that you can continually answer emails, interact with users on your Facebook page, or send out interesting tweets via your Twitter account designed to entice people to your services.
You can significantly increase your productivity, running your online business affairs as you are moving from location to location, perhaps on the way to see a customer or to a business meeting. Your time is therefore never wasted. Furthermore, if you choose to move away from your current location, and live somewhere else, no matter where you are, you will always be able to run your business successfully, all because it has an online presence.
As all other businesses have an online aspect to them, when you have likewise, you will be able to communicate and network with them on a similar basis. This means that you could run cross promotions such as advertising are company’s services in return for them doing likewise for you via a Facebook page, this would essentially give you access to their audience and vice versa.
This can create new markets for you to explore. Furthermore, this is a great way to build up business partnerships which could save you a lot of money on discounted arrangements, figuring out ways in which your company and another could enter into an agreement which is mutually beneficial. This is commonly done now through social media, and without such a platform this will limit your ability to explore these potentially lucrative avenues substantially.
These are just some of the benefits that you will experience through getting your business online. Whether you do it yourself or you hire someone to create your website and establish your social media presence, you will very quickly recognize the benefits of using such platforms.
In the end, business is about reaching out to as many people as possible and getting them to buy your products. In today’s marketplace the only way to do this properly is to have, at least in part, a large online presence to promote your products or services.
Remember, there’s a lot more to learn out there but it is not rocket science. With a little bit of research you could be running your own online empire in no time at all, reaping huge financial rewards.