There comes a time when every small business looks to spread its wings that bit further.
There are many ways you can transform into an unstoppable international corporation. (Just like the one you always dreamed of.)
With the internet, there are lots of tools you can use to get your name out there. And the best part is – they’re all right at your fingertips!
The trick is to not rush in, and take time to make sound decisions from the start.
So, how do you best approach beginning to selling your goods and services online?
Don’t be daunted!
Virtuoso Legal have helped hundreds of small businesses make their first moves online.
Without further ado, here are Virtuoso’s Top 10 Tips for Taking your Small Business Online:
So, you’re ready to take your first big steps online. Great! But now’s the time to make sure that your name is going to work for you online. Let me explain. Your small business might already have a name, but if you can’t get the relevant web domain and social media accounts – you’re stuck. If someone already has your #1 web-domain registered you run the risk of losing traffic to them. The same goes for social media accounts.
Search what’s out there and see whether you can slot in. If you can’t it’s worth thinking about creating a different brand for your online presence. What you put online has to be distinct and memorable. Believe me, it will save you losing out on a lot more money in the long run.
Being discoverable is a basic foundation of success. (“PrincessCupcakes11178.com” is not going to cut it!)
Don’t forget, your name and logos are super important to you as you grow. They’re what people recognise you from. Take your time to get them right. Whilst you’re a small business you can fine tune these before it’s becomes a massive undertaking. Also, get them protected ASAP by registering them as trade marks in locations you’re going to do business in.
As a small business you may already have a website, you may not. Either way it’s time to get serious about it! Depending on what you do; your website is going to be one of the most important things to get right online.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and clients – and make it easy for them!
What do I mean by that? Well…
If you have a shop and you want them to visit – make it easy for them to find you by providing a map on the front page.
If you want them to order products online – make the checkout process super-fast.
If you’re selling a service – provide clear and concise information about what you do. You also need to make it easy for visitors to contact you for more information.
If you make it hard for people, they will go somewhere where it’s easier. (Don’t forget about making it easy for people on mobile too!)
Running business online is a numbers game. A messy, disorganised website will get you… you guessed it – messy disorganised results.
Social media has become a vital part of how businesses operate. This is because social media is the human face of businesses online.
The key is to connect with relevant people and provide them with value. A great way to begin to do this is to follow other people in your area. Then (respectfully) get involved in related conversations.
You can also share pertinent info they’ve posted. Sharing good content can help you build a reputation as someone who’s aware (and cares about) your area.
Once you feel ready, you can then begin to create and share your own content. You may then find that you can lead conversations in your area. Next thing you know, you’ve positioned yourself as the authority in your area.
In all things online, consistency is key. Change does not happen overnight. Now more than ever, people take a long time to be convinced to act.
In marketing, they say that you must present a prospect with something 7 times before you can expect them to buy.
Constanty changing tack will confuse people and make you seen inauthentic. (This is also important when it comes to your social media activity!)
Set out a plan and stick to it. This might include the values your company stands for and the “voice” they’re delivered in. It may also include: what, when and how much; you share.
Consistency means keeping this in mind – all the time.
The same goes for your brand.
By staying consistent, you avoid confusion and actually build familiarity. Familiarity makes people feel comfortable. If they’re comfortable with you – they’re more likely to come to you for help.
So, you have a presence online with a consistent website and social media account. Now it’s important to make it easy for people to find you. There are many ways you can do this – and it’s not just about Google!
Craft your website: titles, headings, metadata and content. They should contain the words that your customers are likely to search when trying to find you. This is helpful for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO makes your website pop up higher in the results. For more common search terms, building this can take more time. So consider aiming for terms more specific to you. (E.g. “bathtub plumber in birmingham”; rather than “plumber”).
You can do other things to soar higher in the rankings. You can optimize your website for mobile and making it speedy. You can create high-quality useful content. Also keep writing on your site easy to read and collect good reviews. These all help improve your website’s SEO reputation.
Once you’re established online – you might then want to talk to an expert to continue to improve!
Whilst it might be tempting to dream of world-wide reach when you take your business online. You should consider how well you are able to serve clients on the other side of the globe.
Don’t over-promise only to under-deliver! (Remember it only takes one bad experience to derail your reputation). The bedrock of your business and reputation is likely local. So, be sure to build on it!
By setting up a “Google My Business” page, you will appear more to people who are right on your doorstep. (And are looking for your products and services!)
Other things that you can do include making sure that you’re in local listings (like “Yell.com”). Registering your location on social media and map services can also help a lot.
It’s all very well telling people that you’re great and that all the things you sell are great. What’s more convincing is when other people tell prospective customers that.
Even though you’re telling the truth – it’s more convincing when it comes from someone else. It’s no surprise that Amazon reviews said to be the most trustworthy online. People who review your goods and services have no stake in what you do. Because of that, what they say means so much more.
When it comes to reviews and testimonials it all about quantity and quality.
Having lots of reviews on: Google, Facebook, your website or elsewhere is great. It shows that you’re delivering good service again and again. What’s better is if these are in-depth and tell a story.
This tells prospects that your goods had a meaningful impact on previous users. And, moreover, they could enjoy a similar result.
With all things online, it can sometimes be easy to “lose sight of the wood for the trees”. When it comes down to the crunch – everything you do online you do for very specific reasons.
Whether it’s your website, newsletter, social media or anything else. Set a goal. Make sure it’s something the tool can do. Set your plan in action. Measure whether the plan is working. And if it is not, then make the changes you need to improve it.
It can be tempting to throw things at the wall to see what sticks. But doing that can cost you a lot of money, and deliver unclear results.
The key to success in your online endeavours is to be tactical and goal-focused.
With great power comes great responsibility. The same goes for success online. There are legal requirements businesses must adhere to when they go online.
The list goes on and on – and it really depends on the kind of business you are. It’s a good idea to seek legal advice when you go online to work out what exactly you’re going to need. It really will save you a lot of money and stress in the long run.
Being successful increases your exposure to the public. Whilst this is great (because it means you’re more well known to potential new clients or customers…) it also means you’re more at risk.
Let me explain.
Sadly, being successful makes you a target. As the public clamour for you, rogues will be thinking how they can profit from your hard work and name.
You might begin to see people use your brand. Or they might copy your killer product. They might ape your design. They might steal things you’ve written or made to promote their business.
Big businesses see these kinds of problem all the time – and it can cost them a lot of money.
Sadly, you might call it “the price of success”.
In these cases, it’s important to be proactive rather than reactive and seek IP protection early. Protect your trade marks, patents; copyright and designs – before problems arise. It will save you a lot of money, time and stress.
Another key to success is to to instruct specialists to help you. IP firms (such as our own) know what good and bad IP looks like. (We see a *lot* of bad IP!) Expert advice will ensure yours is in “ship-shape” and fit for purpose before you hit the big time.
It might seem a lot to take in. But take your time to get these things right and you’ll be on the road to success before you know it.
If you’re a small business and need any advice or have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can talk to our world-class solicitors by calling:
or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.