Getting your small business online

Nearly every business today has some level of presence on the internet. Having a website helps prospective customers find their business and review their available products and services. Without an online presence, competitors have a significant edge regardless of the quality and reliability of the products and services you provide.  

Most of your customers turn to the web when looking for new suppliers or services. Many also research online reviews and often turn to social media for references and opinions before even contacting your business. 

So, since it’s vital to have a digital presence, how do you get your small business online and drive customers to it, even with a restrictive budget? 

Creating your small business website

It has become increasingly simple to create an online presence with a website. Having an e-commerce or commercial site is your opportunity to present your best image with relevant information your customers will be looking for: 

  • Company history and culture 
  • Information on products or lists of services, as well as pricing 
  • Contact information – including email addresses, phone numbers and links to your social media accounts 
  • Calendar information, such as hours of operation, scheduled events or upcoming promotions 

You can either create your website yourself or use a hosted service to help build your site and establish your domain name. Be sure your domain name is registered and is representative of your business name. 

Some simple tips for website creation and maintenance

Don’t be intimidated by the thought of creating your own small business online presence. This can easily be accomplished by following some basic business website guidelines

  • Update often – websites that are rarely updated lose credibility with internet surfers and search engines. 
  • Your customers are looking for current information. Be sure that your hours, contact information and offerings are up-to-date. 
  • Make it personal – include recent customer reviews and testimonials to encourage new customers to contact you. 
  • Online chat availability on websites is becoming increasingly popular. A channel of communication allows visitors to contact a real person and get questions answered quickly, or request service or more information. 

If you’re new at creating a business website, enlisting help from an experienced web developer can pay off not only in creativity and attractive design but also for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). When a user initiates a search, SEO determines the search engine results and how the results are ranked. 

Experienced web developers understand SEO and are savvy on building websites with search engine ranking algorithms in mind – to the benefit of your business. 

Social media for small business

Social media provides the tools for your business to share content with an incredibly broad audience. Research demonstrates that 57.5 per cent of consumers say they are more likely to buy from a brand they follow on social media.  

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn are valuable for increasing sales and making contact with prospective customers. Social media marketing builds confidence in your brand and services through interactive response and the discovery of current deals or promotions. Also, these profiles are free to set up. 

Tips for social media presence

Over-promotion and heavy-handed marketing can lead to a decreased following. Don’t beat your social media site with posts just for posting sake. The key is to make sure the information you are sharing is relevant to your audience. 

Identify your audience and create content that will attract interest in your products or services or make them contact your sales or marketing teams. It’s critical to develop a goal for your social media presence to measure your results. Examples of social media goals may include: 

  • Brand awareness 
  • Lead generation  
  • Audience engagement 
  • Improving customer service, satisfaction and loyalty 
  • Generating sales opportunities 
  • Getting new ideas for expanding products or services 
  • Building company reputation 
  • Providing a base for launching new products 
  • Recruiting new talent 
  • Communicating events and seasonal offerings 

Social media outlets can provide your business with statistical analysis that helps you measure your content’s effectiveness and identify where changes may be in order: 

  • Number of visits 
  • Actions taken – likes, retweets, sharing, etc. 
  • Followers 
  • Subscribers 

These statistics help you evaluate the effectiveness of your presence and identify how you can do better. 

You’re not finished with social media once you have a presence on these sites. Use these tools to communicate continuously with visitors, just as you would if they phoned your office. Being responsive is key to engaging customers, which can turn leads into sales and provide a positive experience for visitors and followers. 

Images are also crucial to your online presence, including on social media. Make sure that they are high-quality and meaningful to your audience. Each image should build on your image or promote your commitment to the community. Short videos that demonstrate products or introduce company management and employees are another effective way to engage visitors. 

Leverage email for connecting with customers

Generate branded emails to keep customers and potential leads apprised of promotions, new products or services and upcoming events. 

Provide accessible email signup opportunities on your website and all relevant social media sites. Make sure that you send a confirmation email when someone signs up – to verify the email address is active and thank the user for signing up. 

While you shouldn’t overload your email users with undesired messages, contacts can be an excellent opportunity for marketing campaigns or customer relations. 

Finding the right online business solutions

Getting your small business online also means using technology to benefit your internal operations by: 

  • Moving to paperless transactions with electronic documents that streamline business processes and save money over printed versions 
  • Storing appropriate documents in secure cloud storage, where they can be easily shared and edited among employees 
  • Communicating more effectively with remote workers through teleconferencing, interactive chat and task management tools 

The future of business is digital, both for your customers and business operations. Moving to these online platforms can help grow and streamline your business and allow you to connect with customers when they are in the market for your products or services. 

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Business Insights and Ideas does not constitute professional tax or financial advice. You should contact your own tax or financial professional to discuss your situation..