Every organization should consider having an online business strategy, including microbusinesses, if they don’t already have one. Like it or not, every microbusiness has to compete with the "big guys" – and the most effective way to do so may be by cultivating an active, sophisticated online presence. By boosting brand awareness and meeting customer needs, your microbusiness can reach customers across the country and around the world; not a bad feat, especially for a business with five employees or less.
Here are six tips for translating your online business strategy into reality:
1. Design a professional-looking, easy-to-navigate website. Unless you're a web designer by trade (or hobby), this is one area where the expense of hiring an outside expert is generally justifiable. Generic sites that take a long time to load and employ outmoded checkout processes will only lose potential customers. It's in your best interests to design and develop a website that looks good, is easy to navigate, and — when it comes to actual purchase and delivery — customer-friendly.
2. Optimize your site for mobile customers. Increasingly, consumers are opting to research and purchase items via their mobile devices. As part of your website design efforts, be sure the site is optimized for mobile use. Mobile users should be able to easily scan your site, download images and purchasing information, etc. While you're at it, explore building an app for your microbusiness, which can help level the playing field with bigger competitors.
3. Offer valuable content to your customers. Have you started blogging yet? By providing quality content that’s presented in an engaging format, you can help your customers solve problems and explore opportunities for growth. Although writing blog posts, articles, white papers, and so on requires time and effort, broadening the appeal of your brand and establishing yourself as a thought leader can lead to considerable return on investment.
4. Expand your customer base through email marketing. This marketing strategy remains effective, as long as you can demonstrate a commitment to improving your customers' lives by offering relevant and helpful content (as noted above). Entice customers to sign up for your monthly email newsletter and then repurpose content you've created for your website. Consider offering special discounts to customers who refer your newsletter to others, as well as other incentives to attract new subscribers on your own.
5. Make sure your microbusiness is listed with online directories. Would-be customers seeking out a business often start with online or industry-relevant directories. If your business fits a specialized niche, be sure to get listed with the appropriate online directory. Other similar sites with wide appeal include Yelp, Angie's List, Yahoo Local, etc. Explore opportunities to get your business featured there as well.
6. Boost your social media efforts. For small businesses looking to make a splash, there's perhaps no better avenue than social media. Whether it's Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or other popular platforms, you can build long-lasting relationships with customers and others, and be part of the ongoing social media conversation. Facebook may likely be the most obvious place to start, so consider amping up your daily presence there by asking and answering questions, creating videos, and chatting with customers and friends. With social media, it can be much harder for a customer to leave a business when they have a relationship with the owner.
In our digital era, a microbusiness can compete in ways never before imagined. The key is focusing your efforts where they count most, making it easy for prospective customers to find you and purchase your products or services with minimal hassle.