Despite COVID-19 business closures, plenty of companies are finding renewed opportunities online. Opening or expanding a web-based venture could be your ticket to profitability now and in the future. Here are seven steps to get your online business working hard for you.
1. Let Creativity Lead
Learning to embrace your artistic side and flex those think-big tendencies could be instrumental for business growth. Perfection isn’t important, and you never know what great idea you might stumble upon. As Entrepreneur highlights, innovation is beneficial for your company, your customers, and your bottom line.
Keeping an open mind is vital, so make sure to give every potential ‘big idea’ thorough consideration. After all, the best ideas tend to emerge under pressure, so now may be ideal for putting on your thinking cap and letting creativity lead.
2. Upgrade Your Equipment
Many entrepreneurs are resistant to investing in their companies. And while frugality is understandable in these unpredictable times, sometimes you do have to spend money to make money.
For example, if you’re still using your cheap home Wi-Fi plan for business calls, you could be losing potential clients due to glitchy Zoom meetings and slow-to-send emails. Investing in high-powered internet will give you ultra-fast speeds that can handle every facet of your online business activities.
Buying a new computer or laptop could also be a worthwhile investment for your newly digital business. Moving from brick-and-mortar to URL likely requires you to spend a lot of time online, and equipment that can keep up is a must.
3. Broaden Your Budget
Proving that you’re a serious contender in your industry might also require expenses like an expertly designed logo and a broader promotional budget. Similarly, an appropriately managed and hosted website could upgrade your professional image.
Consider the potential payoff for these investments and weigh your options carefully. But keep in mind that there’s a difference between overspending and budgeting appropriately for growth. If you want to continue scaling your business upward, then a bit of cash up-front might be necessary.
4. Know Your Audience
Finding customers might be one of the toughest parts of maintaining your online business model. But heading online opens up plenty of avenues for attracting consumers, and many methods of advertising are spectacularly cheap.
However, creating blanket marketing campaigns isn’t the best (or cheapest) way to attract new shoppers. Imagine sending out a paid ad to 1,000 random consumers – and then think about the odds if you instead hyper-target 100 viewers who are already interested in your product or service.
Targeting a specific audience is an ideal way to minimize your spending while maximizing your reach, notes Thrive Hive. Of course, you can also experiment with free and low-cost advertising methods like producing more interactive content and expanding your brand’s social media network.
One strategy to include that targets your audience with laser precision is setting up a membership site. When your website offers visitors the chance to join your brand — whether it’s receiving product updates, a newsletter or a VIP club that gets discounts on your product or services — you can rest assured knowing you’re communicating with and hopefully retaining an audience that wants to hear from you.
Not only do you have content and information to share with the world writ large, but, with a membership site, you’re sharing it with an audience that wants to engage with it.
5. Seek Deals and Discounts
Plenty of programs aim to help small businesses make ends meet during tough times. But even outside the pandemic era, saving money is at the forefront for small business owners. While you might not need a small business loan at this point, cutting costs is a smart place to start to ensure your company’s longevity.
Especially if you’re shipping products to customers, you might have a handful of non-negotiable costs of doing business. Fortunately, there are ways to save on packaging expenses, even if you’re expediting shipments. Negotiating bulk discounts, utilizing drop-shipping, and bundling services and materials are also helpful ways to cut costs in your small business.
6. Keep Learning
As a business owner, you should always be seeking knowledge whether that’s gained through running your business or by seeking out educational opportunities. For example, you could earn an online business degree and learn about business management, accounting, and marketing. An online program allows you to complete the coursework on your own time, so you can still focus on running your business.
You might also consider joining a business networking or meetup group. These groups are a great way to learn, stay up on the latest industry movements, grow personally, and even grow your customer base.
The site Meetup.com is a great place to start. Simply visit this page, then start by selecting the city nearest you. From there, you can drill down to find just the right group for your industry and interests.
7. Start an Affiliate Program
Finding new customers is critical if you want your business to grow. And there's no shortage of ways to promote your products and services. However, with many of these methods – like pay-per-click (PPC) ads and marketing campaigns – you have to shell out money whether or not you achieve results. It can get expensive – fast.
Starting and managing your own affiliate marketing program is, hands down, the best way to lower the cost of promotion. That's because rather than paying for the possibility of conversions, you only pay your sales team (your affiliates) when they make a sale.
And with plugins on the market that make it super simple to set up and manage your own program right from your website, there's no reason not to give it a try.
Moving the bulk of your business online can be a relief in many ways but challenging in others. If you’re not sure what direction to take your company in the current climate, use the above tips to help. Remember:
- Let creativity lead
- Upgrade your equipment
- Broaden your budget
- Know your audience
- Seek deals and discounts
- Keep learning
- Start an affiliate program
Do you have questions about starting a new online business or boosting your existing one? Let us know in the comments!