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How To Take Your Small Business Online
October 25, 2021 - By Hawke Media

How To Take Your Small Business Online: A Complete Guide

The internet? What’s that?

Yes, we’re joking. But we’re very serious about the importance of taking your business online!

Hopefully, you’ve already considered making your services or products available for customers to access digitally. If you haven’t, we’ll give you the full breakdown of why and how you should do it — just keep reading!

Why Does Your Small Business Need An Online Presence?

The list of reasons why your small business needs an online presence is long…like, really long. It might even be quicker to list the reasons why you shouldn’t take your business online.

To keep things simple, we’ve listed the top 5 reasons why you should establish an online presence for your business:

1. Keep Active During COVID-19 Shutdowns

The biggest obstacle that most small businesses are facing right now is the wave of closures being mandated by state governments. With social distancing regulations and other restrictions passing across entire industries, the pressure is on for businesses to find ways to increase cash flow during the changes brought on by the pandemic.

Conducting business online is one solution that can help maintain at least a portion of your business activities during the COVID-19 crisis. Restaurants can begin online ordering and switch to a primarily delivery-based business model. Gyms can offer their clients a huge variety of virtual fitness classes. Retailers can switch from brick and mortar to online retail. The list goes on and on. 

2. Reach More Customers

If your business doesn’t have an official website, that needs to be resolved as soon as possible. Nearly 70% of millennials prefer to shop online over shopping in a store. If they can’t easily find and learn more about you online, then you’re potentially losing out on over two-thirds of potential Millennial customers.

If you already have a website, now is the time to spruce it up a bit. And, of course, you should be giving visitors to your website the ability to quickly and easily purchase your services or products. Check out these Top POS Systems of 2021 that you may find useful!

3. Reduce Overhead

Besides the obvious reductions in expenses (rent, utilities, payroll, etc.), running an online business can allow you to utilize creative approaches to cutting overhead costs.

For example, you can use Just In Time Inventory — a strategy where you only stock up on the resources that you actually require. In other words, you place inventory orders in response to customer demand, not in anticipation of it. This leads to a more efficient flow of resources, ultimately saving your business money and decreasing waste.

4. Save Yourself Time

Face-to-face interaction with customers has its benefits, there’s no question. But given the current situation where official government health guidelines say to keep physical distance from each other and many are limiting their face-time even as sanctions loosen — in-person interactions are simply not as effective as they once were for many businesses.

That being the case, now is the time to say it: interaction in person with customers can take a lot of time! You talk, you joke, and you try to get the business done in between the niceties (nice as they are). Building rapport with customers is a huge plus, but it soaks up a lot of time.

Shifting your business online virtually eliminates all face-to-face interaction by allowing customers to make purchases without any human assistance. You should still remain available to answer any questions by opening a ‘support’ email address, chatbot or other customer service features for your clients to reach out but overall that time can be reinvested into other areas of your business. 

5. Remain Competitive

The fact is, there are already a ton of businesses that are operating online. The amount of online retail sales has increased by 300% since 2001, while the number of brick and mortar stores dropped by nearly 10,000 in 2019 alone.

The COVID-19 outbreak has obviously ramped up the rate of physical store closures, so right now is when you should be working even harder to stay in the race with your competitors! Every day that your business doesn’t offer its services and products online is another day that your potential customers are obtaining those services from another company.

8 Steps To Take Your Small Business Online

Now that we’ve covered why you need to establish an online presence for your business, let’s delve into how you can actually go about doing that!

Here Are 8 Steps to Take Your Small Business Online:

  1. Register a domain name
  2. Design your website
  3. Select a content management system (CMS)
  4. Take a crash course in SEO (or partner with a Marketing Agency)
  5. Start a blog
  6. Get involved on social media
  7. Optimize for mobile
  8. Focus your efforts

1. Register a Domain Name

Pick a name for your website that’s easy for customers to remember, recognize, and relay to their friends. Keep it concise. Make sure it’s easy to spell. Include terms that customers are likely to search for (could include things like your location, your industry, and so on).

Once you’ve settled on a domain name that you like and works well, go ahead and purchase it. A quick Google search will show you a variety of sites where you can lease domain names.

2. Plan Your Website

Your primary goal for taking your business online is likely to generate real sales — but not necessarily!

Every business is different — maybe you’re looking to make a website where you provide information? Create leads that you’ll then sell to other businesses? The answer may be simple for some, but a little bit harder to pinpoint for others.

Be sure to think it through before you go about designing your website, as the layout will differ depending on your intended purpose.

3. Design Your Website

You don’t need to be a computer-coding genius to design a sleek and modern website. There are many online services that provide ways for you to easily create a personalized web page for your business.

A couple of examples of such platforms are WordPress, Squarespace, Wix and Shopify, which offer pre-made templates where you can simply type in your own text, drag and drop your own images, and get straight to business! Of course, you should aim to make your website stand out from the crowd — be unique and memorable.

As important as it is to have attractive web design, making money and becoming profitable also has a lot to do with how you manage your online store. That applies to everything from choosing a pricing strategy to providing your customers with great support to effectively managing your finances and more.

The BeProfit Profit Tracker app helps you track your business metrics, analyze expenses and optimize your profits in an easy, intuitive way. Complex data is presented visually in an interactive dashboard where you can create and export customized reports. With all of the tools in the BeProfit profit calculator, you can start making data-driven decisions to strengthen your store and optimize your profitability.

4. Take a Crash Course in SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the reason that some websites appear higher than others in search engine results. Even though it’s just one part of a broad content optimization strategy, learning how SEO works and how you can hone your own SEO practices is key to getting found when people search for the services or products you offer.

Don’t underestimate the impact of improving your website’s SEO & ranking positions! Interested in supercharging your website’s SEO? Reach out today for a free consultation with one of Hawke Media’s digital marketing experts to learn how.

5. Start a Blog

Whether your main goal is to be a hub of information or to generate sales, starting a blog is a great way to show your potential customers that your finger is on the pulse of your industry. A blog is an opportunity to flex your expertise and relay important news and info to your clients (and potential clients).

Discussing current events that impact your business (and your customers) is one of the best ways to bring people together and remind them that you’re there for their benefit — not just to make a quick buck! Demonstrating your value will keep people coming back and even encourage them to share your website with others.

6. Get Involved On Social Media

As of Q2 2021, Facebook reported nearly 2.89 billion monthly active users. Combined with the other platforms under the Facebook umbrella (WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger), the number of users jumps to 3.51 billion.

Granted, your local business will only target a very small portion of those users, but the point is that those users who you will end up targeting are an audience-in-the-waiting. The first thing to do (after signing up and creating your page) is to get familiar with how social media marketing works. Once that’s done, you’ll be well on your way to bringing in more business through social media.

7. Optimize For Mobile

Did you know that more than 60% of all visits to all websites in 2020 were made with a smartphone? 

If your mobile website is difficult to use, you can kiss those customers goodbye. When browsing on mobile, people want pages to load quickly and smoothly, and to be easy to use and navigate. Make sure your site does all of that by optimizing it for customers who shop via mCommerce.

8. Focus Your Efforts

The first go-around of creating a website might produce a site with a charming patchwork feel to it. That can be okay for a short while, but you’ll likely realize that improvements must be made if you want to see your online business grow.

You should regularly assess the traffic of your website, seek out ways to increase page visits and visit durations, and constantly be on the lookout for ways to optimize conversion rates. As you continue to evaluate your website’s performance, you can begin testing different strategies to see which may work better for your business.

Let’s Get Digital

Giving your business the ability to operate online is one of the best ways to protect against the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and overall societal shifts to digital. Providing your customers with the option to access your products or services online is a no-brainer. With so many ways for you to stay in the game and attract new customers, there are very few reasons why your business shouldn’t already be online. Get started today!

This guest post was written by Benjamin Shabat of BeProfit. Benjamin is a content specialist at BeProfit, where he works to deliver useful and relevant information to small online business owners. BeProfit is dedicated to helping eCommerce stores grow by giving them true control over their business’s data.