[This article was written by Allie Stevens.]
No matter what industry your business happens to be in, or even if you regularly work with customers or not, having a strong internet presence, or at least a professional one with all of the information you want potential clients to know, is essential, and for many reasons. From staying ahead of the competition to finding new avenues of business, the internet can help small businesses prosper or stay afloat in uncertain times.
And while operating a small business is not an exact science and making the most of the internet even less so, there are some clear reasons for expanding your online presence and making that a priority, and some clear methods to do so. Here are just a few ideas about where to begin:
How Do People Look for Goods?
Put yourself into the seat of a consumer for a moment, as you likely unconsciously do many times per day. If you are uncertain about where to get a product, or want to know more about a company, where do you go? You likely look things up online, and then perhaps order them from the same results page.
Yet what determines what you find when you make a search, either on social media or a search engine like Google? Several factors, including search engine optimization, your location, and how much of an online following you have already. You also might see relevant advertisements or content related to your exact problem. While we cannot go into the details of SEO and ways to market online here (those topics deserve a book each, at least), you can start your outreach efforts with these practices, perhaps on a local level.
Expanding Your Reach
If you can ship your products or perform your services remotely, is there any reason that you could not conduct business anywhere in the country (or maybe beyond)? While you cannot necessarily expand infinitely with the resources you have available, and you might not get much traffic at the start, especially if your business doesn’t have much more than a local reputation, you can make inroads and give customers options to follow you even if they are not in the area.
During the pandemic this need has become especially important, and there has been an uptick in online services. Now that these norms are establish and setups built, even after the crisis is over more people will be doing business online than ever. If your business can take the time now to build on what you already built, or even start fresh, it will be in a much better position.
This is more along the lines of the marketing-side of what the internet can do and related to the above point, but the best marketing has always been the marketing that directly targets the people likely to be your customers. And with the downfall of many specific publications and the targeted advertising steams, the best way to reach people now is online, via pages or websites (or advertisements on them). Social media companies, for better or worse, are able to profile people to great effectiveness for marketing purposes, and an impression on such a specific audience is far more likely to yield results than any form of broader type of advertisements (how many billboards have you ignored in the last year?).
And furthermore, for the impressions and sales you get, targeted outreach will be more effective. It may or may not be for your business based on the industry and your current situation, but it is worth a look.
Getting a Better Connection
While you are making sure to improve your internet outright, similarly you might want to invest in your internet infrastructure, so to speak. While you probably do not need to rewire your office building, if your internet connection is not doing the job you want or expect it to, you can easily look up what providers and plans are available in your area, and what the price might be to find a new provider. Often the investment will be more than worth it, even if you get occasional slowdowns or interruptions to your service.
And if you or your employees are working remotely, as many are these days, you may want to check what connections or options are available as well. If a fixable problem is causing losses in productivity, you should seek to solve it as soon as possible.
There simply is not enough space to go over every reason why your small business needs to invest in its online presence and work on online outreach. That all being said, we hope that you are able to find a way to improve things easily and find opportunities online that you did not know were available in the first place. Some things will take time and others will be easily, but in either case you should get started today.
Allie Stevens is a dog mom and small business owner. In what little spare time she has she enjoys learning all there is to know about running successful businesses. While things have changed over the years she has learned to adapt, and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others.