So, you’re ready to take your business online. Congratulations! You’ve made it this far, so you already know that creating an online presence will have a positive impact on your business. You probably also know that it will create an additional sales channel for your existing business, and that being online presents an opportunity to reach outside of your local market and grow your customer base.
But do you know that a dis-organised website can turn customers away within seconds? Do you know that a website isn’t just a sales pitch, it also needs to drive visitors toward conversion? When done well, taking your business online can lighten your day to day workload while growing your business. How exciting is that? Now, let’s remove the guess work from the journey. I’ve outlined 4 actionable steps to a successful online presence for your business: target market, branding, website builders and usability, and social media. Let’s dive in.
- Target Market (Your Audience)
Before you launch into planning a website it’s important to understand who the website is speaking to. Who is your audience?
An online presence is an opportunity to reach new customers – a new target market. Perhaps you run an antiques business and your existing customers aren’t online. It’s possible that your existing branding and customer service approach won’t resonate with this new online customer base. They may have an interest in antiques but less knowledge of their value than your offline customers.
Understanding how your online audience thinks and behaves will inform you about how, when, and why they use the internet. This knowledge plays a critical role in planning your online presence. In this antiques business scenario, I’d recommend adding a blog to the website. A blog could describe the value of the antiques and drive customers toward a sale.
Whether or not your online audience differs from your existing customer base, leverage your existing customers when launching online. Send emails that explain your new venture and the benefits of dealing with you online. If your email list is small, consider creating a reward system that will encourage your customers to subscribe and recruit their friends and family to your email list.
- Branding Online
Branding online has many of the same principles as branding offline. The goal is to consistently present your brand both visually and through the voice and tone of your communication.
The key to a successful brand online is transparency and authenticity. We all know that not everyone online is who they appear, and the same goes for businesses. By creating an about page, a meet the team page, and a contact details page, you can give your customers confidence that you’re legitimate.
Consistency is also key in branding. It’s important to use the same logo across all your collateral (website, flyers, LinkedIn page, etc.), as well as use the same messaging. If your brand has a slogan or tagline, use it on your website as well. In fact, weave it into the copy you write about your business and products. Consistent use of your branding elements like logos and taglines can build brand recognition and loyalty with your online customers.
It can be hard to replicate the personal connection that you achieve with a customer in store but creating a space that looks similar and uses familiar language will bring you closer to achieving this online.
- Website Builders and Usability
When it comes to getting your website built, choosing between a web developer and drag and drop online builder have pros and cons for the small business owner. Before you choose which way to go, do some research and exchange coffee for a chat with a handful of web developers. After a few meetings you’ll have a deeper understanding of what’s involved in building a site. You will also have developed a set of questions that will help you test the knowledge and capabilities of the developers you interview.
You’ll hear the terms UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) if you engage a developer to build your website. You won’t hear them if you use a drag and drop website builder online, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.
Customers need to easily navigate your website and find what they’re looking for with the click of a button. Successful websites have good usability. Your UI (user interface) needs to be laid out in a visually appealing design that is uncluttered and has buttons and links in intuitive locations. Your UX (user experience) is the overall feel of your website, achieved by the organisation of how your website functions. Essentially, your well-located buttons need to send your customer along a logical path through your website.
Usability is one of the most critical elements of a successful website. Guiding your customers in a logical, intuitive way will keep more customers on your website, for longer periods of time. The longer those customers are on your website, the more likely you are to make a sale.
- Social Media (Online Community)
Once you have a website that speaks to your target market and have directed your existing customer base to it, it’s time to cultivate an online community.
When you profiled your ideal customer in step 1 you will have identified which social media platforms they use. This is the first step toward cultivating a community: be where your customers are.
Now that you’re in front of your customers (so to speak) it’s time to plan out what you want to share with them. The goal is to drive customers back to your website for purchase. As you compile a list of topics, ask yourself ‘why does this topic matter for my customer and will it trigger them to visit my website?’. This saves you from sharing information that you find interesting but doesn’t resonate with your customers or encourage them to act.
Growing a social media community for your business is a branding exercise, much like designing your website. Consistently apply your brand to every aspect of your social media presence. From your profile picture to what you write in your posts, every element needs to be consistent and ‘on brand’.
Make your way through these 4 steps (target market, branding, website builders and usability, and social media) and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a successful online presence for your business. Ready? Let’s go!
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