Taking a business online, or expanding your online presence, can be a challenge. Are you struggling with the idea of online development? Maybe you are making use of the internet to some degree, but are you among the estimated two-thirds of businesses who are failing to capitalise on social media? Social media is just the tip of the iceberg. There is an abundance of evidence to show that growing a community of engaged followers is sound business sense but can every business take advantage of the internet, and what are the best ways to take a business online? Let’s dive in and discuss.
With such a variety of channels available to modern business, it is easy to understand why online marketing and communication is perceived as daunting. Opportunity often lies down the road we fear to tread. In fact, unless you are already at the pinnacle of your niche, it makes perfect sense that your most fruitful opportunities lay down a path you have yet to explore. In this article, we will consider why it might be time to rethink your online strategy.
Why do so many of us avoid engaging with online business expansion?
The human brain loves patterns, routine and familiarity. We like to do things the way we have always done them. Routine makes us feel safe. A structured process soon becomes second nature, allowing secondary cognitive thinking.
Maybe you have had a eureka moment whilst carrying out a repetitive task? Personally, cycling is a hugely meditative process for me. I can accomplish a surprising amount on a 100KM ride.
Modern psychology seems to support the notion that a positive routine is important for us on a personal level. I would like to suggest that on a business level, routines can be counterproductive, even damaging. Of course, I am mainly referring to routines in strategic thinking and communication, rather than in manufacturing, or order processing. That said, even these logistical processes can sometimes benefit from an overhaul.
How does this all relate to taking a business online?
There is a quote which comes to mind when considering the role of routine in business strategy:
The definition of Stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.-Albert Einstein (unconfirmed)
Before you are too offended by the word “stupid”, I would like to draw your attention to an important book. “The Stupidity Paradox”, takes an intriguing look at the role of functional stupidity in business and society. To put it another way; why individuals and organisations persist with broken systems. Sometimes we have to work with what we have, and yet, what we have is often damaging.
I highly reccommend the book, and the link is not affiliated in any way. I make no money for suggesting it.
Choosing a lesser travelled path.
Let’s not be shy in stating the truth. Adopting new business strategies fills many of us with fear. We fear the technology, the loss of control, the unknown variables and the cost. However, if we are in a position where we need to increase profits, sales, customer satisfaction, or market share, we have to consider alternatives to what we are currently doing.
Look at businesses around you. In particular, look at your competition. When was the last time you checked out your competitor’s website? Do you follow them on social media? Have you a dedicated online strategy? If not, then now is the time to be tackling this issue. Whatever your business model, there is an ever-growing need for you to increase your online presence. Are you a landscape gardener? It would be better if you had an online strategy. Are you a manufacturing company of high tech components? Then it would help if you had an online strategy.
I challenge you to think of a single industry that would not benefit from taking a business online. If you can prove to me that online will not work for you, then email me firstname.lastname@example.org – I love a challenge!
Humour aside, it is important to remember that change is temporary. When we commit to a path, the new tasks related to it soon become routine. Short term pain, long term gain. The first step we need to take is to acknowledge where we are currently positioned. this is a really useful guide if you are just starting out too, although existing businesses should be doing this at regular intervals.
Some useful questions to ask when considering taking a business online.
How many touch points do we currently have online?
If you are searching for your service or product in your area, and all you have is your phone, how easy is it to find you? Now is the time to find out. Don’t search your companies name. That is cheating. List all the touch points you find on a piece of paper. Website, Social media platforms, affiliation links, PR pieces, online content such as videos, blogs and podcast.
When you have finished listing everything you find, look at the quality of that content. Can you read it on your phone? Is it all representative of how you see your company? Does it make you proud?
What does my competition look like online?
Take a fresh piece of paper, and carry out the same exercise. Search product or service, and area only. When you have a list of competitors take a moment to consider them. Are there any competitors you didn’t know about? Who would you buy from based on what you see? Where does your search result sit in comparison to your competitors?
This exercise is extremely revealing and is one of the first steps we take when giving a business a marketing and online health check. Be ruthless with your search, and honest with your analysis. The more open you are to the concept that you are not doing everything you could be, the bigger the opportunity that awaits you.
What are people saying about us online?
One of the most honest ways of seeing your business is through the eyes of your customers. Depending on the size of your company, you may find that you are shielded somewhat from what is going on at the coal face. Read your Google reviews, and that will change. I suggested this simple task to a client recently who came back and said, “I can’t find my business on Google”. I would suggest that this may signify an issue. Assuming you can find your business online, what are your Google Reviews like?
Hopefully, it is a sea of 3.7 stars and above. If not, don’t become bogged down in the minutia of low reviews at this point. Sit with them for a moment, and look at them at arm’s length. What is the general consensus, given that you cannot please everyone, all of the time? Make some notes on things you would like to change.
By now you should be identifying the places where your business is noticably behind others. Of course, you will be winning in some areas, but today, we are not concerned with what you are doing well. This exercise is about expansion, trying new things and taking new paths.
It is likely that you have a significant personal interest in your area of business, so what articles, content, or resources are you finding that you are enjoying? Could you contribute similar content?
Look at your own browsing habits. If you are into a specific hobby or lifestyle choice, (cycling is a good one for me), then how do you indulge that interest online? Who do you trust? Why do you trust them?
Effective ways to take your business online, or expand your presence.
It is likely that you are seeing a clear window of opportunity. When we are sat at our desk, with all of the day to day stuff associate with running a business going on around us, we can become blind to our reality. We are all busy, under pressure and constantly striving for something or other and so we feel like we are succeeding. When we look at our business through our customer’s eyes, we almost always see areas that we can improve.
Even in today’s highly technical world, we are still coming across clients websites which cannot be viewed on mobile devices, sites with no security certificate, broken links that lead to error 404 pages, incorrect contact details and poorly written content. These sins are absolute no-nos in today’s climate. Issues like these should be categorised as urgent, or even crisis level projects.
If your website is robust, and functioning as it should, then your opportunities likely lay in the content you publish.
Effective ways to take your business online include:
- Regular quality blogs
- Industry-specific podcasts
- YouTube videos on a branded channel
- How to courses
- E-publishing (Ebooks are a great way to build credibility)
- A regular newsletter to your email database
- Adding eCommerce to real-world sales
- Building social media communities
This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you are already doing many of these things, then what about more advanced methods?
- A dedicated app for iPhone or Android
- A software solution to open up new markets
The digital world is your oyster. Joined Up Think does not offer all of the services listed here, but we wholeheartedly recommend you consider them. You can find out what we do offer here. If you would like to talk further about ways of taking your business online email email@example.com
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