It’s exhilarating setting up a small business. You’ve had your lightbulb moment, and ever since, you’ve been getting papers filed, setting up a legal precedent for your firm, and you’ve started work on your value proposition. But getting online is an incredibly important step towards generating both visibility and sales for your small firm, no matter what products or services you’re offering. Whether you’re B2B or B2C, here’s how you’ll get your small business set up online as quickly as possible – and what to pay attention to as you do so.
A brand new website is, at first, a completely blank slate. That’s exciting: it means you’ve got full freedom to create something functional, beautiful, and seamless for businesses or consumers to explore at their leisure. But designing a website on your own, even if you feel that you have the skills to build on a website builder like Wix or WordPress, is likely not the best use of your time as you’re setting up a small business. Plus, your efforts might result in a poor website that’s not optimized for the business environment.
Instead of going it alone, then, it’s better to outsource to a website development company that can handle the design, development, and maintenance of your website as you focus on other business-critical operations. In discussion with experts, you’ll be able to layout your vision for your website and brand. They’ll then take these insights and run with them, rapidly building a fully-functioning website that’ll remain your home on the web for years to come.
As soon as you conceived of your business, you may well have felt the urge to set up social media pages. It’s a place where you can announce your presence to family and friends and to interested third parties before you’ve actually opened for business. It’s also a way to share updates and engage with stakeholders in your market. But setting up social media pages shouldn’t be rushed: there’s a process here that you should follow to avoid making lame and unfollowed social media pages. Before rushing onto social media, make sure you:
- Have a well-designed brand logo that you use across all platforms – building your recognizability
- Write a smart, concise summary of your business that you’ll use in your profile description
- Know how you can build a base of followers, usually friends and family, to give you a head start in gathering further followers
- Follow relevant pages and profiles in the hopes of getting a follow back – which will be dependent on the quality of information you share on your profiles
- Have a list of ideas for content sharing so that your social media profiles are dynamic rather than static
All of these preconditions should be met before you establish a presence on social media. But once they are, it’s very easy to get set up and to post, helping to build that initial audience that may one day become your first customers.
Your business will be relevant and interesting to some form of newspaper, magazine, or industry journal. Your job is to get your firm featured there – usually online, where you can share the link to the story on all your social media profiles as well as on a “news” page on your website. It’s your job to write these “thought leadership” pieces and share them with the editors of the publications you think might be interested in sharing your story with the world.
Going through this process might feel a little laborious, but it’s important. It gives your firm some legitimacy in the eyes of third parties, and it helps to establish your presence online on channels that you don’t own directly. It’s also a brilliant way of articulating your ideas to the masses, which will make your firm more characterful and meaningful, whatever it is that you’re building.
If you’re planning on selling products online, the quickest way that you can start shipping items to consumers isn’t via your own website but through an e-commerce website. The leading option here is, of course, Amazon. Setting up a profile on Amazon is simple, and getting your products listed is a breeze. Just make sure you’re presenting them as well as possible by:
- Taking professional photographs of your products, in high resolution and from a variety of important angles
- Including all the information consumers might need to make an informed purchasing decision
- Writing an engaging description of your product, including its major selling points
- Encouraging reviews, so that your products appear more and more attractive to consumers as you build a customer base
There are other places, other than Amazon that you can list your products, too. You’ll find that there are e-commerce websites for most niches, as well as platforms that are lesser-known but still widely used by consumers. Think here of Etsy, used for handicrafts, or eBay, used for a large variety of goods but less visited than the likes of Amazon.
As hinted at earlier, reviews can make or break new businesses that are just peeping their heads above the online parapet. If you deliver poor products and poor service to your first customers, you’ll risk gaining an awful reputation on business rating sites. Google is the main one here, especially for hospitality firms. Depending on your business and market, there will be dozens of other places where reviews are scored and aggregated about your company online.
You can, of course, encourage high-scoring reviews. If you offer a brilliant service and a well-priced product, your customers are likely not to have a bad word to say about you. If you then follow up and ask them whether they’d like to leave a warm review – perhaps even in exchange for a discount on further purchases – you can quickly accumulate a positive online presence across a variety of reviewing facilities online.
If your business is still in development, but there are people out there who would love to keep up to date with your progress, you should consider setting up a newsletter that individuals can sign up for on your website. This newsletter will mean they don’t have to actively check back in with your website or social media pages to see if you’re ready to sell – they can just wait for a message to drop into the inbox. Of course, it’s also useful for your online presence, as you’ll have a group to turn to when you want to share developments and new products, services, or features with relevant consumers of business leaders.
Setting up a newsletter facility on your website is easy. You’ll usually plug one in via an API, which will then link to a newsletter automation service that you can use to create scheduled posts for your followers. Market leaders in this space include MailChimp and HubSpot, which are both free to use up to a certain number of followers. They’ll help you organize your communications with the most loyal and interested people that you value the most online.
Getting online as a small business makes your enterprise excitingly official. This guide is all about fulfilling that process quickly and with as little stress as possible, building an online presence that will eventually convert into sales and profits.