No-one could have predicted the challenges that 2020 has brought and the disruption caused by a global pandemic to businesses worldwide.
As we all adjust to the ‘new normal’, it is clear that the businesses that have survived and even thrived during lock-down are those that have boosted their online services or switched to using digital services for the first time.
Whatever industry you are in, there has never been a better time to embrace the internet and rethink how to take your business online. The great thing is you don’t need a lot of technical skills to do it! Below is our quick-start guide to getting your business online.
Get a domain name
Plan your website
Design your website
Tell your story
Marketing, marketing, marketing
Development and maintenance
1. Get a domain name
What’s a domain? A domain is the part of your website address that comes after the www.
Simple right? If only! Choosing the right domain name is an important decision – your name should represent what your business does and be easy to remember.
You also need to make sure the name isn’t trademarked, copyrighted or being used by another business.
Our top tips: keep it short, make sure it’s easy to spell, and use words that clearly define the services you offer.
2. Plan your website
It’s important to think carefully about what level of services your website will require. For example, do you need a full-service website with product search? How will you process payments? What about delivery and customer service?
When planning what features your website needs, consider your customers’ experience from beginning to end and how they will embrace what you are offering.
3. Design your website
Once you know what you want your website to do, you can more easily decide how best to design it. There are many options depending on your budget and how hands-on you are:
Basic website – lots of DIY options where you simply choose a pre-designed template and add your own text and images. Very easy to create and make updates.
WordPress website – allows you to build and update your own website without needing coding skills, provides extra functionality and total control.
Complex website – if your business needs a lot of complex features or a high level of customization you will likely need to take the next step and engage a professional website designer.
4. Tell your story
Make sure your website includes your own unique story. Customers love hearing about who you are, how and when your business started. It helps to build rapport with customers and makes your service feel more personalized, which is so important when you move online. Some ideas of how to do this might include videos, personal reviews and customer testimonials.
5. Marketing marketing marketing
Once you have created your website, the next step is to make sure people can find you! These days, there are many different forms of online marketing – free and paid. Basically, the more time and money you invest in marketing, the more customers you will reach.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the science behind getting higher rankings on popular search engines such as Google and Bing. We strongly recommend taking a crash-course in SEO as you build your website (or hire an expert). Hot tip – make sure the content on your website is closely aligned with what your customers are searching for.
Use social media – start by including links to your website from posts on Facebook, Twitter etc. Remember every “share”, “follow” and “like” will help to build your customer-base.
Email marketing campaigns
Paid online advertising – e.g. ads on Google, Facebook etc.
6. Development and maintenance
As with all investments, you need to factor in the ongoing costs of maintaining your website. This might mean time you set aside for yourself to manage the content updates for your website or the ongoing costs of hiring professional developers to make changes for you. You may also need to consider the ongoing costs of digital marketing such as product photography and videos. Make sure bugs and broken links on your website are resolved as quickly as possible. You should regularly review your website’s performance and try to identify ways to continually improve your customers’ experience.
7. Customer Service
Consider how your customers will reach out to you – enquiries, scheduling appointments, purchases, delivery, returns and complaints. Do your customers need to be able to speak with someone in real-time? As more and more businesses move online, it’s essential to retain a high level of customer service and customer satisfaction. Using a virtual secretary and a customizable online booking software like Scheduly is a simple and cost-effective solution for businesses to deliver excellent customer service without the high costs of hiring someone to exclusively answer the phone.
Emma Sanchez is a freelance writer and small business owner based in Perth, Western Australia.
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